I have received a ton of requests for a Scottsdale guide. Up until now I have just been giving recommendations inside my DMs, but it’s finally time to get it out in a blog post! I was really excited to put together this local guide to Scottsdale and hope it will be helpful for anyone visiting, for those that are new to this area, or are local and just curious what some of my favorites might be (I’m sure they will overlap with some of yours!)
A little history of how I came to live in Scottsdale, AZ :
I was born in Nagasaki, Japan, but moved around between the States and Japan until settling down in Tucson, AZ when I was 10. When I was 18, I moved to the Tempe, AZ to attend Arizona State University. Since graduating in 2005, I have stayed here in the Valley and have made Scottsdale, AZ home. (If you’re trying to do the math on my age, I’m 36 😉 )
Scottsdale is a long city that stretches 21 miles North to South. There’s North Scottsdale (which is where I live) and Old Town Scottsdale to the south, with the central McCormick area in between, and then to the west there’s Paradise Valley and Phoenix – which is often tied into a visit to Scottsdale, so I’m including that area as well in this guide.
Scottsdale and the Phoenix area is huge and sprawling, so we really drive everywhere and there isn’t much foot traffic. Especially when it’s hot, which brings me to …
( @ Hotel Adeline)
When to visit Scottsdale
Arizona is a beautiful, warm, sunny place that is amazing for visitors from all over the country. I would say the weather, friendly people, laid-back vibe, outdoor activities, good golf, and beautiful resorts, spas, and restaurants make it a great destination for visitors, whether you are coming as a family, with girlfriends, or your significant other on a little getaway. The peak times to come here are November through about April. During that time we have what we call “snowbirds” from Canada, the Midwest, and other parts of the country who come to their second homes here in Scottsdale to get away from the winter. We’re pretty lucky to be able to just stay here to enjoy the mild winters each year!
But it’s not all sunshine and cactus and fun here – the summers are HOT. That is why we started to leave every summer for 6 weeks – and many locals do the same. It’s kind of a ghost town here during the summer. Temperatures can get into the 120s during June and July and it’s pretty intense. So if you’re planning a visit, I would avoid end of May until about September. The only good news is that during those times, hotel rates are super affordable, so if you happen to be here during that time you can get some great deals on really nice properties.
Where to Stay in Scottsdale
There are some beautiful resorts and hotels here in Scottsdale – so good that many of us locals take advantage of them for our staycations. Here are some of the best places to stay in Scottsdale, all of which I have stayed at or at least been to for the spa, dinner, or an event. They’re going to range from high to around mid-range.
- The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess : super kid-friendly, make sure to get one of their remodeled Sunset rooms by the man-made beach. Their spa, Well and Being, is probably my favorite spa here. They have an amazing setup during Christmas, and at summer they have mermaids by the pool. Reese loves their kids club!
- The Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon : very southwest-desert vibes. Their villas are pretty and the views are, too. We go here for Easter and Mother’s Day brunch, they do an incredible spread. I would stay here if you’re looking for a more secluded getaway; it’s kind of far up north from everything else.
- Omni Scottsdale Montelucia : awesome pool and beautiful Spanish/Moroccan vibes throughout. Joya spa is amazing and is my other favorite spa (you cannot beat the view from the spa pool.) Random, but I really like their Nicoise salad on their spa menu.
- Mountain Shadows : A great place for a couples getaway or girls trip. Cool decor and cool vibes, great bar area and pool. The food is really great, too.
- Sanctuary : Elements and the Jade Bar are very popular spots to see a great view of Paradise Valley especially at sunset. It’s such a beautiful spot settled on the side of Camelback Mountain.
- Andaz : great decor, quiet and secluded. Pretty pool scene. Good location between Old Town, Paradise Valley, and North Scottsdale.
- The Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch : We have spent our last three staycations here, great pool for families, good central location. They do a Native American dance show and a birds of prey show that Russ and the kids love to watch every year lol! They also have gondola rides (like Italian gondolas!) in the lake there and they sing to you under the stars. Good kids program here, too.
- The Scott : The lobby is such a fun place to just see for the decor, the bar area is very Instagram-worthy.
- Hotel Valley Ho : younger vibe, busy pool on weekends, great for a bachelorette party, close to Old Town restaurants. Their food is really good and actually now that I think of it one of the best massages I ever got was at their spa!
- The W Scottsdale : Another good Old Town option with a great pool scene, they always hold lots of pool and bar parties there so if you’re coming with girlfriends might be a fun spot. Sushi Roku downstairs is really good for a group dinner.
- Hotel Adeline : A newer, on-trend hotel that’s also very budget friendly too. Lots of Instagram-worthy photo ops. It was recently remodeled from an older hotel so the rooms kind of reflect that, but they have done an incredible job with making them modern again.
- The Saguaro : Also a great place for photos – everything is so colorful and fun!!
(@ Hotel Adeline)
Restaurants to eat at in Scottsdale
OK so places to eat. How many hours do you have right now to read this???? Ha!
Here are some of my favorites off the top of my head, starting with the top places Russ and I like to go for date nights, mixed in with some Scottsdale musts, and finished with some casual spots for a quick bite. I’m not going to link each one because you can simply plug them into Google Maps, Yelp, or wherever for more info 🙂
- True Food : we just went here the other night for date night! Casual, healthy, perfect for literally any occasion with anyone. My favorite kale salad (that I make almost weekly at home) is from there and the menu is so incredibly amazing and nourishing. I know they have it in CA and I think TX but FYI it started here in AZ! 😉 The menu was originally advised by the wellness expert Dr. Weil.
- North Italia : Another favorite date night spot that’s also casual enough that you can bring the kiddos. I love their artichokes, the truffle bread is insane, and kale salad and short rib gnocchi is amazing. I indulge here FOR SURE.
- Roka Akor : one of our regular date night spots. We always sit at the long, gorgeous wood sushi bar and watch the open kitchen. Sushi is amazing and we always combine it with a shared steak and a side of shishito peppers.
- Virtu : super hidden, small, romantic gem., perfect for date night. You have to get their grilled octopus.
- Steak 44/Ocean 44 : Steak 44 came first and they recently opened Ocean 44, which is more seafood driven (and also has incredible interior design.) You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Sides are to die for, service is always perfect.
- Hiro Sushi : this is a hole in the wall sushi joint tucked away and hidden in a random strip mall. But it is our favorite sushi spots, run by authentic Japanese people, and it’s ALWAYS packed. Get the rolls and anything that’s on the specials board.
- Chelsea’s Kitchen : this is a must when visiting, especially when it’s nice out to sit on their patio. I love their tuna tartare and tacos and the chicken. Don’t miss the free cookies on your way out!
- The Mission : tableside guacamole, great tacos, fun Mexican-inspired decor. There are two locations, I like the smaller original location in Old Town.
- AZ 88 : I feel like this is like a Scottsdale institution. It’s tucked away on the lawn of by the Scottsdale Museum of Modern Art, always packed, very modern and has a bit of a scene. If you like martinis you will be in heaven.
- El Chorro : Another Scottsdale classic. Beautiful, mostly-outdoor restaurant, great for early evening drinks or a good dinner out, with the best sticky buns ever.
- Sumo Maya : A great place for a girls night out. Such pretty, fun decor and the food is a Mexican asian fusion which sounds weird but it’s actually incredibly delicious. There’s a guacamole and a noodle bowl I really like there.
- Fat Ox : awesome Italian-ish menu and a great spot both for a date night or night out with family or friends.
- Mora : another great Italian restaurant, it’s by Scott Conant if you like to follow chefs. Their appetizers and the spaghetti dish is a must. This one is deeper into Phoenix but there are lot of great spots nearby for drinks before or dessert after (Churn is a great place for ice cream!)
- Citizen Public House : I don’t go here as much as I make their famous Chopped Salad often at home. It’s such a cravable salad! I think it originally was made at Cowboy Ciao nearby as their Stetson Salad. All I know is that you have to get it.
- Postinos : great place for bruschetta and happy hour or a weekday casual brunch. Simple menu, easy spot to just take a little breather in a busy day. There’s several locations across the valley.
- Original Chop Shop : quick casual spot for a healthy lunch or grabbing a smoothie, or getting my fave takeout salad (the raw chopped with shrimp) on the go. Reese, who is the pickiest eater on the planet, asks to go there for their teriyaki chicken and broccoli bowl, so we go there often! A few locations around town.
- LGO : If you’re in the Arcadia neighborhood, this is a popular local spot with great breakfast and lunch and coffee and treats. There’s a little shop and outdoor seating, and Postinos is next door. You could just hang out on that little corner for hours.
- Flower Child : another casual, veg and gluten-free friendly spot! Their gluten free mac and cheese is really good and their kids meals are substantial. I always get their kale salad with apples and grapefruit and salmon.
- Pita Jungle : a local favorite with lots of locations. So many great Mediterranean and healthy menu items. Our order is always Hummus trio with cucumbers, broiled chicken salad, lavash shwarma wrap, and kids meals with chicken and hummus (we Uber Eats this restaurant often!)
- Shake Shack/In and Out : these burger spots are not local to AZ at all, but I know they don’t have them everywhere. So just letting you know – we have both!
- Ciao Grazie/Pomo/Grimaldi’s : our three favorite spots for pizza depending on where we are and whether we want to go out or takeout. All are thinner crust, Neopolitan/Wood-Fired kinds. Ciao Grazie is a small spot in our neighborhood so we go there most often. I always get the Emiliana salad with Americano or Dame Edna pizzas.
- Gracie’s Tax Bar : I can’t NOT give a shout out on a local guide without mentioning my sister-in-law, Grace, and her ultra divey, retro-ish bar, Gracie’s Tax Bar. We ironically don’t drink but fully support Gracie’s, which has become a hot spot for locals in the Downtown Phoenix area. They serve tater tots as a menu item. Enough said. Love you ,Grace!
(@ Scottsdale Quarter)
Where to shop in Scottsdale
I typically shop at the two spots closest to me : Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons. They are both outdoor shopping centers with a great mix of stores (usual spots like Intermix, Lululemon, Anthropologie, Hanna Anderssen, Madewell, CB2, West Elm, Pottery Barn, Apple, HM, etc.) and restaurants (True Food, North Italia, The Mission, Postinos, Shake Shack, and Mastros Ocean Club are among the few here.)
In Old Town Scottsdale there is Scottsdale Fashion Square and that’s where you’ll find Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and all the luxury brands stores like Gucci, Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, etc. etc.
I hate to admit this but I don’t shop at a ton of local clothing boutiques, mostly because they are further from where I am and I do a lot of online shopping for the brands that many of these stores carry. That being said, I love Urbana in Phoenix for all things home decor and gifts, my sister in law always buy gifts I love for me from Francis in Phoenix. I’m always looking to support more local stores so if you have a favorite, please let me know!
One thing I do want to mention is the Old Town are shops are very touristy. Unless you are specifically into southwest style art, I would skip walking around Old Town a bunch.
(@ our house)
Where to workout in Scottsdale
The best place to workout in AZ is to take it outside. Especially for those coming from colder, wetter climates, the desert here has amazing hiking trails that let you take in the sunshine and see the cactus and I totally recommend it. As a local, I think I take for granted all the great hiking we have around us! Here are some spots for great hiking :
- Camelback Mountain : Echo Canyon is the harder side, Cholla trail is the easier side. Both will give you an incredible view of the entire Phoenix valley.
- Gateway Trailhead : this is up by my house, a gorgeous long and family-friendly trail that
- Pinnacle Peak : Russ used to run this mountain often early in the mornings. It’s a great workout to go up top and come right back down! If you’re at the Four Seasons you’ll be right near it.
As for gyms, there are TONS of places to sneak in some good vacay workouts. Of course you could use your hotel’s gym (The Fairmont has a really good one in their Well and Being spa) but it’s fun to get out and check out local studios. I do that whenever I travel, especially going to Soulcycle classes. I personally workout at either our gym we built in the Design Pickle office, or The Village at DC Ranch which is where we have a membership and that’s where I take most of my classes and get in some cardio workouts. But I have taken classes at other studios, know people who own studios, and have a list of studios I want to go to for a workout. This includes Barre 3, Cyclebar, Modern Yoga, and the Madison.
(@ Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch )
Where to play in Scottsdale
This section is going to be primarily kid- and family- focused, but I am also including some things that Russ and I have done on date nights :
- McCormick Stillman Railraod Park : there’s a train that goes around the park that all kids absolutely LOVE to ride. There’s a big playground and tons of running space and a merry go round, too!
- Desert Botanical Garden : Russ and I went here on a date night when they were doing a light installation show. It was so fun and not typical of something we’d do. It was really fun! I’m not a huge “plants” person, but even I was impressed as a local of all the cactus and succulents and florals on display there. Definitely recommend for visitors.
- Children’s Museum of Phoenix : this is in Downtown Phoenix, but is such a fun museum for kids!! Very interactive.
- Phoenix Zoo : Pretty standard zoo IMO but all kids LOVE.THE.ZOO.
- Top Golf : fun for a group or a date night, it’s a huge golf complex with a restaurant and bar. I wouldn’t take little kids but kids starting at around elementary would have fun hitting the balls and playing games!
- Scottsdale Quarter Splash Pad : splash pads are vital for Arizonans with kids – right as the temps start to go back up again, you can find families out at splash pads cooling off and running around. Our favorite is the one at the Scottsdale Quarter, where you can meet up with a mom friend, let the kids run around, grab lunch, and shop all in one trip.
- iPic Theaters : If you’re here in the summer, this is a great place to get away from the heat. I don’t like going to the movies a lot, but Russ does – so our compromise is that we have to go to iPic. Full food and drink service and it’s really nice inside, it’s at the Scottsdale Quarter.
- Arizona Food Tours – a friend of ours, Zach, runs this food tour company which is a GREAT way to get to taste dishes at local restaurants and for those interested, wineries, too (yes, Arizona has vineyards!) Actually, this is my tip for any city you visit : go on a food tour! We’ve done one in Chicago and Italy, both as a family, and they have been worth every penny. I’ve gone on this Scottsdale one and learned a few things myself.
(@ The Scott)
Spots to catch up on work
If you’re in town but need a spot to catch up on emails other than your hotel lobby, here are a few places I have used as remote offices when I needed a change of scenery, or am meeting up with someone :
- The Emerald : a gorgeous, totally Instagram-worthy women’s coworking space. It’s $25 for a drop-in day pass including all its amenities. My friend Ashlyn is the co-owner, tell her I sent you!
- Press Coffee : when Russ and I lived in an apartment and didn’t have an office or a home office, this is where we came all the time. I still like to get things done here when I just need a change of pace. Great coffee.
- The Henry : this is another place I used to go to often to catch up on work or have lunch meetings, but it’s also a great spot for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Coffee bar and a restaurant with a fun sign outside lots of people take pictures at 🙂
- Cafe Au Plait : if you have kids but need to get some work done, this is a new place I just checked out that is an adorable coffee shop and indoor playground in one!
(@ Four Seasons)
We love our airport!
One last thing I want to mention : the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport has a unique partnership with our local restaurants, so many of the restaurants you see above plus many others have outposts in the airport in the busiest terminal, Terminal 4. It always pains me when I see people in line at the Wendy’s and they don’t realize the local spot next to it is SO much better!
(@ Gateway Trailhead)
Scottsdale is where our family calls home – and will for a long time. The sunsets, the open sky, the nice people, healthy lifestyle, the landscape, and of course, all of the above favorites, make Scottsdale a really great place to visit AND live.
Hope to see you around here in AZ soon, and safe travels!