What to do in Phoenix, Arizona

My boyfriend and I have been to Arizona exactly twice. Our first foray into the state was last March when our flight from Palm Springs to Phoenix was delayed. We missed our connecting flight to JFK so had the privilege of staying at a dodgy hotel in Tempe for less than 12 hours. The airline left our luggage (and pajamas) in Palm Springs, so we slipped into sheets that appeared to be made of printing paper, and called it a night.

Four months later, when Cadillac invited us to join them in Phoenix for a weekend at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa and an adventure in the Escalation Series V, we decided this would be our chance to redeem Arizona’s reputation once and for all. The Arizona redemption tour started with a tequila tasting, so it was off to a good start, and continued exploring the most amazing architecture in the middle of the desert, then unwinding with a few more cocktails at the edge of the hotel swimming pool. Sounds happy, right?

If you want to copy our itinerary, here’s what to do in Phoenix to really get into those desert vibes.

Warning: the editor received a free stay, meals, flights and activities for ~research~ this trip.

What you bring…

We got to temperatures in the 100s (yes, you read that right) and immediately stripped off as many layers of clothing as possible. Here’s what you might want to bring with you if you decide to follow in our footsteps:

What are you sipping…

After unwrapping and opening a generous Cadillac gift box filled with Ray-Ban sunglasses and La Mer sunscreen and lip balm, we joined other guests and Cadillac representatives in the lobby for a tasting of tequila that I always think about, tbh. As well as tasting some Casamigos, we drank Class Azul Reposado (so! smooth!) and Azul Guerrero Mezcal class. Depending on where you buy this mezcal, a bottle can cost you between $600 and $700. If you’re not sold on mezcal as a spirit, a sip of this will absolutely convert you. Um, fast PSA to hydrate there too, because it’s usually at less 100 degrees with almost zero percent chance of rain in Phoenix.

But back to cocktails for a moment: you can’t leave the Royal Palms without taking a dip in the pool and lounging by the pool bar. The staff offers guests custom cocktails that go way beyond your usual poolside piña or frozen marg (the vodka and limoncello mule is a must). You are welcome for this tip.

How do you relax…

Cadillac prepared spa treatments of our choice for us the next morning. I chose a massage because I often sit like a shrimp at my desk and need a little help detangling my spine. The Alvadora Spa at the Royal Palms was also a delight. While waiting for your treatment, you can stroll in your comfortable bathrobe between the hammam, the indoor lounge and the outdoor lounge where you can bask in the sun like a cat. My massage therapist detoxified me everything most of my fiends and I left feeling refreshed enough to drive around a bit.

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How do you move…

For the first half of the day, we each had our own Cadillac CT4-V to take us from our spa treatments at Arcosanti (more on that later) to the middle of the desert. The CT4-V is compact and plush with a 14-speaker Bose surround sound system. It infuses Cadillac’s racing DNA for a super fun sedan experience. In addition, the grids on it are dope. On the way back we were treated to a big treat. At the end of our Arcosanti tour (I swear I’ll get to that in a second), we headed out to a fleet of Escalade V-Series that legitimately looked like something out of a music video.

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Matt Risdon

I mean, holy moly! Look at these things! I have a bit of a fear of driving big cars, as I established on my ski trip to Stowe, Vermont, so I had to put on my big girl pants and focus on how I looked cool to everyone on the freeway next to me. The 2023 Escalade V-Series pumps out 682 horsepower, a fancy way of saying it can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. It’s also equipped with one of the best audio systems in the game. The coolest feature was Super Cruise, the first true hands-free driver assist technology for compatible roads. Yeah, it’s like cruise control on steroids. It can even let you know when it’s time to change lanes and initiate movement while following signaling protocols. While you can take your hands off the wheel while using Super Cruise, you obviously have to keep an eye on the road at all times.

Where you explore…

Our big destination for the day was Arcosanti, an ~experimental~ city in the heart of the desert created by the Cosanti Foundation in 1970. According to the city’s website, “Arcosanti is an attempted prototype of arcology, incorporating the design of the architecture with respect for ecology. Aka all structures work with the natural elements of the earth below and around them to regulate light, wind and temperature. Now Arcosanti has a small community of adults and of children who live there year-round. Its residents are employed by the Cosanti Foundation to help maintain and develop Arcosanti, and they each have their own role in the community. Art students also come to residency throughout of the year because it’s just catchy.

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Matt Risdon

The architecture is quite amazing. If you want to stay there, you can book the Sky Suite for $172 a night (highly recommended!).

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newsroom at taliesin west

Matt Risdon

Another bucket list item: Check out Taliesin West while you’re in the area. It was the winter home and studio of architect Frank Lloyd Wright from 1937 to 1959. He designed the house with the desert in mind, as it is located in Scottsdale, Arizona, overlooking the suburb of Paradise Valley . The walls were made of desert rocks and the rooms were adapted to natural light. We were able to visit his drawing room, the cabaret and the music pavilion. Outside the house itself, the Chihuly Desert Botanical Garden exhibit shimmered in the last light before sunset, setting the perfect backdrop for our last night in Arizona.

The final verdict

Alright, we’ve officially converted to Arizona stans. Although it was hot (if you want a respite from the insane heat, a time to go to Phoenix would probably be November, December or January) the drinks at the pool were key cool. One thing that’s guaranteed to take all your worries away is a piña colada with a rum float, plus a deep tissue massage after hiking in the scorching sun all day. But the climax we’ll never forget is kicking up sand dramatically as we sink into the desert in Series V. Now we get it, Phoenix. We understood.

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