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I’m not sure if I want to go back to college but, after staying at the Graduate Ann Arbor, I definitely want to stay in these college town hotels which I wrote about for USA Today 10Best!

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best of scottsdale, day 4: music, massage, mexican food and, uh, michael

Hotel Valley Ho

Let me try to explain how we felt about the Hotel Valley Ho.

On Saturday morning, we were planning to visit Singh Farms’ farmer’s market, which we had read gushing reviews about on Yelp. It’s supposed to be lush and gorgeous and filled with fresh, farm-grown treats. I say “supposed to be” because, unfortunately, we never got to see it in person.

You see, Michael refused to leave the room. 

Take a look at that photo of him on the chaise lounge, above. Uh-huh. Not getting up.

I had to humor him for a little while and promise we’d find out where to buy one of those chairs for our own bedroom, before he finally agreed to go. We went down to the lobby to get driving directions but once we started talking to Yvonne, the amazing concierge who I’d like to have running our lives, we decided to forget the car and just walk around the Scottsdale farmer’s market, which was conveniently right down the street.

Thank goodness we did because, well, in a word, cronuts. I’d like to show you a picture or at least credit the lovely baker who made my morning but it all happened so quickly … If anyone does know the cronut woman, please let me know so I can beg her to move in with us thank her publicly.

After breakfast, it seemed like a good time to head over to the Musical Instruments Museum, affectionately referred to as MIM by the locals. My friend, Beverly, had emailed me to make sure we didn’t miss it.

The only problem was that Michael wanted to go back to the room and spend the day reading and writing IN THAT CHAIR.

So I kissed him goodbye and went to explore MIM. This is not some stodgy museum. It’s big and bright and interactive. Along with your admission, you get a headset that immediately comes to life when you approach the different video screens. They explain what you’re seeing and let you hear it. It’s awesome.

Because part of me still believes I’m really Joni Mitchell or Stevie Nicks, I immediately made a beeline for the Women Who Rock exhibit.

Women Who Rock

It’s probably a blessing that Michael didn’t come because I spent an inordinate amount of time admiring Stevie’s flowy dresses

Stevie Nicks dress

and Joni’s notebooks,

MIM Joni Mitchell

along with outfits and memorabilia belonging to everyone from Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin to Chrissie Hynde, Rihanna and Heart.

MIM Heart

I loved watching the different generations of rock fans, ranging from adorable little girls with their moms to a couple of women probably ten years older than me, with whom I had a hilarious conversation about Lady Gaga’s shoes. You could just tell by looking into every female face that they so related to one of these musical icons.

I went through the exhibit twice and then made my way around the rest of the museum. There was so much to see and hear, including a fascinating array of instruments from every corner of the world. I listened to genres of music I never knew existed, tried my hand(s) at the harp – whose strings surprisingly feel like those of a guitar –

MIM harp

checked out Eric Clapton’s classics

MIM Eric Clapton

and stood in awe at the piano where John Lennon wrote “Imagine.” I was really moved by the woman standing next to me singing along quietly, passionately and out of key with the music playing in her ears.

MIM John Lennon

I even saw a property certificate of a violin stolen by the Nazis, which was particularly interesting after having recently reviewed The Monuments Men.

MIM Monuments Men

MIM has a great cafeteria, where I picked up a burger and Tater Tots (it must be a Scottsdale thing) and ate outside, in the sunshine, while enjoying a calypso band concert. The whole experience is so much fun, it will completely change the way you look at museums. MIM also has a really unique gift shop, so I bought a few surprises. I’m proud of my restraint because I could have filled a carry-on.

It helped that I had a massage appointment to get to. I’ve stayed at the Fairmont Princess a couple of times with Michael, and three annual birthday weekends in a row with my mom and sister. Willow Stream is one of my favorite spas anywhere, and they’ve somehow raised the bar again by focusing on, and actually adding the name, Well & Being. Everything they do is geared toward health, with the pampering simply a given.

I had decided to try a new spa treatment, the Hacienda Retreat, which is a luxurious combination of exfoliation, moisturization and massage. The products applied all over my body include ingredients like luscious-smelling lemon, lime zest and spearmint. They are outstanding, especially in the hands of the top-notch therapists at the Princess.

There are so many features that make Willow Stream a stand-out spa, and I’ll have to come back to write about them because I didn’t have time for more than five minutes in the Eucalyptus Inhalation Room, where I usually like to plant myself, and I couldn’t try the system-shocking hot whirlpool to cold plunge pool experience. I also want to stand under the beautiful grotto waterfall with Michael.

Willow Stream

Ah, Michael. My Hotel Valley Ho-obsessed husband heeded the advice of our new personal concierge, Yvonne, and took the free shuttle from Fashion Square (a mall that calls my name from hundreds of miles away) to the Princess to meet me for dinner. How can you not love a city that provides complimentary transportation from one coveted location to another?

Michael and I checked into La Hacienda, the Princess’ innovative Mexican restaurant, and immediately started chowing down on the tortilla chips and guacamole, which was prepared at the table for us.

Hacienda guac

Because we stuffed ourselves on chips, I thought I’d order a couple of light items. I started with the Sopa de Calabaza – butternut squash soup with spiced yogurt, pomegranate and pumpkin seed brittle – which was smooth and creamy, with a deliciously surprising little crunch on top. Because I seem to be on a beet salad kick these days, I then had the Ensalada de Betabel. Yum. Just yum.

No, we didn’t skip dessert.

Michael Hacienda dessert

Hacienda dessert Lois





It’s a good thing we were leaving Scottsdale the next day because if we kept eating like this, we were both going to need seat belt extenders on the flight home.


  1. Fabulous! You know, I was born and raised in Tempe, but I have never heard of MIM. Next time I go home to visit my parents, I am SO going there! I’ve always wanted to play the harp.

    And Willow Stream looks amazing too! Hey, Mom! Think I might be visiting sooner than expected!

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Katrina, MIM is amazing! I hope you get to go while Women Who Rock is still on exhibit because I know you will love it. And Willow Stream? You will want to move in. Seriously.

  2. You had me at Stevie Nick’s flowy dress.

  3. Great photos! Looks like you had lots of fun 🙂

  4. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Another fantastic chapter in your Scottsdale adventure. I am intrigued by the MIM and would make a trip just to see that. It sounds like even though you and Michael had slightly different agendas, everyone ended up happy. And btw, you do remind me a bit of Joni Mitchell.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      OMG I love you, but I think the only thing Joni and I have in common is that we both know the lyrics to all her songs! You would adore MIM.

  5. I had no idea there was such a cool place near my grandsons. I *will* be visiting there next time. I’ve always adored Stevie Nicks and used to want to be JUST like her.

    By the way, what are these “cronuts” of which I hear so many folks speak?

  6. Scottsdale isn’t that far from Denver…I see I need to plan another destination into my 2014 plans. I’d love to see John Lennon’s piano and a massage would be icing on the cake.

  7. vacations are fun! sounds like you had a great time. where can we get one of those chairs anyway?

  8. We are coming back to San Diego for the second year in a row in April & one the things we are looking forward to the most is going for some Mexican at Old Town!!

  9. This sounds like just my kind of weekend. Now if I could just figure out how to make it an adult only trip.

  10. The room was gorgeous! I can see my hubby on the couch – refusing to leave! LOL Looks like you had a fantastic time!

  11. I could totally see why your husband did not want to leave your room or that comfy chair!! I love the photos, looks like you had such a great time. Thanks for sharing it with us!!

  12. What a fabulous trip! I don’t think my husband would want to leave that comfy chair either. I want to book myself a trip to Scottsdale now and get me some cronuts!

  13. Oh how fun and I am with you (and J would no doubt be with Michael) I’d have been lost in the Women Who Rock section of MIM for hours! I mean really–VISION, PASSION, POWER–AND the great clothes and journals? What’s not to love?

  14. I can’t believe that I never got to the MIM’s! I think I would sleep over there at the feet of Joni’s case or stare at John Lennon’s piano all day. G-d bless them, but my BIL and SIL have very different agenda’s than we do, and the next time we visit, I am taking over by bringing your reviews with me!

    I am so glad you had a great time. The massage? I think I’d mortgage my house right now to get a perennial one. Sounds marvelous.

    Another great chapter in the ongoing saga of your delightful life. With Michael. Who I want to meet. Or live next door to…

  15. So pleased you enjoyed the MIM. It’s a unique experience that you described beautifully. The clothiers of women in Rock special exhibit was worth the visit.

  16. Take me with you next time? You know how to live it up and have fun!

  17. Your post made me giggle! And also hungry – the soup you had at La Hacienda sounds delicious… I need to find a recipe!!

  18. So much fun history! I want to come along in your suitcase!

  19. What a wonderful day. I love any exhibit with clothing you can reference! And I don’t blame Michael about that ‘lounge’. Looks amazing.

  20. i haven’t been to Scottsdale in years! Looks like I should go back

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