When it comes to visiting the American Southwest, many people will tell you to skip the summer months. For many spots in this part of the US, the summer months mark high season – meaning bigger crowds and higher prices.
If you're planning a trip to see the national parks in the Southwest, I generally wouldn't recommend the summertime.
But when it comes to summer in the cities in this part of the country? Well, that's a different story. In fact, when it's hot and all the tourists are taking to the road and filling up national parks, it can be the perfect time to think about a city getaway.
And if we're talking city getaways in the Southwest, we have to talk about Scottsdale, Arizona.
I've visited Scottsdale twice now, once in the winter and once in the summer. And while I would have expected to enjoy my visit during the cooler winter months better, the truth is that Scottsdale is equally as awesome to visit in the summer.
Don't believe me? Read on to learn why summer might actually be the best time to visit 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!
Why summer is the best time to visit Scottsdale
1. It's a dry heat
It's true, if you bring up the fact that summer temperatures in Scottsdale often reach into the triple digits to any local, you'll immediately be met with the “But it's a dry heat!” response.
As someone who really doesn't love the heat (but also someone who, being from the Midwest, associates heat with humidity), I've always rolled my eyes at this statement in the past. But guess what? In Scottsdale, it really IS a dry heat!
On my first trip to Scottsdale, it was 108 degrees F (42 degrees C) in early June – and this was considered relatively mild for Scottsdale at that time of year. But I still found it bearable to walk around Old Town Scottsdale, sit outside on patios, and even visit a nature preserve one morning.
The high summer temperatures in Scottsdale might seem daunting, but that lack of humidity really does make a huge difference.
2. Lower rates / more deals
Summertime is “low season” in Scottsdale. This makes it the best time of year to plan a getaway to one of the area's fancy resorts since they run some of their best deals in the summer months.
Summer deals in Scottsdale often include lower hotel rates (up to 60% off peak season rates!), as well as savings on everything from tours to dining to sometimes even shopping. Find more Scottsdale summer deals here.
3. Fewer people
It would make sense that since summer is low season in Scottsdale, you're likely to find fewer tourists. And the tourists that you do find are often locals taking advantage of the summer deals – yes, the “staycation” is alive and well here!
Fewer people traveling can mean more open chairs around the pool, less of a wait at bars and restaurants, and in general just a slower and more relaxing pace of life.
Things to do in Scottsdale in summer
If I've convinced you that Scottsdale might be a place you'd like to consider for a summer trip of your own, here are some of the things you should plan to do there:
1. See the sunrise from a balloon
Okay, so this one actually takes place in the nearby Phoenix area, but it still counts. It's also perfect for the summer months, since the hours around dawn are some of the cooler ones you can enjoy.
A morning hot air balloon ride like this one with Hot Air Expeditions mixes a little adventure with the relaxing silence of floating over saguaro cacti as the desert wakes up. Plus, they usually run some summer deals!
2. Hit the trails – in the morning
If staying on the ground is more your speed, an early morning hike might be the perfect way to start off a day in Scottsdale. Hiking is a popular pastime for both locals and visitors, and the area has ample trail options.
My pick is the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, about 20 minutes from downtown Scottsdale. The 30,500-acre preserve is home to 8 major trailheads that connect to more than 200 miles of desert trails. Most of the trails here are less than 5 miles long, making for the perfect morning hike spot.
(And there are shorter trails, too, in case the morning is too hot!)
Another great hiking area is in Pinnacle Peak Park, where you can hike part (or all) of the Pinnacle Peak trail.
Note: Just please be careful with summer hiking. Take tons of water with you, along with proper sun protection. And don't start any hikes after about 10 a.m.
3. Relax by the pool
Want to beat the heat by the water? It's easy to do in Scottsdale, where nearly every hotel has at least one pool.
Scottsdale hotels with great pools include Hotel Valley Ho, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, The Phoenician, and Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows.
Some Scottsdale resorts even have full water parks with lazy rivers, water slides, splash pads, and more. Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, and Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa all have massive pool complexes.
If relaxation is calling your name instead, you could rent a luxury poolside cabana. Cabana rentals are often only available to hotel guests, but a couple hotels (like Hotel Valley Ho, Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa, and Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa) allow non-guests to reserve cabanas for the day, too.
4. Have a spa day
Scottsdale is known as a spa city, so having a relaxing spa day should also go on your summer to-do list. Scottsdale has no shortage of fantastic spas, many located at some of the top resort hotels in the area.
The fanciest luxury spas in Scottsdale include:
- The Spa at Four Seasons Scottsdale
- Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
- Sanctuary Spa at the Sanctuary Resort
- Joya Spa at Omni Scottsdale Resort
- The Phoenician Spa
- The Spa at The Boulders
Other lovely spas include Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary at the Andaz Scottsdale, the VH Spa at Hotel Valley Ho, and La Vidorra at The Scott Resort & Spa.
And if you want to make your whole getaway a relaxing, spa-like experience? Then I can highly recommend a stay at CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa in the nearby town of Carefree, Arizona. Read about my stay at CIVANA here.
5. Beat the heat indoors
Prefer climate-controlled environments to the outdoors in summer? No worries! Scottsdale's museums, galleries, shops, and restaurants all have excellent air conditioning. In fact, some spots keep it so chilled that you might want to carry around a sweater!
Museums you should visit include the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, and the interactive Wonderspaces is also worth a stop.
You can also pop in and out of Scottsdale's numerous art galleries and boutiques, or even go wine tasting along the Old Town wine trail (LDV Winery Tasting Room is my favorite!).
6. Stay cool on a patio
One thing I love about Scottsdale in summer is that al fresco dining (and drinking) is still possible thanks to a large network of misters and fans that are always hard at work on hot days.
7. Go golfing
Along with resorts and art, Scottsdale is also known for its excellent golf courses. Playing a round might be the perfect low-key activity for a hot summer day.
And if you're like me and not really a golfer? You can still get a taste of the game at Topgolf, which melds golf with a giant game of darts (instead of struggling with golf balls on greens, at Topgolf the goal is to hit them into big color-coded targets). This is a great activity for a larger group, and you play in semi climate-controlled golf bays – with fans and misters in the summer, of course!
8. Cool off at the river
When the weather gets hot in Scottsdale, the locals take to the water. One of the most popular spots to cool down on a hot day (other than the pool, of course) is the Salt River. This 200-mile-long river is not far at all from Scottsdale, and you can enjoy it on a tube, raft, or kayak.
I booked a Lower Salt River Kayaking Tour with the local REI Co-op Experiences, which was a beautiful and relaxing paddle. And, since the Salt River is fed from up in the mountains, the water is always nice and cool in the summer – perfect for swimming!
If you're lucky, you might even see some of the wild horses that live within the nearby Tonto National Forest. They come to the Salt River to drink and cool off, and your best bet to see them is in the mornings during the summer months.
This of course isn't an exhaustive list – there are plenty of other things to do in Scottsdale, too! But if you're planning a summer trip to Scottsdale, these are all the things that would go on my personal must-do list.
Would you ever want to visit a desert city like Scottsdale in the summer?
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