There are so many amazing places to visit on this wonderful planet of ours that sometimes we forget the beautiful destinations that are literally in our own backyards. Domestic travel is quite possibly all we may be able to do until the borders start opening which means there’s no better time than now to set out to explore this amazing country of ours.
By now you may have may have guessed that this week’s video guest will be chatting with me about a US city. And you would be correct! And that guest is my colleague Nicole Krekeler the Tourism Sales Manager for Experience Scottsdale (Arizona) who is relaying to us all of the marvelous sights, sounds and tastes there are to discover in Scottsdale – as well as some hidden gems that I didn’t even know about!
Grab your cowboy hat, pull on your boots, take a seat on your horse and trot along with us on this Scottsdale adventure!
Location, Landscape and Climate: Nicole first let us in on the fact that she’s an Arizona native – which is rare – from what she’s heard. And she advised that Arizona is known as the Grand Canyon State and cheekily added that “we own the entire Grand Canyon no matter what Las Vegas and Nevada say!”
Scottsdale itself is centrally located in the state and although it’s a suburb of Phoenix, it truly is its own standalone destination. Plus being right in center of state it’s a great place to hub and spoke out to Sedona, the Grand Canyon or south to Tucson or Tombstone. The city is long and skinny – measuring 32 miles north to south and 7 miles east to west. It’s also within close proximity to the airport as at the southernmost point it’s just 15 minutes from Sky Harbor – Phoenix’s international airport.
That, and coupled with the fact that there are 320 days of sunshine statewide plus no humidity – it’s a dry heat – which trust me – makes a big difference – means it’s a pretty safe bet you won’t get rained out! The average minimum temperature is actually 55 degrees – so it’s not 100 degrees all years round! Thanks to being located in the Sonoran Desert there is a temperature difference.
Popular Areas: One must see is Old Town Scottsdale. Filled with culture and life like it was back in the old west – they still have some original streets, the original post office and the First Bank of Arizona. That old bank is now a cool little (little is right – it only holds about 43 people) gem known as the Rusty Spur – a bar that opened after the bank closed down during the Great Depression and still stands there today filled with all its cowboy culture! They even still have the bank’s original vault which is used to store alcohol now instead of money. They also feature live music every day – plus every Saturday at 3:00 PM Gary and his horse ride in, strum a song, then back on outta there! You will also find numerous privately owned boutique shops as well as great chef driven restaurants in Old Town. It really is a great place to walk around, do some exploring and maybe buy a Mexican blanket or some stunning turquoise jewelry. Other areas of interest to explore – Tombstone a town that is just as if you are walking into the old west and recreating it – and it’s not a film set up – it truly is an actual town and also what they refer to as the Waterfront – which is Scottsdale’s canal system – featuring great shops, restaurants and scenery including palm trees, public art sculptures and fountains.
Sightseeing and Activities: Most of you probably associate Scottsdale with the desert but did you know that an entire one third of the city is a protected Sonoran Desert preserve? Meaning…there are outdoor activities galore! With over 30,000 acres of protected land – there’s over 200 miles of hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock-climbing trails and more!
There is also an abundance of Hot Air Balloon rides thanks to the temperate weather and low wind – which also allows Scottsdale to brag that they have the most flyable days in the US! Due to the heat in the summer only sunrise tours are offered – but from October through April you can take a sunset tour as well. What a great way to see the desert – by floating over! Especially if you aren’t into hiking and mountain biking. Bonus – you get a champagne toast at end!
Golf. Lots and lots of golf! In the Phoenix metropolitan area there are about 200 golf courses – and Scottsdale is home to 51 of them. (Side Note: This number represents both Scottsdale and Paradise Valley – a small town and suburb of Scottsdale). One really cool fact about these golf courses – to keep them green they use all reclaimed water and utilizing a very complex system it allows them to maintain green golf course without using up natural resources.
There are some really fun ways to explore that desert terrain – such as Jeep or Hummer Tours or renting a self-drive UTV’s that allow you to see – and learn about – the flora and fauna and the eco system up close and persona. Fun Fact – there is more plant life in the Sonoran Desert than in the Amazon thanks to all of the different species of plants.
Also home to Tonto National Forest where opportunities for kayaking, rafting and paddle boarding are plentiful and there are tour companies that will do these activities with you if you don’t want to give it a go alone. This area is actually quite green and in addition to manmade lakes you’ll also find the Salt and Verde Rivers – where you will see wild horses galloping around on any given day!
Arts and Culture: Culture is a huge part of who Arizona is as a state as well as is Scottsdale as a destination. Scottsdale actually butts up to one of the to one of the larger reservations in the state – the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian community. The state as a whole has 25 tribes residing there which is the most of any state in the country and they boast of great partnerships with festivals to honor those tribes being held often.
Art is actually a huge component in Scottsdale and a very interesting fact that Nicole let us in on is that 3% of any large corporate build’s total investment has to go back to community in public art. Thanks to this mandate – you’ll see numerous sculptures and interesting interactive art features throughout the entire city! In addition there are approximately 150 art galleries and art dealers in Scottsdale and just over 70 of them are located in Old Town which has an Arts district with a couple of walkable streets where every Thursday night they do an art walk allowing you to go in to the galleries and partake in cheese and wine while talking with the owners and possibly the artists themselves. You’ll also find a lot of handmade goods for sale by local artists and Native American communities sold throughout the town.
Then there is Taliesin West which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year! The story behind this is that Frank Lloyd Wright came out to Arizona to the desert for inspiration in the late 1920’s and built it as his home and a winter school for his apprentices. It is still an architectural school to this day! He also kind of founded the artist community that he stumbled upon in the 1930’s that is still a running artist community and compound today. A lot of the artist’s work with the local Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalow, creating all their artwork in the rooms and doing interactive art classes such as watercolors that are all free for the guests who stay there.
Scottsdale is also home to six world class museums – two of them being Smithsonian affiliated museums. The first is the Spirit of the West Museum – a beautiful museum that focuses on the cowboy and Indian culture of the seventeen most western states and how we all got out west. And the second is the Musical Instrument Museum which came about ten years ago thanks to the CEO of Target who had looked all over for a great location to open this fantastic, interactive museum and settled on Scottsdale. Per Nicole it is one place she ALWAYS takes her guest to when they visit, and it is awfully hard to pull them out of there! They have a lot of interactive exhibits, offer behind the scenes tours and are home to a bone flute from around 200 AD that’s quite fascinating!
Gastronomy: If you are in search of a gastronomic adventure there are about 800 restaurants in Scottsdale proper – more per capita than Manhattan! Now obviously there’s a difference in population but still! What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a heck of a lot of food grown in Arizona and that they have chefs move there from New York and Chicago to embrace the local flavors and all the great things grown there to make a name for themselves. In fact, Nicole related that they are immensely proud of their local chefs and that last year Chef Charlene Badman was the James Beard award winner for the south and southwest! And for more social distancing opportunities there are lots of great patios to eat on! Food tours are available too for you foodies out there.
And there’s not just great food to be found here – Arizona is home to 70 vineyards – mainly located down south in Wilcox and up north in Cottonwood and Sedona. Yup – they can grow grapes in the desert – thanks to all that sunshine and great weather and reclaimed water! In Scottsdale you’ll find six of the larger Arizona vineyards/wineries have wine tasting rooms for you to try out those desert wines. There is also a company that does a walking wine tour and another one that does the tours on golf carts – telling you all about the history of wine making while you sip on wine! What a great idea for a bachelorette party (Nicole says they do host many of them thanks to this)!
Wellness: Wellness is also a huge component of travel to Scottsdale. Many of the resorts offer spas onsite and there are also a lot of stand-alone day spas bringing the total to more than 50 day, resort and health spas for you to choose from. There is definitely something very cleansing about the desert which is why you’ll see a lot of wellness groups hiking in the desert as well. The CIVANA Luxury Wellness Spa Retreat is a new property at the furthest northern point of Scottsdale offering all sorts of different styles of yoga classes as well as barre classes and more – and most of the classes are included in their experience fee (think resort fee)! How great would Scottsdale be for a corporate wellness offsite? Or for you wellness coaches – a perfect place to organize and lead your own retreat!
Accommodations: Home to more than 70 hotels and resorts with the beauty of that being that they are not skyscrapers – they are very well spread out (meaning social distancing friendly!) and of course are following all CDC guidelines and requirements to ensure their guests’ safety.
They also have smaller boutique properties with some being just eight room hideaways where if you so choose you can buy out the entire hotel to self-quarantine with your bubble! The Hermosa Inn which has 45 rooms was getting bought out for weddings prior to covid. Nicole advised us that this is one of her favorites and that it used to be an artist’s home – painter Lon Megargee back in the 1930s and when it was purchased by new owners they turned it into a bed and breakfast and it’s remained just that since the 1940’s. Domestic destination wedding anyone?
Types of Travelers: Great for families – especially those with younger children as it is a great living classroom experience – between the culture, history, and science of nature – as well as couples, honeymooners, babymooners, girls getaways, guy trips – ummm – it’s just great for everyone lets face it!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing Arizona is open to visitors!
Scottsdale – as you can see – or as Experience Scottsdale and Nicole refer to it – hot, dry and wild – is much more than just the desert! And it is a destination that was well known for many years as a golf and spa destination, but it is so much more! It is also a luxury destination, an adventure destination, an arts and culture destination, a gastronomic destination … you get the idea! And Nicole also made certain to mention that is a very hospitable city to visit as well. For my Texans – Arizona is not far drive! And my East coasters – you can do a direct flight or if you aren’t ready to fly yet – what a great cross-country drive destination trip!
For more details on things to see and do, where to stay in Scottsdale, it’s price and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!