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Arizona is a warm-weather paradise during the winter

A great vacation is just a short nonstop flight from Seattle to Phoenix

The towering salad greens at True Garden in Mesa, Arizona. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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The greater Phoenix area offers days of sunny, mild weather during the winter and spring months.

For example, Scottsdale is a luxurious enclave with upscale resorts, while Mesa is a vibrant town with more economical options. Phoenix itself falls somewhere in between.

Phoenix also makes a great base for your vacation, and there are many resorts with amenities you would expect to see in the Caribbean. The Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort has lush, landscaped grounds with a four-acre waterpark. All the rooms are suites, so families have plenty of room to spread out. A big plus is the kids camp that offers planned activities for children. In the evening, sessions are available so parents can enjoy a date night.

The Residence Inn in Mesa is a newer hotel, and is also great for families, with each suite having a kitchen. For a complete splurge, check out the AAA Five Diamond Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, which has a luxurious, three-story spa.

The surrounding area of Mesa has an eclectic foodie scene, but one place you must eat is the dive Jalapeno Buck's, which is nestled near orange groves and is built from old shipping containers. Dress is casual for outdoor dining, and you don't want to miss the infamous, extremely messy peanut butter and jelly brisket sandwich. Buck, the restaurant's namesake, is also famous for his salsas, which is how he got his nickname. Chips come in paper bags, and the medium was the size of a grocery bag. Buck's mango salsa is served cold and has a sweet but spicy taste which is oh so good.

For something fun your children will enjoy, explore the five thematic trails at the Desert Botanical Garden, which house a collection of more than 50,000 desert plants. Arrive early to beat the heat and check out the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail. This route reveals stunning views of Phoenix, the surrounding mountains and the garden. The gift shop offers a grow-your-own cactus for that perfect Arizona souvenir gift.

In the afternoon, head over to the Musical Instrument Museum to get out of the heat. This is truly an unexpected gem of a museum. There are 6,800 musical instruments on display from all over the world. Rather than just look at static displays, you are provided with a headset to enjoy an immersive experience. At each exhibit there is a screen showing someone playing the instrument while you listen to the sound. An experience gallery lets everyone get hands-on trying various musical instruments. The Artists Gallery allows you to enjoy music from icons such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, John Lennon and more modern artists like Maroon 5.

The whole family will enjoy the Fresh Foodie Trail, along which you can spend a day or two exploring urban and rural destinations. With a total of 11 stops, there is something for everyone. Kids will be fascinated with the vertical urban farm at True Garden. The rows of towering salad greens are very dramatic.

A drive out to the Windmill Winery is the furthest stop on the Foodie Trail. The attraction is family friendly, with landscaped grounds and animals, and a very good Barbera red wine (Bonus: if you fly Alaska Air you can bring a case of wine back for no baggage fees). Other stops include an olive orchard and local farms, all great options for exploring agriculture from a gastronomic perspective.

A week in the Phoenix area will have you feeling rejuvenated, especially with all that sun.

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