For the last leg of our anniversary trip, we headed down to Scottsdale for 3 nights of resort living. We stopped by Old Town on the way in, and it was just the cutest place — even more so at night once the streets and trees are lit up with what seemed like millions of tiny white lights. Old Town is filled with tons of great restaurants and bars, and even more jewelry and souvenir shops.
It was so hard to choose a resort — there were too many that all looked fabulous. We ended up at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch… largely because of that water slide below! The resort had something like 10 pools (some tiny, but who’s measuring), including an adults-only pool, and that giant slide, which was so fun! I may or may have not been the only adult in line with a dozen 5-year-olds. We sat by the pool for 2 solid days, which I think we earned after our rigorous hiking excursions. 😉
What I loved most about the resort property was the huge open courtyard and open-air lobby area. The view was so inviting for breakfast, lunch, sushi/cheese/wine happy hour, and for nighttime entertainment. Southwest Bistro was my favorite restaurant onsite — I got the southwest chicken caesar salad both days for lunch, and I kinda wish I had one right now.
In between laying hanging out at the pool and hugging cacti, we tried a few really great restaurants, with our favorites being The Mission and El Chorro. You know I’ll have a blog post coming soon.
The last full day of the trip, we were up at literally before the crack of dawn to do something I’ve been wanting to do for years — ride in a hot air balloon!! This was the 2nd item I was able to check off my bucket list during this trip, and I’ve been so excited about it since booking it a few months ago. We had to call the night before to ensure that the weather would be good enough to fly, and thankfully it was. After reading tons and tons of reviews, I chose 2 Fly Us Hot Air Balloons (if we were going to float thousands of feet into the air in a tiny basket, I wanted to at least make sure we were choosing a SAFE tiny basket and a great pilot).
Kevin is the owner of 2 Fly Us, and he was our pilot and tour guide of the open air. He and his “chase crew” — an ex-Seattle Seahawks player named Gene — were so professional, friendly, and really made us feel comfortable. The cool thing about these companies is that they coordinate take-off sites so that their customers get to see all of the other balloons being blown up and photograph them while they’re flying near them in the air. Our basket held just 5 people, which we really liked, but one of the groups had a basket holding 20!
It was so neat to watch each team quickly but very carefully unroll the balloons, connect them to the baskets (which were lying on their sides on the ground), and then turn on the fuel to essentially air up the balloon and lift it upright. To me, the only really unnerving part of the process was hopping into the half-upright basket and having it wobble around until it righted itself with the flow of the wind and took off into the air.
Once up in the air, the balloon just sort of goes where the wind takes it. The ride was surprisingly incredibly smooth and stable. We reached a height of about 5,300 feet and then (very) slowly swooped down in between mountains so low that I thought we might end up on top of a cactus… and then before we knew it, we’d be heading right back up into the sky again.
Our pilot and chase crew communicated via radios to determine a landing spot. I was a little worried about crash landing, but it was so smooth. Kevin really knows what he’s doing. Once we disembarked, Gene quickly rolled the giant balloon back up into its container. I would most certainly have had that thing in a colossal knot if that were my job.
And another fun part…. a champagne toast to celebrate a successful flight! We held our glasses toward the rising sun and Kevin recited what is called “The Balloonist’s Prayer,” which goes like this:
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.
I can’t say enough how much I loved our hot air balloon experience. Flying peacefully through the sky, between mountains, above cacti in the desert, and next to several other giant, glowing balloons was one of the single most amazing things I’ve ever gotten to do. It was the perfect cap to an incredible trip celebrating 5 wonderful, joyous years of marriage. I’m excited to see where we end up for our 10th!