Christmas camp for adults is a thing... and it's awesome
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Cocktails, cookies and ornaments — oh my!
That's what you get and more when you attend Karen Schaler's Christmas Camp at The Phoenician.
While the chance to attend this year has come and gone, I'm here to share why you should add this to your 2020 wish list from first-hand experience.
What is Christmas Camp
Christmas Camp is a Hallmark original movie written by Karen Schaler who then turned the screenplays into a book. She wanted to bring the movie to life and share its message of, “rebooting and relaxing before the hectic holiday season and disconnecting so you can reconnect with what truly matter most, embracing the true meaning and magic of Christmas!” says Schaler. And that’s exactly what Karen Schaler's real-life Christmas Camp at The Phoenician accomplished.
Just this past weekend, I made my way out to Scottsdale, Arizona and checked into camp with my Hallmark fanatic Mom. And I must say, it did not meet my expectations... in all the best ways. Here's a look inside our weekend.
The booking process for Christmas Camp was no different than booking a regular stay at The Phoenician. However, there was a discount available for those who booked the Christmas Camp package. In fact, it was discounted by over 50% at $331 a night (including taxes, fees and the resort fee) compared to the typical $746 a night. There was also the option to book for 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, but I chose to earn the points instead by paying cash. There was also the option to book for 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, but I chose to earn the points instead by paying with my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for the 2x points earned on travel. In addition to my Ultimate Rewards points, I earned 3,216 Bonvoy points on the booking. That gets me more than halfway to an off-peak award stay at a Category 1 Marriott hotel, which starts at 5,000 points.
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This is a great deal considering The Phoenician is a beautiful AAA Five Diamond resort and that's not to mention all of the extras included in the Christmas Camp package. We're talking complimentary champagne, free breakfast for two at the delicious Mowry & Cotton, some Christmas Camp swag and all of the amazing extras you get in the classes throughout the weekend.
Christmas Camp had a daily schedule with activities starting as early as 10 a.m. and going as late 10:30 p.m. The great part about the schedule was that there were repeats on some days so you could take longer breaks on other days without missing out on any of the fun. These were the activities that my mom and I decided to do.
My mom and I arrived in the late afternoon Friday, which meant we had just enough time to settle in and get ready for the cocktail reception.
At the cocktail reception we mingled with other Christmas Campers over wine by the fire. The group was full of all different types of campers including other mother-daughter duos, girlfriends getting together for a reunion and even some couples. My mom and I hit it off with another mother-daughter duo and bonded over our shared love for a good ole Hallmark movie and our excitement for the weekend.
The next morning we kicked off our day with a Q&A with Karen. Schaler covered everything from how she went from an Emmy Award winning war correspondent to screenwriter and author of multiple Christmas-themed movies and novels — three movies and novels in the past 18 months to be exact!
After the morning chat, we made our way to the "Holiday Wining and Dining Tips" class where we got pro pointers from Patrick Norton, the General Manager at J&G Steakhouse. The class included tastings of three different wines while we learned about pairings, how much wine to buy for a holiday party and how to choose your wines. Pro tip: You should never pay more than $15 for a bottle of wine unless you consider yourself a wine-o.
We then made our way to the "Holiday Decorating Tips" class where Phoenicians resident florist, Lorraine Cooper offered up some very useful tips while simultaneously putting together beautiful table settings. One tip that I can't wait to try out is the pro tip Cooper gave on reviving droopy roses. To get the full down-low on all the useful and practical tips, you'll have to attend next years Christmas Camp for yourself.
After a quick break from drinking, we headed over the Mowry & Cotton for a private cocktail class where we learned how to make both Schaler's signature cocktail as well as a in-house cocktail. Mixologist Robert Porter also shared his knowledge on how to create a signature cocktail and the fun of having one at a party. He even shared some pro tips on how to prep the mixes before the party so you can actually enjoy your party instead of being the bartender.
To round out the day one of activities, we spent the last part of the afternoon decorating homemade sugar cookies. The class was led by decorated pastry Chef Roy Pell. Like the other class leaders, he answered all the baking questions everyone had been dying to ask, like how long should I microwave my butter? The answer? Just three-seconds at a time.
Later that evening, we all met up again for a viewing of the movie that brought us all together, "Christmas Camp".
The next morning we started off the day with an ornament making class.
Finally, we finished up our Christmas Camp activities with a charcuterie board class.The chef taught the group how to make a perfect holiday board from how to arrange the board, to what types of cheeses to include, and what accompaniments to include.
Christmas Camp was a perfect mother-daughter weekend getaway filled with tons of fun activities. Schaler and the Phoenician staff did an excellent job executing the weekend and I would highly recommend it to not only Hallmark fans, but those interested in learning useful and practical tips centered around preparing for hosting the holidays.
This was the second annual year of Karen Schaler's Christmas Camp and she only plans to expand it so that more people can experience the magic, so keep your eye out for future dates and locations.
As Christmas Karen says, "Christmas Camp is a place where you can disconnect to reconnect with what really matters most at Christmas... family, friends, faith and community because at the end of the day, that's what's most important."
All photos by the reporter, Liz Hund.