Have You Been to Scottsdale, Arizona? Here’s My Guide to Scottsdale
Scottsdale is a Phoenix suburb that proudly stands on its own, feeling like a destination unto itself. Undeniably worth a visit, Scottsdale has a lively, walkable downtown that includes the waterfront, an unbelievable art scene rivaling those of bigger cities––from art galleries to public works––and unexpected farm-to-table culinary choices including in-town wine tasting spotlighting Arizona vineyards. Have I piqued your curiosity? Read on for my guide to Scottsdale.
Where to Stay in Scottsdale
Scottsdale is home to a quite a few luxury resorts, and I was fortunate to get a taste of several. I stayed two nights in the retro, Hollywood-glam-inspired Hotel Valley Ho, and my suite was larger than my New York apartment. I can’t say enough good things about this property – a cushy, comfy bed that I didn’t want to leave, a sensational oversized shower, and a Bosch washer/dryer? (yes, really), plus a terrace. I felt like a movie star.
While I loved walking everywhere since Hotel Valley Ho is convenient to downtown Scottsdale, I also liked my one night outside downtown at the quiet Omni Resort & Spa at Montelucia. The setting is exquisite as the resort is located at the base of Camelback Mountain (more on this later), but the property is as beautiful as the view. The design is inspired by Andalusia, Spain, and captures a Mediterranean aesthetic. The Omni Resort proved to be a magnificent escape from the stress of life in the big city.
Both resorts provided top-notch, friendly service, and as you can see from the photos above – sprawling outdoor areas with pools, patios, lounge seating and more.
Before I attended a Scottsdale tourism event, I didn’t realize that the area has such a fantastic food scene. I saw (and ate) a preview of the town’s food at the event, but once I got to Scottsdale, I was overwhelmed with all the delicious choices. Like other cities, Scottsdale showcases farm-to-fork eats as far as restaurants go, so no matter what you believe about the dry desert, I can tell you the region produces phenomenal food.
My First Meal in Scottsdale…
I arrived late and was hungry, so I headed to Zuzu in Hotel Valley Ho. I had my heart set on a steak and the bartender suggested the Peppered NY Strip with truffled mashed potatoes, medley of mushrooms and port demi glace. He knew what he was talking about because I savored every divine bite and I’m still dreaming about that steak. It was cooked a perfect medium-rare.
Elements is for that special night out be it a birthday, engagement, or whenever you want to be treated like a king or queen. The food and service are unique and unforgettable at this elegant restaurant in Sanctuary Resort & Spa. I ate the freshest grilled swordfish of my life here. I also had an ahi tuna and cucumber appetizer that was light, refreshing and a terrific starter. Desserts at Elements are equally decadent. If you’re lucky, you might score a west-facing dinner table to watch the sky transform as the sun sets over the mountains. That was bliss!
The Mission is a wonderful spot next to the Old Adobe Mission Church in Old Town Scottsdale. I savored a delightful lunch of table-side guacamole, beer-battered fish tacos, and of course, a margarita. The vibe is relaxed and fun and the interior spacious, so The Mission is ideal for anyone – from groups to couples – even if you’re dining solo. I sat outside because, well, the weather was stellar. I recommend popping by the church for a dose of history and then stepping next door for Latin-inspired eats and drinks at The Mission.
While at the Omni, I dined at Prado. The elegant old-world, Spanish-inspired restaurant puts out a varied selection of tasty tapas, like heirloom tomatoes with burrata, bomba fritta (saffron rice, chorizo and spicy tomato) and wood-fired lamb chops with mint, making it a great spot for sharing plates. The restaurant’s savvy sommelier, Sarah, paired wonderful wines, some of which were from Arizona, with each dish. She taught me a few things about wine and made my dining experience at Prado extra special.
My Favorite Scottsdale Restaurant….
While I ate so much extraordinary food in Scottsdale, my favorite meal was at FnB. I adored everything about this small, charming restaurant. The atmosphere is casual. The kitchen is open. The chef is female and manages to turn vegetables into masterpieces. My server was knowledgeable and incredibly passionate about food and wine.
FnB felt like it would be my go-to neighborhood place if I lived in Scottsdale. While the menu isn’t vegetarian per se, the veggies are so darn delicious that carnivores won’t miss eating meat at all. How can broccoli and Brussels sprouts be so enticing? Chef, co-owner, former New Yorker, and James Beard-nominated Charleen Badman helms the kitchen while veteran restaurateur and winemaker Pavle Milic runs the beverage program.
Wine Tasting in Scottsdale
Downtown Scottsdale has several different tasting rooms, so it’s easy to mix dining, shopping and wine tasting (my kind of town). I tasted Arizona wine a few times before, but I drank a lot of local wine on this trip. The region may be smaller than some others in the US, but the wines can compete with the big players.
I tasted all the wines at Carlson Creek, and there wasn’t one that I didn’t like. I was especially fond of the Grenache, Syrah, and flagship wine “Rule of Three” (a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre). Carlson Creek wines are great for pairing with food or sipping on their own. I wish I could’ve fit a few bottles in my filled-to-capacity suitcase.
Art is essential to Scottsdale. I wandered the city streets and encountered public art practically everywhere I turned, but the most spectacular project has to be the Paolo Soleri-designed bridge, which joins the Scottsdale waterfront to Downtown. The Soleri Bridge was commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art and completed in 2010. As the bridge is a must-see attraction in Scottsdale, I could’ve spent all day meandering around the plaza and photographing that bridge. The plaza on the south side of the canal includes panels and the Goldwater Bell assembly (perfect for photo ops, I might add) designed by Soleri and crafted in his Scottsdale studio.
I recommend that art lovers dedicate an hour or so of their itinerary to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). Housed in a beautifully modern building that sits on a 21-acre park and lies adjacent to the performing arts center and civic center, the museum exhibits a collection of thought-provoking and dynamic contemporary works. Although this pocket of Scottsdale feels slightly industrial, the arts complex is steps from the tourist hub of Old Town and a slew of western shops and cowboy bars. It’s a unique juxtaposition that somehow works.
Each Thursday evening from 7 to 9 p.m., Downtown welcomes gallery crawlers on the Scottsdale ArtWalk. Since I had wine tasting and dinner plans, I did the walk a little earlier than the scheduled time so I beat the crowds. Most of the galleries are located along Main Street and Marshall Way (the Marshall Way Arts District), so the ArtWalk is a good way to see this area of the city and take in the amazing art at the same time. Be prepared to walk quite a bit, but if your feet start aching, hop on the free trolley.
Camelback Mountain Outside Downtown Scottsdale
I’ll be the first to admit my capabilities as a hiker (I am a beginner at best), but I couldn’t go to Scottsdale without hiking part of Camelback Mountain. Even though the climb is a strenuous one, I recommend doing what you can so you can take in the awe-inspiring views and decompress, if even for an hour. The 76-acre park is open from sunrise to sundown. Hikes are best done early in the morning, particularly in the summer months. Many thanks to Chloe Dake of Omni for guiding me.
Scottsdale is an easy town to love. It’s pedestrian-friendly with dozens of shops, salons, cafes, and fun places to hang out. People are warm and down to earth. The climate is fabulous so you can’t help but be in a good mood. The food and drink scene is fierce. With 70 permanent and 30 temporary works of public art and dozens of galleries, the art of Scottsdale helps shape the city, which is an exhibit unto itself.
I partnered with Scottsdale Tourism on this trip, and I can’t thank them enough for their attention to detail in organizing my itinerary. Since I had limited time, I didn’t get to do everything I wanted, but there’s always next time! My hotel stays and activities were complimentary, but every word I’ve written in this article is mine. For more info on planning a trip to Scottsdale, visit Experience Scottsdale.
Have you ever take a trip to Scottsdale? I’d love to know what you did. Please let me know in the comments!
Also, four days in Costa Rica, and things to do in Milan, the fashion capital.
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