Our Sunday in Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale signIf you followed our kid-free weekend adventures in Arizona earlier on the blog, you may have seen photos from our visit to Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Seeing the desert plants was part of a relaxing Sunday that was much needed after our trek to the Grand Canyon.

We’d planned to hike the mountain trails behind our Scottsdale resort on this day and then relax by the pool, but I was still recovering from altitude sickness and feeling pretty wiped out. We decided to drive around Scottsdale to take in some of the sights.

Old Town Scottsdale is a must-see if you are in the area. It has a number of restaurant options and art galleries mixed in with old western shops and modern boutiques. We passed a couple of outdoor brunch spots that looked to be popular with locals and tourists alike. There is an Old Adobe Mission, which is open for tours throughout the week.

Old Adobe Mission, Scottsdale, AZA ballpark, Scottsdale Stadium, is nearby. It is the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants, and I just read that Tim Tebow, who recently became part of the New York Mets organization, could end up playing in a fall league here.

You can pretty much park your car and walk to any type of dining, shopping or entertainment experience in Old Town Scottsdale.

Scottsdale, AZA little further down the road in Tempe, we found the main campus of Arizona State University. We always think it’s fun to explore college towns when we’re traveling and this was no exception. The buildings are very different from the stately southern palaces we’re accustomed to seeing on SEC campuses. There were not many folks around when we strolled through campus, but I’m sure that is the exception and not the rule.

Arizona_State_campus

Sun Devil Stadium was under construction, presumably to add more seating. According to Google, famous ASU alumni have included Pat Tillman, Phil Mickelson, David Spade, and my personal favorite late night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel.

ASU_stadium

After our sightseeing, we went back to our hotel, the JW Marriott Camelback Inn in Scottsdale. We tend to stay at Marriott properties whenever possible because of the points program that allows us to earn points toward future travel with every stay. They have not compensated me to tell you this (or to write about them at all, for that matter). It’s just what we do unless we have a compelling reason to stay somewhere else.

Interestingly, I learned that throughout its history the Camelback Inn has hosted the likes of Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Bette Davis, and it became Marriott’s first resort in the late 60s. It has undergone renovations and expansion through the years and modern era guests have included Oprah Winfrey and President George H.W. Bush.

camelback_inn

The Camelback Inn did not disappoint. We’d requested a mountain view room, and the sight of Camelback Mountain from our balcony each day was stunning. The entire resort was landscaped beautifully, and there was something new to admire at every turn. I was constantly admiring the desert vistas. We watched jackrabbits hopping from cactus to cactus.

Mountain_View_Villa

For a girl from the Southeastern United States, it was like being on another planet. The diversity of the geography really had us thinking about the history and settlement of this area of our country, and I wish we’d had time to visit the Museum of the West while we were in Scottsdale (It’s in Old Town, too.).

Our one-bedroom casita at the Camelback Inn was comfortable with a spacious bathroom. The resort staff were friendly and helpful. As we roamed around the resort, they met us several times on golf carts offering bottled waters and fresh pineapple.

camelbackinnpatio

While we didn’t play golf, the resort has beautiful greens for those so inclined. I kind of expected Scottsdale to be full of retired tourists who are there for the golf. It may be that way at other times of the year, but during our visit the crowd looked a lot more like us – Gen X couples and young families. The musician that played during one of the outdoor dinners we enjoyed on the resort’s restaurant patios had a distinctively 90s set list (as in 1990s). It made for a nice evening.

Poolside_drinks_Camelback_Inn

We did make it to the pool to relax and enjoy our last afternoon in the desert. A poolside wait staff is one of my favorite luxuries on a vacation. We took advantage of the hospitality as well as the lounge chairs and umbrellas, and we enjoyed a tasty frozen beverage and snack – again with an incredible view of Camelback Mountain.

Cheers to Phoenix and Scottsdale! You are beautiful and I hope I get to visit again some day.

Have you traveled to Phoenix or Scottsdale? What other places / attractions would you recommend visiting in the area? Leave a comment to share your thoughts. 

 

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We got slimed!

I remember distinctly the day our local cable company expanded its 13-channel line up to a whopping 30+ channels. It had to have been 1987 or 1988. My sixth-grade self could not have been more excited when that clunky cable box arrived, so I could push a few buttons and finally watch the likes of Nickelodeon and MTV. I’d gotten a glimpse of these networks at the homes of friends and family across town, where modern media had taken root some months earlier. The show I could not wait to watch was, “You Can’t Do That on Television,” a Nickelodeon staple in the 80s. You may remember it as Alanis Morissette’s claim to fame before she became a jagged little pill.

The show originated in Canada and offered a series of comedy sketches for kids by kids. Its legacy today is the green slime that was dumped on at least one cast member’s head in every episode. Whoever said the words, “I don’t know,” was the lucky recipient of the green, gooey mess.

The slime still shows up on Nickelodeon from time to time. I know this because — three children and (almost) three decades later — Nickelodeon has once again become relevant in my life. Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, and Bella and the Bulldogs may as well be on a constant loop at our house (and those are just the shows I’m willing to admit my children watch!). Note to self: Reevaluate our progress on limiting screen time.

Recently, when faced with booking a hotel near Disney World for a couple of nights, I learned there is in fact a Nickelodeon hotel, where – you guessed it – the slime is still flowing! Complete with character experiences a la Disney and water slides, the Nickelodeon Suites Resort is just a few minutes’ drive from Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It offers shuttles to most, if not all, of the Orlando theme parks, too. It all sounded great on the hotel website, so we made our reservations.

This trip was a surprise for our girls, and when they learned about the hotel they were excited. Unfortunately I only later started reading reviews of the hotel, many of which would have scared me away from the place if I had I read them before booking. There were positive reviews, too, though so we decided to stick with our plans to stay there and hoped for the best.

For the most part, we were happy with our two-night stay at the Nick hotel. Although the carpet and decor were dated, the two-bedroom suite was clean and provided ample space for our stay. At check-in, we received a daily schedule of events and activities, including a daily mass sliming at one of the hotel’s two pools. We made the pool our first stop after we arrived. The older kids loved the water slides, and my preschooler enjoyed splashing around in the large shallow end of the pool. Then came the sliming. People began to gather underneath the giant bucket-o-slime as upbeat music played and an announcer worked to get the crowd excited. A countdown began and the rest is history.

 

I was videoing the sliming, so can’t speak from personal experience but my daughters said it was fun. They were a little disappointed that the slime was not, well, slimier. It looked to be water with some green food coloring, and it washed right off in the pool. If you want to experience the real deal green slime, you apparently have to pay extra during a special sliming activity in another part of the resort. Or, you can take part in the resort’s daily Double Dare competition. Yes, this is the same Double Dare you watched as a kid, too — another Nickelodeon show that featured frequent slimings. We happened to catch the live stage show the night we arrived. Two families competed, answering trivia questions and daring each other to take a physical challenge.

double_dare

If a trip to Orlando and the Nick hotel was’t enough, I sure hope this kid appreciated his dad donning a giant hot dog bun and having mustard dumped on his head during the Double Dare game!

 

The live Double Dare show was actually pretty good. Admission to the show was included in a daily resort fee that also allowed us to meet a couple of Nickelodeon characters who had scheduled appearances during our stay. For those willing to pay extra, an arcade, laser tag and character dining experiences are offered on the property, as well. Because we were spending a day at Magic Kingdom during our stay, we chose not to do the activities requiring an additional charge at the Nick hotel. Our four-year-old was happy calling Dora (a recorded message) from the phone in our room, after all.

For a two-night family trip, the Nick hotel was fine. Considering it is in Disney’s backyard, where everything is magical, the hotel could use some updating (Do you even know who Blues Clues or Rugrats are? My kids don’t, yet these characters are featured prominently on the hotel building while current favorites like Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig are nowhere to be seen. Maybe the dated characters are still popular internationally? Not sure.)  The accommodations were not the most comfortable or luxurious option by adult standards, but they were adequate and comparable to other similarly priced hotels we’ve visited off the Disney property. The bottom line: The Nickelodeon hotel provided a fun setting for our stay and the kids loved it. Isn’t that what most trips to Disney World are about anyway?