Tucked within the Sonoran desert lies the hidden oasis known as Scottsdale. A perfect mix of adventure, beauty, and luxury — this town was a welcomed surprise. Between the mountains and the desert terrain, this destination has something for everyone.
Winding in and out of cafes, art galleries, and stopping in for a meal in a local restaurant, it showed just how diverse an experience awaits in Scottsdale. Just a short drive from the heart of town, one could find themselves immersed in the outdoors, filled with famous Saguaro cacti and other vibrant vegetation. The days felt like the perfect balance of culture and adventure.
The Long Weekend Guide to Scottsdale, Arizona
How to get to Scottsdale
- With a plenty of direct flights from major U.S airports, getting to Scottsdale is a breeze. Not up for flying? Take a road trip and experience adventure along the way. Once on ground, a rental car is definitely needed to maximize your time, though if you plan on staying in downtown, taxis and by foot are more than adequate to explore.
Where to stay in Scottsdale
- Luxury is no stranger to Scottsdale. The Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa is located just minutes from downtown and just 8 miles from the airport. The scenery, grounds, and amenities are superb. Read more on this hotel here. For a more contemporary and eclectically designed stay in the heart of downtown, stay at the Hotel Valley Ho. Each room is feels like a personal art gallery filled with pieces from local artists. Read more on this hotel here.
Where to eat in Scottsdale
As a foodie, this is one of my favorite parts of travel. Here a few places to add for cafes and restaurants:
- ZuZu Restaurant at Hotel Valley Ho: Delicious eats in a contemporary-style restaurant inside the trendy Hotel Valley Ho.
- The Mission: A Spanish-inspired eatery, where the lunch menu is nothing short of amazing. The table-side guacamole was to die for, and their take on street corn was memorable.
- FnB: You cannot go to Scottsdale without eating at this local restaurant in the heart of downtown where the focus is fresh ingredients.
- Sip Coffee & Beer: Spend all day in this coffee house. Start your day with a latte and end it with a refreshing pint.
- Cartel Coffee Lab: A local favorite. Be sure to try their pour over or a single shot espresso.
- Elements at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain: A fine-dining restaurant where the blend of elevated cuisine and beautiful views make for a great evening. Chef Beau MacMillan (you many also know him from Iron Chef) has created a menu that is farm fresh and seasonal. Be sure to order the kung pao cauliflower, shishito peppers, and candied bacon.
- Pomo Cucina & Pizzeria: A tasty pizzeria that takes me back to Italy.
- Gertrude’s Restaurant: Set next to the Botanical Gardens, this modern American restaurant with artisan flare serves playful cocktails and a wide arrange of plates.
What to experience in Scottsdale
- Jump into the arts: Scottsdale’s art scene is something that cannot be missed, and you can explore many galleries in downtown by foot.
- Take flight over the desert: Wake up with the sun for a hot air balloon ride with Hot Air Expeditions for stunning views over the desert.
- Experience Scottsdale through wine: In downtown, Lawrence Dunham Vineyards has a quaint tasting room, giving you an opportunity to taste local Arizona wines. There are often food pairing classes and more on offer, be sure to check out some unique opportunities. Wine tasting makes for a great way to spend the afternoon before heading to dinner.
- Explore Scottsdale on horseback: Set off into the desert for adventure with Fort McDowell Adventures where you can horseback through the countryside and through rivers.
- Relax at VH Spa: Treat yourself to the Istanbul Hammam Treatment for the ultimate spa experience.
- Sign up for a guided hike: Meander through the McDowell Sonoran Preserve with Arizona Outback Adventures, where you get an informative introduction to Scottsdale’s outdoors.
- Be inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright: An opportunity to see his work, and his school, Taliesin West, is an incredible journey into architecture. Be sure to sign up for a guided tour to see the property.
Bon Traveler’s Tips
- Best time of year to travel is during the coolest months, October-May, and the best travel deals can be found during summer.
- A hot air balloon ride is incredible. Opt for sunrise or sunset.
- It’s no secret the food options are endless. For prime time seating, be sure to book a table in advance.
PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!
These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.
1. Book Your Flights
Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.
2. Book Your Accommodations
Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.
3. Book Your Tours & Experiences
4. Book Your Car
Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.
5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access
Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.
6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.
My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: