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Go There: A Spectacular Weekend in Scottsdale, AZ

Your complete guide on what to do, where to stay and (most importantly!) where to eat in Scottsdale, AZ.

By Cara Sanders on December 1, 2021

Welcome to Go There, a Livability.com series about travel and how to maximize your time in some of our favorite cities. Do you have a place in mind we should visit next? Let us know!

Today, we’re sharing our weekend getaway guide to Scottsdale, AZ.

Known for a laid-back way of life, ample opportunities to get outdoors and more than 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s easy to see why Scottsdale earned a spot on this year’s Top 100 Best Places To Live list.  The city attracts nearly 10 million visitors a year and trust us when we say that you’ll want to add this Southwestern city to your bucket list. 

Exterior shot of the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, AZ.
Courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho

Where To Stay

If you’re looking to be close to the action and step back in time, the Hotel Valley Ho is a Scottsdale mainstay. The hotel originally opened in 1956 and quickly became a hideaway for Hollywood titans like Bing Crosby and Zsa Zsa Gabor in the ’50s and ’60s. However, the hotel was recently restored to its original glory and is now a mid-century modern marvel. Other amenities include the VH Spa, the OH Pool and next-level dining at ZuZu. Plus, Hotel Valley Ho is in a prime spot and both downtown and Old Town are within walking distance. 

Shot of the pool at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, AZ, a small town outside of Scottsdale.
Cara Sanders

Want to escape the downtown scene and experience Scottsdale’s top-notch resorts? Then Mountain Shadows is for you. Located in nearby Paradise Valley, the resort is tucked between Camelback Mountain and Mummy Mountain and is the perfect place to sit back and relax. There’s something for everyone, including a fully revamped 18-hole short golf course, two pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center and more than 37,000 square feet of event space. The resort was originally built in 1959 and even served as the primary backdrop for the 1960s detective drama “The Brothers Brannagan.” The resort was completely rebuilt in 2017 and the property is next-level. 

Sunrise Hot Air Balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, AZ.
Cara Sanders

What To Do

Whether you’re traveling by bike, balloon (yes, really!) or foot, there is no shortage of things to explore around Scottsdale. For early risers and adventure seekers, a sunrise hot air balloon ride is a must-do. The views of the Sonoran Desert are truly breathtaking and the Rainbow Ryders pilots are very knowledgeable and, as a bonus, very skilled in taking excellent photos for the ’gram. 

Sunrise Hot Air Balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, AZ.
Cara Sanders

If you’re looking to stay closer to the ground, a walk around Old Town Scottsdale is just what the doctor ordered. Old Town is a combination of shops, restaurants and galleries, public art installations and historical sites that make the city unique. Stick around for Scottsdale ArtWalk, a tradition that’s taken place in Old Town for more than 40 years. Known as America’s “Original ArtWalk,” visitors can explore nearly 70 galleries in the area every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m.

Sunset hike at the Tom's Thumb Trailhead inside of the McDowell Preserve in Scottsdale, AZ.
Cara Sanders

Last — but certainly not least — get in touch with nature. Scottsdale has more than 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 of land home to both the McDowell Mountains and the Sonoran Desert. The preserve has more than 200 miles of trails and is 36 times the size of Central Park, meaning there is plenty of room to explore. A late afternoon hike along the Marcus Landslide Trail is the perfect spot to take in scenic views of the McDowell Mountains and is a moderate hike that’s suitable for beginners. 

The Showstopper Milkshake at Zuzu inside of the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, AZ.
Cara Sanders

Where To Eat & Drink

Food lovers feast their eyes on Scottsdale. More than 800 restaurants and six wine tasting rooms are packed into 185 square miles, making Scottsdale a food lover’s dream. The foodie scene here is unparalleled; visitors can enjoy a wide variety of cuisines and, of course, plenty of delicious drinks to boot. 

Start your day off with coffee from Berdena’s in the heart of Old Town. The shop emphasizes locally sourced food and drink when possible and makes one of the best lattes I’ve ever had. If you can’t decide between a cup of joe or the hair of the dog, then pay a visit 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 twist on a classic tiki bar and serves up delectable drinks like Hula’s Painkiller (we suggest adding a rum floater!) and plenty of gluten-free options. 

The Mission Restaurant in Scottsdale AZ
Cara Sanders

For lunch, The Mission Old Town is a must-do. We let our waiter be our guide here and he did not disappoint. Some highlights were the grilled street corn, shrimp tacos and a pumpkin bread pudding that I’m still dreaming about. Postino is an excellent spot if you’re looking to grab a glass of wine and something to share. Finally, The Herb Box cannot be missed — the short rib mini tacos were one of the highlights of our trip!

Scallops from Zuzu, the restaurant located inside of the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, AZ.
Cara Sanders

There is no shortage of great dinner spots around Scottsdale. First up is Zuzu, located in the Hotel Valley Ho. The restaurant is great for both brunch and dinner and serves up unique, approachable and delicious dishes. No matter what you do, round out the meal with one of the restaurant’s showstopper shakes, which rotate monthly and seriously cannot be missed. Citizen Public House, whose chef is a James Beard semifinalist, serves up delicious meals and has an impressive beverage program emphasizing barrel-aged cocktails. Finally, make room for dinner at Hearth ’61, which focuses on ingredient-driven dishes and has an impressive wine list. 

Shopping Bag exhibit at the Wonderspaces interactive museum in Scottsdale AZ
Cara Sanders
Thank You Bags by Reed van Brunschot

Where To Shop

As someone who can smell a cash register from a mile away, the shopping scene in Scottsdale does not disappoint. Shop ’til you drop at the legendary Fashion Square Mall, which is home to more than 2 million square feet full 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-visits. The Merchantile of Scottsdale is a multi-purpose marketplace in the heart of Old Town that brings together local makers, designers and artists in one communal location. 

Disco Ball exhibit at the Wonderspaces interactive museum in Scottsdale AZ
Cara Sanders
Light Leaks by Kyle McDonald and Jonas Jongejan

Local Obsession

Scottsdale is a Southwestern hub for the arts and it is easy to see why. The list of things to do is nearly endless, but we’ve narrowed it down to a handful of our favorites. Wonderspaces is an immersive art experience unlike any other. The interactive experience features artwork from around the world, is super Instagrammable and is constantly evolving. 

Exterior shot of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home and the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Scottsdale, AZ
Cara Sanders

A tour of Taliesin West is also a must-do for art lovers. The property, purchased in the 1930s for roughly $3.50 an acre, was built almost entirely by Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices to serve as a winter hideaway and was among his most personal creations. Today, the home is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation headquarters. 

The city offers many public art installations, including the Soleri Bridge and Plaza, a pedestrian-only bridge. The piece was the first of famed designer Paolo Soleri’s more than 60 bridge designs to be built and the design is situated at a true north axis to mark solar events. There are plenty of other permanent pieces around the city and a rotating menu of temporary installations to explore. Be sure to block out time to explore the city’s vast Downtown Arts District and weekly ArtWalk.

Exhibit at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)
Cara Sanders
Artwork by Mimi O Chun

Finally, museum lovers can appreciate the Scottsdale scene. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCa) is home to one of a handful of public Skyspaces in the world and has a rotation of 9 to 12 exhibits each year. Other stops include the  Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, the Musical Instrument Museum, the Heard Museum and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.  

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