Phoenix, AZ is a huge hotspot for Winnipeggers.
I’ve always envied other Winnipeggers (and Canadians) who have the opportunity to fly south to spend the winters in Phoenix, cause you know, it gets pretty cold and brutal up here in the north. Although Arizona is a winter hotspot, I always had this vision that it’s a place where you go down to play golf and be in warmer weather.
Boy, was I wrong.
Well technically not, since warm weather and golf is definitely a major tourism draw there, but Arizona is home to so many other things, including other places besides Phoenix and Scottsdale. Take for example, Mesa, which is the third-largest city in Arizona and is just 20 miles (32 kilometres) east of Phoenix. Mesa is the largest suburban city by population in the U.S., and the 35th largest city overall in the country. In fact, it’s larger than Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Miami thanks to its population of close to 500,000 people.
This past weekend I was invited down by Flair Airlines and Visit Mesa to experience what the city has to offer and why it should be top of your list for places to visit. The top reason for me? It’s warm in February. The second one? It’s so easy to get down there. Flair Airlines is one of Canada’s newest ultra low-cost carriers (ULCCs) and makes it so simple to travel direct from Winnipeg to the Mesa-Phoenix Gateway Airport, which is a smaller airport than Phoenix Sky Habor International Airport (smaller usually means quicker to get your stuff and leave). In case you aren’t familiar with Flair Airlines yet, they make travel affordable and easy since you only pay for the things you need. Your base fare includes just your seat and if you want to check/carry on a bag, priority board, have the option to cancel/change your flight, etc., that all costs extra. It’s a great option for budget travellers or those who want to fly direct to cities that other airlines don’t offer. You can definitely get to Phoenix from Winnipeg, however, that usually means a layover in another city, which totally cuts into your travel time.
I flew out of James Richardson International Airport here in Winnipeg this past Thursday (Flair currently only flies out from Winnipeg to Phoenix/Mesa on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays) at night and got in to Mesa pretty late. The check-in process was smooth and the flight was comfortable (just don’t forget to bring a book or download some shows on your phone or tablet since there is no in-flight entertainment aside from a pamphlet with riddles in it, which to be honest, was pretty fun). When I arrived in Mesa, Johanna from Visit Mesa greeted me at the airport and took me straight to The Cozy Peach at Schnepf Farms, which is a glamping resort filled with vintage Airstream trailers. I’m not really a huge camping person anymore, but I do like the idea of glamping and I absolutely loved how the owners decked out each trailer with its own theme and campy decor. This is definitely one of those places that should be on your Arizona Instagram bucket list since they are so fun and photogenic.
The Cozy Peach is located at Schnepf Farms, which is this giant family-run farm that allows visitors to pick their own fresh organic produce, as well as partake in other activities, like a petting zoo, carnival rides, a museum, bakery and more. It’s also a popular wedding venue and has events throughout the year for residents and visitors. One of those events is the Peach Blossom Celebration, which was happening when we were there. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the best since it was cold and rainy, which meant lots of mud, so we didn’t really get to enjoy the celebration as much as I would have liked. We did see the blossoms, which were this stunning pink and white colour on over 80 acres of land and normally the farm offers tours so you can learn and experience the magic of this fruit plant.
Since the weather was so cold and rainy, Visit Mesa decided to move us to the Hilton Phoenix Mesa Hotel Arizona, which was much closer to our next day’s activities anyways. We also visited The Queen Creek Olive Mill and learned all about olive oil and tasted the amazing food that the mill’s eatery has to offer. The Queen Creek Olive Mill i just east of Mesa and is Arizona’s only family owned and operated working olive mill and farm. They grow the olives locally and are pressed to produce high-quality extra-virgin olive oil. I have taken numerous wine and beer tours, but it was super cool to do this one since I’ve never really thought of how olive oil is made. The process doesn’t take as long as wine or beer, but it was a very informative tour and the tasting afterwards was super delish as well.
Later on that day we went to Agritopia and Barnone Craftsman Community, which is located in the neighbouring community of Gilbert, AZ, and is a community of makers all located in one area. Agritopia is kind of a hard concept to explain, but basically it was a bunch of local shops, makers, coffee shops, a diner, and brewery that is in one area. They also have a residential community as well as an urban farm. Basically it’s like this community that sustains itself. After a tour of the area, we went to Garage-East Farm Winery for dinner and wine pairings. The food was from local makers and restaurants in the Agritopia community and they paired each course with local wine that was amazing.
The next day we got up and headed to the Mesa Amphitheatre for the AZ Goat Yoga Guinness Book of World Records attempt for the largest goat yoga class. I’ve done goat yoga before and absolutely loved it since the goats are so cute and it puts a fun spin on the activity. If you aren’t familiar with goat yoga, it’s a yoga class that you do while goats walk around. It’s the perfect mix of exercise and pet therapy since the goats are so cute and pleasant to be around (and so fun to pet). I love it so much because I’m not a huge yoga person, so it’s typically an easier class and the goats make the class way more fun, which passes the time. For this trip, I packed my new Lululemon Fast & Free Tights (shop them here!), which I’m obsessed with since they feel so lightweight and allow me to move freely. I also wore these pants on the plane and they made the over three-hour flight down much more comfortable (and the Nylux fabric also doesn’t attract animal hair, meaning you could actually wear these out after and no one would know you were just surrounded by tons of goats). Anyways, back to the goat yoga, for the record attempt we weren’t allowed to have our phones or camera for the full half hour and everyone had to actually do the yoga for the record to count (there was no previous record so this made it extra special to be here).
After goat yoga we headed to the Mesa Market & Flea and Pioneer Park, as well as the Mesa Bazaar in downtown Mesa. Both events featured local artisans and it was so cool to see all the products that they offered and delicious treats at their table. Downtown Mesa also has a number of local murals, which made for fantastic photo ops (including the Visit Mesa mural – make sure to visit in the morning since there’s shade).
After some walking around downtown we made our way to The Orange Patch, which was an orange farm that also grows other fruit. Coming from Canada, it was so cool to see how oranges grow and just breathe in the citrusy scent in the air (and of course try a few slices as well). Once the tour was finished we went to Jalapeño Buck’s Arizona BBQ which is a popular barbecue and burritos joint off the highway which is known for their peanut butter and jelly brisket sandwiches, which sounds weird but was so tasty. The portion sizes were huge, so if you’re interested in trying it out, definitely come hungry.
Since we were all so full from Jalapeño Buck’s we made our way to The Phoenician Resort, which is located in Scottsdale and is a 250-acre luxury resort. The resort features 585 rooms, a spa, a fitness centre, a gold course, residences, shops, restaurants, and an impressive pool area. The resort was recently renovated and although most of it was updated and improved, they kept the original Italian marble flooring in the lobby area, as well as the Mother of Pearl pool, which features real Mother of Pearl on the pool floor which sparkles in the sunlight. Since it was still a little chilly, the pools were heated and were so amazing to take a dip and totally relax under the blue sky and palm trees. After a quick shower in the giant and luxe bathroom in my room, we headed down to Mowry & Cotton, which is one of the on-property restaurants that offers modern American cuisine.
After a very filling and delicious meal I ventured back to my room and instantly fell asleep in those plush Phoenician beds since the next day we had to be up early for a hot air balloon ride with Hot Air Expeditions. We got picked up from The Phoenician at 5:45 a.m. and were taken to a spot in the desert to float over the Sonoran Desert and take in the beauty of the region. This was my first time in a hot air balloon and coming from a girl that is afraid of heights, it was an awesome experience. The balloon was so light and it literally felt like you were floating. There were so many other balloons in the air as well so it was a truly memorable experience and definitely one of the highlights of the trip. After we landed, the crew set up a table for us to toast our flight with champagne and eat a light breakfast before heading back to the hotel.
Since it was now check out, we grabbed our things and those of us who had later flights headed to the Desert Botanical Garden for Devour Phoenix, which is this large outdoor food and drink festival that allows you to sample the best that the region has to offer. Prior to going, I had heard such amazing things about the Botanical Garden and would definitely recommend checking it out since it was so cool to be fully surrounded by cactus and mountains. This was an outdoor event and your ticket allowed you to sample unlimited food and beverage tastings, which really allowed me to experience some of the area’s top culinary spots. Since this was the last activity on our itinerary, I didn’t really look too much into it prior, but absolutely loved it and would totally come back to the area to experience it again (plus, all the ticket money goes to charity).
Once we finished at the Botanical Gardens, I had to make a few stops to Target, Ulta, and In n Out for some of my favourite American fixes and then made my way back to the Mesa-Phoenix Gateway Airport to catch my Flair Airlines flight back to Winnipeg.
This trip was hosted by Flair Airlines and Visit Mesa, however, I truly had such an amazing experience and am already thinking of coming back. I can definitely see why so many Winnipeggers make the trek down here, and although the weather wasn’t the stereotypical Arizona weather, I still had the most amazing time and am looking forward to coming back to experience some of my favourite activities we got up to, as well as explore some of the other activities in the area. Since it’s so easy now with Flair Airlines setting up shop in Winnipeg, it’s just a quick flight down to paradise.
Make sure you watch my saved stories on Instagram (click here to follow!) to see all the fun stuff we did, and keep a look out for my top Instagrammable locations in Mesa, AZ post as well.
Have you been to Mesa, AZ before?
Huge thank you to Flair Airlines and Visit Mesa for making this trip possible. All opinions are my own.
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