Our Ultimate Guide to Scottsdale

Scottsdale was initially built to be a ‘burb of Phoenix, these days the desert city has everything we’re looking for in a weekend trip: luxury hotels, ahh-ma-zing spas, incredible restaurants, you name it. It’s still less built-up than Phoenix, and has less of a mystical feel than Sedona, but has a cool, undiscovered vibe all its own. If you’re looking for a desert vacay where you can soak up a lot of sun in a stress-free environment, you should definitely put Scottsdale on your list.

Here’s how we spent our weekend.

WHERE WE STAYED

We’re really into Andaz Hotels, so when we heard that they’d opened a Scottsdale resort and spa in Paradise Valley in 2017, we had to check it out. The design is minimalist and modern, and we were lucky enough to stay in one of 185 Sonora Desert-inspired bungalows with a private terrace that had breathtaking views of Camelback Mountain. Ours was the Eames bungalow, and it was decked out in gorgeous Midcentury furniture, like a classic red Eames chair that we’d lounge in every morning and read.

During the day, we’d head over to the palm tree-lined pool and hang in one of the private bungalows. It’s worth noting that all of the food at the Andaz is delicious; we’d order and eat in one of the poolside daybeds as we lounged. If you visit, make sure to try the chef’s house-made hot sauce. We’d pour it on everything from our morning eggs to sandwiches to salads, it was so delicious.

We also spent a lot of time (maybe too much time?!) at the Palo Verde Spa and Apothecary, where the treatments are inspired by the landscape and use locally sourced botanicals and aromatics. For the relaxing Camelback Custom Massage, for instance, you can choose scents like wild chapparal from the desert blending bar. We also indulged in a desert clay body wrap that removed impurities from our skin, and left us feeling totally refreshed as we sat out at the spa’s private pool.

WHAT WE DID

Aside from relaxing at the hotel, which was vacation enough on its own, we explored some of Scottsdale’s iconic spots. Here are some of our favorites.

Visit Taliesin West

Photo courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

This is a must-visit for architecture and design fans: There are a number of tours for Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert masterpiece and the place he called home until his death in TK, many of which offer behind-the-scenes looks at the rooms and his private art collections. It’s worth noting that you can’t visit without a tour booked, so make sure you reserve in advance.

Hike Tom’s Thumb Trailhead or Sunrise Trailhead

Hiking is one of our favorite things to do in Scottsdale, because the desert views are indescribably beautiful. Both of these trails are relatively easy; just make sure to wear sunscreen and bring a water bottle. You are in the desert, after all.

Stroll the Desert Botanical Garden

Photo courtesy of the Desert Botanical Garden

Although it’s actually in Phoenix, this desert wonderland is worth the drive. You’ll be amazed at the shapes and sizes of different cacti in the gardens, and the views are absolutely spectacular.

Wander Through the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts

Arizona’s only museum dedicated solely to modern art, architecture and design houses some incredible works. Don’t miss the James Turrell Skyscape in the outdoor courtyard. Plus, there are always new exhibits and educational programs to check out, so every visit is different.

WHERE WE ATE

The only problem with going on a spa vacation in Scottsdale? You’re definitely going to make up for it with the food you eat, because it’s delicious. Here are our must-hit restaurants.

Farm & Craft

A slice of Los Angeles in the heart of Scottsdale. This cute little cafe’s smoothies, salads, bowls and veggie sides are always super-fresh, and we’re big fans of the kombucha cocktails (because the kombucha means it doesn’t count, right?).

Fat Ox

Photo: @ilovefatox

This isn’t your nonna’s Italian restaurant. The fresh, modern takes on house-made pasta and wood-roasted meats keep us coming back for more. You can’t beat their table-side Caesar or Duroc pork tomahawk steak.

Culinary Dropout

With a name that playful, you know it’s going to be a good time. We like to hang out on the patio with a cocktail while we nibble modern takes on bar bites like soft pretzels with Provolone fondue, or a burger topped with bacon, havarti and BBQ sauce. It’s also a great place to catch live music from a local band, or watch a game on one of the giant TVs.

Sugar Bowl

Photo: @sugarbowlaz


This old-timey ice cream shop in Old Town is a blast from the past. They serve a variety of diner-style sandwiches and salads, but the draw is really the sweet stuff, like banana splits, malts and shakes, and their signature flavored Camelback sodas served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Main photo: @andazscottsdale