Scottsdale Travel Guide coming right up! I visited Scottdale twice in the last few months and was able to experience a few different adventures while we were there! I went on a girls trip with my Mom, and another trip with my fiancé – so I’ll give a little perspective and recommendations on what to do depending on who are you’re with!
My fiancé Ross and I are getting married in Scottsdale in February, which is already less than 2 months away! There’s no rhyme or reason on why I chose Scottsdale as our wedding destination, other than it provides a gorgeous mountainous desert backdrop along with amazing weather in February. I’m so excited that our wedding venue will have a view of Camelback Mountain during our outdoor ceremony and dinner!
Scottsdale First Impressions
So, I had never actually been to Scottsdale before picking it as my wedding destination. Some people called me crazy (especially picking a venue online) but I’m pretty good with my online research and identifying what I want through pictures (hello, I’m a blogger) so I was confident in my decision making.
In general though, Scottsdale as a city was much smaller than I anticipated. The way people always talk about it, I assumed it would be a city with a skyline and that’s not the case at all.
That didn’t make me love Scottsdale any less, it just wasn’t what I envisioned. Old Town Scottsdale is more wild west – it really is “Old Town.” It’s a great spot to walk around with many shops and restaurants!
The city does feel spread out – so it’s important to pick your hotel based on what you’ll be doing! To be close to the food and restaurants with a longer drive to hiking trails, I highly recommend staying near Old Town or just north of the area (where a lot of hotels are on the edge of Old Town / Paradise Valley). More on the areas of Scottsdale below!
Old Town Scottsdale, Paradise Valley or North Scottsdale?
There’s really 4 “sections” of Scottsdale – Old Town, Fashion Square Mall Area, strip of where hotels are in Paradise Valley, then it spreads out into the distance and the next main area is North Scottsdale.
Old Town Scottsdale and Fashion Square Mall are walking distance to each other – and really where all the great food and restaurants are. 5th Avenue shopping is fun to walk around, and was probably my favorite area of town.
It’s also funny how prominent a mall area is in a town. It’s practically in downtown Scottsdale, and a lot of the best restaurants are in the area of Fashion Square Mall. The mall is indoor / outdoor – and all of the restaurants have entrances outside the mall and not necessarily connected – they are basically in shopping center areas.
I would say if you like being close to the action, you’ll want to stay near Old Town Scottsdale or on the south side of Paradise Valley. We stayed at Hotel Adeline (more below) which was only 1 mile from Old Town and perfect for us! We weren’t looking for a romantic retreat getaway – we were looking to stay close to downtown Scottsdale and enjoy the action of the city.
If you’re looking for more of a relaxing or romantic getaway and a large resort property – you can look at the resorts in Paradise Valley, North Scottsdale or McCormick Ranch. Those are the places where you can “retreat” and not really leave the hotel because you’re enjoying the amenities – such as The Sanctuary, The Phoenician, The Royal Palms, The Fairmont, the JW Marriott, and Four Seasons. If you’re looking for an “in the middle” resort – The Andaz is close to downtown Scottsdale while still feeling like you’re at a resort and offers programming such as mixology classes, guided hikes and more.
Scottsdale Best Time of Year to Visit
My mom and I visited in August – the hottest month of the year. Honestly, the prices for hotels are cheapest this time of year – but the weather isn’t ideal unless you’re planning on staying at the pool the entire time. My mom and I managed a hike, but it’s advised you should be done before 10 am. More on hiking in the hiking section.
That leads me to the best time of year to visit – I absolutely LOVED visiting the first week of November with my fiancé. I would say October – early November for that perfect high 70s temperature, or February – May. Our wedding is February 26, so it will be another perfect 70s temperature month!
Scottsdale Travel Guide – Where to Stay
I’ve stayed at a few different places in Scottsdale, and the latest time was at the boutique Hotel Adeline. Scottsdale doesn’t have skyscraper buildings or hotels, and many of them are only a few stories high and outdoor oriented with doors on the outside.
Hotel Adeline is the fun, hip and trendy hotel of Scottsdale – catering to a younger crowd with Instagrammable murals, bright colors, and a party at the pool in the peak season months (even in the summer). The hotel is owned by Marriott, so it’s a trusted brand where you know you’ll be treated well. For more photos of the property, check out their Instagram!
Overall, the hotel has a modern but retro vibe, with fun areas around the hotel like a WTF (where’s the Fun sign) and “Wanderers Welcome”.
The location is 1 mile from all the restaurants and bars downtown Scottsdale – and one of the most prime locations! We ubered to dinner, but we did end up walking home one night – only because I wanted Sprinkles cupcakes and it was halfway back and I needed to walk off my treats (I can’t just pick one flavor lol).
It’s a perfect spot for a girls trip or couples vacation if you’re looking to stay close to the action of downtown and have fun at the pool!
Scottsdale Travel Guide – Where to Eat
My favorite activity when travelling – trying all the different restaurants a city has to offer! I chose restaurants based off of ambiance and the deliciousness of the food. AMBIANCE is always a factor, not just the food! I enjoy an experience, along with a delicious margarita. A food guide is the true Scottsdale Travel Guide, in my opinion.
- The Mission – for authentic Latin American!! Margaritas are amazing along with the 12. hour braised pork. shoulder tacos. They serve the tortillas on a hot Himalayan salt block to keep them warm. really dark, formal restaurant indoors (like hard to see candlelit dinner which isn’t really my vibe) so I recommend outdoor seating here or the bar!
- Diego Pops – BEST VIBES – perfect spot to kill some time after you fly in – Ross & I came here twice in 3 days! Casual restaurant and outdoor bar serving tacos + amazing margaritas at the most instagrammable spot! The queso here is killer too!
- Fat Ox – for amazing Italian w/ homemade pasta – a must for Italian and pasta lovers! Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable and helped us pair wines and explain how the chef creates the dishes!
- The Canal Club – for another instagrammable spot with boho, Cuban lounge vibes – highly recommend HH here or diego pops! You can sit in the actual restaurant, or for more casual stick with the indoor / outdoor hotel bar and hang outside on the couches.
- Maple & Ash – for high end, classy steakhouse vibes (they also have one in Chicago)
- Sumo Maya – for an interesting take on sushi and Mexican – yes, they have both! The experience itself is amazing – a fun, upscale restaurant with amazing combinations. We loved sitting at the high top here by the bar! Love it for date night!
- Toca Madera – just take a look at their Instagram & you’ll want every dish! Higher end Mexican restaurant with a fun HH on the patio!
- The Montauk – for a casual dinner with a great patio!
- Farm & Craft – I’m usually a reservations kind of girl, but Ross and I were winging it one night just walking around. We picked our resturant based off of ambiance, and we loved the outdoor seating at Farm and Craft. The menu was healthy and the drinks were made with kombucha, so I absolutely loved it for a more casual dinner night!
- Second Story Liquor Bar – if you’re looking for an off the beaten path bar – you’ll like the old school lounge of second story liquor bar. Superior, unique hand crafted cocktails (I had a beet margarita with goat cheese) with light appetizers – it’s a good spot before dinner or for a night cap.
Scottsdale Travel Guide – Where to Hike in Scottsdale
I did a bit of research on this searching for a hike to do with my Mom – Camelback is extremely difficult and I knew it was not something she would enjoy. I found Pinnacle Peak – which is a medium hard hike with the option to turn around halfway through.
I highly recommend Pinnacle Peak – with the option to turn around after a mile it really was for everyone if you aren’t looking for a flat road hike. We saw little kids on the hike with their parents – but it is a steep one. I do recommend hiking shoes or at the bare minimum, tennis shoes. It was the perfect “medium” hard hike.
Ross and I decided to adventure to Camelback Mountain, and as two people who have camped in the wilderness of Big Bend National Park on the border of Texas and Mexico, this was DIFFICULT. It’s so steep there are railings to climb. You will be on your hands and knees almost rock climbing scaling the mountain.
Ross and I came to the park a little too close to sunset, and were nervous about rushing down the mountain to beat the sunset. We played it smart and turned around early, but I definitely want to go back and hike to the top!
If you’re looking for an easy trail – Granite Park is a great one! Ross and I actually took some engagement photos there and hiked part of the trail. Lots of great scenery cactuses, and mountain views while you hike a primarily flat trail. More of a “walk” than a hike.
In summary hikes I recommend for visitors are:
- Easy Hike / Flat: Granite Park
- Medium Hike: Pinnacle Peak
- Hard Hike / Mountain Climbing: Camelback Mountain
Overall, I’m so excited to go back out in February for our wedding! We probably won’t do as much exploring, but I’m happy that Scottsdale will be a special place for us to visit for years to come! I’ll add more to the Scottsdale Travel Guide as a visit more often! You can see more of my travel guides here!