When the High Plains Drifters set out on our Winter Road Trip early Thanksgiving morning, I’d silently decided we were taking a holiday from the holidays (like that John Grisham book/movie a few years ago about a vacation from Christmas).
As the Pacific Northwest forests gave way to the barren Southwest high plains, I ticked off the list the things I wouldn’t be doing: seasonal decorating, shopping and cooking, cards and gifts, ahh, yes. . .no holidays for us this year!
What I didn’t realize at the time was that we weren’t escaping from the holidays; we were hurtling toward them aboard our own Polar Express, (it’s the other book/movie that convinces the Scrooge in all of us that the magic of Christmas is alive and well).
We were headed to Arizona - Christmas Central - the best place in the world to experience this season, …well,. . . with perhaps the exception of the North Pole.
The Sugar Plum Stations along our route left holiday visions dancing in our heads . . . visions like those in. . .
Christmas Spirit enveloped us within hours of our arrival in Prescott, “Arizona’s Christmas City”. This is its Courthouse, a centerpiece in the downtown, which by now is lit up each night just like the Christmas Tree next to it.
We had a week-long stay in Marriott’s Desert Canyon Villas, five-minutes from the J.W. Marriott Hotel where Christmas decorations began appearing the same weekend we arrived.
With each day the decorations seemed to expand throughout the hotel’s massive lobby. Poinsettias lined the stairways, festive green and red decorations seemed to sprout – as if magically – during the night.
I didn’t think the Land of Oz could be made any more wonderful than the Emerald City that welcomed Dorothy and her friends. But thanks to the Marriott’s culinary team this land of Oz was a Confectionery Convention Center where gingerbread pavers lined the Yellow Brick Road.
We spent three nights – thanks to a Cyber Monday deal – at the Fairmont Princess Hotel in Phoenix –a place that in December could be mistaken for the North Pole.
Scrooge would have had a difficult time here but not those who are still kids-at-heart.
Much time was spent watching their four-story tall Christmas Tree change colors; the changes synchronized to the Christmas Carole’s that ring out over the hotel’s plaza, located just outside its elaborately decorated lobby.
Then, down a path to the skating rink. . .yes, real ice, six-inches deep, in the heart of the desert. A large truck/generator hidden behind one of the buildings brings this frozen wonderland scene to life. (The rink is open to the entire community, not just hotel guests.)
They rent skates at the hotel.
After a bit of time at the rink it was time to follow a luminaria-lit path through a fairy land of lights and scenes that appear each evening. Any other time of year, the same pathway leads through a beautiful – but not particularly magical – lagoon area.
And if the kid within you allows you to do it, you can hop aboard a miniature train to tour this enchanted land.
In Arizona where everything seems big – even the Christmas decorations are enormous. The tree below at the Desert Ridge Shopping Center towered over the palm trees around it.
At Scottsdale’s iconic Pinnacle Peak Patio restaurant we found Santa’s sleigh being hauled by cattle.
And just down the road this big ol’ bronze mountain lion was decked out for the season as well.
Each evening at the Troon North Four Seasons the pathway between the Hotel and Residence Club wound through a daytime-desert that each evening gave way to a seasonal showcase.
By the time we reached the Four Seasons I was much like the kids on the Polar Express – I was a believer again. We may have left the holiday hustle behind, but we’d re-discovered the Magic of Christmas!
Have you visited any magical places this year? What made them magical?
Where ever your travels take you this holiday season we hope you’ll also find some Christmas Magic ~ it’s Travel Photo Thursday – don’t forget to visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travel. I’ll resume the High Plains Drifters tales this weekend with a stop in Ely, Nevada . . .