A few weeks ago I was in Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The weather was brisk (putting it mildly) by Arizona standards, but I was still able to enjoy watching Phil Mikelson, Vijay Singh, Ricky Fowler, and a host of other grade A golf players who swooped in to compete. Despite frost delays, the players were still friendly and engaging.
In Arizona, the words, "Spring Break," have almost become synonymous with, "Spring Training." (See list below of training facilities in Arizona from wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Major_League_Baseball_spring_training_ballparks). Droves of baseball fanatics land in Arizona in order to see their favorite team(s) play. I believe one of the biggest draws about Spring Training in Arizona is that the players are highly accessible; the fields are smaller; the crowds are happy onlookers, and the overall feel and spirit of the games are light and fun. While the players all know why they are there, and take it very seriously, there is a bit of laid back enjoyment they tend to exhibit during these exhibition games.
If there were anytime I personally would want to visit Arizona, it would be during the month of March. The weather is - perfect. The days are in the mid 70's to low 80's and the night time temperatures dip into the 40's and 50's, so if you are staying at a property that has an outdoor fire pit, you can take advantage of the cooler night temperatures, while still enjoying your time outdoors.
I've created a short list of some of my favorite places (restaurants and accommodations), and I have noted those that are family friendly as well.
- Oregano's (family friendly) - wonderful Italian food with multiple locations throughout the Phoenix, AZ area. While it's not New York or Chicago (big shoes to fill), it's delicious and always consistently good. They serve large portions, so you don't have to worry about feeding a family of 4-6 and going broke. The salads (my favorite is the Pablo Picasso Mexican salad), the pasta, the pizza (my favorites are the El Picasso and the Frisco), and lest not forget the pizza cookie (delightful cookie lightly baked so that it retains a bit of its gooiness and served with ice cream).
- Z-Tejas (moderately family friendly) - this is a great place that has several locations throughout Arizona as well, and a centrally located one that is nestled inside of the Fashion Square Mall at the intersection of Camelback Rd & Scottsdale Rd. This is a Southwestern food establishment that serves wonderful appetizers like their Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Tostada bites; nice salads and great specialty dishes. But, their main claim to fame (sorry Z) is their Chambord Margaritas. To taste one is to have a party in your mouth. They are reportedly so potent, that they restrict how many you can drink. Imagine that!!!
- Eddie V's (expensive and well worth it) - it appears that the original Eddie V's that I first began going to in DC Ranch has moved to a new location in Scottsdale, located at the new mall, Scottsdale Quarter. I can not speak to the new location's atmosphere, as I have not been since their move, but it appears their menu is the same, and if it is executed as well as the original one in DC Ranch, then they will have much success. Eddie V's appeals to a crowd that enjoys their surf and turf; however, the menu is heavier on the surf, than the turf. Their Parmesan Crusted Sole is simply delectable, and all of their side dishes serve several comfortably, so you can mix them up and select as many as your heart desires. This is not an inexpensive dining proposition, but is well worth the money spent.
- Flo's Asian Kitchen (moderately family friendly) - there are several Flo's located throughout Arizona too; however, my favorite is situated on Scottsdale Road in a strip mall. The dressing they serve on their lunch salad is good enough to drink - honest. It's likely a peanut based dressing, but it's creamy without being too creamy, and all of the ingredients blend together so well, and coat the lettuce leaves delicately as not to weigh them down, but to envelope them in the rich, creamy flavor. Unfortunately, one of my favorite dishes, they no longer serve; however, there has never been anything I haven't enjoyed here, and I've tried quite a few items.
- Postino Winecafé - one of my most favorite places to go, and of course during my recent visit, I made a beeline to this wonderful café. There are currently two Postino restaurants in Arizona, with more on the way. If you like hearty salads and over the top Bruschetta's, you will love Postino. The original Postino is located in the Camelback Corridor area off of Campbell, just a block or so shy of Camelback. It is a neighborhood restaurant that draws a crowd from all over the Arizona Valley. The wine list changes frequently, and all of the wines are selected to enhance your overall dining experience.
- Cafe Boa - while it is not located in an exactly central location, for those who live in the foothills of Ahwatukee area, I am certain they will attest to the fact they are glad to have this mainstay in their neighborhood. Cafe Boa is an Italian restaurant in the Ahwatukee area, and is relatively close to Tempe and South Phoenix. Located in a small strip mall, this restaurant has been around for several years, and looks to be well ensconced in this neighborhood for years to come. During my recent visit I also trekked over to Cafe Boa to dine. Their regular menu is excellent, but their selections for the day are always top notch. On my most recent visit I wrapped my mouth around the most wonderful Gnocchi with Chicken in a white sauce. Was it rich? Yes, but not in an obnoxious way. The chicken was wonderfully seasoned and was more of the back up to the main portion of the dish - the Gnocchi.
- Camelback Inn - on the fringes between Paradise Valley and Scottsdale, the Camelback Inn has everything for everyone - golfers, spa worshippers, families and the like.
- Westin Kierland Commons - a place for everyone, and close to everything. It is steps away from the shopping and fine dining at Kierland Commons and the newly opened Scottsdale Quarter.
- Scottsdale Plaza Resort (likely booked during Spring Training) - a friendly, moderately priced resort located close to Old Town Scottsdale. It is one of the older resorts in the area, but it does a lot of business and hosts many of the College Bowl game athletes, as well as those participating and attending Spring Training.
- The Phoenician Resort - expensive, but worth every penny. This property is centrally located to most parts of the valley. A short distance from the airport, central phoenix, Old Town Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. The Phoenician is a place to stay at least once in your lifetime (or more). It has a world class golf course; excellent spa treatments; luxurious grounds, and a glorious pool area. As a special treat, partake of their High Tea, you won't regret it.
Cactus League (Arizona)
*Photos taken by That Chick Té