Lifestyle

A Visit to Arizona

We took a family trip in March to Fountain Hills, Arizona–near Scottsdale. The four of us have not been away together in over FOUR YEARS (aside from a road trip to Nashville last May for my oldest son Alec’s graduation). Though it was a short trip, we enjoyed time with family while also exploring what the area had to offer. The weather was ideal – low 70s for a high. Coming from the frozen tundra of spring in Chicago, that felt glorious! I thought I’d round up a few of the highlights of our trip and reccos of things to do. So, let’s dive in!

Downtown Fountain Hills

Downtown Fountain Hills is quaint and lovely with lots of local shops, restaurants and the main attraction, a fountain in the middle of it all. The fountain runs every hour for 15 minutes most of the day and it gets as high as 560 feet! That’s taller than the Washington Monument and Notre Dame Cathedral. You can see it from miles away and it’s so cool against the desert landscape. We happened to be there on St. Patrick’s Day so we got to see it in all it’s green glory! There is a great park area surrounding the fountain where you see families enjoying picnics and kids playing at the playground. It’s a very family-friendly atmosphere.

The fountain on St. Patrick’s Day (Not the best photo – I was super zooming with my iPhone. But you get the gist)

Hiking

Arizona is full of hiking trails that come in all levels from leisurely to “OMG, I’m going to die.” Needless to say, I chose one of the more moderate trails and I have to say, it wasn’t easy! Alec and I hiked the Dixie Mine Trail in McDowell Mountain Regional Park. It was a 3.7 mile hike in and back. We saw all kinds of cactus, lots of lizards and what looked like some kind of granite throughout the trail. About 3/4 of the way in we saw the outer wall of the mine up against one of the mountains. There was also an area where all the water runs off and everything in that area was lush and green which was so pretty. Once we got to the peak, you could see Fountain Hills in the distance and when the fountain came up, it was so cool! Even though I was wrecked the next day, I was so glad we did this. It was nice mom/son time and I felt accomplished afterward (and proud that my dead body didn’t have to be hauled out by park personnel!). If you hike anywhere in the desert be sure to bring LOTS of water, wear good walking or hiking shoes and a hat for shade cuz it’s really hot out there!

The exterior of the Dixie Mine

View from the top of the trail. (Yes, Alec closed his eyes but I’m lucky I got any pictures by this point – I was exhausted!)

In-N-Out

I mean, do I even have to explain this?! One of the things I miss most about California is easy access to In-N-Out. I have yet to find a burger/fry experience that compares. I know there are a lot of opinions out there about Five Guys, Culvers, Shake Shack, blah, blah, blah. I call Bull$hit! If you haven’t been to In-N-Out and have the opportunity, DO IT! You’re welcome!

Double double with fries and a drink. Nothing better! And…now I’m hungry.

Frank Lloyd Wright – Taliesin West

This was definitely a highlight of our trip. I’m familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural style, but I really knew nothing about him. We took a tour of his Taliesin West property in Scottsdale where they gave you a vast amount of information about the man and the story behind this amazing place. His life story is so fascinating, I HIGHLY recommend you read about him even if you never get to tour one of his properties. Taliesin West was built to house and teach others who wanted to learn architecture. It is still an architectural school today. He basically packed up his car, and he and his wife drove from Wisconsin to Arizona and chose this piece of land to build on as his winter retreat. It has an amazing panoramic view of the desert and is nestled up against a mountain range. They had to use whatever materials were available to them locally and lived in tents while building…in the desert! Now that’s passion. Every inch of this place was designed with purpose and/or to solve a problem whether it was indirect lighting or roof angles to protect from the desert sun or optimize a cool breeze. We went during the day, but they also offer a night tour with all the lights illuminated and I would definitely go back for that next time.

View of the student architectural studio. They were in the middle of finals while we were there.

One of several pools used to put out any kitchen fires back in the day

I have to say, travel is top of the list when it comes to inspiring me creatively. There is nothing like the excitement of experiencing new places, sounds and smells. Arizona was a great little trip and I highly recommend a visit even if you only have a few days. What are some of your favorite travel spots? I’d love to hear!

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