Confession: Before visiting, I had the impression that Scottsdale was mainly 1) a paradise for snowbirds and 2) a party spot for baseball fans during spring training. But there’s nothing like exploring a place to change up impressions! 

Over the course of a recent long weekend, I was surprised and delighted by Scottsdale’s cocktail culture, adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventures, spa and wellness treatments, scenic poolside lounging, and how easily it all came together. It’s the perfect place for a restorative, sunny getaway. Here’s more about my five favorite Scottsdale surprises.

The Easy Access. Scottsdale is only a 20-minute drive from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which offers nonstop service to many U.S. cities. And my airport rental car experience was so seamless! It wasn’t long before I was settling into a poolside chaise lounge at the Hotel Valley Ho—a hip design property in Scottsdale’s walkable downtown.

 The Varied Outdoor Adventures. Scottsdale gets 330 days of sunshine a year (be still my heart!), and there are nearly as many ways to embrace the outdoors. You can hike, mountain bike, take a Jeep off-roading tour, saddle up on a horse, go hot air ballooning—and almost never worry about the weather infringing on your plans.

The Locavore Drinks. Turns out there’s something local to quench any thirst, from Craft 64’s beers made in Arizona to award-winning Arizona-grown wine at the LDV Winery tasting room to vintage-inspired cocktails at Second Story Liquor Bar. My absolute favorite is the cucumber-jalapeño margarita at The Mission, a Latin restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale with an enchanting patio. The drink strikes a desert-appropriate mix of spicy and sweet.

The Spa Surprises. The treatments are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but I especially loved all the Scottsdale spa extras like rooftop pools, steam rooms, meditation gardens, and the hammam at Moroccan-inspired Joya Spa. Plus, I got access to the spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess by taking an aerial yoga class (Surfset and Pilates are among the other Fairmont fitness offerings). 

The Lush Desertscape. Scottsdale’s Sonoran Desert is remarkably vibrant. It also made me obsessed with saguaro cacti, which can reach 60 feet in height. During a monsoon, pleats in the skin expand with rainwater and protect against strong winds. Even more amazing is that the flowers on the top of the saguaro bloom only once a year, late at night, and close by the next afternoon.