Late last month I spent several fun-filled days in Arizona. We had a family get-together in Tucson, and I left New York a day early so I could fit in a trip to Scottsdale. Mike met me the following evening, so we had a little time there together as well. Why Scottsdale? We had stayed one night two years ago when we visited Sedona, and the city has since piqued my curiosity. I knew then that I wanted to go back and experience more of Scottsdale.
Scottsdale has a lively downtown with a bevy of cute shops, restaurants, and independent boutiques. Plus, this Phoenix suburb offers an unbelievable art scene that rivals those of bigger cities, and the focus on farm-to-table food and locally produced wine makes it a destination worth visiting. There’s only one problem – I could only eat, drink, and see so much in the time I had. So, I must go back. 🙂 Still, you’ll see that for a few days I managed to see and do a lot.
Scottsdale is home to a slew of luxury resorts, and I was fortunate to get a taste of several. I stayed two nights in the retro, Hollywood-glam-inspired Hotel Valley Ho, and my suite was larger than my New York apartment. (I know what you’re thinking, but my apartment is over 800 square feet, so it’s large for Manhattan.) I can’t say enough good things about this property – a cushy, comfy bed that I didn’t want to leave, a sensational oversized shower, and a Bosch washer/dryer? (yes, really) plus a terrace – but “I felt like a movie star,” about sums it up. Mike joined me on my second night here.
While we loved that we could walk everywhere since Hotel Valley Ho is convenient to Downtown Scottsdale, Mike and I treasured our one night outside downtown at the quiet and romantic Omni Resort & Spa at Montelucia. The setting of this resort is exquisite as it’s located at the base of Camelback Mountain (more on this later). The property is as beautiful as the view, which we took full advantage of. The design is inspired by Andalusia, Spain, and captures a Mediterranean feel. The Omni Resort is a magnificent escape from the stress of life in the big city.
The Omni Resort & Spa at Montelucia would be ideal for a honeymoon or anniversary (hint, hint, guys). And Hotel Valley Ho is hip and sexy, so great for a bachelor or bachelorette party, girl’s weekend or even a fun couple’s getaway. Both resorts provided top-notch, friendly service, and as you can see from the photos above – sprawling outdoor areas with pools, patios, lounge seating and more.
Before I attended a Scottsdale tourism event a few months ago, I didn’t realize that the area has such a fantastic food scene. I saw (and ate) a preview of the town’s food at the event, but once I got to Scottsdale, I was overwhelmed with all the delicious choices. Like other cities, Scottsdale boasts relevant farm-to-fork offerings as far as eateries go, so no matter what you believe about the dry desert, I can tell you the region produces phenomenal food.
I arrived late my first evening and headed to Cafe Zuzu at Hotel Valley Ho. I had my heart set on a steak and the bartender suggested the Peppered NY Strip with truffled mashed potatoes, melody of mushrooms and port demi glaze. He knew what he was talking about because I savored every divine bite and I’m still dreaming about that steak. It was that good.
Elements is for that special night out be it a birthday, engagement or whenever you want to be treated like a king or queen. The food and service are unique and unforgettable at this elegant restaurant in Sanctuary Resort & Spa. I ate the freshest grilled swordfish of my life here. I also had an ahi tuna and cucumber appetizer that was light, refreshing and a terrific starter. Desserts at Elements are equally decadent. If you’re lucky, you might score a west-facing dinner table to watch the sky transform as the sun sets over the mountains. That was bliss!
The Mission is a wonderful spot next to the Old Adobe Mission Church in Old Town Scottsdale. I savored a delightful lunch of tableside guacamole, beer-battered fish tacos, and of course, a margarita. The vibe is relaxed and fun and the interior spacious, so The Mission is ideal for anyone – from groups to couples – even if you’re dining solo. I sat outside because, well, the weather was stellar. I recommend popping by the church for a dose of history and then stepping next door for Latin-inspired eats and drinks at The Mission.
While at the Omni, Mike and I dined at the Prado. The elegant old-world restaurant puts out a varied selection of tasty tapas, like heirloom tomatoes with burrata, bomba fritta (saffron rice, chorizo and spicy tomato) and wood-fired lamb chops with mint, making it a great spot for sharing plates. Our savvy sommelier, Sarah, paired wonderful wines, some of which were from Arizona, with each dish. She taught us a few things about wine while she served us, and made our dining experience at Prado extra special.
While I ate so much extraordinary food in Scottsdale, my favorite meal was at FnB. I adored everything about this small, charming restaurant. The atmosphere is casual. The kitchen is open. The chef is female and manages to turn vegetables into masterpieces. Our server was knowledgeable and incredibly passionate about food and wine. FnB felt like it would be my go-to neighborhood place if I lived in Downtown Scottsdale. The menu isn’t vegetarian per se, but the veggies are so darn delicious that carnivores won’t miss eating meat at all. How can broccoli and Brussels sprouts be so enticing? Chef, co-owner, former New Yorker, and James Beard-nominated Charleen Badman helms the kitchen while veteran restaurateur and winemaker Paul Milic runs the beverage program.
Downtown Scottsdale boasts four different tasting rooms, so it’s easy to mix dining, shopping and wine tasting (my kind of town). I tasted Arizona wine a few times before, but I drank a lot of local wine on this trip. The region may be smaller than some others in the US, but the wines can compete with the big players. I tasted all the wines at Carlson Creek, and there wasn’t one that I didn’t like. I was especially fond of the Grenache, Syrah, and flagship wine “Rule of Three” (a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre). Carlson Creek wines are great for pairing with food or sipping on their own. I wish I could’ve fit a few bottles in my filled-to-capacity suitcase.
Art is essential to Scottsdale. I wandered the city streets and encountered public art practically everywhere I turned, but the most spectacular project has to be the Paolo Soleri-designed bridge, which joins the Scottsdale waterfront to Downtown. The Soleri bridge was commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art and completed in 2010. As the bridge is a must-see attraction in Scottsdale, I could’ve spent all day meandering around the plaza and photographing that bridge. The plaza on the south side of the canal includes panels and the Goldwater Bell assembly (perfect for photo ops, I might add) designed by Soleri and crafted in his Scottsdale studio.
I recommend that art lovers dedicate an hour or so of their itinerary to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). Housed in a beautifully modern building that sits on a 21-acre park and lies adjacent to the performing arts center and civic center, the museum exhibits a collection of thought-provoking and dynamic contemporary works. Although this pocket of Scottsdale feels slightly industrial, the arts complex is steps from the tourist hub of Old Town and it’s western shops and cowboy bars. It’s a unique juxtaposition that somehow works.
Each Thursday evening from 7 to 9 p.m., Downtown welcomes gallery crawlers on the Scottsdale ArtWalk. Since I had wine tasting and dinner plans, I did the walk a little earlier than the scheduled time so I beat the crowds. Most of the galleries are located along Main Street and Marshall Way (the Marshall Way Arts District), so the ArtWalk is a good way to see this area of the city and take in the amazing art at the same time. Be prepared to walk quite a bit, but if your feet start aching, hop on the free trolley.
I’ll be the first to admit my capabilities as a hiker (I am a beginner at best), but I couldn’t go to Scottsdale without hiking part of Camelback Mountain. Even though the climb is a strenuous one, I recommend doing what you can so you can take in the awe-inspiring views and decompress, if even for an hour. Hikes are best done early in the morning, particularly in the summer months. We left at around 8 a.m. because the temperature was in the 60s, but in the heat of summer, earlier is better. The 76-acre park is open from sunrise to sundown. Many thanks to Chloe Dake of Omni for guiding me.
Scottsdale is an easy town to love. It’s walkable with dozens of shops, salons, cafes, and fun places to hang out. People are warm and down to earth. The climate is fabulous so you can’t help but be in a good mood. The food and drink scene is fierce. With 7o permanent and 30 temporary works of public art and dozens of galleries, the art of Scottsdale helps shape the city, which is an exhibit unto itself.
I partnered with Scottsdale Tourism on this trip, and I can’t thank them enough for their attention to detail in organizing my itinerary. Since I had limited time, I didn’t get to do everything I wanted, but there’s always next time! My hotel stays and activities were complimentary, but every word I’ve written in this article is mine. For more info on planning a trip to Scottsdale, visit Experience Scottsdale.
Have you ever take a trip to Scottsdale? I’d love to know what you did. Please let me know in the comments!