What’s New in Greater Phoenix
2015 was a monumental year in Greater Phoenix, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s numbers prove it. According to the Sky Harbor Information Office, they set a new record for total passengers, serving more than 44 million travelers-a 4.5 percent increase compared to 2014. Mayor Greg Stanton’s comment on the increase is, “When Sky Harbor is busy that means our economy is busy.” One factor that pushed the increased traffic to Phoenix is Super Bowl XLIX being at held at University of Phoenix Stadium in Feb. 2015. Cactus League Spring Training has also gained popularity in recent years, and attracts visitors from the hometowns of 14 professional baseball teams in March. The growing campuses of Arizona State University, Waste Management Phoenix Open, burgeoning tech and business scenes, the College Football Playoff National Championship game, and the transforming downtown Phoenix area can all be credited for Phoenix’s recent growth in business and tourism.
Downtown Phoenix is honing in on its artsy vibes, and many of the hotels in the area are updating the look and feel of their property to match. This summer, a new hotel opens -- the FOUND:RE. The theme of the hotel centers around modern and local art, which is fitting for its close proximity to the light rail, Hance Park and Roosevelt Row, Phoenix’s self-proclaimed arts district. There will be 105 guestrooms, an on-site gallery, meeting spaces and a new restaurant concept, Match Cuisine & Cocktails
Ever wonder how to make those fancy craft cocktails? The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa is now offering classes with mixologist Matt Allen, who will share his expertise, update on what’s trendy in the cocktail scene, and show how to be a cocktail connoisseur. Participants will be provided with their own bar station complete with all the ingredients needed to mix and drink their creations. The 90-minute class’ curriculum will include The Miner’s Wife, Rhubon Sour and Caribbean Cafe. Classes are $50/person, and include light appetizers and the drinks you create. Then take home a souvenir cocktail shaker, recipe cards and a discount on appetizers at Waltz & Weiser Bar and Cantina.
A destination resort and worldwide tourist attraction are paired with the “Music to My Ears” package at Royal Palms Resort and Spa. The package includes two tickets to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), which has over 15,000 instruments from 200 countries. Wear headphones that play corresponding music to the gallery you’re walking by, see instruments once played by huge stars like Elvis, and play some totally unique instruments at the Experience Gallery. Besides the tickets, guests receive a complimentary room upgrade, two “garden-to-glass” cocktails at Mix It Up Bar, daily breakfast for two, and a $10 donation to MIM will be made in your name.
You’re already planning on catching a Cactus League Spring Training game, right? Make a weekend of it! The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa is offering fans its Play Ball Package from March 1-April 2 and gives guests a daily $100 credit. In addition, enjoy discounts that can be used at any of the resort’s three restaurants including Brittlebush Bar & Grill, deseo and Nellie Cashman’s Monday Club Café. Or head to Agave, The Arizona Spa, after a long day watching baseball in the sun to receive 15% off spa treatments. Rates start from $554 per room, per night.
Trending in Phoenix resorts are luxurious updates to our property portfolio, so a desert getaway feels even more like an escape. FireSky Resort & Spa is the latest property embarking on a renovation including the guestrooms, adding restaurant concepts and various improvements to the resort, following Classic Hotels & Resorts purchase of the property. This comes after other multimillion dollar facelifts at local resorts like Hotel Valley Ho, The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, the Chaparral Suites and Hilton Scottsdale Resort and Villas.
The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa has plenty of amenities for a relaxing stay from native-inspired spa treatments at Aji Spa, a relaxing pool and hitting the course at Whirlwind Golf Club, but don’t forget to have an adventure during your time there. For each night of your stay, they’re offering complimentary breakfast for two or four, plus two or four one-hour adventure passes for River Adventure Activities. From there, you decide if stand-up paddleboards, paddleboats, kayaks or water bikes sound more interesting to you.
Love relaxation and adventure? During your stay at Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North, you can have both. They have partnered with Phoenix adventure outfitter Arizona Outback Adventures to offer a deal exclusively to guests at Four Seasons. For a leisurely hike and opportunity to learn more about the beautiful desert, try the Sonoran Desert Sunrise Stroll through the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Or hop on a bike that’s meant for various terrains and try their Bright Side of the Troon adventure that takes you through Troon Mountain and Pinnacle Peak. If you’re more into water adventures, the Full Day Adventure Kayaking is for you. The Verde River offers gorgeous views and some thrill with the fastwater chutes. Lastly, the Double Downhill-Downstream Multisport Descent gives you an exhilarating day of “gravity-powered” fun.
ARTS, CULTURE & ENTERTAINMENT
The Viva PHX music festival returns to downtown Phoenix for one night on March 12. Featuring 65 bands across 15 venues including Crescent Ballroom, Valley Bar and CityScape. Headliners include Crystal Castles, The Growlers, Neon Indian, and Rockets from the Crypt. Admission is $22.
Kids can become a Junior Archaeologists at Pueblo Grande Museum by doing a simulated excavation of a Hohokam pit house on April 2. Other kids programming include their Drop-In Discoveries on April 23, an informational program about the archaeological work being done at the platform mound site, and discover what family-friendly adventures they have planned. Plus check out their current exhibit Desertscapes: Narrative Landscape Photography any day you stop in to explore the unique beauty of the desert and why it should be preserved.
Music in the tranquility of the desert-where else can you experience that? The Desert Botanical Garden’s Concert Series continues every Friday and features some of Phoenix’s best artists in Blues, Latin and Jazz like The Sugar Thieves, Cinco de Moio, Big Nick and the Gila Monsters. Grab dinner at Gertrudes, the on-site restaurant, stroll through the Garden, and be serenaded by the featured artist and sounds of the Sonoran. If you can’t make it on Fridays, The Seasonal Table Dinners Series is another excellent (and tasty!) option on Thursdays. March 3 recognizes the unique flavors of Argentina with Sweet Corn Empanadas, Soup Puerto Madryn Style, Croquettes and Dulce de Leche. There will also be live performances with selections from Evita. On April 7, Chef Binkley will be in the kitchen giving visitors a taste of Catalonia. Serrano Ham, Pan Con Tomate, Charred Shrimp, Romesco Braised Lab and Soft Goat Cheese will be served alongside a variety of Spanish-influenced musical interludes.
Few artists remain relevant 500 years after they lived. The Phoenix Art Museum is honoring one Italian artist that has managed to do so: Michelangelo. Their special exhibit Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti features 26 sketches and drawing by the Renaissance master, which are rarely permitted to be displayed outside of Italy. Phoenix was one of just two U.S. cities given permission, making it a must-see. See famous pieces like Madonna and Child (1524) and The Sacrifice of Isaac (1535) by March 27, when the exhibit ends and the pieces make their way back to Florence.
The kids will want you to mark your calendars for this one. The Legoland Discovery Center at Arizona Mills Mall is slated to open April 22, and is complete with a 4D Cinema, large scale models, Lego Building Center and plenty of room for birthday parties. The recently crowned Master Model Builder, Alecsander Posta, will be in attendance to inspire the little builders with his eye for aesthetics and innate ability to interact with children. Visit the 40,000 square-foot space when it opens at 10 a.m. every day of the week.
The charm of old Hollywood films can largely be credited to the classic music composed for them. The Phoenix Symphony is paying homage to Elmer Bernstein, the legendary Hollywood composer, on March 25 at Symphony Hall for their “Celebrating Bernstein” show. With the help of Bernstein’s sons, they’ll put on a multimedia performance that features a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic music he created. There will even be a special performance by Mary Badham, the actress that played Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.
Missed Celebrating Bernstein? Don’t worry, the Phoenix Symphony is showcasing their craft at Mesa Arts Center on March 26 for the debut of Grammy Award-winning trumpet player Chris Botti. Have yourself a jazz-filled evening with timeless classics produced by America’s best-selling jazz instrumentalist and the renowned Phoenix Symphony.
Where can you watch a jousting match, dress up in your favorite medieval garb and dig into a turkey leg? The Arizona Renaissance Festival. Take a trip back in time to the wildly popular and entertaining fair that is open through March 27. The festival transports visitors to a 30-acre European-style fair that features 200 charming craft shops, 13 stages of non-stop entertainment, kitchens, pubs, games and rides.
A day of baseball and sun is one of the best ways to spend a March day in Arizona, but it can also completely wear you out. For those that attended a Cactus League Spring Training game, Agave Spa at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa is offering the “Post-Game Pamper.” Present your ticket stub from the game to receive 15% off any full price treatment at the spa from March 1-April 2. Experience one of their unique massages or facials, or pair various therapies for your own customized journey. After your treatment, hold onto your ticket stub and head to one of the three restaurants at the resort, deseo, Brittlebrush Bar & Grill, or Nellie Cashman’s Monday Café Club, to receive 20% off your bill.
If total relaxation is your goal, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch will take care of you during your stay. Their Spa Package includes daily breakfast and a $150 credit for each day at Spa Avania. Get glammed up with a manicure, pedicure or blowout, or completely pamper yourself with the Sacred Nature Facial, Avania Body Polish, Desert Essence Body Wrap or Focus Therapeutic Massage. They also offer Spa Pairings, which are multiple services tailored to your specific needs, and Couple’s Offerings, for relaxation next to your loved one.
Joya Spa at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia has named March the month of “Spring Rejuvenation.” Try any of the following services that provide your body with relief from the intensity of the sun at a discounted rate. They are offering guests the Sunkissed Body Experience, which includes full-body exfoliation followed by a South Seas spray tan meant for all skin types. Or try the Advanced Brightening Facial, which combines the latest technology in skin brightening to correct all forms of hyper-pigmentation. The Keratese Hair Therapy and Blowout locks in moisture and provides endless shine. If you’re hands and feet need an escape from the sun, the Hydrating Manicure or Pedicure is perfect.
“Spring Back to Life” with a 60 or 90-minute massage at The Running Water Spa at Scottsdale Camelback Resort. It involves long gliding strokes to loosen tight muscles and increase circulation. They also use warm towels and a peppermint-infused aromatherapy sugar scrub on your feet, foot and scalp massage. They’re also offering a couple’s massage for just $175 and “Relax and Renew,” which includes a 45-minute massage and 45-minute facial or body wrap.
Incorporate ingredients and other elements unique to the desert at Sonoran Spa at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. Now offering guests a $175 daily spa credit and 25% off spa services, all on top of their already luxurious accommodations. The spa has treatments like the Pinnacle Facial, named after Pinnacle Peak, the Jojoba and Prickly Pear Polish, Golfers’ Massage, and Sticks and Stones Massage, which pair perfectly with the resort’s surroundings-the Sonoran Desert.
If you needed proof that Phoenix’s culinary scene is a notch above the rest, here it is. There are four semi-finalists in Phoenix for 2016 James Beard Awards, all of which have made the list at least three years in a row. Sam Fox, the mastermind behind Flower Child, True Food, Zinburger and several other local favorites, is nominated for Outstanding Restaurateur. Charleen Badman of FnB and Kevin Binkley of Binkley’s are nominated for Best Chef: Southwest. And last, but most definitely not least, Pizzeria Bianco is nominated for Outstanding Restaurant. Finalists will be announced March 15 and the winners will be announced May 2 at the annual James Beard Award Gala.
The Scotch Library at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa has created a culinary journey that carries guests from the Highlands of Scotland to the lush desert of Arizona. They launched “The Ultimate Serve,” a one-of-a-kind tasting of Glenfiddich’s finest Scotch whiskies perfectly paired with Arizona-inspired bites. This very special experience, guided by the Scotch Library’s knowledgeable Scotch Ambassadors, is offered in an ambience of relaxed comfort and conversation surrounded by a library comprised of more than 200 Scotch whiskies as well as art and writings that celebrate the essence of Arizona. With The Ultimate Serve, guests are treated to four Glenfiddich whiskies masterfully paired with a selection of sweet and savory offerings specially created for the experience by Executive Chef Christopher Masco
“Dine, then dish!” That’s the slogan of the PBS show Check, Please!, which is having their 4th annual festival on March 20 at Margaret T. Hance Park. Sample the best of the best local chefs’ signature dishes and discover restaurants featured on the show. There will be cooking demonstrations and plenty of beer and wine pairings to go with the cuisine. Emmy Award and James Beard Award-winning host of Check, Please!, Chef Robert McGrath, will be in attendance alongside the star of Lidia’s Kitchen, Lidia Bastianich.
No need to be of Italian descent to have a wonderful day at the 3rd Annual Italian Festival. Join other Italian culture admirers on March 19-20 at The Scottsdale Waterfront for live music, Italian handcrafted items and, of course, Italian cuisine. Indulge in local favorites like Pomo Pizzeria, Giuseppe’s Ristorante, Virtu Honest Craft, Queen Creek Olive Mill and Gelato Dolce Vita. The festival is open from 11 a.m. -9 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, and admission is just $10.
Food festivals galore! For a little more spice, head to the 12th Annual Salsa Festival on March 19 to try a variety of styles and flavors of salsa. The event draws more than 15,000 people each year to Copper Sky Regional Park and features the Salsa Contestant’s People’s Choice competition, which lets the chefs-professional and amateur-make their salsa live. There is also Mexican music and dance, and a Little Pepper Zone, which has games, inflatable rides and other fun activities for families.
“Fun in the sun” is Phoenix’s mantra as the city gears up for Cactus League Baseball Spring Training. America’s favorite pastime is an annual ritual in the Valley of the Sun as 15 MLB teams commences spring training among 10 stadiums in city limits. Be the first in line to catch a game, watch pregame practices and maybe snag that autograph or photo from your favorite player.
Visit the course that Travel + Leisure Golf Magazine named “Best Resort Course in the Southwest” and get a great deal while you’re at it. JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is offering the “Unlimited Golf Experience” package for $389/night, which will offer golf fun and relaxation throughout your stay. It includes the breakfast buffet at Stonegrill Restaurant each morning, unlimited golf on the Palmer or Faldo golf courses (golf cart with GPS included), unlimited use of practice golf facilities, Advanced Tee Times, golf club bag storage and 20% off in the resort golf, spa and tennis retail shops.
Wear green and join in on the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on March 17 with the Shamrock Run/Walk. Work up a thirst while you make your way through a 5K or 10K, and then treat yourself to a complimentary cold one at the on-site beer garden. Runners are encouraged to use glow sticks to light the banks of the Arizona Canal during the evening race. After the race, check out the Race Expo and happy hour at Jack’s Place.
Bikers welcome! Arizona Bike Week is put on by Harley-Davidson Motorcycles and celebrates motorcyclists, BMX and enthusiasts for both sports. From April 6-10, there are a wide variety of events spread throughout Greater Phoenix ranging from rock concerts, auctions, shows and rides benefitting various causes. Grab tickets for individual days or a 5-day pass for $53.
If you consider yourself a football fan, rugby should be right up your alley! The biggest local rugby event gathered 5,000 fans last year, and is expected to bring even more this year to The Fiesta Bowl Rugby and Balloon Classic sponsored by Mercedes-Benz. Watch the showdown between Arizona State University’s rugby team and Mexico’s national rugby team on April 23 at Scottsdale Stadium. After the game, stick around for GLOW, a one-night-only nightclub experience featuring unique hot air balloons.