Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Festive feels.

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This December marked my fifth consecutive visit to Scottsdale, and specifically to the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess—an unparalleled treasure in the heart of the Sonoran Desert.

The Princess is a sprawling 750-room resort with six individually unique pools, five award-winning restaurants and lounges, two professional-level golf courses, and just enough retail therapy to calm even the most intent shopaholic.

If the stores and poolside cocktails don’t provide quite the level of serenity required, the Well & Being Spa is sure to do the trick. Waterfalls, private pools, and signature services are geared toward calming the mind and cleansing the body whilst putting a sparkle on the visage. There’s nothing wrong with a little pampering, after all.

There is also plenty of room to stretch one’s legs at the Princess; pathways undulate around the grounds, leading me past Southwest-themed villas, casitas, duck-filled lagoons, cacti, and palm trees. Because the property was built in the late 1980s, it has a certain authenticity and maturity; the size and diversity of amenities means the Princess is as suited to family vacations as it is to couples’ getaways or indulgent weekends with friends.

While it boasts a full year of activities (from professional golf tournaments, to Easter festivities and Fourth of July celebrations, to summer beach parties), the jewel in this Princess’s crown is assuredly its annual six-week Christmas presentation.

Now in its seventh year, Christmas at the Princess is an ever-expanding winter wonderland that will leave visions of sugarplums dancing in even the Grinchiest of heads. Starting in July, the Princess’s elves begin decorating. Some three million LED lights meticulously adorn the resort from tip to tail, including on seasonal sculptures, singing snow people, and a four-storey musical Christmas tree.

While you might think it’s an agave-induced illusion as you leave the Princess’s famous Mexican restaurant and tequila bar, La Hacienda, it’s not—this truly is an icy oasis in the desert. Fire pits surround a sleek skating rink, where children roast s’mores and adults indulge in cocktails and lavish charcuterie boards.

This year, the nametag of the hotel’s operations director Gerard Mauvis was dropped into the rink before it was frozen: a touching staff tribute to their friend and co-worker, who passed away suddenly this past autumn. Gerard was a comrade of mine, as well, as he was married to my best friend; he was the epitome of charm and infectious enthusiasm. Gerard made each visit to the Princess come alive as he shared his delight in the tiniest additions or improvements—he was integral not only in the expansion of Christmas at the Princess, but also of the resort itself. I kept expecting to see him come around a corner or swing by my pool chair.

Last year, Gerard insisted we grab boozy coffee cocktails and board the Princess Train. Why I’d waited so many years to experience this I don’t know—the train is a must-do. Resembling something out of a storybook, wheeled caravans roll through the magical grounds and past the most prominent light displays, delighting young and old alike.

S’mores Land is the most recent addition to Christmas at the Princess. Set alongside the new Sunset Beach and white-sand pool wing, it is a charming seasonal forest of lights and trees. Appealing to the child in us all, it features communal fire pits for roasting marshmallows, Frosty’s Ferris wheel, the Polar Glide ice slide, and an enchanting holiday carousel.

Once your cup runneth over with holiday spirit and you’ve taken a selfie with Santa, a flight of rum and some ceviche at the Latin-inspired Toro restaurant should hit the spot. Alternatively, grab a seat in the lounge at Michael Mina’s award-winning Bourbon Steakhouse and tuck into the addictive duck-fat fries. Then visit the chic indoor/outdoor Plaza Bar, in the heart of the resort, which is perfectly designed for a reflective nightcap.

I had precisely that, and raised a glass (or three) to my friend Gerard.


Continue your travels.

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December 20, 2016