Southwest

Ultimate Scottsdale Travel Guide for Your Bucket List AZ Trip

Sep 24, 2023

Southwest

Ultimate Scottsdale Travel Guide for Your Bucket List AZ Trip

Sep 24, 2023

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If you’re looking for a southwest town that’ll blow you away, Scottsdale, Arizona, is a perfect choice. This Scottsdale travel guide has all the info to help you plan the perfect getaway.

I absolutely love Scottsdale for so many reasons and I hope this guide helps you love it too.

It provides guests with a wealth of activities, resorts, spas, and fantastic restaurants, is only 20 minutes from Phoenix. Furthermore, Sedona and the Grand Canyon are both great nearby options for a day trip from Scottsdale. .

Based on my experience as a local, this guide will highlight all my favorite locations, top eateries, hiking routes, best times to go, and more!

Let’s dive in!

đź“Ś 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!

FREE US National Park Checklist

Download my printable checklist of all 63 US National Parks! You can use the digital version to explore free park guides.

Planning Your Trip to Scottsdale, AZ

First, let’s cover some must-know details for booking your trip.

Where is Scottsdale? Scottsdale is a major urban hub located in central Arizona. Despite having a more than 10-mile long boundary, Phoenix and Scottsdale’s downtowns are around 12 miles apart and need a 20–30 minute commute.

How to Get to Scottsdale: You can fly into Scottsdale using one of the two airports in the area. Or you can have a fun road trip to the city.

Rental Cars: Expedia is an excellent for vehicle rentals.

How Many Days: A weekend should be enough time to discover all Scottsdale offers. However, 3-4 days is the best choice if you want to take your time with everything.

Best Time to Visit: Scottsdale vacations are best taken from October to April.

Fees: Some spots require a small entrance or booking fee before you go.

Wanderer Tip: Sedona or the Grand Canyon are great day trip ideas!

Where to Stay in Scottsdale

If there’s one thing Scottsdale is known for, it’s the resort options.

It’s easy to feel like you’re on a secluded island somewhere.

Whether you are looking for a quirky, Instagrammable place in Scottsdale or a luxurious, relaxing haven in the middle of the desert, this city won’t let you down.

Here are my suggestions for you:

The Boulders Resort ($$$) 

This Waldorf property is an oasis in the Sonoran Desert.

With everything from outstanding spa facilities to 36 holes of top-notch golf, you cannot miss out on this spot.

>>Click here to check availability 

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa ($$$)

This gorgeous and inconspicuous resort in the Camelback Mountains offers luxury accommodations, a world-class spa, and delectable cuisine.

It’s no wonder Jay-Z and Beyoncé had their honeymoon here (they need to invite me next time LOL).

>>Click here to check availability 

The Phoenician ($$$)

This four-star hotel is conveniently situated and offers all the best extras, like golf and fantastic dining options.

Thanks to the nine swimming pools, outstanding spa facilities, and eight restaurants, you will have everything you need on-site.

>>Click here to check availability

How To Get To Arizona’s Scottsdale 

There are a few options for getting to Scottsdale. I suggest using Expedia for the best flight options.

Via Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

  • Only a 15-minute drive from the city center.
  • Has a shuttle service if you don’t want to hire a car.
  • Known as “America’s Friendliest Airport”
  • 20 major airlines, including Southwest, Volaris, United, Condor Airlines, Eurowings, Delta, British Airways, American Airlines, and Air Canada.

Via Scottsdale Airport

  • Located minutes from world-class resorts and only nine miles from Scottsdale’s downtown area.
  • Smaller airport but one of the busiest single runway facilities in the nation.
  • More suited toward corporate jet travel.

Best Time to Visit Scottsdale, AZ

As you probably know (because everyone does, LOL) Arizona gets HOT in the summer. But believe it or not, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit — I’ll explain.

But other than summer, there are definitely other times of year worth visiting.

Winter 

Scottsdale winters are as picturesque as they come, featuring clear skies and highs around 72°F (22°C) from December to mid-February.

It’s an optimum time to enjoy championship golf or explore the Sonoran Desert.

With its bright and cozy weather, I suggest you embrace the outdoor allure of Scottsdale during this season, experiencing the serenity and beauty it offers.

Spring

Spring in Scottsdale brings sunny skies, stadium brats, beers, and vibrant wildflowers dotting the Sonoran Desert trails.

Mid-February to early April is the prime time to enjoy outdoor events and activities.

As a local, I can’t help but recommend you experience the lively and colorful atmosphere of Scottsdale in spring, immersing yourself in the myriad of experiences the city unfolds.

Read Next: Ultimate Weekend in Scottsdale

Summer

Visiting Scottsdale in summer might raise eyebrows, but as an Arizona local, I can vouch it’s an ideal time to explore the city sans the tourist bustle.

It’s my top suggestion for snagging great deals on accommodations and diverse activities, with even airfares being more economical.

The quieter, more affordable setting lets you experience Scottsdale’s unique charm and vibrant culture intimately.

But I need to emphasize that it WILL be hot — so only visit if you want to skip crowds and save!

Fall

Fall breathes refreshing coolness into Scottsdale, morphing the Sonoran Desert into an October outdoor haven.

I recommend visiting this season; it’s a local and tourist favorite due to the comfortable climate and the spectrum of available experiences.

Whether you’re into outdoor adventures or cultural explorations, fall in Scottsdale assures a memorable and charming retreat.

Things to Do on your Scottsdale, AZ vacation

Scottsdale offers a lot of sights to see and things to do.

Below are some of the must-do activities and unmissable sights in Scottsdale AZ.

Wanderer Tip: Read my guide on unique things to do in Scottsdale

Take a Stroll Through the Old Town

Scottsdale’s charm is segmented into several unique districts, each a short stroll from the next.

Explore the Historic Old Town, the Art District, and the Garden District to discover their allure.

Stop by the Old Town Bischoff General Store, a staple since 1971, for myriad offerings, maybe a Diet Coke or some cowboy attire.

Scottsdale’s transformation into a picturesque desert haven began with the acquisition of 640 acres by the Winfield Scott family for just $2.50 per acre.

The olive trees planted by the Scott family can still be witnessed today, adding to the city’s historical charm.

And make sure to take advantage of the public art!

Statues adorn numerous streets, featuring works like the “One Eyed Jack” rabbit, the Bronze Horse Fountain, and the Soleri Bridge.

Wanderer Tip: I recommend a leisurely stroll to experience the artistic spirit of Scottsdale and explore the remnants of its enriching history.

Jump on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

Witnessing the globe from 7,000 feet above ground is the most tranquil and fantastic sensation.

You have to go on a hot air balloon ride while you’re in Scottsdale.

The early morning awakening is well worth the sleep lost.

You will get to see  the desert landscape transition from brown to pink to white with spurts of green cactus as the sun rises over the mountains.

Everyone ought to experience something as amazing as that once.

Desert Botanical Garden

You might be wondering; the desert has a garden? Yes! And it’s a gorgeous experience.

You’ll see almost every species of flowering cactus sparkling against the red mountain backdrop. 

This assortment of flowering trees and cacti is incredible.

George Lindsay established the garden in 1939 by gathering species from all over that survive in the arid environment.

The enormous cacti, some of which were easily over 12 feet tall, are astounding.

Additionally, while you’re there, you may take advantage of specialty tours, events, exhibits, an outdoor cafĂ©, and a gift store.

Note: You must purchase general admission & member tickets in advance.

Kayak on the Salt River

The Salt River’s cold waters provide Scottsdale with the ideal relief from the heat.

You can go to Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch to embark on a self-guided, two-hour kayaking adventure.

Or you can decide on this three-hour kayak tour with a certified guide if you’re not ready to take on the river by yourself.

Here, you’ll see otters swimming with ease, wild horses grazing, and cliffs rising 1,000 feet above the spectacular Saguaro Cacti.

Go hiking

With over 36,000 acres (36 times the size of Central Park), the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is ideal for hiking, biking, or equestrian riding.

Sound like something you’re after? Get on a hiking tour.

Roadrunners and towering cacti that reach the height of the mountains will cross your route.

The Gateway Trail Loop is 4.5 miles long, somewhat strenuous, and gains 650 feet in height.

Try Pinnacle Peak if you want a more leisurely hike.

And if you’re up for a little challenge, take on the incline on Camelback Mountain while on a private hike.

Read Next: Scottsdale versus Sedona

Paolo Soleri, an Italian-American architect who trained with Frank Lloyd Wright, lived and worked in Cosanti.

It is now a gallery and active studio where Soleri exhibits his creations, including bronze and ceramic bells — and it’s beautiful!

The structures he carved out of the desert that appear to merge with the scenery are true works of art.

Read Next: Best Coffee Shops in Scottsdale

Attend the Artwalk

The Thursday night ArtWalk in Scottsdale is a must-attend event.

This fantastic free art event is conducted every Thursday during the peak fall or spring season and is located in Old Town.

The celebration includes live performances, art, food, beverages, and entertainment from 7–9 pm.

Grab a glass of wine and explore the numerous galleries.

The Legacy Gallery, where you’ll find terrific Southwest artworks by John Nieto, Jim Norton, and Duke Beardsley, is one of the top choices.

Where to Eat in Scottsdale

Scottsdale is a treasure trove for food enthusiasts, boasting many eateries that promise to satiate every palate (and great happy hour spots too).

Choosing a place to dine can be overwhelming, with over 650 options available, but there are some spots you shouldn’t miss.

As a local, I suggest immersing yourself in the city’s culinary delights and various cuisines (you can do this with a food tour too).

The Mission – If you’re in the mood for contemporary Latin food, The Mission is an excellent choice.

Gertrude’s – The best place to get comfort food is here. After a hot day in the sun, tasty soups and salads, fresh vegetables, and seasonal dishes are the best options.

Herb Box – This is the ideal place to stop for flavorful salads, hearty soups, and nutritious sandwiches if you want a light dinner.

T. Cook’s – This spot serves the most opulent, lavish, and mouthwatering food. The wine list is also excellent.

AZ88 – This place calls itself a “modern-day saloon,” appearing more like a bar than a sophisticated restaurant. There are rotating works of art that are changed every few months and pub-style fare.

ZuZu – Creative shared dishes, vibrant cocktails, and a sleek bar with a mid-century contemporary feel are all available at this lovely spot.

Cowboy Ciao – This is a popular hangout because of the welcoming staff, hearty cowboy food with flair, and the largest and most interesting wine selection.

What to Pack

It’s simple to prepare for a weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Nevertheless, you’ll need to pack things for all the many activities you’ll be engaging in.

Here is a quick list of what you should bring:

Next Steps for Your Best Trip to Scottsdale

After reading this travel guide to Scottsdale, you should have all the information you need to help you plan your trip to this beautiful city.

For even more handy information, have look at my previous blogs about Scottsdale:

If you’re looking for a southwest town that’ll blow you away, Scottsdale, Arizona, is a perfect choice. This Scottsdale travel guide has all the info to help you plan the perfect getaway.

I absolutely love Scottsdale for so many reasons and I hope this guide helps you love it too.

It provides guests with a wealth of activities, resorts, spas, and fantastic restaurants, is only 20 minutes from Phoenix. Furthermore, Sedona and the Grand Canyon are both great nearby options for a day trip from Scottsdale. .

Based on my experience as a local, this guide will highlight all my favorite locations, top eateries, hiking routes, best times to go, and more!

Let’s dive in!

đź“Ś 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!

FREE US National Park Checklist

Download my printable checklist of all 63 US National Parks! You can use the digital version to explore free park guides.

Planning Your Trip to Scottsdale, AZ

First, let’s cover some must-know details for booking your trip.

Where is Scottsdale? Scottsdale is a major urban hub located in central Arizona. Despite having a more than 10-mile long boundary, Phoenix and Scottsdale’s downtowns are around 12 miles apart and need a 20–30 minute commute.

How to Get to Scottsdale: You can fly into Scottsdale using one of the two airports in the area. Or you can have a fun road trip to the city.

Rental Cars: Expedia is an excellent for vehicle rentals.

How Many Days: A weekend should be enough time to discover all Scottsdale offers. However, 3-4 days is the best choice if you want to take your time with everything.

Best Time to Visit: Scottsdale vacations are best taken from October to April.

Fees: Some spots require a small entrance or booking fee before you go.

Wanderer Tip: Sedona or the Grand Canyon are great day trip ideas!

Where to Stay in Scottsdale

If there’s one thing Scottsdale is known for, it’s the resort options.

It’s easy to feel like you’re on a secluded island somewhere.

Whether you are looking for a quirky, Instagrammable place in Scottsdale or a luxurious, relaxing haven in the middle of the desert, this city won’t let you down.

Here are my suggestions for you:

The Boulders Resort ($$$) 

This Waldorf property is an oasis in the Sonoran Desert.

With everything from outstanding spa facilities to 36 holes of top-notch golf, you cannot miss out on this spot.

>>Click here to check availability 

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa ($$$)

This gorgeous and inconspicuous resort in the Camelback Mountains offers luxury accommodations, a world-class spa, and delectable cuisine.

It’s no wonder Jay-Z and Beyoncé had their honeymoon here (they need to invite me next time LOL).

>>Click here to check availability 

The Phoenician ($$$)

This four-star hotel is conveniently situated and offers all the best extras, like golf and fantastic dining options.

Thanks to the nine swimming pools, outstanding spa facilities, and eight restaurants, you will have everything you need on-site.

>>Click here to check availability

How To Get To Arizona’s Scottsdale 

There are a few options for getting to Scottsdale. I suggest using Expedia for the best flight options.

Via Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

  • Only a 15-minute drive from the city center.
  • Has a shuttle service if you don’t want to hire a car.
  • Known as “America’s Friendliest Airport”
  • 20 major airlines, including Southwest, Volaris, United, Condor Airlines, Eurowings, Delta, British Airways, American Airlines, and Air Canada.

Via Scottsdale Airport

  • Located minutes from world-class resorts and only nine miles from Scottsdale’s downtown area.
  • Smaller airport but one of the busiest single runway facilities in the nation.
  • More suited toward corporate jet travel.

Best Time to Visit Scottsdale, AZ

As you probably know (because everyone does, LOL) Arizona gets HOT in the summer. But believe it or not, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit — I’ll explain.

But other than summer, there are definitely other times of year worth visiting.

Winter 

Scottsdale winters are as picturesque as they come, featuring clear skies and highs around 72°F (22°C) from December to mid-February.

It’s an optimum time to enjoy championship golf or explore the Sonoran Desert.

With its bright and cozy weather, I suggest you embrace the outdoor allure of Scottsdale during this season, experiencing the serenity and beauty it offers.

Spring

Spring in Scottsdale brings sunny skies, stadium brats, beers, and vibrant wildflowers dotting the Sonoran Desert trails.

Mid-February to early April is the prime time to enjoy outdoor events and activities.

As a local, I can’t help but recommend you experience the lively and colorful atmosphere of Scottsdale in spring, immersing yourself in the myriad of experiences the city unfolds.

Read Next: Ultimate Weekend in Scottsdale

Summer

Visiting Scottsdale in summer might raise eyebrows, but as an Arizona local, I can vouch it’s an ideal time to explore the city sans the tourist bustle.

It’s my top suggestion for snagging great deals on accommodations and diverse activities, with even airfares being more economical.

The quieter, more affordable setting lets you experience Scottsdale’s unique charm and vibrant culture intimately.

But I need to emphasize that it WILL be hot — so only visit if you want to skip crowds and save!

Fall

Fall breathes refreshing coolness into Scottsdale, morphing the Sonoran Desert into an October outdoor haven.

I recommend visiting this season; it’s a local and tourist favorite due to the comfortable climate and the spectrum of available experiences.

Whether you’re into outdoor adventures or cultural explorations, fall in Scottsdale assures a memorable and charming retreat.

Things to Do on your Scottsdale, AZ vacation

Scottsdale offers a lot of sights to see and things to do.

Below are some of the must-do activities and unmissable sights in Scottsdale AZ.

Wanderer Tip: Read my guide on unique things to do in Scottsdale

Take a Stroll Through the Old Town

Scottsdale’s charm is segmented into several unique districts, each a short stroll from the next.

Explore the Historic Old Town, the Art District, and the Garden District to discover their allure.

Stop by the Old Town Bischoff General Store, a staple since 1971, for myriad offerings, maybe a Diet Coke or some cowboy attire.

Scottsdale’s transformation into a picturesque desert haven began with the acquisition of 640 acres by the Winfield Scott family for just $2.50 per acre.

The olive trees planted by the Scott family can still be witnessed today, adding to the city’s historical charm.

And make sure to take advantage of the public art!

Statues adorn numerous streets, featuring works like the “One Eyed Jack” rabbit, the Bronze Horse Fountain, and the Soleri Bridge.

Wanderer Tip: I recommend a leisurely stroll to experience the artistic spirit of Scottsdale and explore the remnants of its enriching history.

Jump on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

Witnessing the globe from 7,000 feet above ground is the most tranquil and fantastic sensation.

You have to go on a hot air balloon ride while you’re in Scottsdale.

The early morning awakening is well worth the sleep lost.

You will get to see  the desert landscape transition from brown to pink to white with spurts of green cactus as the sun rises over the mountains.

Everyone ought to experience something as amazing as that once.

Desert Botanical Garden

You might be wondering; the desert has a garden? Yes! And it’s a gorgeous experience.

You’ll see almost every species of flowering cactus sparkling against the red mountain backdrop. 

This assortment of flowering trees and cacti is incredible.

George Lindsay established the garden in 1939 by gathering species from all over that survive in the arid environment.

The enormous cacti, some of which were easily over 12 feet tall, are astounding.

Additionally, while you’re there, you may take advantage of specialty tours, events, exhibits, an outdoor cafĂ©, and a gift store.

Note: You must purchase general admission & member tickets in advance.

Kayak on the Salt River

The Salt River’s cold waters provide Scottsdale with the ideal relief from the heat.

You can go to Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch to embark on a self-guided, two-hour kayaking adventure.

Or you can decide on this three-hour kayak tour with a certified guide if you’re not ready to take on the river by yourself.

Here, you’ll see otters swimming with ease, wild horses grazing, and cliffs rising 1,000 feet above the spectacular Saguaro Cacti.

Go hiking

With over 36,000 acres (36 times the size of Central Park), the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is ideal for hiking, biking, or equestrian riding.

Sound like something you’re after? Get on a hiking tour.

Roadrunners and towering cacti that reach the height of the mountains will cross your route.

The Gateway Trail Loop is 4.5 miles long, somewhat strenuous, and gains 650 feet in height.

Try Pinnacle Peak if you want a more leisurely hike.

And if you’re up for a little challenge, take on the incline on Camelback Mountain while on a private hike.

Read Next: Scottsdale versus Sedona

Paolo Soleri, an Italian-American architect who trained with Frank Lloyd Wright, lived and worked in Cosanti.

It is now a gallery and active studio where Soleri exhibits his creations, including bronze and ceramic bells — and it’s beautiful!

The structures he carved out of the desert that appear to merge with the scenery are true works of art.

Read Next: Best Coffee Shops in Scottsdale

Attend the Artwalk

The Thursday night ArtWalk in Scottsdale is a must-attend event.

This fantastic free art event is conducted every Thursday during the peak fall or spring season and is located in Old Town.

The celebration includes live performances, art, food, beverages, and entertainment from 7–9 pm.

Grab a glass of wine and explore the numerous galleries.

The Legacy Gallery, where you’ll find terrific Southwest artworks by John Nieto, Jim Norton, and Duke Beardsley, is one of the top choices.

Where to Eat in Scottsdale

Scottsdale is a treasure trove for food enthusiasts, boasting many eateries that promise to satiate every palate (and great happy hour spots too).

Choosing a place to dine can be overwhelming, with over 650 options available, but there are some spots you shouldn’t miss.

As a local, I suggest immersing yourself in the city’s culinary delights and various cuisines (you can do this with a food tour too).

The Mission – If you’re in the mood for contemporary Latin food, The Mission is an excellent choice.

Gertrude’s – The best place to get comfort food is here. After a hot day in the sun, tasty soups and salads, fresh vegetables, and seasonal dishes are the best options.

Herb Box – This is the ideal place to stop for flavorful salads, hearty soups, and nutritious sandwiches if you want a light dinner.

T. Cook’s – This spot serves the most opulent, lavish, and mouthwatering food. The wine list is also excellent.

AZ88 – This place calls itself a “modern-day saloon,” appearing more like a bar than a sophisticated restaurant. There are rotating works of art that are changed every few months and pub-style fare.

ZuZu – Creative shared dishes, vibrant cocktails, and a sleek bar with a mid-century contemporary feel are all available at this lovely spot.

Cowboy Ciao – This is a popular hangout because of the welcoming staff, hearty cowboy food with flair, and the largest and most interesting wine selection.

What to Pack

It’s simple to prepare for a weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Nevertheless, you’ll need to pack things for all the many activities you’ll be engaging in.

Here is a quick list of what you should bring:

Next Steps for Your Best Trip to Scottsdale

After reading this travel guide to Scottsdale, you should have all the information you need to help you plan your trip to this beautiful city.

For even more handy information, have look at my previous blogs about Scottsdale:

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