But my previous trips to Scottsdale were all girls' trips (which makes sense, since Scottsdale is becoming a popular spot for bachelorette parties!). So on my most recent visit, I brought my husband Elliot along so we could explore the more romantic side of Scottsdale.
And what we found was the perfect mix of activities, food, and sights for a slightly adventurous (but still very relaxing) couples trip.
Whether you're planning a mini desert honeymoon, an anniversary in Scottsdale, or just looking to have a fun couples getaway, here are some of the best romantic things to do.
10 romantic things to do in Scottsdale
Note: This post is brought to you as part of a paid partnership with Experience Scottsdale. But, as always, all opinions are 100% my own and based on my personal experiences!
1. Go on a sunrise hot air balloon ride
While waking up at 4 a.m. may not scream romance, floating above the desert in the basket of a hot air balloon as the sun rises sure does.
There are a couple companies in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area that offer hot air balloon rides over the Sonoran Desert, and the experience is definitely memorable and romantic! It's quiet and peaceful as you float above the desert landscape, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife and soaking in the first rays of sunlight of the day.
I've done a morning ride with Hot Air Expeditions, who end their sunrise flights with a champagne breakfast. (Book a tour here.)
2. Stroll through the Desert Botanical Garden
If you want to get up close to some of that desert landscape you saw from your balloon, a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden, just south of Old Town Scottsdale in Phoenix, is a must. This garden covers 140 acres, and celebrates everything about the desert, from history to wildlife.
There are several themed trails that explore everything from Sonoran Desert flora and fauna to how Indigenous people use native plants for food and shelter. The garden also has a wildflower trail, a butterfly pavilion, and even a restaurant called Gertrude’s.
The trails are mostly flat and easy to stroll, making this a great place to admire the desert landscape up close together.
3. Visit an art museum
Scottsdale is an artsy city, with many galleries and museums to explore. My favorite one to visit with a date, though, is Wonderspaces inside Scottsdale Fashion Square mall.
This immersive and interactive art space is filled with fun exhibits by artists from around the globe. The art is meant to be interacted with, and new exhibits are installed a few times each year.
Wonderspaces is SUCH a cool concept, and might be my favorite way to experience contemporary art. There's also a bar inside the space, so you can sip on a cocktail or beer as you make your way through the different exhibits.
Other museums you might enjoy visiting together include the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, and Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.
4. Have an exciting adventure together
The couple that adventures together stays together, right? The Scottsdale area offers up tons of ways to have fun together outdoors, whether you're into hiking or more adrenaline-pumping activities. A few of our favorite options include:
- Hiking – Go for a hike in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, hike to the top of Pinnacle Peak, or even tackle Camelback Mountain. (Just be sure to take plenty of water!)
- Horseback riding – Go on a leisurely trail ride through desert scenery with MacDonald's Ranch.
- Mountain biking – Rent bikes from REI and hit the trails together on your own, or join a guided mountain bike tour (suitable for beginners!).
- Paddling the Salt River – Enjoy a relaxing paddle down the Lower Salt River, and maybe go for a swim. Keep an eye out for the wild horses that live within the nearby Tonto National Forest.
- UTV or ATV tours – Head out into the Sonoran Desert for a heart-pumping guided tour in an ATV or UTV. We did a tour with Stellar Adventures, and they are top-notch when it comes to equipment, safety, and fun.
5. Relax with a spa day
Need a way to relax after a day of adventuring? Scottsdale has some great spas you can enjoy individually or as a couple.
The spa at The Phoenician hotel is a great option, whether you want to enjoy a couples massage or get separate treatments and then meet back up at the spa's exclusive rooftop pool for lunch or cocktails.
(Or, if you want to fully immerse in a wellness retreat in the desert, you could stay somewhere like the CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa.)
6. Make candles together
Something fun Elliot and I did on our most recent trip to Scottsdale was make our own unique scented candle together at Light + Bark in Old Town Scottsdale. You choose your own scents and candle jar, and then get to make the candle yourself.
The Light + Bark staff said that, along with this being a really popular bachelorette party activity, they also get couples who come in and make candles for one another for birthdays and anniversaries. I love that idea!
7. Hit the Scottsdale Wine Trail
Old Town Scottsdale is fun to wander around as is it, but an added bonus is that it has an urban Wine Trail! Arizona actually has three American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), and grows great wine grapes. You can try Arizona wine at 7 different stops along the Scottsdale Wine Trail, opting for tasting flights or wine by the glass.
The spots you can visit are:
- Aridus Wine Company
- Arizona Stronghold Vineyards
- Carlson Creek Tasting Room
- LDV Winery Tasting Room
- Merkin Vineyards
- Salvatore Vineyards Tasting Room
- The Wine Collective of Scottsdale
You can purchase a Scottsdale Wine Trail Passport for $5, and then receive $2 off a wine tasting at any participating winery.
8. Drinks at Platform 18
If cocktails are more your speed, then you have to book an experience at Platform 18. This speakeasy-style cocktail bar is located inside Century Grand, which has a handful of different small, themed bars. Platform 18 is set up to resemble the inside of a classic train car.
You'll “board” the train, which comes complete with digital windows that make it look/feel like you're chugging through the countryside. The drinks menu is unique, with craft cocktail options that you won't find anywhere else (try the clarified milk punch!).
Your ticket (reservation) gets you a 90-minute “ride,” and it's a super fun date idea.
9. Have a chef-led dinner at Marcellino Ristorante
After drinks, you have a ton of restaurant options in Scottsdale. (Seriously, it's such a foodie city!) But if you want to book something really unique and romantic, see if you can grab a reservation for the “Chef’s Romantic Dining Cove” at Marcellino Ristorante.
Marcellino's is an Italian restaurant that will whisk you away from Arizona. From the fresh-made pasta to the European vibe and live music, you'll really feel like you've been transported to Italy for a few hours.
And the Chef's Romantic Dining Cove is such a great way to experience this spot. Chef Marcellino himself will chat with you about your likes, and then whip up a 5-course dinner (complete with wine pairings) just for you.
It's perfect for a special meal for two.
10. Share a sundae at The Sugar Bowl
Lastly, let's talk dessert! Again, there are lots of options to enjoy in Scottsdale, but you can never go wrong with an old classic. Stop in to the Sugar Bowl, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in Old Town. Sit at the authentic 1950s soda fountain, or grab a table and share a sundae or root beer float.
Romantic places to stay in Scottsdale
Scottsdale has a LOT of hotel options to suit every travel style, whether you're looking for something small and intimate or a huge sprawling golf resort. I've stayed at half a dozen properties in Scottsdale, and these are the ones I think are the most romantic:
1. Canyon Suites at The Phoenician
The Phoenician is a Luxury Collection Resort sitting at the base of Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale. The sprawling resort is 5-star as it is, with a three-level pool complex, a spa, a golf course, and multiple restaurants and bars on-site.
But if you want to take your stay up a romantic notch, you can book a room at the Canyon Suites at The Phoenician, which is essentially a resort within a resort. The Canyon Suites has its own check-in area, dedicated pool area with private cabanas, and spacious rooms with luxurious bathrooms.
2. The Bespoke Inn
If you're looking for a smaller and more intimate retreat, The Bespoke Inn is the place for you. This small boutique hotel offers just 10 rooms in the Arts District just south of downtown Scottsdale, making it the perfect base for exploring Old Town's public art and restaurants.
The Bespoke Inn offers a relaxing courtyard, a restaurant, a small infinity pool, and cozy rooms with luxurious details like plush leather arm chairs, claw-foot bathtubs, and leafy patios.
3. Mountain Shadows Resort
Lastly, Mountain Shadows is an underrated mid-century modern hotel in Scottsdale. It has spacious rooms, an excellent on-site restaurant and bar, a golf course, and a two-tiered pool area that frames a view of Camelback Mountain.
Mountain Shadows has an understated luxury to it that is perfect for a relaxing couples getaway.
Who's ready to plan a romantic getaway to Scottsdale?
Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!