Each of these two family getaways is a six-hour drive from OC—one-tank road trips—but the similarities end there. Off-season (summer) lodging at the Four Seasons in the Sonoran desert of Scottsdale allows for world-class luxury at a reduced rate. A stay at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz offers the classic and casual Cali beach vacation, along with old fashioned amusement on the historic Boardwalk.
Sophistication & Saguaros
As summer temps climb, room rates relax at the Four Seasons Scottsdale, making a luxury stay at this world-class desert setting more affordable to families. With the little ones in mind, the resort’s kids program and its camp counselors keep the children active with nature exploration and play, so mom and dad can enjoy doses of solitude and sophistication, and the spa. Called Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, the resort is situated dramatically in the foothills, a mile from the popular recreation area Pinnacle Peak, which offers hikes of all levels of difficulty. (Ask the concierge about resort-led interpretive walks in the early morning hours, or even at night to avoid the mid-day summer heat).
The property recently underwent a $13-million renovation that features new furnishings, décor, and artwork that bring the color palette of the hillside rocks and saguaros inside. Outside, the exterior of the casitas and other buildings, along with the landscaping, meld into the surrounding Sonoran desert. On the fringes of the outdoor areas, especially around the pool, it’s hard to tell the where the work of the resort gardener ends the natural desert landscape begins.
The chic interior extends through the lobby and the entire pool area. The effect is immersive; everywhere you turn, soft earth tones and subtle nature motifs meet your eye.
Our favorite spot outside was the beautifully landscaped bi-level pool area called Saguaro Blossom, made up of a kids pool, a hot tub, a poolside cantina and a seductive and sprawling main pool surrounded by lounge chairs and private cabanas. A well-timed dip (immediately after margarita and just before the second bead of perspiration formed on the brow) refreshed and recharged us for dinner at Spanish-themed Talavera, where 29-year-old chef Samantha Sanz, a 2019 James Beard Award nominee, is making a name for herself in the culinary world. I understood within the first bite of the Iberian pork shoulder how she came to be so honored.
Our favorite hangout spot in the casita was the lounger on the indoor/outdoor terrace, where the desert foothill scene was framed as if in a stage proscenium, with curtains on each side. Close the curtains and watch TV, or open them and watch the show outside at sunset, as we did when the colors washed over the granite outcroppings, the saguaros and the desert sky. Later, the sparkling and sometimes shooting stars put on a show, crystal clear in a still darkness that is not softened by the lights of urban sprawl.
Summer rate specials: Rooms for 2 adults and two kids, starting at $255 a night, book two nights or more and get the Very Important Kid (VIK) package, which includes…
- $100 Resort credit with every two consecutive paid nights
- Family-themed “Make Your Own Snack Mix” turndown amenity
- One complimentary in-room family movie during your stay
- One voucher per child (up to two per room) to receive one complimentary poolside smoothie during your stay
- Other specials are also available during the summer months.
If luxury lounging among saguaros is not among your getaway goals this summer, and you’re looking for a quintessential California beach getaway that is casual, sandy and packed with sunny shoreline activities for the whole family, head for The Dream Inn in Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz is a 6-hour drive up the 101 from OC, not counting rest stops. But if you have the time, drive up the coast through Big Sur on Highway 1 for awesome scenery. It will add about 90 minutes to your trip, but it will be worth it.
Recently renovated with a retro-chic surfer vibe, the Dream Inn is the only beach-front hotel in this area. When summer hits the property, which is located adjacent to the pier and the iconic Boardwalk, activities go into high gear: the oceanfront pool comes alive, complete with hot tub, pool bar, cabanas, and fire pits. The poolside taco cart and mimosa bar opens, yoga sessions start up, the Dream Kids Zone welcomes the little ones.
Surf and paddleboard (lessons available) off the kid-friendly hotel beach, or ride beach cruisers over to the storied Boardwalk, which has been an amusement mecca and local hangout since 1907. Its Giant Dipper roller coaster (which celebrates its 95th anniversary this August) and the Looff Carousel are historic landmarks that you can ride in the same way pleasure-seekers did nearly a century ago.
If you want to get out on the water and see the Santa Cruz coast from a different perspective, The Chardonnay Sailing Company out of the harbor offers several public charters, and all ages are welcome. We took the sunset sail and sipped wine while taking in the scenery. It’s $68 for adults, and $35.50 for children. Pizza and wine included.
At the end of the day, the Dream’s Jack O’Neill Restaurant, named after the surfing legend, offers amazing views of Monterey Bay, craft cocktails, and a menu that features fresh regional ingredients. Live music plays every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Summer rates for an ocean view room, to accommodate two adults and two children, start at $360, with special offers that include 15% off on a 3-night stay; and 4th night free.