While Front Range winters are mild by most standards, after a few months of cold, I crave sundresses, flip flops, and some warm outdoor play time. Just a short flight away, Phoenix, Arizona makes those wishes a reality. With winter temps hovering around 65 degrees, the city provides diversity, history and above all, the perfect surrounding desert landscape for adventure.


Surprise—one of the best things about Phoenix is the food. The place’s unique juxtaposition of metropolis and southwestern desert draws some of the best chefs in the country looking to create memorable (and mouthwatering) dining experiences. A palpable buzz surrounds The Henry —the perfect place for a community lunch. The spacious design of the restaurant gives it and easy, down-to-earth feel. For creative cocktails and elevated pub-fare, head to Culinary Dropout in downtown Tempe. Built in an old warehouse, with a diverse style of seating arrangements, this gastro-pub serves electic comfort food  in a laid-back yet festive atmosphere.


Tucked off a remote road in the northeast corner of Phoenix sits the Hermosa Inn. This boutique hotel’s authentic southwestern feel, private casitas and proximity to outdoor recreation make this desert sanctuary a quaint option for those looking to add romance to their adventures. If you want to add a cultural element to your trip, consider the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, which provides a place to experience Sonoran adventures amidst the cultural landscape of the Gila River Indian Community. The authenticity of this resort and commitment to the Pima and Maricopa tribes’ heritage is quite unique and gives the resort a special, connected feel.


Winter is the best time to seek out adventure in the desert. Instead of battling heat stroke, the mild temperatures give you the freedom to take in unique landscapes without the sweat. Start your day early, with a Hot Air Expedition sunrise balloon ride. Gracefully glide over otherwise inaccessible miles of the Sonoran Desert while sunrise kisses the top of the Superstition Mountains to the east. Next, weave your way through saguaro and ocotillo cactus on a guided mountain bike tour with Arizona Outback Adventures . Learn about the desert flora and fauna and perfect your mountain biking skills, all while taking in desert views from the McDowell Mountains trail system. Cap off your day with a sunset hike atop the popular Camelback Mountain . While you might have to share the trail with other sunset seekers, the reason the hike is so popular will become clear as the evening lights up around you.

—Jordan Martindell