A Very Scottsdale (Arizona) Summer

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While this corner of Arizona is notorious for its blazing heat during this time of the year, Scottsdale has quite a few cool spots that feel so inviting. With a plethora of great resorts featuring fantastic pools, stunning nature preserves and hiking trails, and an increasingly vibrant Old Town with many of Arizona’s hottest bars and restaurants, is Scottsdale cool enough for a sunny summer visit?

Today, we’re heading to this picturesque stretch of the Valley of the Sun to take in the views, hike among Arizona’s most iconic plants, swim a few laps at the pool, discover new art, and eat our way through Old Town to experience for ourselves why Scottsdale makes for a great year-round destination.

An Introduction to Scottsdale

A group of saguaro cacti at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Situated directly east of the City of Phoenix in Arizona’s most populous county (Maricopa), Scottsdale simultaneously feels very connected to the rest of the Phoenix metropolitan area and like a very relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of other parts of the valley. Stretching 31 miles north from its border with Tempe all the way to Tonto National Forest, Scottsdale has plenty of fascinating corners to explore. 

Located near the south end of Scottsdale Road, Old Town is the historic heart of Scottsdale and where you’ll find a fairly compact collection of shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, and museums. Right next to Old Town is one of the nation’s largest and highest-grossing shopping malls — Scottsdale Fashion Square — where you’ll find Arizona’s largest collection of designer labels and a few other interesting surprises. If you continue north on Scottsdale Road, you’ll reach what’s called the Shea Corridor, which is Scottsdale’s other central hub for shopping and dining. Once you reach the AZ-101 Freeway, you’re in North Scottsdale, and this is where you’ll find a few more expensive resorts as well as access to some of Central Arizona’s most beautiful public lands. 

Where to Stay

A hotel room at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia
Andrew Davey/The Manual

When you’re looking for a place to stay, know where you want to go. Scottsdale may feel like a quaint small town in Old Town, but the overall city is actually quite large. If you prefer maximum peace and quiet, consider a hotel on Lincoln Drive in neighboring Paradise Valley or one in North Scottsdale, where you’ll have easier access to the area’s best hiking trails. If you want to be closer to the center of the action, consider a hotel in or near Old Town for an easier ride to Old Town’s attractions and the larger Phoenix metro region. 

If you prefer to use Airbnb or another vacation rental service, you should find plenty of available homes in and around Scottsdale. If you really want a full-service hotel, below is our shortlist of great hotels in the area. 

Best Old Town Location: Hotel Valley Ho

A room with a view at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona
Hotel Valley Ho

Located in the heart of Old Town, Hotel Valley Ho is a stylish spot located conveniently in the heart of the action. The Valley Ho used to be a roadside motel, but now its spacious rooms are fully equipped with pillow-top beds, 49-inch HD TVs, Terrazzo-tile bathrooms, and private patios or balconies. Whenever you’re ready to party, the Valley Ho has the very buzzy ZuZu bar and restaurant, and most of the rest of Old Town’s hottest bars and clubs are mere steps away. 

  • Nearest Airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
  • Time: 15–20 minutes by car
  • Distance: 8 miles

Best Scenery: Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia

A pool at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia
Andrew Davey/The Manual

The Omni Montelucia is quite unique in that it’s close to so much, yet it feels so far away. This Spanish-inspired resort is in Paradise Valley, so it’s in a very quiet neighborhood along Lincoln Drive. But if you fancy a play day in Old Town Scottsdale or a day to explore the trendy neighborhoods of Downtown Phoenix, the Omni is surprisingly close to a lot. The Omni features incredibly spacious rooms and suites, many of which measure over 500 square feet and include views of Camelback Mountain. Montelucia has three pools — the largest of which makes for show-stopping Instagram and TikTok content — and it has three restaurants serving amazingly tasty cuisine. If you’re a spa lover, you will be delighted by the offerings at Montelucia’s Joya Spa.

  • Nearest Airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
  • Time: 15–20 minutes by car
  • Distance: 8 miles

Best Style: Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Bungalows

A patio connecting to a suite at the Andaz Scottsdale
Hyatt Hotels

Located right in between Fashion Square and the Shea Corridor, the Andaz Scottsdale is close to plenty of attractions, but the Andaz sets itself apart with breathtaking scenery and its fashion-forward aesthetics. All rooms feature mid-century modern design, Southwestern-themed artwork, plush bedding, large bathrooms, and private patios. On top of all that, suites and villas enjoy dedicated concierge service. Come for the trendy rooms and suites and stay for the sweet spa and the cool pools. 

  • Nearest Airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
  • Time: 20–30 minutes by car
  • Distance: 11 miles

Best for Luxurious Tranquility: Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North 

A room at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Four Seasons Hotels

If you truly want to get away from it all, escape to the Four Seasons. It’s quite a ways from Old Town and most of the rest of the Phoenix area’s big commercial hubs and tourist attractions, but it is quite close to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, and the exclusive Troon North Golf Club. All rooms feature spacious patios or balconies, and suites may also include private jacuzzis, outdoor shower areas, and expansive mountain and desert views. The resort includes a full-service spa, a pool with cabanas, two tennis courts, easy access to the golf courses, and four restaurants. 

  • Nearest Airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
  • Time: 30–45 minutes by car
  • Distance: 30 miles

Where to Eat

Yes, you will find plenty of good Mexican restaurants in and around Scottsdale. However, the local culinary scene does not end there. From trendy brunch spots to wineries serving Arizona-made wine (yes, really!), here are some great options to fill your belly and quench your thirst in this delectable desert oasis.

Price Key

  • “$” = budget-friendly or cheap 
  • “$$”= average 
  • “$$$”= expensive 

The Mission Old Town

A plate of brussels sprout tacos at The Mission in Scottsdale, Arizona
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Don’t come to The Mission expecting cheesy oversized sombreros and cheap margaritas. Instead, The Mission specializes in gourmet Mexican tacos, tapas-style small plates, and craft cocktails. The white bean puree is surprisingly addictive, and the brussels sprout tacos are out of this world. The Mission also has an extensive bar menu, and the elderflower paloma is soothingly refreshing. 

  • Best for lunch and dinner 
  • $$

Browse the Menu

Merkin Vineyards

Inside the dining room at Merkin Vineyards in Scottsdale, Arizona
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Who said you can’t do farm-to-table cuisine in Arizona? At Merkin Vineyards, that’s their specialty and their way of life. All their wines are lovingly sourced from their own vineyards in the Verde Valley and Wilcox, and all their produce is sourced from either their own Verde Valley farm or from other Arizona farmers. Because they’re very ingredient-driven, Merkin’s menu usually changes weekly, and sometimes they’ll change the menu day-to-day depending on what Mother Nature provides. But if you’re a pizza lover, you’ll probably be happy with their offerings, no matter which day you come.

  • Best for lunch and dinner 
  • $$

Browse the Menu

Hash Kitchen

A frittata at Hash Kitchen in Scottsdale, Arizona
Andrew Davey/The Manual

If you like brunch, you’ll love Hash Kitchen. They do brunch every day, so you can start your day the proper way regardless of when you’re visiting Scottsdale. If you’re into starting the morning with a bloody mary, Hash Kitchen is famous for its “Build Your Own Bloody Mary” bar. If you’re not, fear not — the bar serves plenty more interesting cocktails; we were especially impressed by “The Allison,” made with High Noon Lime and coconut rum. For food, the frittatas are joyously filling, and the cannoli donuts are a must if you have a strong sweet tooth.

  • Best for breakfast and lunch 
  • $$

Browse the Menu

Prado at the Omni Montelucia

A paella dish at Prado at Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Prado is the culinary crown jewel of the Omni Resort (see above), so you’re in for a spectacular dinner here. The menu is very Spanish, but with a touch of Arizona flair. The patatas bravas are addictive, the paella is simply incredible, and the Tarta de Santiago is so unbelievably delicioso that it’s nearly indescribable. If you’re a gin lover, you will love their full gin and tonic menu. Even if you’re not that into the gin, the Hibiscus Rose (with Tanqueray and St. Germain) is delightfully tasty.

Browse the Menu

What to Do

What’s there not to do in Scottsdale? Whether you have a passion for fashion, a need to stretch your feet outside, or the simple desire to lounge around at the pool, Scottsdale has you covered. Here are a few of our favorite places to explore in “The West’s Most Western Town.”

Old Town

The Old Town Scottsdale cowboy sign
Andrew Davey/The Manual

At first, the whole theme of “The West’s Most Western Town” might feel a little too kitschy. But as you make your way around Old Town, you’ll eventually realize that there’s much more to do than walk around in a cowboy hat. Come for the trendy restaurants, stay for the extensive collection of art galleries, and keep it moving with the many events that happen here throughout the year. 

Learn More

Wonderspaces at Scottsdale Fashion Square

An art installation at Wonderspaces Phoenix-Scottsdale
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Art at a mall … Seriously? Yes, indeed, you can find intriguing and immersive cutting-edge multimedia art at Wonderspaces. While Wonderspaces also has permanent galleries in Philadelphia and Austin, the Phoenix/Scottsdale location is unique because it’s housed in an old movie theater space at Fashion Square. Not only can you make your own contribution to postmodern art, but you can also walk through some stunning, fully-immersive audio-video experiences. You can even grab a drink at the full bar!

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Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

The cacti at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Yes, Virginia, Arizona also has a vibrant and thriving art scene. Though the Heard Museum near Downtown Phoenix is better known for its own collections, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is not one to overlook or miss. During our visit here, we were awed by the Beverly McIver and Brad Kahlhamer exhibitions. Whenever you make it here, make sure to check out the James Turrell Knight Rise Skyspace for a delightfully surreal experience that will only enhance your visit. 

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Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Rides

A group of Rainbow Ryders hot air balloons in Phoenix, Arizona
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Can life get any better than this? You may be asking yourself this question while you soar into the electric-blue Arizona sky in a Rainbow Ryders hot air balloon. Please keep in mind that you’ll need to arrive insanely early for one of these signature sunrise balloon rides — but trust us, it’s totally worth it. After you sign in at the office, you’ll then get shuttled over to the designated staging location. Everything comes into clearer view once you rise above ground level. Enjoy the stunning Phoenix area views from above — go ahead, you earned it.

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McDowell Sonoran Preserve

A group of saguaro cacti at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Andrew Davey/The Manual

If you like hiking and running, you’ll love McDowell Sonoran Preserve in North Scottsdale. While Camelback Mountain tends to get more tourist love, McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers a wider variety of walks and hikes for nature lovers at all skill levels. For travelers with disabilities and others who may not be ready for a strenuous hike, the Bajada Nature Trail is a fully-paved and wheelchair-accessible loop.

For those seeking a more challenging thrill ride, Tom’s Thumb Trail offers fascinating rock formations and steep changes in elevation. For those who want a little bit of everything, the Gateway Loop offers plenty of Arizona’s famed saguaro cacti, plus much more native wildlife for you to admire (from a safe and respectful distance).

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Tips for Surviving the Brutal Sonoran Desert Summer

A group of Rainbow Ryders hot air balloons in Phoenix, Arizona
Andrew Davey/The Manual

If you’re planning plenty of outdoor activities during your Scottsdale travel, bring water! Preferably, bring a reusable metal water bottle that’s better suited to keeping your water cold. Also, make sure to pack and use plenty of sunscreen, as the scorching Arizona sun is nothing to mess around with. Don’t weigh yourself down too much if you’re planning to do a lot of hiking and biking outside, and do plan on early-morning runs, walks, and rides in order to beat the daytime heat. 

Even if your outdoor activities will only consist of trips to the pool, it’s still a good idea to go out early in the morning and/or closer to sunset to avoid that pesky peak daytime heat. For the rest of the day, plan on indoor activities to take advantage of the air conditioning. 

Is Scottsdale Really Worth a Summer Trip? 

A pair of saguaro cacti at McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Short answer: Yes! Longer answer: Scottsdale and the larger Phoenix metro area offer so much to see and do that there’s never really a bad time to visit. Even though this stretch of Arizona has a reputation for extreme summer heat, we’ve already examined ways to beat the heat while enjoying the cool sights of this wondrous region.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this hot and spicy summertime trip to Scottsdale, and we wish you nothing but the best on your own trip here. For more exciting ideas to shake up your future travel plans, check out our preview of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the world’s five happiest countries worth visiting, and our ten top LGBTQ+ Pride destinations in the U.S. and around the world. Cheers to safe and happy travels.

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