Traveling with my daughters used to be easy. They would gamely explore anything, as long as there was the promise of ice cream at the end. But when Anjelica, 12, and Natalia, 15, each hit middle school, they rebelled.
All they wanted to see in a new city was … the mall. Overnight, I became an earnest guidebook-toting frump. During a recent trek to Phoenix and Scottsdale, though, I decided to spiff up my image and walk a mile in my daughters' Hollister Co. flip-flops.I proposed a girlie itinerary that included pampering at one of the area's legendary spas, browsing for vintage bargains, and (legally) checking out downtown Scottsdale's burgeoning nightlife scene. And just so the girls wouldn't think I'd completely turned over a new parenting leaf, I also snuck in a culturally enlightening museum visit. A car is the best way to get around town, but luckily my two are still too young to drive.
1. Buffalo Exchange
To distract my daughters from thoughts of the mall, as well as to save my wallet, we headed to Buffalo Exchange. Founded in Tucson, the clothing resale chain is vintage nirvana for teens and 20-somethings hoping to put together a buzz-worthy look. During our visit, we scored 7 for All Mankind jeans for $42, Guess jeans for $18, plus some retro-style belts. 10-8 Mon-Sat, 11-6 Sun. 730 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix; 602/532-0144.
Natalia: A- "Designer stuff at good prices."
Anjelica: B+ "I liked their weird shoes."
2. Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
The spa at the august Arizona Biltmore Resort now offers a Teen Spa Menu that includes facials and pedicures, allowing mothers and daughters to bond in pursuit of beauty. We splurged with 30-minute manicures, given to us side by side in the subdued elegance of the spa's salon. Afterward, we let our nails dry as we rambled through the resort's manicured gardens and the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired buildings. Spa open daily; treatments from $45. 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix; 602/381-7632.
Natalia: B+ "The manicure was okay, and the place is really pretty."
Anjelica: A+ "I liked the natural stuff they put on my hands."
3. Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
SMoCA, as the museum is called, is the last place on Earth that I'd take young kids. But I figured it just might reel in aching-to-be-artsy adolescents. When we visited, we viewed a photography exhibition and architect-designed coffee sets. Through May 28, look for an Andy Warhol show. 10-5 Tue-Wed, Fri-Sat, 10-8 Thu, 12-5 Sun; $7 adults, $5 students, ages 15 and under free. 7374 E. Second St., Scottsdale; 480/994-2787.
Natalia: B "I liked the photography, but the best part is that we didn't stay in there too long."
Anjelica: C "You know I think museums are kinda boring."
Okay, so my attempt at something educational received a tepid response. I redeemed myself by nabbing the last three seats at the sushi bar of this ultra- stylish restaurant in the heart of downtown Scottsdale's club scene. We checked out the glam crowd and the decor (James Bond crossed with Frank Sinatra), which includes an underfoot fish tank. Then we dissolved into giggles and played with our food, especially the sculptural green Godzilla Roll. $$; lunch and dinner daily. 4302 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale; www.stingraysushi.com or 480/941-4460.
Natalia: A+ "The decor is club-meets-seaweed. The sushi was off the hook."
Anjelica: A+. "I liked the extreme sushi and the fish tank."