Scottsdale. For years, the mere mention of the destination made me think of two things – Chicago Cubs Spring Training and work. About ten years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Scottsdale a few times per year. While I always loved the desert heat and sunny skies, I was never able to unplug and relax. Instead of sipping margaritas poolside under palm trees, I was constantly running around to strategy meetings and broadcast segments.
After a handful of years of hearing phenomenal things from close friends and family, I knew a leisure trip was in order. This time, I was determined to see the city through a new lens. Therefore, when the weather in Chicago turned to freezing temps and snow (in April nonetheless), Bob and I decided to hop on a flight for a weekend out West with our friends Kit and Charles. Wow, I was missing out, friends! Only a few hours after landing, I literally turned to Bob and said, “We need to come back.”
Scottsdale was just what the doctor ordered! I fell head over heels back in love with the destination; it’s perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway and longer vacation. Are you looking for a great spot to visit this year? I thought it might be helpful to provide some tips, tricks, and advice if you’re planning a trip to Scottsdale.
WHY VISIT SCOTTSDALE?
The U.S. has countless warm weather destinations, and you may be asking yourself, “why Scottsdale?” While my list could go on and on, but I’ve narrowed it down to my five top reasons:
- It’s perfect for everyone: I’m convinced it’s the ideal trip for all travelers (and I mean EVERYONE). Think families, couples, friends, colleagues, strangers, golfers, foodies, shoppers, and beyond.
- It’s a slice of luxury: From flights to hotels, restaurants and rental cars, Scottsdale is relatively affordable – especially compared to other top travel domestic destinations (e.g. New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, etc.). As with all travel, there are certainly expenses, but I was so impressed with how attainable everything was!
- The colors: Typically, when I think of the desert, “beige” is the first word that comes to mind. All of the colorful surroundings took me by complete surprise. We were lucky enough to be there when the wildflowers and trees were in full bloom. Beyond that, so many local businesses embrace color on their own terms. Just look at these colorful buildings at the Saguaro Scottsdale.
- The food: We didn’t have a bad meal. Not a single one! In fact, I’ve never eaten so much on a trip in my life.
- The activities: From hiking trails to hot air balloon rides, world-class museums, golfing, and shopping, Scottsdale has countless experiences for the entire family.
WHAT’S THE WEATHER LIKE IN SCOTTSDALE?
Sunshine is so good for the soul, right? It’s no secret the weather in Scottsdale is positively dreamy. When we visited, the weather well above 80 degrees during the day and slightly cooler at night. The juxtaposition of day and night are one of the many reasons to visit. The city has five main seasons:
Winter (Dec 1-Feb 15, average high is 70F and low of 40F)
Spring (Feb 16-April 30 – which is when we went – where the high is 79F and the low is 47F)
Dry Summer (May 1-June 30, average high is 99F and low of 64F)
Wet Summer (July 1-Sept 15, average high 103F and low of 73F)
Fall (Sept 16-Nov 30, average high is 87 and low of 56)
HOW TO GET TO SCOTTSDALE
Flying to Scottsdale was a breeze, especially since we were travelling from Chicago. After all, most major U.S. cities have direct flights to Phoenix (the airport code is PHX), which is approximately 13 miles from Scottsdale. If you decide to drive, a nonstop route is 1,745 miles (or approximately 26 hours, 51 minutes). There’s NO way I could handle that road trip!
WHERE TO STAY IN SCOTTSDALE
There is no shortage of accommodation options in Scottsdale. From luxury resorts to affordable mod motels, chic AirBNB’s and vibrant vacation homes, travelers will always find something to suit their needs and budget. The Scottsdale (and neighboring Paradise Valley) is a pretty expansive area, so I highly recommend checking out a map to see where the hotels are located, relative to other things you want to visit or see. I’ve narrowed down the list to five places I recommend staying:
Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia – For Everyone
We had the pleasure of staying at the Omni Scottsdale in Paradise Valley; I was overwhelmed by the beauty and elegance of the property. From the moment we checked in, I never wanted to leave. One minute, you feel like you’re transported to Morocco while other moments you feel like you’re in Denver or Florida. Throughout the trip, Kit and I kept joking that Charles was going to buy a villa for us on the residential side since we loved it so much. Charles – I’m counting on you, buddy! Don’t let us down!
If you plan to visit over a weekend, expect for some great people and outfit watching. Specifically, you can pretty much guarantee there’s going to be a wedding. There were easily three weddings on the property when we were staying there, and I can totally see why! The grounds are magical with its blooming bougainvillea, In fact, my friend, Ali of A Dash of Details got married there a few years ago (see her wedding pics here – SO cute). Ali has impeccable taste, and she was one of the first to message me when she saw we were planning to stay at Omni.
The property is enormous – there are 19 total buildings and 293 guest rooms, and you’ll definitely want/need a map from the moment you check in. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not confusing to get around! The hotel has amazing signage everywhere, and you’ll never get (or feel) lost. Omni has so much to offer, and I wanted to explore the property as much as possible. Thankfully, they have golf carts that transport you and your baggage from check-in right to your room. Even though there were multiple weddings taking place while we were on property, we barely noticed, since those groups were all tucked away among the various corners of the resort.
The hotel has four pools with 23 cabanas, and six jacuzzis. Our personal favorite was the Kasbah Pool, since it was the largest and located right outside of our room. There’s even an “Adult Only” pool in case you want an extra relaxing experience.
Hungry? Omni has you covered with six dining options. We arrived pretty late on the first night, and we immediately stopped at Prado for drinks and bar snacks. After a long flight, beers and a good burger were top priorities on our list. Prado offers a menu of dishes with a Spanish influence that’s approachable and delicious.
On our last night, we stopped back at Prado for dinner to enjoy tapas and sangria, including octopus, chargrilled cauliflower, steaks, spicy meatballs and fresh bread with pesto sauce (delish)!
Other Hotel Amenities:
The hotel offers countless other amenities for guests, including complimentary bikes for guests in pretty pastel hues like turquoise and baby blue, a full-service spa and salon, and 24-hour fitness and business centers.
THREE OTHER HOTEL OPTIONS
The Phoenician – For the Spa Enthusiast
For work, I used to stay at the Phoenician – a stunning property located in the heart of Scottsdale. Everyone raves about their spa – from miracle massages to fabulous facials.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North – For Luxury Travel + Golfers
Luxurious and beautiful grounds. What else would you expect from the Four Seasons, right? There are breathtaking views, amazing golf, fine dining and a full-service spa.
The Saguaro Scottsdale – For a Friends Getaway
If you’re looking for a slightly more affordable spot with a LOT of color, I highly recommend The Saguaro Scottsdale. We stopped there for a few photos, and it’s great for big group getaway.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Since we were traveling to so many locations throughout the trip, we opted to rent a car. Bob and I rent about 20 cars per year, and let me just say – the options in Scottsdale are CRAZY affordable. Our go-to is Hertz, but they have pretty much every major car rental company you can think of. Once you arrive at the airport, you just need to take a short 15 minute shuttle to the car rental place and you’re all set!
The city of Scottsdale has a LimeBike program. You can’t miss these bright green and yellow hued bikes. All you do is download the LimeBike app, and the bright green bikes are equipped with GPS, wireless technology and self-activating locks. Simply ccan a code on the bike with the app and it unlocks. When done, park it and shut the lock on the back wheel. Very easy!
WHAT TO DO IN SCOTTSDALE
There are no shortage of activities in Scottsdale for travelers. It’s nearly impossible to get bored when you’re visiting, especially if you plan your itinerary correctly. Sure, if you want to sit by a pool and soak up the sun – that’s easy. But here are a few extra ways to experience the city:
Hiking is VERY popular in Scottsdale, and there are countless hiking trails to chose from. The Experience Scottsdale website has a lot of great options for guided tours and maps. If you decide to hike, be sure to bring the proper hiking shoes, hats, sunscreen and WATER.
Hot Air Balloons
One of the most popular activities in Scottsdale is hot air balloon rides, and there are plenty of operators who coordinate them. Kit and I chose to wake up early on our last morning and try a balloon experience with Hot Air Expeditions, Inc. Our husbands, being the wonderful men they are, agreed to wake up with us around 4:00 AM to hop on the bus that shuttles you to the Sonoran Desert for the breathtaking experience.
I had seen photos of hot air balloons in the past, and I had been dreaming of the moment we would take flight (imagine the photos, the views, etc.). Well….fate had a different plan.
I could tell something was up from the moment we arrived at the balloon launch site. Our driver got out of the vehicle and basically said something along the lines of, “hmmm…this doesn’t look good.” It turns out the winds were too high for us to takeoff. Major bummer.
While I was disappointed, I truly appreciate the company’s commitment to safety. I still remember the head guy saying, “We have a saying in the industry – we’d rather be on the ground wishing we were up in the sky than being up in the sky wishing we were on the ground.” Fair point. One day I’ll make it up in one!
Museum of Contemporary Art
I highly recommend visiting Scottsdale’s Museum of Contemporary Art – especially at noon when the sun is high in the sky and the temps skyrocket. The exhibits are so fun and colorful. The museum exhibits modern art and designs, and the entire space is Instagrammable. They also have a cool bookstore with fun gifts, books and mementos.
Desert Botanic Gardens
First Tip: BRING A WATER BOTTLE. The Botanic Gardens are phenomenal, but it’s easy to get dehydrated with the sun beating down on your head. The trails are beautiful, and one of my favorite highlights was the spring butterfly exhibit. You can easily spend hours walking around the gardens.
Admission is approximately $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for children 3-17.
Old Town Scottsdale
We stopped by Old Town Scottsdale a few times throughout our trip. Everything about Old Town has a Southwest flair – I felt like I was transported into the middle of a John Wayne movie set. Old Town is also referred to as “Downtown,” and there are countless bars, coffee houses, restaurants, art galleries, retailers and more.
WHERE TO EAT
Let’s just say Kit, Charles, Bob and I ate our entire way through Scottsdale, lol! I’ve never been so full in my life! A few quick highlights included:
Where have you been all my life, Diego?! INCREDIBLE brussels sprouts nachos (thanks for giving Kit the recommendation, Jocelyn) and margarita snow cones. Moreover, their tacos were incredible!
Růže Cake House
The ideal spot for a cute boba drink with cotton candy on top and other sweet treats like macaroons and specialty cakes. The company was founded by a mother-daughter duo and their items incorporate local, sustainable ingredients. I highly recommend their signature Růže drink! Visit Růže Cake House’s website for more information and details.
Brunch is the best meal of the week, right? Hash Kitchen was a fun find by Kit and features Arizona’s largest bloody mary bar. Don’t be fooled by the outside of the restaurant (i.e. it’s located in a strip mall). The food and drinks are fantastic! If bloody mary’s are your thing, you can get a drink for about $12 and fill your glass with as many toppings as you can think of (they have 40 total ingredients). Bob and I thought this was one of the best meals of the trip – highly recommended! Visit Hash Kitchen for reservations and menu details.
If you do one thing this year, book a trip to Scottsdale. You won’t be disappointed. As you know, I take travel and hotel recommendations VERY seriously – and all I can say is I was utterly impressed. I’ll leave you with this- remember that when it comes to trips, HOW you spend your time there – WHERE you go and stay, WHAT you do, and above all – WHO you go with matters too. I guarantee if you go with people you love, stay at a hotel that suits your needs and fill your time with activities in the area – you’ll be writing just as long of a blog post as this about a great destination!
After spending the weekend, Scottsdale now makes me think of WAY more than baseball or work – I think of beautiful surroundings, relaxing vibes, amazing activities. I look forward to heading back soon!