Where to even begin? So far, this year has been a whirlwind of new and exciting experiences – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. From L.A., to Colorado, straight to Arizona… I’ve been taking advantage of a little time off before the craziness of wedding season ensues. Every new experience tops the next and Arizona was FULL of firsts for me. First of all, I was just happy to spend some time with my best-cousin-friend Tiff, and get to know her new husband Mike a little bit more. Top that with sunny, 75 degree weather when it’s negative degrees in Chicago… and I’m a happy girl. Throw in a few picturesque mountains and unbeatable sunsets to photograph… and I’m a bit giddy. And THEN add on exciting adventures and new foodie spots (and old favorites like In-n-Out Burger) – and I’m in heaven.
My arrival in Arizona started off perfectly with a dinner with Tiff at El Encanto Dos where we ate Queso Fundido Burros which were SO good… and I mean mouth-watering good. I’m pretty sure I ate “lunch” at like 9:30am the next day because I couldn’t wait to eat the other half of my burro. The next few days were chill, dinner at home nights… and EXACTLY what I was looking for. I had come straight to Arizona from a 5-day snowboarding trip so I was still catching up on sleep and rest. And most importantly, I really just wanted to spend some quality time with my cousin-friend and catch up 🙂 Not to mention the dinners that Mike cooked for us were delicious and it’s always comforting to eat home cooked meals. Definitely inspired me to get in the kitchen and cook more at home!
The weekend was jam packed with activities… just the way I like it 🙂 Friday we went to the Hawks vs. Coyotes game in a suite (thanks for the hookup, Mike!) – so much fun even though the Hawks lost. The pregame was pretty cool though… the 1980 Miracle Hockey Team USA was at the stadium and I literally had chills when the crowd started chanting USA USA USA. Definitely a moment I’ll never forget…
The next day we packed up the car and made an impromptu stop in Sedona for some gorgeous pictures and hole in the wall BBQ before heading to the Grand Canyon for a helicopter tour. The helicopter tour was just incredible and I still cannot believe we were in the middle of… well, nothing basically. I am beyond thankful to Mike for suggesting this activity. I will never forget it. I’ll also never forget the Green Chili Cheeseburger we got from Whataburger that night, either haha 🙂 I’ll let the photos of Sedona/Grand Canyon speak for themselves…
After sleeping in a little bit the next day – I think it’s safe to say we were all a little zonked from our adventures the previous day – we started our Sunday activity… Gun shooting. Yes, we went to the Scottsdale Gun Club. And let me tell you, I’ve never been so scared in my life. Now, I’ve gone sport clay shooting with a shotgun, jumped out of a plane (twice!), hang-glided over Wisconsin, been white water rafting in Colorado, scuba diving in Key West and Mexico… but I’ve honestly never been so scared! And I don’t exactly know why… and it definitely wasn’t expected! But after shooting off a few rounds and getting used to the gun, I started to really like it and felt a little more comfortable. I was able to hit the target in the chest most of the time… which made it look like I knew what I was doing… but really I was aiming for the head so my aim isn’t that great. Regardless, it was definitely another experience I will never forget. After calming down a bit, we headed to Cave Creek which is basically a little western town full of motorcycle bars and Indian shops. The best way I can describe it is that I felt like I was in the Southwest Territory at Six Flags. Eating a funnel cake about to ride the Viper, haha.
Monday I drove up to Flagstaff (about a 2+ hour drive) to go snowboarding at Snowbowl. I figured I might as well hit up one more mountain before heading back to flatsville Midwest. Had there been more snow, I think it would have been pretty nice. But just leaving Colorado where there was 20+ inches of fresh pow – I was a little biased. But I will say the drive was gorgeous. I think I could drive in the mountains forever.
The next day, I had a client consult in Old Town Scottsdale, so I made the drive out and stopped at the Desert Botanical Garden beforehand. Chihuly, the artist that created the glass ceiling at the Bellagio, had an exhibit throughout the gardens, which was pretty interesting. But I have to say my favorite photos came from the desert sunset. But, one of the photos below, which is my favorite of the entire trip, was actually taken on the side of the road. I was heading out of the garden and looked to my left and thought to myself, “that’s pretty much the exact shot I’ve been looking for this entire trip.” So I had to pull over and capture it 🙂
My last day in Arizona ties the Grand Canyon day as my favorite. It was spent soaking up some sun before heading back to Old Town with Tiff and doing a little shopping. I had stumbled upon this part of town that she had actually never seen before so it was nice to explore it together. After buying a few things… which include a friendship bracelet, “desk” boot, and a pretty awesome southwest poncho complete with fringe and hanging feathers (yes, I will be proudly rocking this in Chicago), we met Mike at Dick’s Hideaway. Now, being the unofficial foodie that I am… I love local hotspots, genuine food true to the area, and especially hidden gems. Dick’s Hideaway hit the trifecta as it didn’t even have a sign on the door and was home to authentic and delicious New Mexican food. The ambiance was great… but even better was the company. It was the perfect way to end my visit to Arizona… spending quality time with Tiff and Mike reminiscing about all the fun things we had done together over the past week.
That’s all folks! Way longer than I anticipated, but I had so much to share from this amazing trip that it just kept flowing (plus I’m on the plane back to Chicago right now so there isn’t much else for me to do). I cannot thank Tiff and Mike enough for their hospitality, home cooked meals, tours of AZ, letting me drive Mike’s car all over the state, and even the “limo” service to the airport complete with suggestions for my next vacation… New York/D.C. here I come??