Scottsdale is not just a dreamy desert known for its picturesque golf courses and luxurious spas, it’s also an urban oasis that has a booming nightlife, an underrated culinary scene, and a huge playground for the outdoor enthusiast called Mother Nature. There are so many things to do in Scottsdale. From the stunning mid-century modern architecture and the Wild West charm that it exudes, the city is a great escape undergoing a cultural rebirth with so many exciting changes that celebrate the beautiful outdoors, the diverse agriculture, and the talented artists of the West.
Whether you’re craving an adrenaline rush on a mountain bike or the tranquility of a spa, there are so many hidden gems left to be uncovered in the Sonoran Desert which makes it the perfect destination for the curious explorer who wants to experience a little bit of adventure and relaxation, all in one.
If going on a hot air balloon ride falls somewhere on your bucket list (as it should), then you can finally check that box in Scottsdale. Enjoying unobstructed panoramic views of the Sonoran Desert from thousands of feet above the ground while standing in a wicker basket is something you have to experience at least once in your life.
Whether you ride at sunrise or sunset, you’ll enjoy stunning views and a ride that will feel like you’re floating on clouds. Book a balloon with Hot Air Expeditions who will take you on an unforgettable ride in the air and greet you with a glass of bubbles and a light snack once you hit the ground. You can watch my first hot air balloon experience here.
Scottsdale’s climate may not make it a top of mind destination for wine tasting, but the family-owned winery located in the Arts District in Downtown Scottsdale focuses on small production wines with grapes grown locally in the foothills of Southeastern Arizona in the Chiricahua Mountain and their wines are surprisingly delicious. The rustic tasting room has indoor and outdoor patio seating where you can enjoy one of their reasonably priced custom wine flights ($8 for 3 wines / $12 for 5 wines). Select your choice of wines from their daily list but don’t leave without trying a sip of their Petite Sirah – their signature varietal.
A visit to Scottsdale would not be complete without experiencing one of the city’s finest food establishments. Chef Badman has been called the “veggie whisperer” and one look at the farm-to-table menu and you’ll quickly see why. Vegetables are the star of the show at this trendy eatery in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale that puts the spotlight on local produce. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by vegetables you didn’t even know you liked — fried cauliflower in fish sauce? It may not sound appetizing, but trust me, you’ll be asking for seconds.
This heavenly hideaway tucked away in the Pinnacle Peak mountains is the perfect place to getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and experience the serenity of Scottsdale. The luxury resort has all the amenities you crave for a little R&R — a full-service spa, a program of resort activities including yoga, spinning and Zumba classes, and sweeping views of the Sonoran Desert.
Spend a day at the spa and experience the Four Seasons in One signature treatment (a massage combined with a light exfoliation and body wrap) where you’ll end in a burrito-like wrap that will easily put you into a deep sleep like a baby who has been swaddled before bed. Then, head to Talavera, the hotel’s upscale steakhouse, which offers a modern twist on classic surf and turf dishes and feast on artful dishes served with the freshest produce in the Valley.
Whether you walk, hike or bike up this trail, Brown’s Ranch provides a number of options to catch the beautiful scenery of the desert. If you’re up for an outdoor adventure, make a reservation for mountain biking with Arizona Outback Adventures, and one of their guides will lead you through an exhilarating ride in the desert. As you weave past the majestic mountains and desert flora make sure to stop at the breathtaking Cathedral Rock for a few photo opps.
Husband and wife duo, Sergio and Country Velador, bring their talents to the award-winning bakery with confections that are (almost) too cute to eat. The adorable shop specializes in small-batch items and sweet treats that are finger-licking good like their popular John & Yoko cake, a 3” honey cake soaked in cinnamon tres leches, layered with mascarpone whipped cream and topped with a honeycomb candy. Or, try the chocolate bacon caramel popcorn. Yah, it’s as delectable as it sounds.
Get your coffee fix at this hip coffee shop with several locations sprinkled throughout Arizona including one in the center of Old Town Scottsdale. The baristas are quite knowledgeable about their beans and while the cold brew is one of their popular bevvys, they also have a decent selection of pour-overs and hot drinks that pair well with any of their fresh pastries.
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