Scottsdale isn’t exactly the most frequently named destination when people discuss their travel bucket lists, but this desert escape is surprisingly diverse and enchantingly luxe. Sure, there’s plenty of that regional southwestern sensibility on display, but the historic streets of Old Town have been joined by innovative eateries, award-winning spas, and stunning resorts that give pricier, more played out destinations a run for their money.
Book a Room
Talk about curb appeal — the lush grounds at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch are immediately impressive and welcoming, but it’s the upscale take on southwestern décor, decked-out guestrooms, on-site spa, championship golf courses and fun activities like dive-in movies that really take the armadillo-shaped cake.
At Saguaro Scottsdale, guests are treated to bright splashes of color that make the entire property feel like a tropical paradise plunked right in the middle of the desert. The hotel boasts great margaritas and a lovely pool as well as close proximity to Old Town amenities. For a significantly different vibe, check out Bespoke Inn. Aptly located in the Arts District, this boutique lodging option feels both luxurious and intimate thanks to a cozy courtyard, B&B-style accommodations and access to free bikes perfect for cycling down Main Street.
Dine & Drink
Snooze may sound like a sleepy spot, but it’s actually a bustling breakfast restaurant with a menu full of creative twists on classic dishes. The breakfast pot pie is enough to satisfy you for a week, or you can fill up on a chili verde benedict (mmmm… barbacoa beef) or irresistible pineapple upside down pancakes. For something lighter, grab coffee and a flaky croissant at Old Town favorite Cartel Coffee Lab.
Tacos Jalisco is a no-frills, all-flavor Mexican joint, also in Old Town. The food is as cheap as it is delicious; the carne asada is tender and juicy, the Jamaica perfectly tart, and you need to get a side of roasted jalapenos. Antacids sold separately. There’s also Citizen Public House, a Best New Restaurant designee that brings sexy back to old-school bar menus with tasty options like bacon-fat heirloom popcorn, coffee-rubbed short ribs, and delightfully quirky cocktails like the Ole Mole, which has artichoke liqueur and sherry among other ingredients.
Scottsdale is quickly becoming a culinary destination, and that’s evident at Fat Ox. The restaurant categorizes itself as “chef-driven Italian”, but the delectably funky tallegio fonduta and garganelli flecked with speck, parmesan, and truffle butter are light years away from your Mama’s lasagna.
When it’s time for cocktails, put together a pub crawl that includes Goldwater Brewing Company, Fate Brewing Co., and Two Brothers Tap House. There’s also the leather-bound book and tufted-seating vibe of the speakeasy inspired Beverly on Main — the cocktail names are hilariously tongue-in-cheek — and Coach House, a dive bar that dates back to 1959 and looks it (in the best way possible).
See the Sights
Despite the fact that Scottsdale gets hot as Hades in the summer, the city is a beacon for outdoor enthusiasts. Rock icon Alice Cooper regularly plays 18 holes at the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Las Sendas Golf Club. No word on Mr. Cooper’s hiking tendencies, but with more than 400 miles of trails winding through Scottsdale, anyone who wants to get back to nature and commune with the cacti has ample opportunity — McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is a particularly scenic spot.
Adrenaline junkies have a home away from home at Octane Raceway, a one-third mile indoor/outdoor kart track paired with a virtual-reality arena, arcade, and mini-bowling emporium. Skylanes, a VIP-styled bowling alley with concierge service, delivers excitement and exclusivity in creatively lit, uber-swanky surroundings.
Baseball fans should book early for spring training. The Giants, Rockies, and Diamondbacks all have their off-season homes here and the tiny stadiums help visitors get up close and personal with their favorite players.
Stop & Shop
5th Avenue used to be the arts & crafts go-to in Scottsdale, and you can still see plenty of that charm in the Bob Parks horse fountain and vintage facades, but the area is also home to tons of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Stop by Kactus Jock for metal art and Arizona hot sauce, ship home some fine art from On the Edge Gallery, or grab a gift for your significant other at Leela.
Find antiques and oddities — or just Instagram them for the enjoyment of your fans — at the The Brass Armadillo. There are hundreds of independent dealers on site and no end to the weird, wacky, and kind of wonderful things you’ll stumble across.
If you need a last-minute outfit for a night out or want to see what the city’s high-end boutiques have to offer, make a bee line to Fashion Square. The 2-million-square-foot behemoth has everything from handmade turquoise and sterling silver jewelry to brand-name retailers known the world over.
What to Know Before You Go
- The Best Way to Travel: It’s just 10 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to downtown Scottsdale.
- When to Go: Head to Scottsdale in February and March to check out MLB spring training but expect crowds. Summer is hot but far less busy, while winter is snowbird season.
- Local Currency: US Dollar
- Native Language: English
- How to Get Around: Scottsdale is pedestrian friendly, plus there’s a free trolley downtown, golf carts that double as taxis, and plenty of places to park a rental car (especially if you’re staying away from the center of town)
- Plan To: Drink an insane amount of water if you’re visiting in summer — temps frequently hit triple digits and may stay there overnight
- Here’s a Hint: For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, do the Night Light’s tour at Taliesin West — there may be no better spot to soak up art, architecture and astronomy all in one jaw-dropping go