I’m an 80’s girl, so that means I grew up on a good mix tape. My Arizona adventures wrote their own soundtrack for fun while in Phoenix and Scottsdale. I’ve complied a Melodious Mix Tape that tracks the three activities I loved best while exploring in “The Grand Canyon State”: ballooning, Jeep touring, and spa-ing. (Even if the last one isn’t a real word.)
Phoenix, Arizona, has so many opportunities for experiences and excursions, you may have a hard time choosing. A few of them jumped at me when planning my recent visit. How could I resist hot air ballooning for the first time, a rambling outdoors tour that’s both fun and educational, and an orange blossom infused spa treatment that would leave me relaxed and zen? I was so inspired by my experiences that I decided to create a virtual mix tape to chronicle my adventures. The mix tape tracks I’ve chosen sum up my mentality before, during, and after the activities. Feel free to sing along!
Hot Air Ballooning with Hot Air Expeditions
Before Song: “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
Let’s just say I was a bit hesitant and anxious about this experience. For starters, I am a bit squeamish at high heights, especially when looking down. But my adventurous spirit convinced my scaredy cat side to go for it, so I did like Bon Jovi said! For a non-morning person like myself to get up and ready for courtesy pick-up at 6:15 a.m., you know it’s got to be a bucket list item.
Of course, I was in excellent hands with Hot Air Expeditions. They’re a family owned and operated business for the past 24 years, and they have also been rated “Best Balloon Flight in Phoenix” by Fodor’s Travel for the past 21 years in a row.
The rendezvous point is the Deer Valley airport, but Hot Air Expeditions can also pick you up at your hotel or resort if you would prefer. Nick, our chauffeur, also was part of the ground crew that follow the balloon while it’s in the air.
From the airport, we drove for another 20 minutes for our flight launch spot. Here’s where my mind was blown. I had no idea that our balloon would hold 19 people! What?! We were actually in one of the two balloons that Hot Air Expeditions launched that morning.
During Song: “Come Fly with Me” by Michael Bublé
Up, up and away! What an uplifting experience. The amazing thing is that it is so calm and peaceful, and there is absolutely no wind. How is that possible? Because you travel WITH the wind.
Fun fact: if a candle was lit during your flight, the flame would remain motionless because there is no breeze as you travel with the wind.
Granted, we wouldn’t have been able to launch if winds were higher than 10 m.p.h., but once you are airborne, anything can happen. So I was thankful that we had calm air and a gorgeous day for ballooning.
We reached almost 5,000 feet during our hour long flight. Our balloonist Tommy told us that they keep the balloons below 6,000 feet to avoid commercial planes. I’m all for that!
While airborne, you can see for miles. Try to spot animals like coyote, deer, or roadrunners. Take photos to capture the moment. Or sit in awe of the beauty and grandeur of the landscape.
After Song: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Our smooth landing behind us, we now awaited a delicious breakfast, complete with champagne and mimosas! Catered by Vincent’s on Camelback, an acclaimed local restaurant with French and Southwestern influences, we feasted on Southwestern vegetable quiche, warm croissants, cheese, and apple slices.
A toast with the table would not be complete without the Balloonist’s Prayer:
“May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.”
Everyone received certificates commemorating our launch and inducting us into the Ballooning Society with the “Certificate d’Ascension En Machine Aerostatique.”
All in all, Hot Air Expeditions escorts you through a wonderful ballooning experience whether you choose their daily morning flight or seasonal afternoon flights (November-March). My mix tape song matches this experience to a T: if there had been a rainbow, we would have been somewhere over it, and “What a Wonderful World” is my all-time favorite song. Kind of like ballooning is now one of my all-time favorite activities!
Sonoran Desert Adventure with Pink Jeep Tours
Before Song: “Desert Rose” by Sting
After checking out all the touring options, one touring company stood out over all others: Pink Jeep Tours. Could it have been the “pink” Jeep Wranglers they use? Maybe. But their positive feedback and glowing recommendations on Trip Advisor and from locals made it my top choice. That was the easy part! The hard part? Deciding what tour to take! From Sedona to Grand Canyon to the newest Sonoran Desert tour, Pink Jeep Tours offers a day trip like no other.
We chose the Sonoran Desert tour and were thankful we did because we had an amazing guide named Cory. From the moment he picked us up at our resort, we felt right at home chatting with him. Our tour included only one other person, so it was very personalized.
During Song: “Cruise” by Florida-Georgia Line
Tons of fresh air. (Bring a hair tie or a hat.) Sunglasses on. Camera ready. Listen and learn. You will pick up so much wonderful information about the region, the history, and the desert itself. Soak it all in.
Like learning that cacti are aerodynamic! Their shape creates a vortex and the air bounces off and around them. Cool, right? You might also learn how Phoenix got its name. And about the 2,000 species of plants in the Sonoran Desert, which is the second most biodiverse place in the world (second to the Amazon). Or why other plants have the pioneer plant to thank for their existence. (They help the cactus seed germinate and stay protected for five years if the cactus is going to thrive.)
The lyrics to my mix tape song fit this adventure perfectly: “Baby you a song/You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise.” Cruising with Pink Jeep Tours, that is!
For a change of pace, this tour also includes a boat cruise on Saguaro Lake aboard the Desert Belle Cruises. This 90 minute sailing takes you down and back the length of the 10 1/2 mile Saguaro Lake. Those peaks in the distance reach 7700 feet and contain one of the preeminent amethyst mines. Our tour included a bag lunch catered by Paradise Bakery which we enjoyed on the boat.
After Song: “Adventure of a Lifetime” by Coldplay
I didn’t want the day to end, but sadly it had to. Climbing out of the pink Jeep Wrangler and saying goodbye to Cory, it was like saying bye to an old friend. The day was simply the adventure of a lifetime.
Citrus Ritual Treatment at Royal Palms Resort & Spa
Before Song: “Stressed Out” by twenty one pilots
The Royal Palms Resort and Spa has a killer spa, called the Alvadora Spa.
Named “Alvadora” as a nod to the Mediterranean belief that the natural environment could rejuvenate the body and spirit with therapeutic qualities, and the start of each day brings an opportunity to naturally improve your well being. I love that there is meaning behind the spa’s name, and the spa really delivers. You may be “stressed out” when you arrive, but you will not be when you leave!
I chose the Citrus Ritual, the spa’s signature treatment. Described as a “full body exfoliation and gentle massage followed by a relaxing soak and shower in our indoor-outdoor private patio, and a moisturizing citrus lotion application.”
The spa’s Acqua Dolce Suite has stone walls, side-by-side custom stone heated treatment tables with Vichy showers, an oversized soaking tub, an outdoor Watsu pool (being repaired during my visit), an 8-foot waterfall shower, an outdoor raindrop shower, a private garden patio, and a Italian villa-style fireplace. Sounded like heaven to me! I couldn’t wait to reap the benefits of exfoliation and massage.
During Song : “Dawn” by Jean-Yves Thibaudet from the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack
After a grand tour of the suite and taking photos, I was ready to get my relaxation on. Water is the common thread throughout this invigorating treatment. Three Vichy showers constantly cascade water while you are exfoliated with scrub and loofah. The next part of this 80 minute treatment is to rinse off under the waterfall shower, then soak your cares away in the soaking tub.
The Citrus Ritual is a truly zen experience that forces you to slow down. At first, I thought, there is no way I am going to be able to chill out for 20 minutes in between the exfoliation and the moisturizing sessions. Boy, was I wrong! Laying on the chaise lounge in front of the roaring fire underneath an abundant orange tree, I was blissed out! The other remarkable thing was the total privacy and tranquility. I was at total peace, which as a mom of two busy kids hardly EVER happens!
After Song: “Beautiful Day” by U2
My skin glowed. Orange blossom scents still lingering in my nose, I walked around the property and smiled. Relaxed, calm, and centered, I was ready to take on the world! WHat better song to capture that feeling than U2’s “Beautiful Day.”