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Than you! Just have to figure how to post the pics via Flickr. Also open to comments for improvement!

Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Arizona Master Thread
« on: June 18, 2018, 08:09:14 PM »
See my Arizona Trip Report (Scottsdale/Sedona/Grand Canyon/Vegas)

My wife and I recently traveled to Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona on an 8 day 7 night vacation for the two of us at the Arizona Biltmore hotel. We had an awesome time so I wanted to write a trip report for myself to document our trip to hopefully serve as a guide to a future trip. I figured I would share with the forum to help others that are traveling to Arizona. Please read and enjoy!


Wednesday Ė May 23rd  - Scottsdale/Phoenix

Checked In Ė Booked an Ocatilla Patio room for $233 using my companies corporate rate which was lower than the price of that room without the corporate rate. The rate includes no resort fee and includes Continental Breakfast, deserts daily, complimentary beer and wine each day. We had an early flight into PHX so we arrived before checkin, however when I booked the room I had mentioned early checkin and they will try to accommodate as best as possible. Anyway, our room wasnít ready, I kind of made a little stink, so they gave me free valet parking. We got a room in the Ocatilla Wing which was a large room and had a patio on the ground floor with two chairs. The patio wasnít that big and the views were blocked by bushes so you couldnít really see the pool all that great. There were also a lot mosquitoes by the patio bc of the bushes probably. I sat out there for 2 minutes and got bitten up. Of course we complained so they tried to switch rooms for us. There was a conference at the hotel and they said the hotel was booked to capacity with a limited amount of rooms available. So they tried to look into all the rooms. They were very nice about it but check in was a drag and we just wanted to get to our room with no issues. Donít get me wrong, the Ocatilla wing is very nice and new, but it we didnít want the patio room and the balcony rooms are French balconies so you canít really step out onto them.  We saw a room in the terrace wing. The actual room is nice but I didnít want to stay in this wing because it needed some updating and their pool was small and quiet. They ended up finding us a room in the Valley Wing. Inside the actual wing felt a little dated but actual rooms were modern nice and spacious. Believe it was a Premier room with Balcony. We had balcony facing garden and Paradise Wing. Paradise Wing and Valley are identical, but Paradise closer to main Paradise pool. Even though we didnít stay in Ocatilla, they still gave us access to the Ocatilla lounge where breakfast and other amenities are served. We had breakfast there every morning. Chris Carpenter and Susan Bordeaux (Ocatilla Concierge) were very nice and helped us with all our needs. They helped us determining if things at the breakfast were Kosher (showing us the labels etc). I had failed to mention to the hotel before I arrived that we were kosher and we had certain dietary needs. For next time, let them know in advance that you are kosher and they will get more kosher stuff for you including the wine. For the most part, there was enough general items that were kosher, included Cereals, Milk, Bagged Snacks and Muffins, Fruit, Oatmeal, Orange Juice, Sodas. We took free sodas every day back to our room and waters as well. We hung out at Ocatilla  pool until room was ready. At night we went to Kitchen 18 (meat) for dinner. The restaurants close early so keep that in mind and call them ahead of time. Afterwards we went food shopping at Safeway and Trader Joes to by some odds and ends for the trip. We hungout outside under stars by hotel after before going to sleep.


TIP: If you book the Ocatilla and pay the Ocatilla rate and asked to be moved, they will probably move you and you should be able to retain your Ocatilla club access which has the Continental Breakfast and the other perks I mentioned (no resort fee). Also let Hotel know you are kosher and they will try to order special food for you.


Thursday Ė May 24th - Sedona

We woke up early for breakfast and left the hotel at around 9am  to drive to Sedona (2hrs) for a 12pm Pink Jeep Tour (Scenic Rim 1.5 Tour) which was led by Preston. There are free parking lots near the Pink Jeep Tour building, donít pay for parking. We had the jeep to ourselves! Very nice guide and knowledgeable and fun. We felt that 1.5 hour tour was more than enough. On this tour you go over very rough terrain so your bopping all over the place. We couldnít stop laughing. He took us very close to some edges which was scary and deeper into the red rock mountain range. We were able to get out of the car to take pictures and wander around and to learn more about the environment there.  I wouldnít recommend this tour for elderly or younger children. After the tour, we ate lunch that we brought with us by the picnic tables overlooking the beautiful scenery. After lunch, we headed to Slide Rock State Park located about 10-15 min way in Oak Creek Canyon. It is $20 per car to get in, however, if you keep drive further about quarter of a mile you will see a small slip off the road with cars parked there which is free and thatís where we parked. Parking though is limited (only can fit like 5 cars) and we were lucky to find one. From this off road parking lot, you can either hike down the mountain where theres a small trail or you can walk quarter of a mile to the main entrance where the main parking lot is. We chose the latter since we werenít sure where the trail led at first. On the way out, we hiked up the mountain to the road. Slide Rock is a creek thatís constantly flowing through a unique rock formation which that acts a natural waterslide. This is a popular place when school is out and can get crowded at times. Water is cold so be prepared but itís a lot of fun! We didnít have time to check out GRasshoper point (similar to slide rock) and we left Sedona area around 5:15pm to make it back before 8pm so we can go get dinner. Restaurants in Scottsdale close early if not busy, but all kitchens usually close at most 8:30pm. The only place open was Kitchen 18 so we ate there and ordered Chinese this time. After dinner, we went back to hotel and ordered drinks by the fire pits.



Friday Ė May 25th Ė Scottsdale/Phoenix

We went to go shopping for Shabbat at Imperial Grocery to pick up a few items. We also called the local Chabad to confirm the eruv was up and if our hotel fell within in the eruv so we can carry by the pool on Shabbat. Luckily our hotel just fell within the confines of the eruv. We changed and played tennis for a bit. Usually it cost money to use the tennis courts (I think like $30 an hour) but we said we only wanted to play for like 10-15 min and they said no problem and no charge (the guyís name is Chip). Thatís all you need to work up a sweat bc its very hot on the courts. After tennis we went to the pool and hung out there the rest of the day. We also brought frozen Shabbat food from Brooklyn and we asked the hotel at check-in to store in their freezer which was no problem and no charge. We asked them to bring it out and we wrapped it in tin foil ourselves and they heated it up for us right before Shabbat and delivered to our room no charge. After Shabbat dinner we walked around hotel. The hotel is very familiar with the kosher rules and other requirements since this hotel hosts a large Passover trip each year.


Shabbat  - May 26th  - Scottsdale/Phoenix

We woke up early to go downstairs to get our breakfast items and we brought it back to our room. After praying we went down to the pool before lunch for like 2 hours. We came back to room for lunch and then just hung out by the pool the rest of the day. After Shabbat ended, the only restaurants that were open Saturday night was La Bella Pizza and Manhattan Pizza, so we went to LaBella which is an okay restaurant but the pizza was good. We came back to the hotel and hung out a little outstide but didnít go to bed too late bc of the early day for Grand Canyon in the morning.


Sunday Ė May 27th Ė Grand Canyon

Again we woke up early in order to get an early start at the Grand Canyon by 11:30 am. So we left the hotel by around 8am. We picked up breakfast from the Ocatilla club lounge and took it on the way. We also packed waters and snacks. The ride is about 3.5 hours. Since our car was a jeep wrangler it guzzled a lot of gas. I recommend getting a fuel efficient and aerodynamic car when driving long distances! We had to fill up once on the way there and once on the way back. We had made about two stops on the way to go to the bathroom and gas. Plus it was too windy to leave the top down. This backtracked us about an hour and we didnít arrive to Grand Canyon till about 12:30. Another reason to get their early is bc parking lots fill up fast. We intended to hike the South Kaibab trail which is near the visitor center but bc of the late hour the lots were full so we had to drive down the road to find other open lots. We had to park at the end by the Bright Angel Trail. We planned to take the free shuttle back to the South Kaibab trail but we were told it can take an hour to get there bc of the frequent stops. Since we were in front of the Bright Angel Trail we decided to just hike that in the interest of time. Both trails are amazing trails with great views. I recommend using good sneakers or hiking shoes. Trails are well maintained and has water available to refill. I suggest reading up on the Canyon, its trails, and other helpful tips before coming here so it can save you time and stress and you will be better prepared of what to expect. Ideally, if you want to do a lot of hiking, you must start at grand canyon early like 9am or even by 6 am bc It can get hot, but because we started late, our hiking was limited. I would suggest Bright Angel train for folks who want a good hike but nothing too crazy bc theres rest stops and water. The South Kaibab trail doesnít have that much water and rest houses like Bright Angel and has less shade, however, the trail to the bottom of the canyon is a few miles shorter than Bright Angel. We only hiked about 2 miles into the canyon and 2 miles out. When we were hiking down at 1pm we saw hikers coming back up. And hikers were huffing and puffing! We werenít sure what we were getting into bc it didnít seem THAT bad. When asked how far they went and what time they started, they mentioned they started at 6 am to hike to the bottom of the canyon to the river and back to avoid the heat! This place is truly amazing and pictures donít do it justice. We stopped and rested at our furthest point down into the canyon by the rest house and had lunch on the canyon rocks and enjoyed the amazing views. Make sure to pack a lot of water and salty snacks. After lunch we hiked back up. It took us an hour going down and an hour going up and thatís with stopping to take pictures! But definitely plan to take more time coming back up. We left Grand Canyon at 5pm to make it back to Scottsdale in order to make it in time for dinner at Kitchen 18. We cut it close but made it before they closed.



Monday Ė May 28th  - Scottsdale/Phoenix

Monday was a recovery day from the long day and driving to and from Grand Canyon so we decided to relax by the pool and soak in the rays. Not to mention it gets very hot this time of year and we were chugging water ALL day. The hotel has bikes that you can rent and you can ride around the Biltmore Estates which is a stunning housing complex. Gorgeous houses with Cactus, Palm Trees and green grass. Kind of reminds me of Beverly Hills. So we rented the bikes for like $15 an hour which was more than enough and was a great activity to fill in time for the day. We ordered drinks from the bar at the pool and found out they still had kosher Champagne in their fridges left over from the Passover trip. So they said they will send it to our room since we couldnít have the wine in the Ocatilla club lounge. Dinner was at 613 Grill, a small intimate family owned Israeli Mediterranean style restaurant. It was modern inside and quiet. We enjoyed the food. When we got back to hotel and found the Champaign had been delivered which was a nice treat. Then again, ending the night by sitting outside by the hotel under the stars. Preparing for the next big day. VEGAS.


Tuesday Ė May 29th  - Hoover Dam/Las Vegas

I was very nervous for this drive to Vegas bc I knew going into it that it was going to be 4.5 hours there and 4.5 hours back to Scottsdale (9HRS of driving!) The purpose of this trip was too take my wife to see Celine Dion in concert. I kind of thought about this idea to go to Vegas after I had booked my flights and hotels so changing my flights and hotels to avoid all the driving were going to be difficult and didnít want to incur any fees. However, I feel like the driving added to our adventure so I didnít sweat it. Seeing the Arizona/Nevada deserts while driving was truly amazing. A few days before I thought it would be fun to stop at Hoover Dam which is about 20 minutes outside Vegas and it was literally on the way. We got to hoover dam at about 11am and stayed for about 45min to an hour. We didnít do any Dam tour (lol) bc there were no tours available anyway. We walked across the Dam and just appreciated the majesty of it and it being a national landmark. If you are in Vegas for a few days, I definitely recommend coming here as an activity. You can be in two states at once (Arizona and Nevada) which is pretty cool. The Hoover Dam is featured in a lot of famous Hollywood movies (Vegas Vacation, San Andreas, Fools Rush in, just to name a few). Entrance (parking) is $10. At about 12pm we hopped back in the car and drove to Vegas. Another concern I had about Vegas was where was I going to leave my car for the whole day until 9:30pm when we have to leave. I know you can park by hotels but they charge crazy fees. So I did some research and you can actually park for Free by the Fashion Show Mall underground lot (across the street from the Wynn) or by the Shops at Crystals (by the Aria and Vdara resorts). I decided to park by Fashion Show mall lot because it was at the top of the strip and figured weíd work our way down the strip. Gates to the lot close at about 10pm which happened to work out perfectly since the concert was to end by 930. The day was literally 96 degrees and walking the strip was actually a struggle. The Celine Dion concert (7:30PM) was our main activity for Vegas, so we decided to pass the time by exploring the different hotels and its gimmicks. My favorite was the Venetian/Palazzo. We grabbed lunch from the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf inside the Venetian which has kosher food certified by KosherLA. We at lunch near the Gondola river. We checked out the Bellagio and played some slot machines as well as blackjack. We left for dinner at 5:30 and went to Jerusalem Grill. The food was great. I had a great spot in the garage and didnít want to move my car so we just Ubered to the restaurant and back to the Ceasers Hotel straight to the concert (Free Uber from Amex Platinum credits). When booking the tickets, we couldnít find seats together but close enough and figured we would work it out when we got there. Our seats were on the top level and I spoke to the Usher and told him our seats arenít together and he said, he has a private BOX on the level below and that we can have it. There were like 2 other ppl there with us but it was awesome and felt like we had our own Private Box to ourselves bc it was so big! I kept getting nervous during the concert about the drive home. 4.5 hours of pitch black driving on a 2 opposite lane highway with barely any cars on the road. I feared that I was going to get tired and we would have to pull over and rest. But bc I was so nervous I didnít get tired and just wanted to get back to our hotel. Finally at 2:30 am we pulled in to the hotel and hit the pillow by 3am.



Wednesday Ė May 30th  - Scottsdale/Phoenix

Our last and final day in Arizona we just chilled by the pool. We had a red eye flight into EWR which meant we needed late check out. We were able to secure late check out until 2pm but didnít actually remove our things from the room until like 3pm. After a while at the pool we decided to play tennis again to pass the time and again told Chip in the recreation office that it was our last day and only wanted to kill some time like 20 minutes and he said no problem no charge.  Since we needed to shower before our flight, they told us we can use the SPA and shower there, so we had a small bag of our clothes to change into that we took with us to the pool. The checkout process was smooth and I was able to get the valet parking ($24 per night) waived since we had some minor issues during our stay. Then it was off to dinner around 6pm with our luggage in tow before heading to the airport. We ate at Milk n Honey which is located inside the JCC of Scottsdale. The food was delicious however the portions are on the smaller side. We then headed to the rental car return center which is off airport and you need to take the airport shuttle to the terminal so if your renting a car leave about 20 Ė 30 minutes buffer to return your car and get to the terminal.


Overall, the hotel is a very famous hotel and is very classy and elegant and highly recommend coming here. I would probably stay in a different hotel just to experience the other hotel options. Hope you enjoyed and that my TR was helpful! Pictures to come soon.


Some Overall General Tips

∑         Guaranteed weather (Sunny) Ė April Ė June

∑         Car - Rent a convertible or aerodynamic car (for long distance driving and/or local) and a Wrangler (for local driving only). We rented from Fox Rental Car all in for a little under $400. Wrangler with top down gets very windy and loud on the highway and probably causes the car to go slower which means more wasted gas.

∑         People Ė Arizona Biltmore Ocatilla Concierge Ė Chris Carpenter, Susan Boardaux. Chip from the recreation office. We had also spoken to the head chef but forgot his name.

∑         Donít buy stuff from their mini grocery store, very expensive. Go to Safeway or Trader Joes.

∑         Shul Ė Iím sure if you google you can find a bunch of shuls that you can go to, however, I prayed by the Chabad of Phoenix on Lincoln Drive which is literally like a 5 minute drive (25 minute walk) from the Arizona Biltmore.

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