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A Perfect Day’s Adventures in Scottsdale

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A Perfect Day’s Adventures in Scottsdale
Scottsdale is so much more than a pretty place, although the desertscape of craggy granite mountains and towering cacti, the architectural marvels, and the blazing sunsets don’t get old, as local photographer and AFAR Ambassador Ryan Neal Cordwell can attest. He recently spent a week delving deeper into his hometown to uncover the variety of experiences this flourishing city has to offer. His adventures ran the gamut, from indulging in spa treatments and locally cultivated fine wines to setting out on a kayak ride and finding his moment of zen at the Desert Botanical Garden. In short, he had a blast. Follow his lead with this outline of a perfect Scottsdale day, from pre-dawn to dusk.
Sponsored by Experience Scottsdale
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    Rise and Shine: 5 a.m.
    It’s worth setting an extra-early alarm to begin your day in the desert by night. Meet Hot Air Expeditions for a breathtaking voyage above the Sonoran Desert, where mountains can be seen for miles, along with coyotes and hawks circling in the early morning light. It’s not only an exhilarating way to greet the day and take in the full enormity of the Scottsdale landscape, but also necessary timing; the balloon requires its interior to be warmer than its exterior in order to soar.
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    Float Your Boat: 9 a.m.
    Another morning outing that set me in a serene mood for the day is kayaking the Verde River with Arizona Outback Adventures. Few encounters can measure to the tranquility of floating downstream, applauded by the coo of mourning doves and river toads.
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    Lunch Break: 11:30 a.m.
    Singh Meadows is a weekend farmer’s market and bodega that showcases local produce and farm-to-table cooking—without making a fuss about it. The delicious products speak for themselves across all categories, from fresh juices and greens to baked goods to tacos. It may be off the radar but it’s certainly not out of reach.
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    Belly Up to the Bar: 1 p.m.
    You might think first of tequila or mescal when claiming a bar seat in Scottsdale, but beer deserves at least as much of your attention. The family-owned Goldwater Brewing Co. keeps 20-some original brews on tap at their downtown location—and all are cleverly titled. I enjoyed a few with fellow photographer and Instagrammer Donjay as a refresher on a sunny day.
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    Into the Vines: 2:30p.m.
    Lawrence Dunham Vineyards (LDV) grows grapes in the highly sought after southern Arizona territory encompassing Ash Creek. Its tasting room in downtown Scottsdale features a pairing menu of small bites with pours in a flowering courtyard that encourages you to linger for another glass. (Psst: Wednesday’s Ladies Night here is a local favorite.)
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    A Desert Eden: 4 p.m.
    A zen-inducing experience that you really ought not to pass up is the Desert Botanical Garden, which keeps luring me back for repeat visits. Some 50,000 examples of succulents, cacti, and sage varietals native to the Sonoran flourish throughout the 150 acres. A labyrinth of footpaths lets you navigate this sanctuary at your own leisurely pace.
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    Spa-ahh: 5:30 p.m.
    It’s important to understand that in Scottsdale no one, whether visitor or local, is exempt from some spa time! A personal favorite is Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary, at Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa, featuring ingredients developed by an area botanist. It is a full-service spectacle of opulence, only bettered by an iconic backdrop of Camelback Mountain. I’ll admit, I lost more time than I can account for by their private pool, and was not the least bit upset about it.
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    A Perfect Pairing: 7 p.m.
    They’ve been here since the beginning of time and never take a day off—Scottsdale sunsets are a sight to be reckoned with, and one of the best vantage points is award-winning chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s J&G Steakhouse. It serves up panoramic views of the buttes of Papago Park from its hillside perch. On my recent visit, as if on cue, a gradient spilled down the curtain of Scottsdale, bleeding teal to tangerine. I suggest sticking around after dark for dinner and a toast your Scottsdale adventures on the restaurant patio.