The Captivating Allure of Scottsdale, Arizona

Visit a desert land that draws artists, creative chefs, talented winemakers and brewers, and anyone enchanted by the great outdoors.

I stepped out of the kayak and into the shallows. The cool water evaporated almost the instant my foot hit the shore.

It was a dry heat, all right.

That’s an obligatory phrase in Scottsdale, Arizona, one that’s uttered reflex-like whenever someone mentions the temperature.

“It’s 115 degrees!”

“Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.”

I know. It’s a cliche. BUT IT’S TRUE. And nearly every local I met mentioned how hot it was, and that it wasn’t nearly as hot as it should be.

“You’re lucky it’s cooler this year,” was the refrain. “Normally we’d hit triple digits in May.”

The searing air and constant sun were more than just conversational bumpers. Over the next week I began to see that they define this desert community in the same way the mercurial weather of the Midwest influences the people who live there. The Sonoran summer and the Chicago winter are for hardy folk who adapt to their environments, and it seems there’s a resonance: another item I heard over and over was that Scottsdale is like a mini-Chicago because so many people have moved there from the Windy City. (In the winter – they’re hardy, not gluttons.)

The main thing I learned is this:

Scottsdale is a study in contrasts. It’s green golf courses and brown lawns; ritzy spas and rugged hikes; the Old West, ancient cultures, contemporary art, and a heavy metal wine bar.

Grab a bottle of water, a heap of sunscreen, and get comfortable, because I’m going to take you with me to experience Scottsdale, Arizona.

I visited Scottsdale as a mentor for Bloghouse, an application-only conference for travel bloggers. The majority of my stay was hosted by Experience Scottsdale, but all opinions are my own and not influenced at all by huckleberry margaritas or wild horses.


Old Town Scottsdale

Scottsdale Basics

Scottsdale, Arizona, is located in the northern Sonoran Desert to the east of Phoenix. It’s an affluent community that is rich in restaurants, art, spas, golf, and natural beauty.

By the numbers

  • Founded: 1894
  • Incorporated: 1951 (population 2,000)
  • Population: 245,645, making it the 5th largest city in Arizona
  • Size: 184.5 square miles
  • Golf Holes per square mile: 6.68
  • Elevation change: 3,727, ranges from 1,150 to 4,877 feet
  • Average Annual Temperature: HOT.
    Real answer: high of 87° F, low of 55° F
  • Average Annual Precipitation: Rain? What rain?
    Real answer: 7.66″
Prickly pear cactus in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale Arizona
Prickly pear

Weather in Scottsdale

It’s hot. And dry.

That being said, there is some variation. In the winter you’ll even need a jacket, because while it can be a balmy high-60s, low-70s in the afternoons, at night it can get below 40.

Summer, though. Shoowee. That’s when you get into those triple-digits. Plan on getting up super early if you want to explore outside and find indoor activities during the middle of the day.

TLTip: It’s cheaper to visit when you can bake cookies on your dashboard. Check out Experience Scottsdale’s “it’s that hot” promotion to find deals on fancy resorts – with fancier pools – and more summer fun. (Cookie dough not included.)

A quick history of Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale

“The West’s Most Western Town” (Scottsdale’s official slogan) may be located next to Phoenix, but don’t call it a suburb. Since the population of Scottsdale Arizona is around a quarter of a million people, it’s a city in its own right.

The town began when Winfield Scott, his wife, Helen, and his brother, George Washington Scott, set up residence in this desert valley. The brothers planted citrus groves and the town became known as Orangedale, but that was changed in 1894 to its current name.

They weren’t the first residents, though. Not by a long shot. From ~300 BCE to ~1450 CE the Hohokam farmed the land, carving canals out of the desert and irrigating up to 110,000 acres. Some of those canals are still in use today, although now they’re lined with concrete. The Tohono O’odham and the Pima peoples are considered direct descendants of this ancient civilization.

Getting to Scottsdale

Flights to Scottsdale, Arizona, land in Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, which has more than 1200 daily flights. I searched multiple sites and found the most inexpensive flight from Chicago to Phoenix through Expedia*.

*That’s an affiliate link. There are more below. All that means is that if you click and/or make a purchase through one of those links I may receive a small commission. It’s at no extra cost to you and helps keep TLT free – win-win!

Things to do in Scottsdale AZ

Scottsdale may be known for its plethora of golf courses, but there’s much more going on than a good walk spoiled. From kayaking to visionary architects to an unexpected tour of a lagering cellar, here are some of the best things to do in Scottsdale.

In some spots of the Lower Salt River, the water was completely still.
Kayaking the Lower Salt River with Arizona Outback Adventures

Kayak the Lower Salt River

Being new to the desert and used to humidity that ranges between coiling my curls to full-on steam bath, that legendary dry heat might have done me in if my first stop hadn’t been a cool float down the Lower Salt River with Arizona Outback Adventures.

Ben and Jillian from AOA picked me up at my hotel and we drove through Mesa towards Tonto National Forest. After Jillian provided some quick instruction, we began our journey down the cool, shallow river. Ben left us to ferry the truck to our pull-out point, and then it was just a couple of gals riding a calm river on a beautiful day.

Jillian waits while we watch wild horses on the banks of the Salt River
Jillian waits while we watch wild horses

Our leisurely float lasted less than two hours, but by the time we saw Ben again I felt like we’d been gone most of the day. We’d seen swallows darting, herons posing, families fishing, a few tubers tubing, and wild horses equine-ing.

We floated between national forest and reservation land, through riparian green and desert beige. It was a tour of contrasts, and was the perfect introduction to Scottsdale and its environs.

Read more about what it’s like to kayak the Lower Salt River

Hike the Sonoran Desert

If you really want to get a feel for a land, hike it. There’s no more intimate way to explore a landscape.

Just be careful, when you’re in the Sonoran Desert, that you don’t get too intimate.

Flowering cactus in McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Flowering cactus in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is like a crash course in cacti (without the crashing, please!). Its 30,000+ acres contain more than 730 types of plants and animals, and I think 729 of them are some variation of cactus.

According to the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, steward of the Preserve, there are fifteen Cactaceae species – not 729.

Learning about the saguaro with Linda from Arizona Outback Adventures
Learning about the saguaro with Linda from Arizona Outback Adventures

Within McDowell Sonoran Preserve you can see four types of pricklypear, five types of cholla, barrel cactus, cactus apple, hedgehog, nightblooming cereus, and the intriguingly-named Graham’s nipple cactus. Then, of course, there is the instantly recognizable saguaro, which only grows in the Sonoran desert.

I learned about many of these – and did not get pricked – on an early morning hike with Arizona Outback Adventures. Many of the cacti sported blooms, offering pops of color. Like my kayaking experience, my guide followed my pace. That meant I could stop, take pictures, swallow another gallon of water, slather on more sunscreen, and generally enjoy the desert’s stunning, stark, and complex beauty.

Arizona Outback Adventures is part of REI Co-Op. In addition to kayaking, and hiking, they also offer cycling and stand-up paddle boarding.

“Meet” Two Visionary Architects

Two of the world’s renowned architects built their homes and studios in Scottsdale. Paolo Soleri, an Italian immigrant, and Frank Lloyd Wright, an early snowbird from Wisconsin, had disparate outlooks, yet the impact of both can still be seen and felt.

Cosanti

Inside Cosanti, the home and studio of Paolo Soleri
Inside Cosanti, the home and studio of Paolo Soleri

Soleri believed that communities should be compact, and Cosanti is where he developed his philosophy. Open to the public, “the headquarters, foundry, studio, and gallery for Paolo Soleri Bronze & Ceramic Windbells & Sculptures,” is easy to miss as you’re driving Doubletree Ranch Road in Paradise Valley. But once you make the turn onto the gravel drive, you know you’re in another world.

Soleri coined the term “cosanti” from two Italian words meaning things (cosa) and against (anti). An Arizona Historic Site, the buildings of Cosanti were made by earth-casting: Soleri and his associates and students shaped the earth, poured concrete on top of the shapes, and then excavated to leave behind a sound structure uniquely adapted to its environment.

Cosanti Foundation is a non-profit, and it displays and sells the windbells and sculptures, as well as a new line of silver jewelry, in the gift shop to fund its architectural research.

Also in the gift shop is information on Arcosanti, Soleri’s vision of a compact and self-sufficient community where everyone could walk to work, school, and stores, limiting urban sprawl. That experiment is located north of Scottsdale and is open to tourists.

Foundry demonstration at Cosanti
Foundry demonstration at Cosanti

Cosanti visitors can take a guided tour of the grounds and some of the earth-cast buildings on weekdays. There are also foundry demonstrations, where you can see them pouring bronze that’s been heated to 2,200 degrees.

And you thought triple digit temps were hot.

Taliesin West

The can't-miss entrance to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's Arizona winter home and studio
The can’t-miss entrance to Taliesin West

Where Soleri was all about compression, Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to spread out. This is evident in Taliesin West, his winter home and studio.

Taliesin West

The entrance to Wright’s estate also differs from Soleri’s: you can’t miss it. Taliesin, a Welsh word (and the name of a Welsh poet), means shining brow. Wright named his Wisconsin home and studio for its location near the top of a hill, and he located his Arizona estate at a similar vantage point. Visitors enter by way of a winding road – named Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard – that leads through a gate to the brow of a mesa.

Taliesin West

From 1937 until his death in 1959, Wright and his students spent their winters building, refining, and re-refining Taliesin West. As I’ve come to learn after visits to Samara House in West Lafayette and the original Taliesin in Spring Green, that change was typical for FLW.

Read more about Frank Lloyd Wright and the eight sites inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List, including Taliesin West.

There are several different tours, ranging from one to two-and-a-half hours. I took the Insights tour, a ninety-minute exploration that showcased the home and studio both inside and out, which in many cases were one and the same. During the tour not only did our guide point out the architectural genius of Wright, she also illuminated parts of his dramatic personal life.

Personal drama was one similarity Soleri and Wright shared, but that’s a topic for another day.

Explore Scottsdale Museums

When you’re looking to escape the afternoon heat, any-place-with-an-air-conditioner could fit the bill, but why settle for a spot with tolerable temps when you could experience a cool museum in Scottsdale, instead?

Western Spirit

Opened in 2015, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, is a museum, as its name suggests, whose goal is to capture the spirit of the west.

It does this through a series of exhibits that cover a breadth of media and periods. There’s fine art depicting the landscapes and peoples of the west, an extensive collection of Hopi pottery, several Edward S. Curtis photographs, and Native American items and attire.

Hopi pottery at Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West
Hopi pottery

The Abe Hays Family Spirit of the West Collection is a look into the world of the cowboy. There are saddles, bridles, badges, spurs, bits, revolvers and rifles, gun rigs and holsters. There are items made by prisoners, and chains worn by them.

There’s also a fun optical illusion that puts you right into the Old West.

Western Spirit Trail by Douglas Rouse - an optical iillusion
Western Spirit Trail by Douglas Rouse – an optical iillusion
Western Spirit Trail by Douglas Rouse - an optical iillusion
From the front – it looks like you’re in the west!

In addition to the permanent collections, they have temporary exhibits that expand understanding of what the “West” means. Current exhibits include striking photographs by Senator Barry Goldwater, sketches and paintings by NASA/Western artist Paul Calle, and a tribute to Cowboy Artist and Author Will James.

While you’re there, don’t miss the sculpture garden on the first floor. It requires stepping back into the heat, but it’s worth it.

Sculpture Garden at Western Spirit in Old Town Scottsdale
Sculpture Garden at Western Spirit

Scottsdale Rodeo Museum

Cowboy boots at the Scottsdale Rodeo Museum
Cowboy boots at the Scottsdale Rodeo Museum

A couple of blocks from Western Spirit is a museum founded by a true western spirit. When you’ve been to every single Parada del Sol Rodeo since you were born, and you’re the General Manager of said rodeo, it just makes sense that you’d open a rodeo museum.

Dave Alford was born in 1953, and as he tells it, his mom took him in a buggy to Parada del Sol and he’s been going ever since. He didn’t want the west to be lost from “The West’s Most Western Town,” so in February of 2019 he opened Scottsdale Rodeo Museum.

Dave Alford, founder of the Scottsdale Rodeo Museum
Dave Alford, founder of the Scottsdale Rodeo Museum

Located inside the Noriega Livery Stable, a small building that’s undergone a few uses since it was built in 2004, the Rodeo Museum is an homage to a way of life.

There’s artwork from about 56 of the 66 years of the rodeo and programs and schedules from several of the events. There’s history of the area itself, with maps depicting the topography and Old Town Scottsdale when it was just Scottsdale.

Ask Dave and he’ll show you where he went to school, and the chaps he wore when he rode a bull. (It took him a bit to figure out he wasn’t very good, he said.) You can ride a bull, or at least sit on one.

El Diablo at Scottsdale Rodeo Museum
El Diablo at Scottsdale Rodeo Museum

Scottsdale Rodeo Museum is run by volunteers who want to keep that history alive. Want to help? Buy a t-shirt on your way out – or on your way in, and sport it while you’re riding that bull.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

This exhibit is controlled by an app - whether you're at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art or not!
This exhibit is controlled by an app – whether you’re at the museum or not!

And now for something completely different…

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is a surprising find in a renovated movie theater. It challenges perception, from the evolution of the ancient art of glass making to the impact technology has on art, and we have on technology.

The museum also has a running series that features an artist who’s in mid-career and hails from Mexico or the Southwest region of the U.S. The current artist is Shizu Saldomado, and her work is arresting.

Work by Shizu Saldomado at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Work by Shizu Saldomado

I had just a short time at the museum, and I could have spent hours alternating between interacting and absorbing.

Other museums I need to visit when I return to Scottsdale:

  • Heard Museum, dedicated to Native American cultures
  • Musical Instrument Museum, which has 5,000-plus instruments and artifacts
  • Phoenix Art Museum, with more than 19,000 works that span the globe
  • Pueblo Grande Museum, for a better understanding of the original inhabitants of the valley

Where to Eat & Drink in Scottsdale

How do I love thee, Scottsdale? Let me count the calories.

Or don’t. I really don’t want to know how many calories I consumed, because I don’t care because I’d consume them all over again.

The food and drink in Scottsdale are spectacular.

New Wave Market / Super Chunk Sweets & Treats

Everything bagel with salmon, cucumber, red onions, and shishito peppers at New Wave Market in Scottsdale, Arizona
This bagel is everything – and I don’t just mean the seasoning.

Owned by husband-and-wife team Sergio and Country Velador, New Wave Market and Super Chunk Sweets & Treats is a two-in-one experience. Sit down for breakfast or lunch and then take some sweets to go.

Everything’s made in-house, from scratch, including their NYC-worthy bagels. Country uses a sourdough starter with her own spin on it, “like everything she does,” her husband beamed.

Citizen Public House

The Original Chopped Salad at Citizen Public House
The Original Chopped Salad, formerly known as the Stetson, at Citizen Public House

In Chicago, Portillo’s chopped salad is the stuff of legend. In Scottsdale, it’s Cowboy Ciao’s Stetson Chopped Salad.

Cowboy Ciao’s is closed, but the salad, now called The Original Chopped Salad, lives on at Citizen Public House. The acclaimed restaurant is helmed by Chef Bernie Kantak, the genius behind the fan favorite. It’s a colorful bowl with rows of dried sweet corn, pearl couscous, smoked salmon, asiago, pepitas, tomatoes, arugula and currants, served with buttermilk pesto dressing, and mixed table-side.

Sweet, savory, slightly crunchy, and memorable, I can see why the salad has its own Facebook page.

house-made burrata at Citizen Public House in Scottsdale Arizona
house-made burrata
seared scallops served on a bed of sweet corn grits and topped with snow pea greens and bacon
seared scallops served on a bed of sweet corn grits and topped with snow pea greens and bacon

Other personal favorites were the house-made burrata and the perfectly-seared scallops served on a bed of sweet corn grits and topped with snow pea greens and a magnifique bacon and cola gastrique.

Bootleggers

Boot Dumplings at Bootleggers
Boot Dumplings at Bootleggers

Give me barbecue or give me death may very well be my rallying cry.

Not really, but I do love me some ‘cue.

In between visiting Western Spirit and Scottsdale Rodeo Museum, I stopped in for some Guy Fieri-worthy Boot Dumplings.

As I sat down to lunch at Bootleggers Modern American Smokehouse, I didn’t know the smoked pork belly-filled appetizer had been featured on Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives; I just thought it sounded good. And it was. So was the brisket, the smoked turkey, and the slaw, not to mention the house-made apple pie moonshine.

I think that Fieri, Guy knows what he’s talking about.

Since I’m now craving those Boot Dumplings, it’s a good thing Bootleggers shared the recipe. I’m going to have to try my hand at making them.

The Mission Old Town

Old Adobe Mission, the oldest Catholic Church, and the oldest standing church, in Scottsdale
Old Adobe Mission, the oldest Catholic Church, and the oldest standing church, in Scottsdale

Across the street from Scottsdale Rodeo Museum is Old Adobe Mission, the first Catholic Church and the oldest standing church in Scottsdale. Next to that is The Mission Old Town, a restaurant specializing in modern Latin cuisine.

Inside, the dark interior is lit by elaborate crystal chandeliers and a softly glowing wall of Himalayan salt blocks. It’s atmospheric and sets the tone for delicious food and exquisite service.

Guacamole made tableside at The Mission Old Town Scottsdale
Guacamole made tableside
Chicken taco at The Mission in Old Town Scottsdale
Chicken taco at The Mission

The guacamole is made to order and mixed at your table. The tacos, with their house-made tortillas and salsas, make it clear that this is one of the best Mexican restaurants in Scottsdale.

The Mission is a place I want to visit again, and again, and again.

SWB at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa

Horchata mousse, part of the Wine Me, Dine Me dinner at SWB
Horchata mousse, part of the Wine Me, Dine Me dinner at SWB

Wine Me, Dine Me at SWB in the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa is an exceptional dining experience. Exceptional.

Kim Reiner of Oh My! Omaha and I had the pleasure of dining at the counter and watching Executive Sous Chef Joaquin Estolano and Chefs Kenny and Cameron prepare a multi-course experience. (The word “dinner” doesn’t quite do it justice.)

Fried yucca with a romesco sauce
Fried yucca with a romesco sauce

Our server, Ryan, paired each course, beginning with a private-label bottle of Patron tequila (served with smoked salt and lime pulp on the side) to go with the guacamole. He continued with wines for the next three courses, and finished the meal with a martini made with Basil Hayden dark rye, Kahlua, and Godiva dark chocolate liqueur to accompany the horchata mousse with its brownie crust and hazelnut custard.

Divine. Exquisite. Exceptional. It was truly one of the best dining experiences I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy, and I’ve hosted more than seventy dining events in Chicago.

Call 480.444.1234 to make reservations. And then take pictures and send them to me.

More Scottsdale restaurants worth the calories:

Tuna salad from Hula's Modern Tiki, a delicious restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale
Tuna salad from Hula’s Modern Tiki

Hula’s Modern Tiki is a fun Polynesian-fusion restaurant with fresh seafood and tropical drinks (complete with umbrella). Stop in for happy hour, Mon – Fri 3:30pm to 6pm to get one of those festive libations for $6.

Go for the beach theme at Rehab Burger Therapy, and go for one of their eponymous sandwiches. Personal recommendation: the Know Poblano, with sauteed spicy onions, manchego cheese, and grilled poblano peppers.

Fun souvenirs in The Thumb gas station
Fun souvenirs in The Thumb gas station

The Thumb is another bbq-joint Triple D alum. Don’t be confused when you plug it into your GPS and pull into a gas station; inside is a counter-service restaurant with award-winning barbecue. There’s also a cute shop with unique gifts, and if I’d had room in my bag I would have picked up a few fun items.

Pre-flight ritual: a burger from In-n-Out

This is probably a Midwest thing since we don’t have them and I have to get one anytime it’s an option, but when I’m out west my last stop before going to the airport is always In-N-Out Burger.

Thirsty yet? I found some great places to drink in Scottsdale, too!

Carlson Creek Vineyards

Meagan at Carlson Creek Vineyards
Meagan at Carlson Creek Vineyards

Long gone are the days when the only wines worth considering came from regions of France and Italy and California. Now there are several regions of note, including Arizona’s Willcox American Viticultural Area, or AVA.

Meagan showing where you can find the Willcox AVA
Meagan showing where you can find the Willcox AVA

Carlson Creek Vineyards is a family affair that takes advantage of southeastern Arizona’s terroir to produce award-winning wines. In their Old Town Scottsdale tasting room, you can try favorites like their Rule of Three, a Rhone-style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre made with grapes grown in Arizona. You’ll also want to try their Sangiovese. The 2014 won a Gold Medal with 95 points at the 2019 World Wine Championships.

Local art at Carlson Creek's Old Town Scottsdale tasting room
Local art at Carlson Creek’s Old Town Scottsdale tasting room

While you’re there, browse the artwork. Each month Carlson Creek features a local artist so you can bring home art in a bottle and art for your wall.

Merkin Winery

Rose at Merkin Vineyards

There’s a heavy metal winery in Old Town Scottsdale.

Merkin Winery, the newest tasting room to open in Old Town, is owned by Maynard James Keenan, front man for alt-metal-prog-rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle, and cabaret troupe Puscifer.

In addition to infusing the Fibonacci sequence into his music, Keenan also grows grapes on 110 acres in the Verde Valley and in Willcox and is an accomplished winemaker. This is no celebrity fling: his grandparents and great uncle were winemakers in Italy, and he himself worked in wineries while growing up in western Michigan.

A toast to Bloghouse!
A toast to Bloghouse!

There are two labels: Merkin, which is produced from grapes grown in Willcox, and Caduceus, wines focused on Italian and Spanish varietals grown in the Verde Valley. You can try both and pair them with produce that’s either been farmed by Randee Larremore and Maynard’s father, Mike Keenan, or sourced locally.

The head banging you bring yourself.

Roaring Fork

Years ago (pre-me), my husband visited Scottsdale frequently on business. During his forays he came across a place that served huckleberry margaritas. Huckleberries are only grown in the northwest, and being a Montana man, my husband is enamored with the fruit. He charged me with trying to find that drink, if it was still available.

It was, and I did.

I stopped into Roaring Fork for what I thought was going to be a quick drink with a picture to say “Look, honey, I found it!” Several, several hours later, I understood that Scottsdale has some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.

From Ron and Ellen, who were celebrating their 44th anniversary; to the yogi and her husband who sent me a drink because they loved my aura; to Holly and George, the delightful bartenders, it was an afternoon of random connections that are truly the essence of traveling.

TLTip: Roaring Fork has a Happy Hour that’s definitely something to write home about. $6 cocktails, including that huckleberry frozen margarita, $6 martinis, and a $10 “Big Ass” Burger, which Ron highly recommends.

Goldwater Brewing

Beer flight at Goldwater Brewing
Beer flight at Goldwater Brewing

When Janet Frost of Go Learn Things and I are in the same place, we have to visit a brewery. We discovered this mutual love during a visit to Roseville, Minnesota, in 2017, and since then we’ve become friends as well as fellow appreciators of brews. The former Wisconsinite now lives in Tucson and attended Bloghouse, so we knew at least one brewery visit was in our future.

That brewery was Goldwater Brewing.

Janet had selected Goldwater in advance and her choice was confirmed by Connor, who ferried us from the Andaz to Old Town in the resort’s Tesla (more on that later). After lunch at Rehab Burger Therapy, we settled in and ordered flights.

It didn’t take long for Parker, the gentleman pouring our beers, to realize that Janet and I l-o-v-e beer. We love not only the taste, but the craft and the care that goes into making great brews. So, he took us to the basement.

Parker in Goldmine, Goldwater Brewing's basement lager cellar
Parker in Goldmine, Goldwater Brewing’s basement lager cellar

Goldwater’s basement, an uncommon structure in Scottsdale, is in an adjacent building. We descended the stairs and came upon barrels of beer and, surprise surprise, a lagering cellar.

The tanks rest in concrete tunnels that seem built for the purpose, and the walls are lined with barrels filled with aging beer.

A.K.A. our happy place.

Known as The Goldmine, the underground tap and barrel has limited hours and can be reserved for private parties. Go for tasty beers in a cool – literally and figuratively – venue.

Where to Stay in Scottsdale

Scottsdale’s resorts are the definition of self-care, and I had the pleasure of staying in two and visiting another. The only downside was that I couldn’t spend more time, as these hotels go far beyond places to sleep and are destinations.

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa

View from my balcony at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa
View from my balcony

Exclusive, lush, lavish, extravagant, luxurious, expansive, sumptuous, scenic, secluded.

Sigh.

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa is all of those.

From the moment I pulled into the courtyard and was immediately greeted by the valet, then offered a welcome cocktail at check-in, I knew I was in for an experience.

This resort fills its 27 acres with fountains, pools, waterfalls, and a lily pond. There are serenaded gondola rides, a three-story water slide, a rock climbing wall, and 27 holes of golf. The lobby is an indoor-outdoor oasis for dining, sipping on a drink from the bar, getting some work done, or listening to live music in the evenings.

Golf course and pond at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale
Golf course and pond at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale

With a lobby bar featuring local beers on tap and multiple on-site restaurants, including the previously lauded southwestern-style SWB and options for Italian and Japanese cuisine, you don’t even have to leave to eat and drink.

For relative quiet away from the bustle of the lobby and the pools, the Regency Club, available as an upgrade, provides access to a concierge lounge with a private terrace featuring a gazebo. A European-style breakfast is served in the morning, snacks in the afternoon, and hors d’oeuvres in the evenings.

And then, the rooms. All rooms have balconies or terraces, and mine overlooked the pools with a view of the mountains in the distance. Morning coffee with a side of sunrise began each day on an exclusive, lush, lavish, extravagant, luxurious, expansive, sumptuous, scenic, and secluded note.

Sigh.

TLTip: One of the best features of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale is the Native American Learning Center. Located on the lobby level, this partnership between the resort and the Hopi Advisory Committee helps guests learn about Arizona’s Native American cultures.

Sign for the Native American Learning Center at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa

Visit TripAdvisor to read reviews of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, and if you’re ready to reserve, you can do so at Booking.com.

Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows

Bungalow at Andaz Resort with Camelback Mountain in the background
Bungalow at Andaz Resort with Camelback Mountain in the background

Just like my introduction to the Hyatt Regency, when I entered Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Bungalows I knew I was someplace special – and yet, completely different.

I entered the glass-walled lobby, passing a table offering lemon and orange waters, and was greeted by a young woman with a tablet. She checked me in faster than you can say Andaz, offered me beer or wine, and I was off to my room. I chose to valet instead of self-park (both free), and a young woman carried my bag while escorting me to my bungalow.

There are 185 bungalows set along winding paths with Camelback Mountain in the distance. It felt like I had my own private retreat, and that’s exactly what it was.

Early morning at Andaz Resort
Early morning

Each morning I’d arise and have coffee on my patio, write in my journal, and watch the sprinklers nourish the green, green grass. Occasionally a bunny said hello. Then I’d go back inside and get ready for the day in my mid-century modern room. A quick stroll and I’d arrive to find a breakfast buffet waiting outside our conference room, surrounded by palo verde trees and their green, green bark.

If you’re looking for the perfect place to host an intimate conference, Andaz is it.

It’s also a great place to relax. The Turquoise Pool is an inviting escape from the heat, and you can chill out with a drink from the pool bar. The on-site restaurant, Weft & Warp, serves breakfast (until 3pm for the night owls!), brunch, and dinner, and on the weekends you can get bottomless mimosas and rosé all day. Work off the locally-sourced cuisine with a visit to the fitness center and relax with a massage at the spa.

Next time? I’m doing all. of. that.

Oh, and that Tesla I mentioned earlier? If you’re going somewhere within five miles of Andaz Resort, they’ll take you there in a Tesla. Talk about arriving in style.

You can take a ride in this beauty to Old Town Scottsdale
You can take a ride in this beauty to Old Town Scottsdale

TLTip: when you have coffee in the lounge, take a closer look at the mug. It’s probably created by Mary Van Dusen. She’s from nearby Cattle Track, an artist compound that began back in the 1930s. Ask Andaz staff to point out the many, many ways the resort has partnered with this community of creatives.

Visit TripAdvisor to read reviews of the Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Bungalows, and if you’re ready to reserve, you can do so at Booking.com.

The Phoenician

One of the many pools at the Phoenician
One of the many pools at the Phoenician

You know a resort is luxurious when it has a gated entry.

The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, is the embodiment of five-star, five-diamond, top-tier resorts. Situated on the slope of Camelback Mountain, the complex is a self-contained destination on 250 acres. There are eleven restaurants, 27 holes of golf, eleven tennis courts, and nine swimming pools. The spa recently opened its new three-story digs, and Bloghouse attendees were treated to a closing reception at its rooftop pool and a quick tour.

This is the resort of which luxury vacation dreams are made.

Visit TripAdvisor to read reviews of The Phoenician, and if you’re ready to reserve, you can do so at Booking.com.


While I visited Scottsdale for only a week, I was hypnotized and I began to wonder what it would be like to live there. I added items to my itinerary for the next time I visited. In a career that doesn’t often allow for multiple trips to the same destination, I have a feeling – indeed, a certainty – that I’ll be back to this complex, captivating, and alluring destination.

No matter how hot it is.

Theresa Goodrich in Scottsdale

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2 thoughts on “The Captivating Allure of Scottsdale, Arizona”

  1. Hey My Friend, Thanks for the shout out!! One of these days we are going to have to plan a full on Beercation together! And BTW your food pics have “perfect lighting” 😉

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  2. You hit all the good spots and ate some great food! 3 months of hell and 9 months of bliss, that’s why we do it. But that summertime? Best time to get amazing deals on all those fabulous resorts. So glad you enjoyed Scottsdale – it is definitely the prime location in the valley of the sun.

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