There are some destinations that get pigeon-holed into being only “for” certain types of travelers. Ibiza is for partiers. Las Vegas is for gamblers. Bordeaux is for wine lovers. The Seychelles are for honeymooners.
This pigeon-holing is often done based on stereotypes associated with a destination. But we should all know by now that stereotypes are always oversimplified – especially when it comes to travel.
Scottsdale, Arizona, is often stereotyped as being upscale, filled with high-end resorts and golf courses. It's the sort of destination many people assume is only “for” the wealthy, more mature traveler.
But just as those other stereotypes aren't necessarily true (you can go to Las Vegas even if you don't drink, and can travel to the Seychelles solo), Scottsdale has a lot more to offer than just spas and golf courses.
I visited Scottsdale for the first time one summer for Bloghouse, a small travel blogging retreat that takes place in a different city annually. I'd been to Arizona several times before, but never to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. And I was definitely misinformed about what kind of traveler Scottsdale was “for.”
As it turns out, Scottsdale is a destination filled with art, food, outdoor adventures, and a very cool vibe that is definitely “for” everyone.
If you've never considered a trip to Scottsdale before, here are 7 reasons why I think you should plan a visit:
7 reasons to visit Scottsdale, Arizona
1. Scottsdale is a year-round destination
Yes, Arizona gets HOT in the summer. 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 the refrain of “It's a dry heat” really is true – 108 degrees with basically no humidity is actually pretty bearable.
Because of this, Scottsdale is somewhere you can visit year-round. It never gets super cold, and even when it gets toasty during the summer months, Arizonans know how to use their air conditioning, pools, and misters on outdoor patios to stay cool.
Summer is actually an excellent time to visit Scottsdale since it's considered “low season” at many resorts, meaning you can usually score some great deals! Check out Scottsdale summer deals here.
Plus, Scottsdale is basically sunny year-round – the Phoenix/Scottsdale area gets 299 sunny days per year! – so it's a great place to soak up some Vitamin D no matter what the season.
2. There's food and drink galore
Scottsdale's food and wine scene is booming, with lots of great independent restaurants and even a wine trail to explore.
My favorite restaurants in Scottsdale included:
- The Mission – For tasty tacos and table-side guac.
- Rehab Burger Therapy – For creative (and sometimes crazy) burger creations in a relaxed space.
- Craft 64 – Woodfired pizzas (with homemade mozzarella!) and lots of craft beer.
- Diego Pops – Another Mexican spot with decidedly Instagrammy decor. Try the Brussels sprout nachos (seriously).
- Hula's Modern Tiki – Hawaiian-inspired food and drinks in a cool space that does the tiki hut theme tastefully.
- Postino – For its affordable wines and bruschetta boards.
- Citizen Public House – For craft cocktails and good food, including a chopped salad that has its own Facebook page!
- Virtu Honest Craft – For Mediterranean-inspired fare in an intimate spot. (It's at the Bespoke Inn, where I spent 2 lovely nights.)
- ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho – For its '50s vibes and Show Stopper Shakes.
- Schmooze Workspace and Cafe – If you're looking for a good latte AND a nice place to work, Schmooze fits the bill. It also has a great patio.
Scottsdale also has its very own Wine Trail, located in Old Town Scottsdale. The Scottsdale Wine Trail currently has five unique stops: Aridus Wine Company, Carlson Creek Tasting Room, LDV Winery Tasting Room, Merkin Vineyards, and Salvatore Vineyards Tasting Room.
You might not know this, but grapes can be grown in Arizona! If you're interested in trying some unique Arizona wines, make sure to stop in at least one of these wineries.
I've been to LDV, Merkin, and Carlson Creek. LDV has a cozy tasting room and small outdoor patio, Merkin has a darker vibe, and Carlson Creek doubles as a small art gallery on the inside.
Want a detailed guide to visiting Scottsdale? Check out my 3 days in Scottsdale itinerary to help you plan your trip!
3. There are lots of ways to enjoy the outdoors
And no, it's not just about golf! In fact, there are several things you can do in Scottsdale to enjoy the great outdoors that don't take you anywhere near a golf course.
Consider things like:
Hiking in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve
If you're craving an escape into the unique Sonoran Desert environment, head about 20 minutes outside of Scottsdale to the 30,500 acres of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Here, 5 major trailheads 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. (Or, you can do what I did and just walk the half-mile Nature Trail in order to get your fill of saguaro cacti.)
Just respect nature and the toll the heat can take on you; if you're visiting Scottsdale in summer, get your hiking out of the way super early in the morning and drink more water than you think you need to.
Kayaking on the Lower Salt 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 is the Salt River. Locals often take tubes and coolers out to the river on weekends, but I booked a Lower Salt River Kayaking Tour with the local REI Co-op Experiences.
This was a beautiful paddle – and because the river is mountain-fed, it was deliciously cool even though the sun was scorching.
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.
Along with hiking and kayaking, you can also go horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, or even take a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Scottsdale! I need another trip (or five) to be able to try it all.
4. Scottsdale has art and architecture
Contemporary art AND world-famous architecture? Yes, Scottsdale has them both.
Art museums in Scottsdale
Even though the Wild West vibe of Old Town might not immediately scream “artsy metropolis,” Scottsdale nevertheless has an excellent collection of art galleries and museums.
Pop into the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) to enjoy its rotating exhibits (when I visited there was a super cool interactive exhibit about art and technology), check out Western art at the Museum of the West, have fun at the interactive Wonderspaces, or simply wander into one of the many fine art galleries scattered throughout downtown.
The best part? There's nothing pretentious about the art in Scottsdale. You can walk into any gallery in Old Town Scottsdale in shorts and flip-flops without feeling like you don't belong.
If architecture is more your speed, then you absolutely need to visit Taliesin West, about 25 minutes north of Scottsdale. This was architect Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home and school for more than 20 years, from 1937 until his death in 1959.
I'm a big fan of unique architecture, and therefore was SO excited to learn that there was a Frank Lloyd Wright house near Scottsdale. And of course this isn't just any Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house; it was his personal house during the winter months for more than two decades.
The tour at Taliesin West is very cool; you get to visit rooms that Wright used in everyday life, and learn about some of the unique features of the home/school, from the “desert masonry” to the use of natural light.
(And, fun fact: Taliesin West is now part of a brand new UNESCO World Heritage Site as of July 2019! The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright includes 8 of the architect's works, including Taliesin West.)
5. There are hotels for every type of traveler
Before visiting Scottsdale, I erroneously thought that hotel options consisted of either fancy resorts, or boring chain hotels (basically, what's true in many US cities!). But Scottsdale has a hotel option for every type of traveler, whether you prefer an upscale desert oasis, a cozy boutique experience, or something in between.
I stayed at two different hotels on my first trip to Scottsdale that perfectly summed up the diversity of accommodation options available:
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows
The Andaz Scottsdale Resort hosted this year's Bloghouse, and it was the perfect base for a few days of working and exploring. The hotel offers up individual bungalows instead of high-rise hotel rooms, along with a spa, a large pool, and cool lounging areas with views of Camelback Mountain.
The Andaz is also filled with artwork, all of which comes from artists at the nearby Cattle Track Arts Compound. This is a place I absolutely would stay again in Scottsdale!
On the other side of the spectrum, the Bespoke Inn is a small boutique hotel (just 8 rooms!) in the Arts District just south of downtown Scottsdale. The hotel has a relaxing courtyard area, a small infinity pool, and all sorts of luxurious details that ooze character.
You can easily walk to restaurants and museums (the Scottsdale Museum of the West is just two blocks away), or you can use one of Bespoke's bicycles to get around town for free.
If you're looking for an intimate, romantic place to stay in Scottsdale, the Bespoke Inn would be my pick!
Some other Scottsdale hotels that I like in Scottsdale include:
- Hotel Valley Ho – This retro downtown boutique hotel is perfect for lovers of everything mid-century modern.
- Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North – For those looking for a luxury desert resort.
- Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch – A family-friendly resort with a water playground, gondola rides, and access to the Gainey Ranch Golf Club.
- The Phoenician Resort – Another luxury option with a rooftop spa and multiple pools and restaurants on-site.
6. Scottsdale is primed for Millennials
Millennials often find themselves as the butt of jokes these days, but the truth is that *most* Millennials are now out of college (heck, many are now pushing 40!) and seeking memorable experiences to spend their discretionary income on.
Which is why I'm arguing that a destination that's appealing to Millennial travelers is primed to become popular – because, newsflash: Millennials aren't ALL poor, and they're turning into a generation willing to spend money on travel experiences.
Scottsdale is already primed for Millennial travelers thanks to its food scene, good nightlife, and quirky characteristics like the golf cart taxis that operate in Old Town Scottsdale. But there are other touches that are bound to draw this crowd, too. Things like:
- Hotels catering to a younger crowd – Several Scottsdale hotels are focusing on the 25-34 demographic, renovating spaces to be art-filled and colorful. The Andaz Scottsdale Resort, for example, throws pool parties on the weekends, has a Tesla guests can call for free rides anywhere within a 5-mile radius of the resort, and even offers an “Instagram walk” of the grounds a couple times per week.
- Instagrammable spots – Whether it's downtown murals or photogenic restaurants, there are plenty of Scottsdale spots that appeal to the social media-loving Millennial crowd.
- Cheap transportation – Scottsdale is very easy to get around. Parking downtown is mostly free, rideshares like Uber and Lyft are plentiful and very affordable, and electric scooters are now all the rage.
Scottsdale can be a luxurious getaway, but it doesn't have to come with a typical “luxury” price tag – and this value-for-money aspect is extremely appealing for travelers like me.
7. It's easier to get to than you probably think
Lastly, Scottsdale is easier to get to than you probably realize. The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is only a 20-minute drive away, meaning you can get to Scottsdale fairly easily from just about anywhere in the world.
So what are you waiting for? It's time to plan a trip to Scottsdale!
(And next you should go check out my guide to 3 days in Scottsdale!)
NOTE: My trip to Scottsdale was partially sponsored by Experience Scottsdale, but, as always, all opinions are entirely my own! I also have to give a shoutout to the Andaz Scottsdale Resort for being our Bloghouse hosts this year!
Have you ever visited Scottsdale? If not, is it somewhere you'd like to go?
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