A gem in the middle of the desert that is Southwest America, Scottsdale seems to be the “Beverly Hills” of Arizona. Known for being sunny almost year-round, Scottsdale is brimming with things to do! From hiking in the desert, taking day trips to nearby, haunted towns; restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and more – it’s no wonder I fell in love with this city. I spent 13-weeks as a travel nurse living in Scottsdale and was able to discover the best of what the city offers (and then some). Read on to see why Scottsdale shouldn’t be missed and discover all of the best things to do in and around the city.
Located northeast of Phoenix, Scottsdale is a sprawling city in the desert best known for its golf courses, shopping centers, and where the “snowbirds” head in the winter. It’s easily accessible from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport where you can choose to rent a car or take a rideshare. Both Uber and Lyft operate in Arizona and are widely used. Once you arrive in Scottsdale the city is spread out so you’ll need a car to get around.
7 Quintessential Things to Do in Scottsdale
Although the landscape in Arizona is different than what I would consider a “typical” hike… it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Instead of hiking snow-capped mountains with green trees lining the trails you hike rocky mountains and red rock buttes. For the best hikes in Arizona, check out this post.
2. Visit the Farmers Market in Old Town
Open October-May, the Farmers Market in old town Scottsdale has to go food, fresh produce, and small boutique stands. It’s open on Saturdays from 8 am-1 pm.
3. Lounge by the Pool
Quintessential Scottsdale, the best way to beat the Arizona heat is by lounging at the pool! There are tons of hotels that offer day passes for you to cool off at. If you aren’t a hotel pool person, head out to the clubs – Maya Day and Nightclub has daytime pool parties with a live DJ imitating a Vegas-like environment.
4. Have a Spa Day
Another way to escape the heat is by having a spa day and pampering yourself! My go-to spa in Scottsdale is at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Also a great hotel choice for a day by the pool.
5. Attend Spring Training
Depending on what time of the year you’re visiting Scottsdale, spring training is quintessential Arizona. Running in the spring, typically starting around March, you can get cheap tickets to watch the best baseball teams around the country play each other. Not part of the regular season, the atmosphere of spring training is relaxed and laid back. The teams that play in Arizona are part of the Cactus League while the teams who play in Florida are part of the Grapefruit League.
6. Explore Old Town
Get out and explore old town Scottsdale! My favorite area of town, the old town takes me back to my perception of the wild west, “cowboy” days. You’ll find endless bars, restaurants, and shopping in this area.
7. Attend the Waste Management Open
Typically played in January/February, the Waste Management Open is held in Phoenix every year. It’s a professional golf tournament where drinks flow freely, people dress up and take big party buses out to the golf course. It’s a lively, fun, and exciting atmosphere to be a part of and if you’re in the area around this time, I’d highly recommend going.
Day Trips from Scottsdale
One of my favorite and less frequented day trips to take from Scottsdale is to the ghost town – Jerome. Located two hours north of Scottsdale, Jerome is where you should visit if you’re looking for a more quirky, unique, and off the beaten path destination. For more information on day-tripping to Jerome, read this post.
My next favorite day trip to take from Scottsdale is the more obvious trip to Sedona. Sedona is an incredibly beautiful town known for its giant red rock buttes that reach into the sky. It’s the place to go if you’re looking to be out in nature hiking or are looking for a more spiritual experience. If you plan on visiting Sedona, make sure to read this post before you go!
Diego Pop’s – Located in old town Scottsdale, Diego Pop’s is a trendy Mexican restaurant. Head here for happy hour margaritas with brussel sprout nachos!
Farm and Craft – For the health-conscious looking to still go out and enjoy a restaurant meal in old town Scottsdale. Farm and Craft have great salads and healthy food options in a sleek atmosphere. Order and pay at the counter and wait for your food to come to you. Also a good place for a cocktail on the outside patio on a warm day.
Hand-Cut Chophouse – Steak, burgers, and cocktails in a trendy setting in downtown Scottsdale.
Hash Kitchen – The epitome of a “Sunday Funday” Hash Kitchen is my go-to restaurant for boozy weekend brunch. On the weekends you can expect a DJ, to serve yourself a self-made bloody mary from the bloody mar bar, mimosa flights, and cereal cocktails.
Pizzeria Bianco – Neapolitan pizza served in a cozy, brick-walled restaurant. Locals swore to me that this is the best pizza Arizona has to offer – decide for yourself! (Note that there are two locations – I prefer the one on E Adams Street).
SumoMaya – A Mexican/Asian fusion restaurant. While I prefer their dinner menu, SumoMaya offers a “bottomless brunch” special on the weekends. You can get bottomless drinks, bottomless appetizers, one entree, and one dessert for $40 all while listening to live music.
The Montauk – Slip into this restaurant in downtown Scottsdale to feel transported to the breezy beaches of New England. The Montauk is best for their patio on a nice day or after dinner drinks to wind down before heading home.
Olive and Ivy – In the heart of downtown Scottsdale, Olive and Ivy is a fancy-ish Mediterranean restaurant. I prefer to sit outside on their patio for light bites during the day and an upscale dinner at night.
Goldwater Brewing Co. – A craft beer brewery located near downtown Scottsdale. An indoor/outdoor space with games sometimes set outback. Goldwater is a fun and laid back place to go with friends to unwind after a long day at work!
Jade Bar – You’ll find Jade Bar sitting atop Camelback Mountain, overlooking the valley. This is the place to go for an elevated bar experience to sip cocktails and watch the sunset behind the mountain.
Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar– In the heart of old town, this wine bar is hidden away in what feels like an underground cellar. Head here for wine complete with live nightly jazz.
Old Town Tavern – One of my favorite local dive bars in the old town. A small and cozy atmosphere with a small inside area and a big outdoor area. Here you’ll find live music most days of the week!
Rusty Spur Saloon– Another favorite local dive bar in old town Scottsdale. The Rusty Spur is the quintessential cowboy. Come here if you’re looking for live music, a rowdy crowd, and a good time.
Second Story Restaurant & Liquor Bar – A chic restaurant and bar in downtown Scottsdale. Located on the second story above a gelato shop I like to visit Second Story for a patio cocktail.
Scottsdale is filled with fun and unique activities to do. Don’t let the glitz of Vegas or the glam of NYC deter you from making this city a priority on your bucket list.