Scottsdale, Arizona is the perfect resort destination if you’re craving a desert landscape with nearly 300 days of sun per year. And it’s only a 2.5 hour flight from Seattle, and 10 miles from the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.
Alaska Airlines flies direct out of Seattle – as low as $150. I actually found a ticket during peak season for $166 round trip. The trick is to book mid-week and be flexible with arrival/departure times.
In this post I’ll share a travel guide of my favorite things to do in the city known for that warm, dry heat that we all pine for this time of year!
Scottsdale Arizona Travel Guide
Where To Stay in Scottsdale
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Located in the heart of “new” Scottsdale, the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa caters to every vacation style. Whether you’re looking for family fun, a girlfriend getaway or romantic respite.
One of the Resort’s biggest attractions is the Adventure Water Park which includes a lazy river ride and 110-foot-long waterslide. There’s also the Kierland FlowRider and children’s splash pad with zero depth entry.
If you prefer to relax, the Aguamiel Pool, located near Agave, The Arizona Spa on property, is a heated adults-only pool, open 24 hours with private cabanas available for rent.
And of course, the spa, which I mentioned above, offers rest and restoration with their new CBD oil massage enhancements.
The Resort also has a golf club with three 18-hole combinations, making it one of Scottsdale’s premier golf courses.
The property’s featured fine dining is deseo. Featuring traditional Latin cuisine like black Peruvian ceviche, gazpacho verde and rock shrimp empanadas.
Another bonus to staying at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa is the close proximity to Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons, which offers the best outdoor shopping in Scottsdale, AZ.
Things To Do In Scottsdale
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Rainbow Ryders is the #1 Hot Air Balloon Ride Company in Phoenix/Scottsdale offering a one-of-a-kind experience above Deer Valley and the Sonoran Desert, followed by a gourmet breakfast and mimosas. Flight time is about 45 minutes to an hour and they start at $179 for adults, $99 for kids. Here’s my Rainbow Ryders Phoenix Review.
Horse Back Ride
Located in North Scottsdale, Cave Creek Outfitters offers guided horseback rides, cowboy cookouts, authentic cowboy games and old west entertainment. They’re also the only Scottsdale ranch that offers rides in both the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the Tonto National Forest.
Recognized as one of the premier destinations for art collectors, The Galleries on Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale features work from over 1,000 artists. It’s also home to “America’s original Art Walk,” open every Thursday from 7-9pm.
Everyone goes to Camelback Mountain, but I prefer the Phoenix Mountain Preserve which has 50 moderate trails ranging from 1 to 16.7 miles, up to 2600 feet above sea level. We did a quick sunrise loop and only passed a few hikers and a biker.
Taliesin West is a National Historic Landmark nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is also the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin. It’s open to the public year-round for a range of guided tours including Insights, Night Lights, Behind The Scenes and Private Collections Tours, among others.
Desert Botanical Garden
Just 15 minutes out of Scottsdale, you’ll find 140 acres of garden trails, wildflowers and blooming cacti and the Desert Botanical Garden. Open daily from 8am-5pm. Tickets start out at $24.95 for adults, and are free for kids 3 and under and active military.
Phoenix Art Museum
Located in Downtown Phoenix, about 20 minutes from Scottsdale, is the Phoenix Art Museum. The largest art museum in the Southwest. In addition to the featured exhibits, the permanent collection galleries include over 19,000 works of art from modern and contemporary, to fashion, Latin and Western American.
In an effort to reduce economic barriers and increase access to the arts, Phoenix Art Museum offers Pay-What-You-Wish admission every Wednesday from 3 to 9 pm.
Roosevelt Row Artists’ District
Downtown Phoenix is also home to the Roosevelt Row Artists’ District, which includes dozens of art venues, murals, public art and hundreds of local businesses who support the arts, bringing in over 100,000 visitors each year. I highly recommend an Arizona Pedal Cab Tour to learn about the area!
Also located in Downtown Phoenix is the Heard Museum, a dedication to the advancement in American Indian Art, sharing stories from a first-person perspective. The museum offers free general admission each first Friday of the month from 6 to 10 p.m. except March (specially ticketed exhibitions/events are extra).
I’d be remiss not to mention Grand Canyon during your visit to Scottsdale. It’s about a 4 hour drive and one of those bucket list experiences that you just need to see to believe. If you have the time, make a day of it.
Best Restaurants in Scottsdale Arizona
The restaurant scene in downtown Scottsdale has a menu and ambiance for every flavor. Southwest or Italian, tapas or elevated, there’s a vibe for whatever you crave. My personal favorites are below…
Quite possibly the most photographed restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale, Diego Pops is known for their tacos, tequila and treats with a neon pastel aesthetic. If you go, make sure to order the brussels sprouts nachos, snow cone margarita and campfire sundae. And snap a pic for Instagram – they love to regram! Diego Pops offers happy hour 7 days a week from 3-6pm and $3 tacos every Monday.
Back in Downtown Phoenix, a quick 20 minute drive from Scottsdale, you’ll find my favorite spot to eat, drink and hang out, The Churchill. Made up of ten small local businesses in a collaborative 9,000 square foot courtyard. You’ll find some of the best food in the city from restaurants like Freak Brothers Pizza, Foxy Fruit and Pobrecito Cocktails. With plenty of seating, lawn games and good company, it makes for the ideal afternoon.
Press Coffee is a Phoenix favorite with locations in Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe and Downtown Phoenix serving drinks made from fair-trade, small-batch beans, plus beer & wine. I recommend the cold-brew made with single origin Brazil Mogiano.
Voted the best tea in Arizona, Teaspressa takes coffee-inspired tea to another level. A flower-filled shop with rotating blooms and rose-petal-decorated drinks. It feels like a midsummer night’s dream the moment you walk in. Add a watermelon radish and avocado toast to round out the experience.
Postino Wine Cafe
Known for their colorful bruschetta and high-quality approachable wines, you can find Postino in several locations all over Phoenix. Including Kierland Commons in North Scottsdale. My personal favorite is the bounty board charcuterie with a side of smoked salmon. But I know the prosciutto and brie panini is also super popular.
Note: they also offer gluten free bread.
True Food Kitchen
They have locations all over the US, but one of my favorites is in the center court of Scottsdale Quarter. True Food Kitchen believes in delicious dining and conscious nutrition which is apparent on their menu and once you take that first bite. Offering seasonal ingredients with variations for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free, it is one of those few places that just gets it. They know how to prepare really impressive healthy food. I recommend the cauliflower polenta or banana pancakes. And an el verde Juby True organic cold pressed juice.
I was recently introduced to the Original ChopShop by my friend The Blonde Giraffe, a Phoenix transplant who also has an affinity for clean ‘feel good’ food. They have several locations in Arizona, including North Scottsdale, and just launched delivery. Also, you can filter their menu online by dietary specification. I’d recommend something, but honestly it’s all amazing.
Located inside the Desert Botanical Garden, Gertrude’s offers a farm and pasture to plate experience. I recommend a dinner reservation followed by the Electric Desert exhibit in the garden which runs October through May after dark.
I hope you found this travel guide helpful in planning your trip to Scottsdale, Arizona. Stay tuned for more breakout posts on some of the experiences including our hot air balloon ride!
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*Photos by Aneliia Miller
Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Visit Phoenix and their Scottsdale, Arizona partners.