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Paradise Expert City Guide to Scottsdale

For those living in colder climates, the desert town of Scottsdale, Arizona in the late fall and winter season running up to late spring, is a snowbird’s dream destination. Located just outside of a major airport hub in anchoring ‘big city’ Phoenix, you are only a 20-minute cab ride away from the charming and historic old town with Western flare, cool modern hotels, fun bars, art walks and outdoor wellness options galore.

Mountain Shadows Golf at Camelback Mountain

And, let’s talk about golf: there are over 51 courses in Scottsdale alone, and a total of 207 in the surrounding areas, so you will be spoilt for choice no matter what level of player you are. As for sports, this area is Spring training central with teams flying in from all over the country, plus this area is home to 12 other Major League Baseball teams’ spring training fields, all within a 15-45-minute drive of Scottsdale. Nearby, State Farm Stadium has hosted a few Super Bowl games in the past including the 2023 nail bitter between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles with Rihanna taking the stage at halftime for an epic performance. 

Read on for where to stay, dine, drink, shop and play no matter what kind of travel budget or special pursuits you have in mind and if you have not seen a Sonora desert sunset, you are in for a treat no matter what time of year you decide to visit. 

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess



Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

This is where to stay when you want to splurge on a suite with a view over the golf course and never leave the grounds. The Fairmont boasts 6 pools, 5 drinking and dining options (including Bourbon Steak by award-winning chef Michael Mina), a world-class spa, and even an ice-skating rink in the winter. With so many options, it is almost like a mini village (or a massive estate) that is perfect for family vacations, an escape with friends, couples, weddings and solo travelers.

Hotel Valley Ho Studio Guest Room


Hotel Valley Ho

Mid-century modern buffs will want to check-in to the Hotel Valley Ho.. This original celebrity hideaway in downtown Scottsdale has large guest rooms and glass walls opening onto airy patios or balconies. Hit the VH Spa for treatments and workouts overlooking the OH Pool where you will want to book a cabana. ZuZu is a popular restaurant and bar serving seasonal American fare, along with a famous milkshake. For a hotel within a hotel, stay in The Tower with spacious suites that include living rooms and fully-fitted brightly colored kitchens straight out of the “Jetsons.” When you want something more bucolic, check out the sister property, Mountain Shadows, for an upscale boutique resort also with mid-century roots that used to host Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Davis Jr. back in the day. Now, a favorite pastime – besides golf and cocktails – is basking in sound healing on the lawn.

WET Deck at W Scottsdale


W Scottsdale

Looking for a Las Vegas-style pool party scene on the weekends? The WET Deck at the  W Scottsdale in the booming Entertainment District has you covered. A popular downtown staple for the past decade, The Living Room lobby is also packed Thursday through Saturday with locals and guests sipping on signature cocktails before heading to Sushi Roku. Hailing from the IDG group in Los Angeles, this is one of the best Japanese sake and food pairing experiences you can have in the area, including the Omakase dinner.

Book one of the luxe suites with full kitchens, dining room, spacious living room and terrace. The bedrooms have walk-in closets and even a washer-dryer. The best part is you cannot hear the rowdy revealers at the pool if you are trying to get some sleep before hitting the golf course in the morning, and be sure to take advantage of the on-site AWAY spa for a treatment once you return or before you hit the town.

The Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale at sunset


Boulders Resort & Spa

Located at the foothills of the Sonora desert, there is nothing quite like the Boulders Resort anywhere in the world. Not many properties are built in and around towering 12-million-year-old boulder formations. For the ultimate view, book a private villa on the property and save time for a few rounds of golf. They also have an incredible wellness program that is a major draw for visitors. You can meditate in the signature labyrinth before or after treatments and massages that in some cases incorporate the dessert flora or gemstones into ingredients. Not for the faint of heart, you can also sign up for a boulder climb with an instructor but do book the boulder stone massage after as your reward and a full-circle moment.

Boulders Spa


Hotel Adeline 

Located close to the action of Old Town Scottsdale, Hotel Adeline is a newer Tribute Portfolio Hotel with a vibrant, modern décor. The 200-plus room property is pet friendly and has a large cabana-lined pool with a view of Camelback Mountain and plenty of floating inflatable toys for fun-in-the-sun amenities. The chic ceramic tiled counters and floors of the check-in desk, on-site restaurant and bar are a welcome respite after a day out exploring and don’t miss the fresh bakery case in the morning before you head out.  

Camelback Mountain views from the pool at Hotel Adeline


Fat Ox

Highly regarded local Chef Matt Carter served top-notch pastas and steaks at Fat Ox but do not miss the brick-grilled organic chicken. This location offers wonderfully diverse areas to dine in from the fireplace room with privacy curtains, a front patio or back courtyard, and private room that can seat up to 50 people. Or, come for the aperitivo hour menu in the bar-lounge with in-house barrel-aged spirits.

Brick Chicken at the Fat Ox
The Roaring Fork

For upscale campfire cooking in the heart of Old Town, this Southwest classic spot is known for green chili pork, spicy margaritas and the “big ass’ burger. You can also choose from lamb, chicken, beef, pork, or fresh fish prepared rotisserie style, live-fire grilling or oven roasted to enjoy on the expansive patio. 

Citizen Public House

This a local favorite classic dining destination and watering hole. Must-orders are scallops, the famous chopped salad or the meatloaf and barrel-aged whiskey cocktails. They also have a new non-alcoholic menu for those who are abstaining but still want to join in the merriment. 

Citizen Public House (left). Citizen Public House chopped salad. Photo by Jenelle Bonifield for Experience Scottsdale (right).
The Americano

You might recognize chef-owner Scott Conant from the Food Network at this chic modern Italian-inspired American steakhouse. Translation: you can indulge in raw seafood or crudi, Wagyu beef and creative pasta dishes including Conant’s famous spaghetti. Pair any dish with one of the global wines from the 200-plus list or try a signature cocktail such as the cask-aged negroni.

Café Monarch

For a little taste of Europe and a romantic date night, Café Monarch with its bubbly fountains and iron-gated entrance is a stand-out. This is a nationally recognized, fine dining venue with a tasting menu and wine pairings that also serve foie gras and caviar, so you will want to wear your Sunday best as they do have a dress code.

Outrider Rooftop Lounge at Canopy by Hilton Scottsdale. Photo by Jenna McKone for Experience Scottsdale.


Outrider Rooftop Lounge at the Canopy by Hilton

For craft brews and bar bites with a stellar view, the 7th-floor rooftop lounge at the Hilton in Old Town is the perfect perch for watching a desert sunset melt into Camelback Mountain over a few drinks. There are plenty of cozy corners with firepits for chilly nights and with the 180 vistas before you, and do plan ahead and make a reservation for a 2 hours seating to avoid missing out on this glorious scene.

Cocktails at AZ88 in Old Town. Photo by Jenna McKone for Experience Scottsdale.

For a modern cocktail lounge bar with great martinis, head to AZ88 which has recently been renovated after 3 decades. This classic spot is still cool and they are renowned for their espresso martinis (the 80s trend that just will not die) and rotating art installations.

The Rusty Spur Saloon  

The old-fashioned western bar with swinging wooden doors is a historic landmark dating back to 1921 and the first bar in Scottsdale. Pull up a seat at the bar for aged-bourbon, conversation and live music at this local treasure. While visiting the area, everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Post Malone has been seen having a grand old time. And, do not forget to sign a dollar bill and leave it on the wall. 

Beer at Goldwater Brewing. Photo by Halie Sutton for Experience Scottsdale.
Goldwater Brewing 

For tasting the best local craft beers in town, grab a pint or a brew to go at Goldwater Brewing Co. and taproom in Old Town. This is a family-owned business started by locals who love the brewing process and traveled the world doing research before opening in 2014. So, whether you are looking for an IPA, sour or cider on tap, this is your place.

Bonus Tip: Barcoa

This is technically not in Scottsdale, but on your way to or from the Phoenix airport, do stop into Barcoa for a mezcal or tequila flight and try to nab a seat in the basement. This agavaria was just opened in January and is co-owned by local legend David Tyda (a former editor known for creating local taco, pizza, and donut festivals) and located in the hip downtown walking district. There is also a main floor cantina where you can grab a classic margarita. 

Vintage couture at Fashion by Robert Black in Old Town. Photo by Brittany and Leo Morales for Experience Scottsdale.


Scottsdale Fashion Square

Recognized as one of the most visited destinations in Arizona, Scottsdale Fashion Square is a retail powerhouse with premier brands, food and fun entertainment options. Near Old Town Scottsdale, it is anchored by Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and the flagship Apple. You can also find luxury goods from Louis Vuitton to Bottega Veneta, Bulgari and Gucci in addition to a newly opened Versace. Dining options include Toca Madera, Zinque and even the world-famous Nobu. 

5th Avenue District

The 5th Avenue Shopping District of Old Town is a can’t-miss for unique finds, from locally made products at boutiques like Leela Market and The Merchantile to one-of-a-kind vintage pieces and accessories at Fashion By Robert Black and Vintage by Misty, as well as authentic Native American jewelry and other handmade items at Native Art Market.

Leela Market in Old Town Scottsdale’s Fifth Avenue. Photo by Christine Johnson.
Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter

For those staying in or visiting North Scottsdale, Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter – with a crosswalk connecting the two centers – make it easy to shop till you drop. Kierland Commons is a mixed-use urban building that is home to some of the most popular lifestyle brands, along with over a dozen destination restaurants and nightlife options. Shop from Anthropologie to Aveda, and Johnny Was to Sur La Table. When you need to refuel or take a break, try Zinc Bistro, Postino Wine Cafe, Bar North, and The Greene House. Scottsdale Quarter is a 28-acre mixed-use shopping center with retailers that include H&M, Sephora, lululemon, and Kendra Scott. Dining options include Dominick’s Steakhouse, True Food Kitchen, and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. 

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. Photo by Jill Richards for Experience Scottsdale.


Taliesin West tour 

This single-family home and UNESCO World Heritage Site built in 1937 by Frank Lloyd Wright is an architectural marvel and should not be missed for any design or landscape buffs. Guided tours are available 7 days a week that include the grounds and inside the house which is fully decorated with furnishings from Wright’s time living there (winters only) until his death in 1959.

Hit the Wine Trail

Yes, Arizona has great grapes! Start at the award-winning LDV Winery located in downtown Scottsdale. Enjoy hand-crafted, estate-grown Rhone-varietal wines by the glass or bottle at the tasting counter, or on one of the outdoor patios. The vineyard in the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona. There is a total of six Arizona wine-tasting rooms conveniently located in Old Town Scottsdale, along with a few additional wine bars. Follow the Scottsdale Wine Trail map to see them all.

Exceptionally Scottsdale Experience: Le Nez du Vin. Photo by Christine Johnson for Experience Scottsdale.
Art Walk

Browse works of art from every medium during Scottsdale ArtWalk every Thursday night along Main St. in Old Town – a tradition for more than 40 years. You can also experience Western and Native American art at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West or contemporary art at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. For an interactive activity that pushes the boundaries of traditional galleries and engages visitors of every age, check out Wonderspaces at Scottsdale Fashion Square.

The Sybil B. Harrington Cactus and Succulent Gallery at the Desert Botanical Garden.
Get Outside

You will want to soak in as much of the desert fauna and flora as you can. There is no better way to experience vibrant wildflowers dotting the Saguaro cacti-studded terrain than hiking or mountain biking in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. With over 225 miles of trails for every experience level stretched across more than 30,500 acres, it is 36x the size of Central Park! Top trails include Gateway Loop, Tom’s Thumb and Lost Dog Wash. If you want to stay on flat ground, you can also stroll through the Desert Botanical Garden cactus and succulent gallery.  

For that Western cowboy experience horseback riding is another great way to see the beauty of the desert unfold. MacDonald’s Ranch and Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch lead family and group trail rides in varied terrain, for all levels of riders, while Windwalker Expeditions specializes in small group rides customized to the riders’ desired area.

Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Ride Co. Photo by Chloe Ward for Rainbow Ryders (left). Kayaking with REI Co-op Experiences (right).

Taking flight in a hot air balloon or kayaking on the Lower Salt River are two softer adventure activities that still rank high on adrenaline, but no less memorable and picturesque.

With more spas per capita in Scottsdale than anywhere else in the US, we would be remiss not to mention some outdoor wellness activities, like Desert Bathing at Four Seasons Scottsdale or sunset yoga at CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa in Carefree.

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