Scottsdale, Arizona is located in the Sonoran Desert and is bordered by Phoenix to the west and the McDowell Mountains on the east. It’s estimated that 224,800 people live in the city, and the downtown area is considered by many to be the ‘urban center’ of Arizona, as it’s home to more than 90 restaurants, 320 retail shops and more than 80 art galleries. With over 300 sunny days per year, the city is filled with happy residents- the community often wins awards as one of the most desirable places to live in the nation. Fall and Winter are the ideal seasons to travel, when days are sunny and warm, and nights are cool. If you’re into the heat, brave a visit during the city’s wet summer season- from July to mid September- when the average high is 103°! We caught up with local, Jaclyn, to put together a Scottsdale Travel Guide. Check it out below!
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST HER: Jaclyn, 29, is a Scottsdale resident who used to be a concierge at a resort in the city. During that time, she got to check out a TON of different activities and restaurants in the area, and became an expert for out-of-town guests looking for the best things to do in the city. Safe to say, she’s a Scottsdale Travel Guide Expert!
1. Favorite Street or Park to Wander/Stroll:?
The Scottsdale Greenbelt is a pathway that goes from north Scottsdale to Old Town Scottsdale then through Tempe. It’s a perfect place to ride your bike or rollerblade, and the path goes through multiple fields, lakes and golf courses.
2. Best Coffee Shop or Bakery?
Hard to choose, but Barbs Bakery in Phoenix has the best “cronut” (a cross between a croissant and a doughnut). If you’re looking for coffee, look no further than Cartel Coffee Lab. With locations in Tempe, Scottsdale and Phoenix, you can grab a delicious cup of coffee no matter where you’re staying in the area! And if you’re in Tempe and searching for a healthy brunch/lunch spot, check out NCounter. The Hot Juan Omelette is sure to please.
3. Best Area to Shop Local?
If you want turquoise jewelry or new cowboy boots, check out 5th Avenue in Old Town Scottsdale! There are also tons of galleries and shops in the area selling Western art- one not to miss is Gilbert Ortega Galleries at Scottsdale & Main. After a long day of shopping, make sure to stop by 5th and Wine for a delicious glass of wine!
4. Your Recommended Saturday Night Agenda?
I would go up north to the town of Cave Creek and watch live music and bull riding at the Buffalo Chip. Or, if you want to bar hop, you can take golf-cart taxis around in Old Town Scottsdale. Great bars to check out include Whiskey Row, Coachhouse (decked out for Christmas) and Giligan’s, a bar with lots of games and a mini bar staffed by little people… yes, you read that right. If you’re looking for a nice patio, I would suggest Postino. There are a few locations, but the original in Arcadia is my favorite. You can also check out the official Calendar of Events to see if there’s a street festival or special event during your visit, which are common on the weekends. Another great spot to check out is Culinary Dropout, a restaurant by Fox Restaurant Concepts, serving unique gastro-pub fare and featuring live music most nights. Culinary Dropout has locations in Scottsdale, Phoenix and Tempe (and Vegas.)
5. Essential Scottsdale Tip?
Everyone visiting the area should hike Camelback Mountain! It’s a very challenging hike, but has the best views of the valley. If you have a couple days, I would also suggest making a trip to Sedona, Arizona, which is a two hour drive away. Sedona is a magical place, filled with tons of red rock.
TRIPADVISOR’S TOP FIVE SCOTTSDALE ATTRACTIONS
1. McDowell Sonoran Preserve– Thumbs up! So many great trails; my favorite is the Sunrise Trailhead.
2. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park– Thumbs down.
This is just another park with a small train for kids. Instead, I would suggest TOP GOLF– a bar with a driving range- as the #2 attraction in Scottsdale. There are microchips in the balls, and targets to hit, so it makes for a fun the driving range experience by adding competition with different point scoring options. Memberships start at $5 and includes club rentals.
3. Segway Tours– Thumbs Down.
Everything is walkable in Old Town Scottsdale. I would suggest taking the decked out bike or golf cart taxis (they work solely on tips). I think #3 on the list should be Old Town Scottsdale because of the eclectic shops, art galleries, and great restaurants. If you’re going to Old Town, make sure to stop by Oregano’s for a well known local dessert called the pizookie! Or, if you’re in need of a healthy snack, stop by the Original Chop Shop!
4. Pinnacle Peak Park– Thumbs Up.
Another great hike, about 3.5 miles total. The park is 150 acres, and the peak is a granite summit with awesome views of the valley. The park also has free access and parking.
5. Tom’s Thumb Trail– Thumbs Up.
From the trailhead, you can access Tom’s Thumb, Windgate Overlook, Gardener’s Wall, Sven Slab, Mesquite Canyon and the Windmill Trail. There are quite a few switchbacks, so be prepared for a moderately difficult hike. Just over 4 miles out and back.
JACLYN’S TOP FIVE SCOTTSDALE RESTAURANTS
1. Mastro’s Steakhouse– Very expensive but an awesome white tablecloth steakhouse. There are a few locations. Portions are large, so bring your appetite!
2. Pita Jungle– A trendy restaurant serving healthy Mediterranean fare, Pita Jungle is local favorite that is always packed!
3. Roaring Fork– Best happy hour in Old Town Scottsdale ($4 off cocktails, $2 off craft beers and wines and special food menu). Roaring Fork is known for the “big ass burger” and other wood-fired fare.
4. Blanco Tacos + Tequila– A modern Mexican restaurant that has the best jalapeño margarita, plus delicious fish tacos and award winning guacamole. By the folks at Fox Restaurant Concepts (who also operate True Food Kitchen and North Italia).
5. Defalco Italian Eatery– Authentic, family-owned Italian deli and restaurant at the corner of Scottsdale and Thomas Road. Make sure to order the homemade rice balls!
Did you find this Scottsdale Travel Guide helpful? Let us know if we missed any of your favorite spots in the comments below!