Hotel Palomar Phoenix
2 East Jefferson St., Phoenix; hotelpalomar-phoenix.com; 242 rooms from $249.
When Canadian weather is at its worst, an escape to the sunny Sonoran Desert and the arid beauty of Arizona's mesa is in order. Head to the palm-lined streets of Phoenix and you'll find Hotel Palomar, a new boutique hotel that combines both urban pleasures and stunning views of South Mountain Park.
From all accounts, downtown Phoenix was once quite desolate after business hours. But in the last few years, the city has spent $4-billion (U.S.) on revitalizing and repopulating the downtown. CityScape – two pedestrian-friendly city blocks of retail and restaurants – is part of the rebirth, and Kimpton's Hotel Palomar Phoenix is right in the middle of it all. When you're out exploring the town, stop at the James Beard award-winning Pizzeria Bianco, housed in an old machine shop on Heritage Square and the popular local lunch spot Chloe's Corner, with its 50-cent cup of coffee.
The second-floor lobby lounge is like a cozy living room, take your morning coffee here or stop by during the complimentary wine hour for drinks. A bright green chandelier – which looks a bit like an upside down ocotillo (desert coral) – adds punch to the floor's more subdued desert colours. On the unseasonably chilly afternoon I was there, a roaring fire was welcome, too.
The rooms are modern, sleek and comfortable, with quirky elements such as some still-standing laws you'll find written on the inside of the armoires ("Donkeys can't sleep in bathtubs"). The outdoors is incorporated inside my room as well, a lamp base replicates the Palo Verdi tree and a cactus wren sculpture evokes Arizona's state bird.
Even the squiggly design in the rug conjures up the image of a snake in the sand.
Whom you'll meet
During the week, you'll find mostly youngish professionals – serious during their daytime conferences, more relaxed in the evenings, especially during that daily free wine hour. Weekends bring locals on staycations.
Room with a view
The one-bedroom suites facing west offer the best sunset views – and the 10th-floor presidential suite is ideal for sun rise.
Eat in or eat out?
Although room service is friendly and quick – my granola and pot of coffee took only 20 minutes – I liked the inexpensive nosh served next door at the Breakfast Club. Keep an eye out for pro-ball players who, I'm told, come here for freshly squeezed juices and high-protein breakfasts. (It's close enough to Chase Field and the U.S. Airways Center – home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns.) As for dinner, a table next to the big windows at the hotel's Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails is ideal. Sit at the long wooden tables and order from a smorgasbord of tapas. Wait staff brought out cheddar scallion biscuits with quail eggs, pulled pork on johnny cakes, caramel popcorn with touch of ancho chile and diver scallops on a bed of pistachio guacamole.
One thing to change?
I would offer a bathtub in all the rooms, not just the suites. Mine had a shower only and I longed for a relaxing bath after my early morning flight from Toronto.
For those who are lonely, a goldfish can be ordered as your overnight guest. It's very quiet and won't hog the covers. Perfect.
The writer stayed as a guest of the hotel.