Known for its laid-back lifestyle, plenty of opportunities to get outside, and over 300 sunny days a year, it’s easy to see why Scottsdale has earned a spot on Livability’s Top 100 Places to Live list. The city attracts nearly 10 million visitors a year and trust us when we say you’ll want to add this southwestern city to your bucket list.
Where to stay
If you’re looking to be close to the action and step back in time, the Valley Ho Hotel is a Scottsdale mainstay. The hotel opened in 1956 and quickly became a haven for Hollywood titans like Bing Crosby and Zsa Zsa Gabor in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the hotel has recently been restored to its original glory. and is now a mid-century modern wonder. Other amenities include the VH Spa, OH Pool and an upper level restaurant at ZuZu. In addition, the Valley Ho Hotel is ideally located and both the city center and the old town are within walking distance.
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Want to escape the downtown scene and experience Scottsdale’s upscale resorts? Then Mountain Shadows is for you. Located close to Paradise Valley, the resort is nestled between Camelback Mountain and Mummy Mountain and is the perfect place to sit back and relax. There is something for everyone, including a completely renovated 18-hole golf course, two swimming pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center and over 37,000 square feet of event space. The resort was originally built in 1959 and even served as the main backdrop for the 1960s crime drama “The Brannagan Brothers”. The complex was completely rebuilt in 2017 and the property is on the next level.
What to do
Whether you’re traveling by bike, hot air balloon (yes, really!) Or on foot, there’s no shortage of things to explore around Scottsdale. For early risers and adventurers alike, a sunrise hot air balloon ride is a must. The views of the Sonoran Desert are truly breathtaking and the Rainbow Ryders pilots are very knowledgeable and, as an added bonus, very skilled at taking excellent photos for the gram.
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If you’re looking to stay closer to the ground, a walk through Old Town Scottsdale is exactly what the doctor ordered. The Old Town is a combination of shops, restaurants and galleries, public art facilities and historic sites that make the city unique. Stick around for Scottsdale ArtWalk, a tradition that has been taking place in the Old Town for over 40 years. Known as the American “Original ArtWalk,” visitors can explore nearly 70 galleries in the region every Thursday from 7 to 9 pm.
Last but not least, get in touch with nature. Scottsdale has over 300 sunny days a year and there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy. For example, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a protected area home to both the McDowell Mountains and the Sonoran Desert. The reserve has over 200 miles of trails and is 36 times the size of Central Park, which means there’s plenty of room to explore. A late afternoon hike along the Marcus Landslide Trail is the perfect place to take in scenic views of the McDowell Mountains and is a moderate hike suitable for beginners.
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Where to eat and drink
Foodies feast on Scottsdale. Over 800 restaurants and six wine tasting rooms are crammed over 185 square miles, making Scottsdale a food lover’s dream. The food scene here is unprecedented; visitors can enjoy a variety of cuisines and, of course, plenty of delicious drinks to boot.
Start your day with a Berdena coffee in the heart of the old town. The store emphasizes locally sourced food and drink when possible and makes one of the best lattes I have ever had. If you can’t decide between a cup of coffee or dog hair, head to Sip Coffee & Beer House, where locally roasted beans and 19 rotating craft beers are all on tap. If you’re looking for a boozy brunch vibe, Hula’s Modern Tiki is at the top of our list. The restaurant is a modern take on a classic tiki bar and serves delicious drinks like Hula’s Painkiller (we suggest adding a rum float!) And plenty of gluten-free options.
For lunch, The Mission Old Town is a must. We let our server be our guide here and he didn’t disappoint. Some highlights were the grilled street corn, shrimp tacos, and a pumpkin bread pudding that I always dream of. Postino is a great place if you are looking for a glass of wine and something to share. Finally, The Herb Box is not to be missed – the mini short rib tacos were one of the highlights of our trip!
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There is no shortage of good restaurants around Scottsdale. The first is Zuzu, located in the Valley Ho Hotel. The restaurant is ideal for brunch and dinner and serves unique, accessible and delicious dishes. Whatever you do, round off the meal with one of the restaurant’s signature shakes, which rotate monthly and can’t be missed. Citizen Public House, whose chef is a James Beard semi-finalist, serves delicious meals and has an impressive drink program with an emphasis on barrel-aged cocktails. Finally, make room for dinner at Hearth ’61, which focuses on ingredient-based dishes and offers an impressive wine list.
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Where to shop
As someone who can smell a cash register a mile away, the shopping scene in Scottsdale doesn’t disappoint. Shop until you drop into the legendary Fashion Square Mall, home to over 2 million square feet of luxury brands, cult favorites, and plenty of places to dine. If you’re looking to shop small, Carmen, Leela Market, and Vintage by Misty are all must-haves. The Merchantile of Scottsdale is a versatile market in the heart of Old Town that brings together local creators, designers and artists in one common place.
Scottsdale is a Southwestern hub for the arts and it’s easy to see why. The to-do list is almost endless, but we’ve narrowed it down to a handful of our favorites. Wonderspaces is an immersive artistic experience like no other. The interactive experience features artwork from around the world, is super Instagrammable, and constantly evolving.
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A visit to Taliesin West is also a must for art lovers. The property, purchased in the 1930s for around $ 3.50 an acre, was built almost entirely by Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices as a winter hideaway and was among his most personal creations. Today the house is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the seat of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
The city offers many public art installations, including the Soleri Bridge and the Plaza, a pedestrian-only bridge. The piece was the first of more than 60 bridge designs by famous designer Paolo Soleri to be built and the design sits on a true north axis to mark solar events. There are many other permanent rooms in the city and a rotating menu of temporary facilities to explore. Be sure to set aside time to explore the city’s sprawling downtown arts district and weekly ArtWalk.
Finally, museum goers can enjoy the Scottsdale scene. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCa) is home to one of the few public Skyspaces in the world and rotates 9 to 12 exhibitions each year. Other stops include the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Musical Instrument Museum, Heard Museum, and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.
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