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Planning a Vacation to Scottsdale, Arizona: Your Ultimate Guide

Scottsdale, Arizona, is a city that offers an enticing blend of luxury, adventure, culture, and natural beauty. Nestled in the stunning Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale is known for its upscale resorts, world-class golf courses, vibrant arts scene, and dynamic outdoor activities. Planning a vacation to Scottsdale involves more than just booking a hotel; it’s about curating an experience that combines relaxation, exploration, and indulgence. This comprehensive guide will help you plan the perfect vacation to Scottsdale, ensuring you make the most of everything this captivating city has to offer.

Planning a Vacation to Scottsdale, Arizona: Your Ultimate Guide

Getting to Scottsdale

By Air:
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) is the primary gateway to Scottsdale, located about 10 miles from downtown. It is one of the busiest airports in the country, offering numerous domestic and international flights.

By Car:
If you prefer a scenic drive, Scottsdale is accessible via major highways such as Interstate 10 and Highway 101. Car rentals are readily available at the airport and throughout the city.

Ground Transportation:
Upon arrival, you can choose from various transportation options, including taxis, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, and shuttle services provided by many resorts and hotels.

Best Time to Visit

Winter (December to February):
This is the peak tourist season in Scottsdale, with mild temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to mid-70s (°F). It’s perfect for outdoor activities, though accommodation prices can be higher.

Spring (March to May):
Spring is another excellent time to visit, with temperatures ranging from the 70s to 80s (°F). The weather is ideal for hiking and attending events such as spring training for Major League Baseball.

Summer (June to August):
Summer temperatures can soar above 100°F, making it less ideal for outdoor activities. However, this is the best time to find deals on hotels and resorts.

Fall (September to November):
Fall offers pleasant temperatures in the 70s to 80s (°F), making it a great time for outdoor activities and festivals without the peak season crowds.


Scottsdale offers a wide range of accommodations to suit every budget and preference, from luxurious resorts to charming boutique hotels and budget-friendly options.

Luxury Resorts:

  • The Phoenician: Known for its opulent amenities, including an 18-hole golf course, multiple pools, and a world-class spa.
  • Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: Offers luxurious rooms, fine dining, and activities such as golf and a kid-friendly pool.
  • The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch: Features elegant accommodations, a serene spa, and easy access to golf courses.

Boutique Hotels:

  • Hotel Valley Ho: A hip, retro-style hotel with modern amenities, perfect for those who appreciate mid-century modern design.
  • The Scott Resort & Spa: Combines Cuban and Moroccan influences with lush landscaping and a relaxing atmosphere.

Budget-Friendly Options:

  • La Quinta Inn & Suites: Provides comfortable accommodations and amenities such as free breakfast and Wi-Fi.
  • Best Western Plus Scottsdale Thunderbird Suites: Offers affordable rates, a convenient location, and complimentary breakfast.

Top Attractions and Activities

Scottsdale boasts a diverse array of attractions and activities that cater to all interests, from outdoor adventurers to art enthusiasts and luxury seekers.

Outdoor Activities:

  • McDowell Sonoran Preserve: A vast desert preserve offering over 200 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.
  • Camelback Mountain: A challenging hike that rewards climbers with panoramic views of the valley.
  • Hot Air Balloon Rides: Experience the stunning desert landscape from above with a sunrise or sunset hot air balloon ride.

Scottsdale is a golfer’s paradise, with over 200 courses in the area. Notable courses include:

  • TPC Scottsdale: Home of the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
  • Troon North Golf Club: Known for its challenging and beautifully landscaped courses.
  • Grayhawk Golf Club: Offers two 18-hole championship courses.

Arts and Culture:

  • Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA): Features modern art, architecture, and design exhibitions.
  • Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West: Showcases the history and culture of the American West through art and artifacts.
  • Old Town Scottsdale: A vibrant area filled with art galleries, museums, shops, and restaurants.


  • Scottsdale Fashion Square: One of the largest shopping malls in the Southwest, featuring luxury brands and high-end retailers.
  • Fifth Avenue Shops: A charming area with unique boutiques, galleries, and cafes.
  • Kierland Commons: An upscale outdoor shopping center with a mix of national and local retailers.

Spa and Wellness:
Scottsdale is renowned for its spa culture, offering numerous luxurious spas where you can indulge in rejuvenating treatments.

  • The Spa at Camelback Inn: Offers a range of treatments inspired by the desert environment.
  • Joya Spa at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia: Known for its stunning Moroccan-inspired décor and comprehensive spa services.
  • Civana Wellness Resort & Spa: Focuses on wellness and holistic treatments, providing a tranquil retreat.

Dining and Nightlife

Scottsdale’s culinary scene is vibrant and diverse, offering everything from fine dining to casual eateries, along with a lively nightlife.

Fine Dining:

  • Mastro’s City Hall Steakhouse: Known for its exceptional steaks and seafood, along with an upscale atmosphere.
  • Elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort: Offers farm-fresh American cuisine with Asian accents and stunning views.
  • Cafe Monarch: An intimate dining experience with a multi-course, prix-fixe menu featuring gourmet dishes.

Casual Dining:

  • The Mission: Serves modern Latin cuisine in a chic, yet relaxed setting.
  • Rehab Burger Therapy: Known for its creative and hearty burgers.
  • O.H.S.O. Brewery & Distillery: A local favorite for craft beers and pub fare.


  • Old Town Scottsdale: The epicenter of Scottsdale’s nightlife, featuring a variety of bars, clubs, and lounges.
  • Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar: Offers an extensive selection of wines and whiskeys in a cozy, speakeasy-style setting.
  • The Rusty Spur Saloon: A historic cowboy bar with live music and a lively atmosphere.

Events and Festivals

Scottsdale hosts a variety of events and festivals throughout the year, offering unique experiences that can enhance your vacation.

Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction (January):
One of the world’s most prestigious car auctions, attracting automobile enthusiasts and collectors from around the globe.

Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show (February):
An impressive equestrian event featuring Arabian horses competing in various categories.

Scottsdale Arts Festival (March):
A celebration of visual, performing, and culinary arts, featuring works from local and national artists.

Scottsdale Culinary Festival (April):
One of the longest-running food festivals in the country, offering a range of culinary experiences from gourmet dishes to casual bites.

Western Week (February):
A week-long celebration of Scottsdale’s Old West heritage, including a parade, live music, and historical reenactments.

Practical Tips for Your Visit

Weather Preparation:
Scottsdale experiences hot summers and mild winters. Pack accordingly, with lightweight clothing for summer and layers for cooler winter evenings.

Sun Protection:
The Arizona sun can be intense, even in winter. Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from UV rays.

Staying hydrated is crucial, especially if you plan to engage in outdoor activities. Carry a water bottle and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

While having a car is convenient for exploring Scottsdale and the surrounding areas, rideshare services and public transportation are also available. Many resorts offer shuttle services to nearby attractions.

Local Etiquette:
Scottsdale is known for its friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Respect local customs, be courteous to fellow travelers and residents, and enjoy the relaxed desert vibe.

Sample Itinerary

To help you make the most of your vacation, here’s a sample itinerary that balances relaxation, adventure, and cultural experiences:

Day 1: Arrival and Relaxation

  • Check into your hotel or resort and get settled.
  • Spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool or enjoying a spa treatment.
  • In the evening, dine at an upscale restaurant like Mastro’s City Hall Steakhouse.

Day 2: Exploring Nature

  • Start the day with a hike at McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
  • Have lunch at a local eatery in Old Town Scottsdale.
  • Visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Enjoy a sunset hot air balloon ride over the desert.

Day 3: Golf and Shopping

  • Play a round of golf at TPC Scottsdale or another top course.
  • Head to Scottsdale Fashion Square for some shopping.
  • Dine at The Mission and explore the nightlife in Old Town.

Day 4: Cultural Immersion

  • Visit Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.
  • Explore the art galleries and shops in Old Town Scottsdale.
  • Attend a local event or festival if one is happening during your stay.
  • Enjoy dinner at Elements and unwind at Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar.

Day 5: Adventure and Departure

  • Take a morning horseback ride in the desert.
  • Have a leisurely brunch at a local café.
  • Spend the afternoon visiting any last-minute attractions or relaxing at your resort.
  • Depart from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Planning a vacation to Scottsdale, Arizona, promises an unforgettable experience filled with luxury, adventure, and cultural richness. From the serene beauty of the Sonoran Desert to the vibrant energy of downtown Scottsdale, the city offers something for every traveler. Whether you’re seeking relaxation at a world-class spa, the thrill of hiking in picturesque desert landscapes, the excitement of cultural festivals, or the sophistication of fine dining and shopping, Scottsdale has it all.

Additional Considerations for Your Trip

Family-Friendly Activities:
Scottsdale is also a fantastic destination for families. Be sure to include these activities in your itinerary if you’re traveling with children:

  • Butterfly Wonderland: A large indoor butterfly atrium where kids can marvel at thousands of butterflies.
  • OdySea Aquarium: An engaging and educational aquarium featuring a variety of marine life exhibits.
  • McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park: Offers train and carousel rides, perfect for younger children.

Day Trips:
Consider taking a day trip to explore more of Arizona’s stunning landscapes and attractions:

  • Sedona: Known for its red rock formations, hiking trails, and vibrant arts community, Sedona is about a two-hour drive from Scottsdale.
  • Grand Canyon National Park: While it’s a bit further (approximately a four-hour drive), the Grand Canyon is a must-see natural wonder that can be visited on a day trip or with an overnight stay.
  • Tucson: Explore the cultural richness of Tucson, including the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the historic Mission San Xavier del Bac, about two hours south of Scottsdale.

Health and Safety:
While Scottsdale is generally safe, it’s always good to follow standard travel safety practices:

  • Stay Hydrated: The dry desert climate can lead to dehydration, so always carry water, especially during outdoor activities.
  • Protect Yourself from the Sun: Use sunscreen, wear a hat, and consider light, long-sleeved clothing to minimize sun exposure.
  • Local Wildlife: Be aware of local wildlife such as snakes and scorpions when hiking or exploring natural areas. Stick to marked trails and follow park guidelines.

Sustainable Travel Tips

As you plan your vacation, consider incorporating sustainable travel practices to help preserve the beauty and natural resources of Scottsdale:

  • Stay at Eco-Friendly Hotels: Look for accommodations that prioritize sustainability through energy conservation, water-saving measures, and waste reduction.
  • Reduce Plastic Use: Bring a reusable water bottle and shopping bags to minimize plastic waste.
  • Support Local Businesses: Choose local restaurants, shops, and tour operators to contribute to the local economy and reduce the carbon footprint associated with larger chain operations.
  • Respect Nature: Follow Leave No Trace principles when hiking or enjoying outdoor spaces to minimize your impact on the environment.


Scottsdale, Arizona, is a vibrant destination that seamlessly blends natural beauty, cultural richness, and luxurious amenities. Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or an adventurous solo trip, Scottsdale has something to offer everyone. With its diverse range of activities and attractions, from world-renowned golf courses and spas to stunning hiking trails and dynamic arts scene, Scottsdale provides an ideal backdrop for creating unforgettable memories.

By carefully planning your itinerary, considering the best times to visit, and taking advantage of the city’s top accommodations, attractions, and dining options, you can ensure a well-rounded and enjoyable vacation. Embrace the spirit of the desert, indulge in the local culture, and take the time to relax and explore all that Scottsdale has to offer. Your trip to this desert paradise will undoubtedly be a memorable and enriching experience.