Looking for an uncomplicated and unconventional road trip this year? Consider Scottsdale, Arizona. The journey from Los Angeles is a snap, there’s lots to do, and the food won’t disappoint. In short, it’s the perfect drivable destination for Angelenos looking to change things up.
Known for its golf courses, spa resorts and stunning desert trails, Scottsdale is a quintessential vacation spot. But this desert city has a whole lot more to offer than pool time and tee times. There is a thriving wine scene, superb restaurants and exceptional hotels. For art enthusiasts, the city is dense with culturally significant artist communities, historical architecture built by icons such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Paolo Soleri, plus numerous publicly funded community art works and projects.
To get you started on your exploration of Scottsdale we’ve put together a three-part guide to fill you in on all the sights and bites. In this section, we’ll cover the best times to visit, plus a few exceptional lodging options. In part two, we’ll dive into the best things to do in Scottsdale. Lastly, part three will provide a list of great places to eat.
So fill that tank, grab a friend, and pack your overnight bag. The southwest is calling.
When is the Best Time to Go to Scottsdale?
Peak season to visit Scottsdale is from January to April. Highs temperatures average in the low 70s to low 80s during this period, making it both the most desirable and most expensive time to visit. If golfing, hiking and other outdoor activities (like MLB Spring Training) are on your agenda, this is probably your ideal window to be in town.
From May to June, the area experiences a dry summer where temperatures often spike into the triple digits during the day. This dry period is followed by the “wet summer” from July to mid- September. The daytime temps stay up, but the air is more humid, with afternoons cooling off and sometimes inviting thunderstorms via air drawn up from the Gulf of Mexico.
If you wish to avoid the high temperatures and humidity, consider visiting during the winter season, when temperatures are mild and nights are brisk. Fall temperatures are in the high 80s — still pleasantly warm, but the city boasts clear skies and crisp evenings.
My road trip to Scottsdale took place during mid-May, and for what it’s worth I experienced both sides of the weather coin. On the first half of my trip in I was in pleasant 80-degree weather teetering into the 90s at times, which was enjoyable when exploring the city and taking a morning hike at the Sonoran Preserve. The last two days the mercury leaped up to 105. I spent most of my daytime indoors at attractions like The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Scottsdale Fashion Square.
Regardless of when you choose to visit Scottsdale there are going to be some tradeoffs. The benefit of traveling in the off-season is scoring a big discount on extraordinary hotels. The downside? It’s HOT!
Also here’s one final pro-tip: Whenever someone offers you a bottle of water, always take it! Hydration is key.
The drive to Scottsdale is a 5.5-hour (sans traffic) straight shot on the 10 freeway. You’ll pass through the San Gabriel Valley, Riverside and Palm Springs. Ultimately Blythe will be the last California city you’ll see before entering Ehrenberg, Arizona.
There’s a certain stark, minimalist appeal to the landscape along the way. You might just call it barren. For me the real highlight was when I started seeing majestic brick red mountains and towering saguaro cacti that line the Sonoran desert. It’s said it takes about 10 years for a saguaro to reach even 1 inch in height, and it isn’t until around 70 years of age when the plant will reach over 6 feet tall and finally begin producing its first flowers. On my drive, and all during my stay in Arizona, I routinely saw 10 to 20-footers. It inspires a certain kind of awe, I think.
One note: Be sure to stop for coffee and gas up in Palm Springs because there isn’t much in the way of gas or food once you keep driving east, or at least not in between Indio and Blythe.
Where Should You Stay?
Hotel Valley Ho
Standard room: $300+ for peak season & $150+ for offseason
Hotel Valley Ho, located in Downtown Scottsdale, was originally designed by Edward L. Varney in 1956. Recently restored back to its glory days by Westroc Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Valley Ho has been described by famed author and architect Alan Hess as “one of the best-preserved mid-century modern hotels in the country.” The 241 rooms on the property include swanky suites located in The Tower, a Presidential Loft Suite and funky boutique rooms. I stayed in one of the Tower Suites equipped with a full kitchen, walk-in closet, a washer/dryer, living room and a private balcony. The total mid-century immersion had me getting in touch with my inner Don Draper. Aside from a hip vibe, the resort has everything vacationers need: a spa, multiple pools, top notch room service, and a seasonal American restaurant and bar located on the property. One tip: Be sure to stop by the concierge desk where resident historian Ace Bailey can tell you all about the history of the hotel and its strenuous redesign, alongside interesting tidbits on how old Hollywood spent their time at the hotel. –> More information
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa
Standard room: $379+ for peak season & $194+ for offseason
Occupying 23 acres of desert landscape, the Andaz Scottsdale is a mid-century modern beauty paying homage to the local art scene that inhabited the surrounding area long before the hotel’s conception. At every turn guests are introduced to artwork from Cattle Track, a historic art community that has a residency at the resort. You’ll find artists on the grounds making pottery, painting and creating. On occasion, the hotel also hosts workshops with the artists. The theme continues when you set foot in one of the bungalow style rooms, where you’ll see a mix of mid-century and local art. On premises activities include dining at Weft & Warp Bar + Kitchen, taking a dip in the three picturesque pools, and relaxing at the Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary. –> More information
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Standard room: $414+ for peak season & $153+ for offseason
Interested in a calm and serene stay while in Arizona? Minimalist modern luxury resort Mountain Shadows, located in the heart of Paradise Valley, is just a short drive from Scottsdale. Tucked away in the shadow (literally) of Camelback Mountain, the highly stylized resort was originally built in 1959 and has recently reemerged as a luxury resort featuring 183 guests rooms, 42 condominiums and suites, a restaurant, two pools and an 18-hole golf course. The amenities and the stunning backdrop will make it hard to leave the premises while on your trip. –> More information
Standard room: $180+ for peak season & $92+ for offseason
Located in Old Town, The Saguaro is central to everything you’ll want to see while in Scottsdale. A short walk from the hotel, you’ll find the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, hip restaurants, shopping, art galleries, Arizona wine tasting rooms and popular bars. The rooms are hip, colorful and a notch up from your standard chain hotel, but with competitive pricing, making The Saguaro one of the more affordable places to stay in Scottsdale. –> More information
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch
Standard room: $432+ for peak season & $170+ for offseason
Looking for a family-friendly hotel option? The Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch is the perfect choice. The 27-acre property features a waterpark, indoor rock climbing and even something called Camp Hyatt offered daily for parents looking for a parental break. Kids don’t have all the fun at this resort — there’s also a great golf course, live concerts during certain seasons, an in-house spa, ten pools with waterfalls and even a gondola where classically trained singers serenade guests as they head to several restaurants located on the grounds of the Hyatt. –> More information
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain
Standard room: $483+ for peak season & $190+ for offseason
Looking for an ultra-sophisticated getaway? Look no further than Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, an award-winning resort on 53 private acres housing casitas, suites and private estate homes, each with breathtaking views. Located in Paradise Valley, the luxury resort is also home to elements, Food Network star Chef Beau MacMillian’s restaurant. –> More information
Next up: Things to do in Scottsdale
Visit www.experiencescottsdale.com for more information on Scottsdale Arizona.