Luxurious resorts, spas, world-class golf courses, towering saguaros, and rugged cliffs define Scottsdale in a nutshell.
But there’s more to this city than what meets the eye. With this 36-hour itinerary, you’ll get the best of both worlds, from famous attractions to unique hidden gems — coming from someone who has lived in Scottsdale for the past few years (me haha).
Spend a weekend in Scottsdale exploring its retro vibes, eclectic cowboy culture, and numerous outdoor adventures.
From hiking among giant saguaros to kayaking on the Salt River and eating your way through the Old Town, Scottsdale is a fantastic destination.
Now, without wasting time, let’s dive into this ultimate 36-hour Scottsdale itinerary.
📌 Save this to Pinterest!
Disclaimer: Hey explorer! This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of each purchase made through my links. I only ever recommend products I believe in and appreciate your support if you decide to use my links—thank you!
Planning Your 36-Hour Weekend in Scottsdale, AZ
- Fly: You can catch a direct flight to Scottsdale Airport (SCF), about a 20-minute drive from the city center. If you’re arriving from out of state, the closest major airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), about 15 minutes away, is your best bet. Check for flight tickets on KAYAK.
- Car Rental: From the airport, you’ll have to pick up your rental car. KAYAK offers excellent deals on car rentals starting from just $20.
- When to Go: March through early May and late September through November.
Best Time to Visit Scottsdale
Arizona gets extremely hot in summer, something you probably already know, but visiting Scottsdale in summer is not a complete no-no.
You’ll just have to pack lots of sunscreen and carry plenty of water during your outdoor excursions.
Spring, which runs from February to April, and fall, which happens from September to November, are great times to take a Scottsdale trip.
The spring season brings with it colorful wildflowers, while fall comes with leaf-peeping opportunities and events like the Scottsdale International Film Festival.
If you ask the locals (like myself), they’ll probably say winter is the best time to visit Scottsdale.
Boasting clear skies and temperate weather, winter, which runs from December to February, offers tons of outdoor fun, from hiking to kayaking and going on off-road adventures.
Getting to Scottsdale
You have plenty of options to travel to Scottsdale.
The Scottsdale Airport (SCF) sits about 20 minutes from the city center. It’s the best arrival destination if you’re coming in from neighboring states.
And if you’re coming from within the state, I would suggest you add Scottsdale as a stop on an ultimate Arizona road trip itinerary.
If you’re arriving from other parts of the US or internationally, then the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) would be the ideal place to land.
Where to Stay When Visiting Scottsdale, Arizona
- Boulders Resort & Spa – Enjoy stunning views of Pinnacle Peak and the mighty Sonoran Desert from every direction. Play some golf at the world-class course, get a relaxing massage at the spa, or eat at any one of the seven onsite restaurants.
- Condo in the Heart of Old Town – Get the best mountain views, relax in the expansive pool, or soak in the hot tub all at this gorgeous, well-equipped condo. You’ll also have access to a fitness center, poolside BBQ facilities, and a clubhouse.
Perfect Weekend in Scottsdale Itinerary at a Glance
Here’s a snapshot of what you can look forward to during your 36 hours in Scottsdale plus a map.
- Arrive in Scottsdale and Hotel Check-In
- Dinner at Loco Patrõn
- Sunrise at Pinnacle Peak Park
- Breakfast at Berdena’s
- Segway Tour Around Scottsdale Old Town
- Alternative: Day Trip to Sedona and Grand Canyon
- Party Bike Pub Crawl and Scottsdale Waterfront Food Tour
- Sonoran Preserve – Desert Vista Trailhead
- Alternative: Kayaking on the Salt River
- Sonoran Desert Jeep Tour at Sunset
- Dinner at Culinary Dropout
- Breakfast at Press Coffee and Shopping on 5th Avenue and Fashion Square
- Explore Scottsdale Museums
- Depart from Scottsdale
Now that you know what’s in store for you for the next couple of days in Scottsdale, AZ, let’s dive into the nitty gritty of this ultimate weekend in Scottsdale.
Friday Itinerary — Settle into Scottsdale
Your Scottsdale itinerary kicks off at a leisurely pace.
After half a day of traveling, it’s very likely that you’ll want to hurry to your hotel to check in on time and rest.
Late Afternoon: Arrival + Hotel Check In
Upon your arrival in Scottsdale (or Phoenix), you’ll want to quickly get your rental car and drive to your hotel of choice for check-in.
Make sure you phone ahead of time so that you don’t arrive late for your check-in, as some accommodations have a very strict check-in time rule.
Evening: Dinner at Loco Patrõn
You can probably enjoy a tasty meal at your hotel, but I highly suggest that you go out for dinner.
Loco Patrõn is one of many Scottsdale restaurants serving up delicious Mexican food and drinks, from award-winning tacos to handcrafted margaritas.
The restaurant has a classic Mexican vibe featuring a rustic setting with pops of red and green.
You can choose to have your meal inside or outdoors. Loco Patrõn also has a bunch of TV screens, making it a great place to catch a sports match.
Tip: Make it an early night because tomorrow is a jam-packed day.
Saturday Itinerary — Explore the Best of Scottsdale
As the only full day you have in Scottsdale, your Saturday kicks off at a lightning pace, and it actually stays that way for the rest of the day. So brace yourself!
Early Morning: Sunrise at Pinnacle Peak Park
Start your day off with a refreshing hike to Pinnacle Peak, where you’ll catch one of the most mesmerizing sunrises in all of Scottsdale.
This 1.75-mile out-and-back hike takes you through the magnificent Sonoran Desert while giving you stunning views of the Arizona mountains.
At the beginning of the trail, you’ll find a visitor center equipped with picnic tables, restrooms, and drinking fountains.
To get the best views of the city, you’ll have to scramble up several boulders to get to the summit, where you’ll arrive at a breathtaking sunrise.
Tip: The Pinnacle Peak Trail is a very popular hiking route for both sunrise and sunset, so be sure to arrive early enough to secure a parking spot and get the best vistas.
Mid-Morning: Breakfast at Berdena’s
Next up on your 36-hour itinerary is a stop at one of the best coffee shops in Scottsdale.
Berdena’s is a charming cafe tucked in a corner that would make it really easy to miss if it weren’t for the long queues, usually running out the door.
Spotting a vibrant interior with door-to-ceiling windows that give you bustling street views, Berdena’s coffee, pastries, and vibes definitely live up to the hype and make a worthy visit.
Try their famous avocado toast for breakfast, and I promise you won’t regret it.
Early Afternoon: Segway Tour Around Scottsdale Old Town
Now that you’ve fueled up, it’s time to explore Scottsdale’s lively Old Town District.
Sitting at the heart of the city, Old Town is dotted with many eateries, shops, museums, and world-class art galleries.
And what better way to explore this vibrant district than with a thrilling segway tour?
This tour is a great way to see Scottsdale’s top attractions and landmarks.
You’ll ride past iconic spots like Rusty Spur Saloon, the Soleri Bridge, and the white-washed Old Adobe Mission, all while listening to interesting facts and stories.
Alternative Early Afternoon: Day Trip to Sedona + Grand Canyon
Have you heard about the Sedona vs. Scottsdale debate? If not, this would be a fantastic time for you to find out why this comparison is being made.
If you got up early enough and you can spare a few hours of your day, I urge you to take a day trip from Scottsdale to Sedona.
Dotted with gorgeous red rock buttes, slot canyons, natural arches, and dense pine forests, Sedona is known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon.
This city offers amazing hiking and bird-watching spots. It also has lots of mystic shops, spas, and art galleries you can explore.
Lunch: Party Bike Pub Crawl + Waterfront Food Tour
Back in Scottsdale, you can enjoy sipping and riding around the Old Town with a fun party bike pub crawl (oh, and it’s completely safe, as you’ll have a designated driver/captain aboard).
This tour takes you to a few bars where you’ll enjoy exclusive drink specials just for you.
Afterward, you can do something similar for lunch by taking an immersive Scottsdale Waterfront food tour.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll love the perfect blend of walking and riding on a Scottsdale trolley to several top eateries in the city.
You’ll enjoy skipping long queues sampling signature dishes at each spot, and you may even score a couple of refreshing cocktails during your food tour.
Late Afternoon: Sonoran Preserve – Desert Vista Trailhead
Once you’ve sobered up enough to continue with your Scottsdale itinerary, make a beeline to the Sonoran Preserve to hike among towering saguaro cacti along the Desert Vista Trail.
This route is quite popular, so expect it to be busy, but that doesn’t take away from the experience.
The Desert Vista Trail runs along a clearly marked path, making it super easy to navigate.
You’ll have to bring loads of water and apply plenty of sunscreen, as the trail is completely unshaded.
Alternative Late Afternoon: Kayaking on the Salt River
If walking around the desert isn’t your idea of a perfect afternoon in Scottsdale, then perhaps kayaking on the Salt River may be up your alley.
Many nature enthusiasts love this outdoor activity, and I suspect you will, too.
Just imagine it. A slow-paced kayak ride marveling at the beautiful Tonto National Forest, paddling below towering rugged cliffs, and catching sights of the magnificent saguaros.
Sonoran Desert Jeep Tour at Sunset
As the day gets closer to the end, head back to the Sonoran Desert for a magical sunset experience.
Take a jeep tour at sunset and venture beyond Scottsdale to the saguaro-filled Sonoran Desert, where you’ll go off-road and spot wildlife and highlights like Pinnacle Peak.
This is also a terrific opportunity to learn about the history of the desert and its flora and fauna from an expert guide.
The tour kicks off in the afternoon and ends with panoramic views of the sun setting over the saguaro cacti with red, orange, and purple hues.
Evening: Dinner at Culinary Dropout
Wrap up your day in Scottsdale with a heartwarming meal at Culinary Dropout on the Waterfront.
This vibey British-style gastropub serves up classic American comfort food and creative cocktails – an exceptional way to end the busy day if you ask me.
Culinary Dropout offers a wide range of meals and beverages, so it will do you good to check out their menu online to avoid a case of analysis paralysis.
Also remember to book a reservation, as the restaurant is quite busy at dinner time.
Sunday Itinerary — Wrapping Up Your Weekend in Scottsdale
Your 36 hours are almost over, but there are still tons of things to do in Scottsdale.
You’ll explore the city at a much slower pace, shopping for souvenirs and strolling through fun museums.
Morning: Press Coffee + Shopping on 5th Avenue + Fashion Square
Begin your Sunday morning in style with a quick bite and a dose of caffeine at Press Coffee on the Waterfront. This rustic cafe offers plenty of rich blends, pastries, and sandwiches to enjoy.
After getting in the most important meal of the day, head over to the 5th Avenue District for some retail therapy. The district features many quaint shops selling all sorts of unique treasures.
Next, go over to the Fashion Square for a luxury shopping experience paired with a concierge, a champagne toast, early store access, and everything in between that screams opulence.
Early Afternoon: Explore Scottsdale Museums
Spend your early afternoon uncovering the history of Scottsdale at its various museums.
The city’s Museum of the West and Historical Museum boasts a number of historical artifacts, Native American and Western art, and personal items from Scottsdale’s founder, Winfred Scott.
For something a little out of the box, visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) for a sneak peek into the city’s collection of modern art, design, and architecture.
Late Afternoon: Depart from Scottsdale
Get back to your hotel early to avoid missing your check-out time.
Once that’s done, you can head towards the nearest airport or drive back home if that’s the plan.
At the airport, you’ll have to return your rental car before you catch your flight home.
Ultimate 36-Hour Scottsdale Itinerary | Wrapped Up
Scottdale is one of the best vacation spots in the US, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a local.
This charming desert city offers the best outdoor recreation, from hiking among giant saguaros to off-roading, kayaking, and even taking scenic hot air balloon rides over Scottsdale.
Whether you’re looking for a picturesque outdoor adventure or a classic desert city experience, the most Instagrammable places in Scottsdale offer you that and so much more.
So pack your bags and be ready to explore the city with this ultimate Scottsdale travel guide in just 36 hours!