More than 800 restaurants, hundreds of galleries, several world-class museums, and much more: With so many options in Scottsdale, where does a first-time visitor to this desert hot spot begin?
In four days, you’ll only get a taste of what makes Scottsdale such a popular destination, which is why so many visitors return time and again. But some of the can’t-miss highlights are included on this itinerary, including iconic highlights like the architectural masterpiece that is Taliesin West, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and beloved restaurants like El Chorro. It also includes some of the newest attractions like the interactive art gallery Wonderspaces Arizona, along with hot restaurants in Old Town, like The Mission and The House Brasserie. There’s also a morning set aside to explore Scottsdale’s beautiful setting in the Sonoran Desert.
Experience Scottsdale has resources like maps of the city’s ale and wine trails to lead you to the best tap and wine rooms; you may also want to take advantage of organized events like the weekly Scottsdale ArtWalk, an enjoyable way to visit many galleries in one evening. Here’s one more tip from us: Go ahead and ask any local you meet for their suggestions. You’ll find they’ll be happy to share what they love most about their home.
Itinerary / 4 DAYS
DAY 1Check Into Your Resort
With that in mind, ease into Scottsdale today by relaxing this afternoon at your home for the next three nights—the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. Head to the resort’s pool, the 32,000-square-foot spa, or one of the resort’s two 18-hole golf courses. You could also start to get the lay of the land with a walk through the Sonoran Desert on the resort’s trails.
Dine tonight at a Scottsdale institution: El Chorro. Open as a restaurant since 1937 (it was originally the Judson School for Girls), its success is no doubt due in large part to its location, with alfresco dining in the shadow of Camelback Mountain. The restaurant doesn’t rest on its laurels, however, with its menu evolving to reflect a new awareness of sustainability and a commitment to use the very freshest seasonal ingredients available.
DAY 2Visit an Architectural Icon
Choose from four different tours, ranging from a 60-minute panorama tour to a more in-depth 2.5-hour behind-the-scenes option, which includes tea served in the Taliesin dining room. (There’s also an especially magical Night Lights tour if you want to return in the evening and see Taliesin West glowing under the starry skies of Scottsdale.)
Head to The Mission for lunch. Located next door to its namesake, the charming Old Adobe Mission (the oldest standing church in Scottsdale), the restaurant has brought an elevated take on Latin American cuisine to Old Town. The lunch menu includes elevated street-food favorites, like seven different types of tacos, elote (Mexican-style grilled corn on the cob), and guacamole prepared tableside.
After lunch, take a stroll around Old Town Scottsdale. The compact area is easy to get around on foot (though you’ll also find a free trolley), and every block has something to see: art galleries, museums, restaurants, and bars. Whether you’re shopping for Native American jewelry, vintage fashions, or a gift for the gourmet in your life, you’ll have a wealth of choices. Berdena’s is a good place for a break with a homemade pastry and a coffee—you may want to order a honey lavender or matcha latte, two of their unique signature coffee drinks. You can check out Scottdale’s renowned galleries whenever you visit, but if your trip includes a Thursday evening, there’s an especially festive atmosphere during the weekly Scottsdale ArtWalk.
Head next to Postino Wine Café for dinner. The menu is focused on small plates as well as panini, bruschetta, and cheese and meat boards designed to be paired with the restaurant’s curated selections of wines and beers.
DAY 3Explore Scottsdale’s Natural and Cultural Highlights
Later in the day, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West provides an introduction to another aspect of the history of the city and the surrounding region. The exhibitions of art and artifacts at this Smithsonian-affiliated museum cover the West in all its different aspects, from cowboy gear and Native American pieces to the works of contemporary painters and photographers.
After learning about the trails blazed by pioneers, follow a more relaxed route: the Wine Trail. At Old Town’s wine bars and tasting rooms, you can sample some of the best of Arizona’s wine—yes, the state has a small but celebrated collection of wineries.
More of a beer person? Start your evening with a craft beer at the tap room of the Goldwater Brewing Co. This family-run operation, opened in 2015, creates unique beers in a number of different styles—ales, IPAs, pilsners, stouts, and wherever inspiration leads them. It’s just one stop on Scottsdale’s Ale Trail, which highlights several of the more than 30 breweries and beer houses in Scottsdale.
Dine tonight at Virtù, located at the Bespoke Inn in Scottsdale’s Arts District. This low-key, homey space lets the dishes take center stage; most are Italian, Spanish, and other Mediterranean favorites masterfully prepared by chef Gio Osso. It’s your last night in Scottsdale, and you likely don’t want the evening to end. The House Brasserie is ideal for an after-dinner drink, with a cozy interior and a gracious back patio.
DAY 4Let Art Transform You
This may be the end of your first trip to Scottsdale, but we expect you’ll be back for more. There are more tap rooms, museums, restaurants, and more just waiting to be visited. Now that you’ve sampled some of what the city offers, it will be waiting whenever you’re ready to take a deeper dive.