The Ultimate Long Weekend in Scottsdale

A cell phone taking a photo. The subjects of the photo are three millenials underneath a sign reading: "Brunch Goals."

Have you been nominated to come up with a friends’ getaway and are a loss for where to start? Finding the right place—with an array of activities but also time to just catch up—can feel like a challenge. Scottsdale is ready to come to your rescue.

If you’re attempting to corral old friends who are now living in various places across the country, Scottsdale’s location is a big plus, as it’s easy to get here from everywhere in the U.S. Plus, with more than 300 sunny days a year, you won’t have to worry about your reunion being a washout. And whatever your group’s interests—active adventures, music, or simply enjoying good food and catching up, ideally poolside—Scottsdale will appeal to everyone.

Below is a suggested three-day itinerary, but perhaps it’s best approached as a starting point. You know your friends better than we do, and if the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art makes more sense than drinks at a tiki lounge, or a hot-air balloon outing is a better fit than stand-up paddleboarding, you can swap in those and other options. However you choose to customize this itinerary, you’ll be glad you chose Scottsdale as the place to bring old friends together again.

Two people paddleboard


Stand-up Paddleboarding

A stand-up paddleboarding outing on the Lower Salt River is a chance to learn a new sport as you experience some of the natural beauty of Scottsdale.
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.
Two people paddleboard in front of a large riverside rock formation

DAY 1Meet Up in Scottsdale

Since Phoenix is a major hub for both American and Southwest Airlines, and served by more than 20 other airlines, it’s easy to gather your crew in Scottsdale. After landing, it’s a quick drive—just about 20 minutes—to your hotel for the weekend, the W Scottsdale. The W Scottsdale is located in the heart of the Entertainment District and features a decidedly contemporary look. Plus, all of its guestrooms are fresh from a recent renovation. With a mix of modern art and colorful accents, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Sonoran Desert, the W Scottsdale is a cool base for your friends’ adventure.

Don’t get too comfortable, however, as you’re going to try a new activity this morning. Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a fun, full-body workout, and it has the plus of letting you silently approach birds and other animals that you might spot on the Lower Salt River, where you’re headed today. A guide from AOA Adventures will instruct any beginners in the basics of paddleboarding; even if you’ve never tried it before, you’ll be up on your feet and gliding over the water in no time. Remember to bring some old sneakers or water shoes.

Head back to the W Scottsdale for some quality time poolside. The resort’s location in the heart of Old Town also makes it easy to do some window-shopping and wandering, if anyone wants to get out and explore before you all meet up this evening.

That meetup spot is The Montauk, just a short walk from the hotel. It’s a popular spot, with “Happiest Hours” that take place every weekday from 3 to 6 p.m. (and all day on Mondays). Pair your cocktails with bar bites like deviled eggs, chicken sliders, or guacamole.

You’ll head back to the W for dinner tonight, at Sushi Roku. While you might be skeptical about having sushi so far from the sea, the restaurant flies in the highest quality fish every day. The setting is decidedly glamorous, as is the crowd. They don’t outshine the food, however, with dozens of sushi and roll options to choose from, as well as chicken, wagyu beef, and other skewers. Make the night even more memorable by opting for the Izakaya menu, with the chefs selecting every course as they lead you on a delicious culinary odyssey.
A hand pours wine into a glass labeled "Carlson Creek"

DAY 2A Day Filled with Wine and Music

You’ll have this morning free so everyone can choose an activity that interests them, whether it’s hiking, shopping, or just relaxing.

You’ll all gather together again when it’s time for lunch, at Hula’s Modern Tiki, a South Pacific-inspired restaurant in the desert. The menu of small plates and larger dishes has an appropriately exotic-meets-retro take on cuisine. Dig into potstickers, shrimp rolls, jerk chicken, and luau pork. If you’re ready, you’ll also find a cocktail list with tropical and island favorites like painkillers, margaritas, and dark & stormys.

Then hit the Scottsdale outlet of Topgolf, a driving range and sports bar combo where you’ll find more than 100 climate-controlled bays for practicing your swing. For those who want to take it easy, there are plenty of spots to relax, including a rooftop terrace with a firepit.

Afterwards, head to the Carlson Creek Vineyard Tasting Room. While the Carlson Creek winery is in southern Arizona, their tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale features the best bottles from one of the state’s largest wineries. Carlson Creek’s signature wine is its Rule of Three—a mix of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre grapes, but they produce a number of reds and whites that have been praised by wine critics. At the tasting room, you can order meat and cheese boards, along with olives, nuts, and dried fruits, to snack on as you sample Carlson Creek’s wines. Carlson Creek is just one of six wineries with tasting rooms in Scottsdale, and oenophiles will want to follow the Wine Trail to the others.

It’s the last night out with friends, so keep the party going at the Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar (or, as locals call it, Kaz). Almost every night of the week there’s live music with local performers in a range of genres: jazz, rhythm & blues, and more. Live band karaoke is an all-day event on most Sundays.
Four cereal-topped cocktails.

DAY 3Start Planning Your Next Reunion

If brunch is your favorite meal, you’ll love Hash Kitchen, where the menu is all about breakfast dishes like frittatas, pancakes, and (as the name gives away) a variety of hashes. The restaurant is perhaps most famous for its build-your-own Bloody Marys, where you can pile on the garnishes—there’s a choice of 50 of them on the Bloody Mary bar—until you’ve created a drink that’s practically a meal in itself. Or opt for the Cereal Shooter Flight—a series of four unique boozy concoctions topped off with breakfast cereal.

When your group raises their drinks to toast you for a flawless reunion, remind them that Scottsdale was the secret to its success. Then start thinking about what you’ll do next to match this reunion. Perhaps you’ll opt for a getaway centered on one of Scottsdale’s more golf-centric resorts or choose one that puts its spa and wellness offerings front and center. Maybe next time instead of a wine-focused afternoon, you’ll opt for one following the Ale Trail, with tastings of some of Scottsdale’s many craft beers. Scottsdale may feel like a small town, but it’s big on options when it comes to designing a friends’ getaway.
More From This Author
Journeys: United States
Journeys: United States