Can’t-Miss Experiences on Your First Trip to Scottsdale

A woman walks into a display of hanging blue LED lights

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.

A woman looks quirkily in a field of hanging LED lights


Wonderspaces Arizona

You may have already seen images of this new interactive art gallery on your Instagram feed. Wonderspaces Arizona opened in early 2019 at Scottsdale Fashion Square, and its stunningly engaging works of art have already enchanted thousands of visitors.
Carl Grupp, a smiling man with a goatee. He wears a blazer and tie. His slicked-back hair is slightly greying on the edges. A telephone pole is visible amongst greenery in the background.


Carl Grupp

Carl Grupp of Coastline Travel Advisors in Scottsdale has more than 20 years of hands-on experience in luxury travel planning and a proven track record in exceeding client expectations. Few travel consultants know Scottsdale better than Carl, who can customize this itinerary around your interests for a truly bespoke vacation.
A couple walk into the lobby of a building.

DAY 1Check Into Your Resort

Here’s a secret to pulling off a great Scottsdale vacation: While there’s no shortage of things to do, you’ll want to take some time to sit by the pool or linger over a cocktail. You don’t always need to be rushing to a next stop.

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.
A red modern mansion in front of Southwestern mountains

DAY 2Visit an Architectural Icon

You’ll start today with a trip to one of Scottsdale’s architectural masterpieces—a building whose influence extended around the world. UNESCO World Heritage site Taliesin West was the winter home and school of architect Frank Lloyd Wright from 1937 until 1959, the year he died. Wright’s work was especially suited to this gorgeous desert setting, and many qualities of that work were elevated to new heights at Taliesin West: an emphasis on integrating indoor and outdoor spaces; a design that echoed the surrounding landscape; the use of local materials; and a palette inspired by nature.

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.
A man with a goatee fills a glass of beer. A sign cut off in the top left reads "Smore"

DAY 3Explore Scottsdale’s Natural and Cultural Highlights

Start the day with a desert walk before the sun gets too high in the sky. You don’t have to venture beyond the city limits to experience the natural beauty of this part of Arizona when you visit Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The 30,000-acre preserve has the distinction of being the largest urban preserve in the United States, with more than 200 miles of trails. If you’re under the misconception that deserts are simply arid and lifeless, a short hike in the Preserve will be especially eye-opening. Purple Lupine bloom and cacti grow high in this gorgeous landscape where mountains stretch off into the distance and many different types of wildlife roam.

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.
A woman in a hat and scarf looks around in a field of purple LEDs.

DAY 4Let Art Transform You

You’ll be leaving Scottsdale later today to begin the journey home, but there’s still time for a visit to one of the newest attractions. Wonderspaces Arizona opened at Scottsdale Fashion Square in early 2019 and features accessible, engaging, and interactive works. Each year, the gallery hosts four different shows by young artists like Memo Atken, whose Body Paint translates the movements of spectators into a colorful work of art. The disorienting (in a good way) Daydream V.2 is an audio-video installation by Nontak Studio that blurs the lines of the digital and real. If your trip to Scottsdale hasn’t already proved to be eye-opening, you’re guaranteed to leave Wonderspaces with a new perspective on art—and perhaps some insights on life, too.

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.
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Journeys: United States
Journeys: United States