Your Ultimate Guide to Scottsdale, Arizona
Phoenix's charming little sister city is all grown up thanks to a host of retro-cool resorts, artisanal shops and mind-blowing eats. Here, the 13 things to do in Scottsdale.
A work of art in its own right, the just-opened Andaz Scottsdale partnered with local craftspeople to provide pieces for the resort—everything from the mugs at breakfast to paintings around the property are handmade. Guests can interact with the artists on-site, and even visit their private studios upon request. Not that you’ll necessarily want to leave—each suite is its own minimalist casita, perfect for a quiet escape. Just steps away you’ll find the most pristine pool in Scottsdale, complete with giant pineapple floats, mountain views and tequila shaved ice. Meanwhile, Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen is by far the most inventive hotel eatery in the area. It’s rare to see a resort restaurant deviate from the crowd pleasers, but true to the unique style of Andaz, chef Adam Sheff steps outside the box with dishes like the watermelon, goat cheese, crispy chicken skin and basil as well as the whole trout from the plancha, sizzling in grilled lemon and a pecan romesco sauce. At breakfast, don’t miss the blue corn pancakes topped with rye whiskey syrup, of course.
JW Marriott Camelback Inn
Credited with turning Scottsdale into the tourism hub it is today, the ranch-style Camelback Inn was one of the first resorts to embrace the natural terrain, Southwestern heritage and beauty of the desert. Since purchased by JW Marriott, the Inn remains true to its roots with darling adobe hut rooms and 125 acres of desert landscaping that rivals the botanical garden itself. The grounds are massive, with plenty of activities—golf, tennis, bike rentals, and a sprawling spa—which makes it a great place to stay if you’re looking to do zero planning and let the concierge take the reigns. But if it were up to us, we’d be happy just soaking in the views of Camelback Mountain during happy hour at Bar 1936. And you bet we’d be sipping the Lady in Red tequila martini and snacking on the fried cauliflower with smoked yogurt and mizuna.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Further north than most of Scottsdale’s resorts, the Four Seasons feels like a true Western getaway. Gorgeous casitas feature adobe-style gas fireplaces, hand-woven Huichol yarn art and a deck that overlooks the cacti and boulder landscape. Plus, sprawling views of the desert lull you into a true sense of relaxation, and the location means you have access to the less-crowded Pinnacle Peak. After the hike, rest those weary muscles in a cabana by the pool or at the spa with the Healing Hiker treatment: a full-body massage using mountain arnica and sage.
Hotel Valley Ho
Hotel Valley Ho is a true mid-century modern hideaway, where the swanky lobby will have you looking around for Don Draper. The dedication to décor extends well into the suites, where details like bubble chandeliers, turquoise chaise lounges and canary yellow kitchens beckon you to order room service and sip martinis on your balcony. The pool can be quite the party scene on the weekends, and the knowledgeable bartenders know how to mix a serious drink. Best of all: it’s one of the only locations where you can walk to Scottsdale’s arts district and waterfront.
See + Do
While wandering through Old Town Scottsdale, don’t miss the gallery district. String lights dangle above from the palm trees, and open windows give way to galleries displaying everything from Western-themed art to modern art. Go on a Thursday, and you can join the Art Walk, where locals come out to sip wine and mingle with artisans. We love Altamira Fine Art for its collection of Western Contemporary paintings and Bischoff’s Gallery for Native American jewelry, Navajo rugs and handmade pottery.
The best part about hiking in Arizona is there are trails for every level. The famed Camelback Mountain is a tough one, with some serious climbing involved at the rock scrabble towards the end—but the views are worth the workout. If you’re looking for something more low-key, Piestewa Peak has similar sweeping vistas but at an easier pace. Only have an hour to spare? The otherworldly rock formations at Papago Park are accessible by car, and you can park in the lot at Hole in the Rock to check out one of Phoenix’s most popular natural attractions.
Old Town Scottsdale is the place to go if you’re souvenir hunting—but beyond the treasure trove of turquoise jewelry, handcrafted boots and art galleries, it can get a little touristy. Serious shoppers head to Fashion Square, where luxury boutiques and high-end retailers abound. At 2 million square feet and growing, you won’t need to go far to find everything you’re looking for. For a more quaint shopping experience, drive north to the small town of Cave Creek, and wander down the main street lined with hat shops and craftspeople selling Southwestern jewelry, painted pottery and antiques.
Eat + Drink
Just off the canal, where you can stroll next to the water under twinkling string lights, is one of Fox Restaurants’ best concepts, Culinary Dropout. The menu is a little irreverent and a lot of delicious, serving up gastro-pub fare with flair. The wait staff isn’t afraid to tell you what to order, so let them do the talking. You’ll be rewarded with an antipasti plate to kill: prosciutto deviled eggs, pickled sweet peppers, Korean-style brussels sprout, all the meats and all the cheese, with some crusty bread to scoop it all up. Wash it down with a jalapeño honey limonada.
Goldwater Brewing Co.
The craft beer craze is sweeping through Arizona, just like the rest of the nation, and Goldwater Brewing Co. is doing it right. Signature brews include the Birthday Suit, a hoppy IPA first tapped on their Brewmaster’s birthday, and the pretty-in-pink Desert Rose cactus ale, brewed from organic Arizona cactus fruit and desert botanicals.
Blanco Tacos and Tequila
Amazing Mexican food is a staple in Scottsdale. But while there are plenty of authentic taco stands, it can be hard to find a solid sit-down spot that isn’t painfully touristy. Enter Blanco Tacos and Tequila, with its excellent variety of handmade street tacos—like the Machaca-braised short rib, crispy shrimp with fresno chile, and the award-winning BBQ pork with roasted corn and tomato slaw. If you’re lucky, snag a colorful patio chairs, the ideal place to throw back some pomegranate grapefruits margaritas.
Hailed as an urban speakeasy, Counter Intuitive is not your average Scottsdale watering hole. The owners transform the bar into a different theme whenever the mood strikes, and past concepts have included a Shanghai Social club with Asian flair and 80’s hair metal. The ever-changing cocktail list receives consistent praise for creativity. We pulled our drink menus out of a record sleeve, and sure enough enjoyed a savory blend of gin and red bell pepper alongside an unexpected whiskey PB&J.
Cold Beer and Cheeseburgers
The name says it all. With a beer selection to satisfy any snob, and burgers with creative toppings, this Scottsdale joint is the perfect spot to hit before a night out at the bars. The location is walkable to most of the hot spots—or if you’re feeling a bit full after dinner, you can flag down one of Scottsdale’s signature tricked-out golf carts to give you a lift to your next destination. We’re drooling over the Bacon PB&J burger with chipotle sauce, and the Steakhouse Truffle with white truffle oil, caramelized onion and thyme roasted tomato.
Chris Bianco’s famed Pizzeria Bianco has been praised by everyone from Andrew Zimmern to Oprah, and you can taste why. The wood-fired Neapolitan pizza is low in ingredients and high in flavor, with a small menu of only a few options (you can’t go wrong with the Sonny Boy with salami and olive). Head to the downtown Phoenix location, which is housed in a darling little brick building with exposed wood beam ceilings in Heritage Square, just 25 minutes outside Scottsdale. There is almost always a wait, so tide yourself over at the Royal Coffee Bar just around the corner with the promise of the perfect pie ahead.
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