Photo by Myles McGuinness
Fall is a great time to roam among Scottsdale's saguaros.
New exhibitions and dining options make the most of Scottsdale’s enviable desert location.
By October, temperatures in Scottsdale drop to the right side of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, averaging around 75 during November, and the more forgiving Sonoran Desert waits in welcome for outdoor enthusiasts and culture lovers alike.
Under wide Arizona skies punctured by jagged mountains, options to explore on foot, wheels, or hoof abound. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers almost 35,000 acres of wild desert ripe for exploring. You can hike the many trails, hire a fat tire mountain bike to get even further in, or meander among the saguaro cacti on horseback. Just don’t get too close to the jumping cholla plants. Those things are spiky and will sneak up on you unawares. All Trails lists 85 options to explore, and REI Co-Op offers bike rentals and guided tours.
There are also several ways to hit the heavens. Try an early morning hot air balloon ride, with the likes of Rainbow Ryders (official operator at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta) or Hot Air Expeditions (a family operated outfit with 30 years of experience) to get a sense of scope and scale. The Four Seasons at nearby Troon offers a Sip, Cycle, and Soar package, which includes a flight in a small plane over the desert to Sedona, followed by a bike ride and winetasting.
Scottsdale’s annual outdoor public art event, Canal Convergence, is back from November 5 to 14, adorning the city’s waterfront district with artworks on the theme of art and technology. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2019, so if you’ve never visited his erstwhile winter home, now could be the time. A new-for-fall happy hour program called Sunsets & Sips will facilitate roaming in the gloaming, drink in hand.
There are plenty of dining options in Scottsdale, but we recommend taking advantage of the balmy autumn temperatures—and abundant patio spaces—and eating outside. Try the Mission for Matt Carter’s inventive modern Latin cuisine—think Peruvian duck fried rice or chipotle caesar salad. Additionally, twice Michelin-starred chef Danny Grant brings Etta, a pizza and pasta restaurant, to the desert later this year.
Last year, Samantha Sanz, then chef at the Four Seasons’s Talavera, shared some of her favorite places to eat and drink in Scottsdale with AFAR—including Chula Seafood, chilled out Hush Public House for elevated comfort food, and Nogales Hot Dogs for a Sonoran classic.
Scottsdale has no shortage of hotels and resorts that make the most of the location. We love Mountain Shadows in Paradise Valley, which dates back to 1959 but was redesigned and reopened in 2017, retaining much of its ’60s desert-modern charm. Take a swim in one of the two 75-foot pools before ordering cocktails to a cabana to enjoy the views of Camelback Mountain as the sun disappears—lazy outdoor living at its finest. On September 6, the resort launches its new Library Coffee Cart, with design-focused books and coffees to match. A new exhibition at the hotel, Erika Lynne Hanson: Future Ecologies, examines climate and ecology through a variety of formats.
Stay at Mountain Shadows: From $310/night, expedia.com
The JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, meanwhile, has numerous casitas and spacious suites alongside a world-class, 32,000-square-foot spa. There’s golf, miniature golf, bike rentals, and hiking trails if you can tear yourself away from the spa.
Stay at Scottsdale Camelback Inn: From $381/night, expedia.com
A little further out, the Four Seasons Scottsdale Resort at Troon North brings all the chain’s signature luxury and contemporary design and adds a desert twist to make the most of the climate—casitas are colored in earth tones, while balconies, patios, and floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outside in. An alfresco garden shower is a must.
Stay at Scottsdale Resort at Troon North: From $888/night, expedia.com
Hit up acclaimed restaurant FnB, another local favorite with outdoor seating that focuses on locally grown vegetables. Here chef Charleen Badman’s Blue Watermelon Project in Scottsdale and nearby Phoenix sees chefs, restaurateurs, and farmers work with local schools with the aim of improving food education among students, parents, and the community at large.
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