My hubs and I celebrated our 8th anniversary in the middle of the week with mac n cheese, hot dogs, green beans, and homemade peanut butter cups.  I left that lovely meal to go play in a volleyball game, making it one romantic evening!

Truthfully, we celebrated our anniversary a bit earlier with a nice steak dinner at home and several weeks ago with a kid-free trip to Phoenix, Arizona.  It was a DELIGHT to escape the polar vortex that has kept coming back to Wisconsin and simply be on our own, adult-directed schedule.

On the first day it hit 80 degrees, though as they say, it’s dry heat, so it’s not quite as warm as it is with humidity.  We were both comfortable in pants and enjoyed a stroll around the Desert Botanical Garden that had a special Chihuly Exhibit. His vibrant glass sculptures have an outer-space like quality and seemed at home in the desert surroundings.

Striking views of Chihuly exhibit and scenes of Phoenix, Arizona.
Striking views of Chihuly exhibit and scenes of Phoenix, Arizona.

As part of our trip planning, we read a 2007 Fodor’s Guide I picked up at the library’s book sale for $1 and received a copy of the Wall Street Journal Off Duty Guide to a Long Weekend in Phoenix from our travel agent, who easily planned our trip in about 24 hours! The article suggested a variety of attractions and restaurants.  Our advice – when the WSJ recommends it – go there!

Awesome Eats

Despite our actual anniversary kid-friendly meal, Daddy O. and I are somewhat adventurous eaters.  We indulged in Mexican, Asian fusion, and south-west BBQ during our visit.  Some highlights:

  • FnB – Food & Beverage in Scottsdale featured locally sourced food & drink. Our waiter had a definite laid-back vibe, calling one menu item a “sando,” which translates to sandwich.  Amazingly fresh, flavorful food!
  • The Clever Koi – I had pork ramen that reminded me of eating ramen in Tokyo.  Unlike the very cheap ramen from college days, REAL ramen is incredible.  We also shared some tasty Asian-fusion small plates and unique cocktails.
  • Carolina’s – This place boasts of the BEST tortillas in town.  The unassuming appearance of the building and odd mix of surrounding lots were a bit off-putting, but from the full parking lot and long line, we KNEW it would be good.  We stopped there for lunch and noticed the melting pot of customers (good food brings all kinds of people together).  We went back the next morning for breakfast burros.  So good, but a second to the breakfast tacos I had in Austin, Texas.
  • The Farm at South Mountain – on our last morning we ended up eating here. I had hoped to go here before we went hiking in South Mountain Park, but we were up WELL before sunrise and the restaurant’s opening time as a result of getting up at 4:00 a.m. the day before for our flight and the one hour time difference. It’s a beautiful setting, complete with outdoor dining under propane patio heaters (since it was in the 40’s we needed them!). It was good food, but difficult to eat fast before it got cold.

Outside of the Desert Botanical Gardens, we ventured to the Heard Museum of American Indian tribes, and enjoyed hiking in South Mountain Park, including a drive up to Dobbin’s Lookout for a fantastic view of Phoenix, Camelback Mountain, and Papago Peak (oh and an airplane, as the airport is located in the center of the city).

View of Phoenix from Dobbin's Lookout in South Mountain Park
View of Phoenix from Dobbin’s Lookout in South Mountain Park

We weren’t sure which trail included Fat Man’s Pass, as I watched in the Emmy winning video posted on the South Mountain Official Site.

It’s a beautiful park, and we would have liked to have tried some other trails if more time allowed.  My fear of heights sometimes limits what hikes we do! We laughed at our over-preparedness for our hike – carrying a lot of water, sunscreen, first aid supplies, bandages, multiple layers of clothes, all heavy stuff in a backpack – when we saw other hikers traveling MUCH much more lightly.  One woman wore flip flops on the trail – not my first choice for sandy, rocky slopes!!

After resting up from hiking, we went out in Tempe, where the Arizona State University college kids go (and felt kind of old).

Taste of the Old West

After our breakfast burros, we drove up to Wickenburg, an old west town and home to Rancho de los Caballeros.  Our family member who works at the ranch showed us around and has successfully enticed us to return someday – possibly with our kids! I would love to go horseback riding and explore the beautiful landscape or indulge in luxurious spa treatments, while Daddy O. would much prefer golfing.

Views from Rancho de los Caballeros - dude ranch, golf resort and spa
Views from Rancho de los Caballeros – dude ranch, golf resort and spa

After touring the resort, we headed to the historic downtown area for lunch at a place called the Hog Trough.  You KNOW it’s going to be good when the word “trough” is in the name!  We enjoyed smoked brisket BBQ sandwiches – so delicious that Daddy O. wanted to bring some back on the plane.  They just don’t make it that way in Wisconsin! Because we just can’t relax too much on vacation, we toured the Desert Caballeros Western Museum located in downtown Wickenburg before grabbing some ice cream and driving back to Phoenix.

Later that night we met another family member (Daddy O. has a big family!) for dinner in Chandler at local micro brew SanTan Brewing Company. I enjoyed a lighter, amber ale with a huge burger that was too big to finish.  We dined outside under a propane heater and enjoyed catching up, sharing stories about our trip (and home) and hearing about what’s new in his Arizona home.  Here’s a picture of me & Daddy O. from that night:

Mama and Daddy O posing together on vacation in Phoenix
Mama and Daddy O. very carefree & relaxed on vacation

It was a wonderful trip to an interesting city, jumbled together as it may be with strange mixed zoning (there’s often an industrial park, a school, some lower income homes, and a gated community all on the same street).  Phoenix was a perfect getaway to sunshine, a bit of hiking / nature, delicious dining, and interesting history.  I’m sure Daddy O. and I will be back, or continue to enjoy more of life’s adventures together on our family journey.  I certainly am blessed to have him by my side through whatever we encounter in life! Here’s to many more years babe!

What do you do to celebrate anniversaries? Have you been to Phoenix?  What are your favorite couple’s getaway destinations?