- Where to Go
- The Best of the Valley of the Sun
- Wild West Adventure
- Let Scottsdale Rock Your World
- Finding Water in the Sonoran Desert
- Spring Training
- Arizona Family Road Trip
- Phoenix Points of Pride
- Southwestern Culture and Heritage
- Nocturnal Scottsdale
- Exploring Phoenix’s Architecture
- Unexpected Arizona
- Desert Chic
- Chilly Drinks and Cool Eats in Scottsdale
Brilliant light, rugged mountains, sculptural plant life—few landscapes create such an evocative setting, but the Sonoran Desert also has a luxurious, cosmopolitan side, which lures pleasure-seekers and stressed-out vacationers to its resorts, golf courses, and award-winning restaurants and five-star spas. Sip prickly pear margaritas amid the boulders and adobe villas of Scottsdale before retreating north to Sedona’s red rocks.
Arrive at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and head to Papago Park to get your bearings of this sprawling city. The park’s rounded, red-rock formation is an easy ascent, and its views of the desert metropolis are well worth the little bit of effort. Visit the park’s Desert Botanical Garden to learn about spiny cacti, green-bark palo verde trees, and colorful wildflowers.
Afterward, head north on Scottsdale Road to see these indigenous plants in their native environment at the Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North, a desert sanctuary inspired by old adobe villas and nestled into the foothills of Pinnacle Peak. Relax on the veranda overlooking the Valley of the Sun and enjoy—literally—the fruits of the desert in a delicious prickly pear margarita. Have dinner at one of the resort’s restaurants, or order room service for a romantic meal on your private balcony.
Wake up early to experience the desert at sunrise. Consider a leisurely hike up Pinnacle Peak or a round of golf at Troon North Golf Club, one of the Valley’s best championship desert courses. Have lunch at Chloe’s Corner, and reward your efforts and soothe any aching muscles at one of Scottsdale’s deluxe spas, like the canyon-inspired Willow Stream Spa or the renowned Golden Door Spa, which is set against the Boulders Resort’s namesake rock formation and features treatments rooted in Native American traditions. The spa also offers rock-climbing clinics for the more adventurous.
Once you’re feeling relaxed, head over to Kierland Commons, an outdoor shopping center in North Scottsdale, to browse for gifts or to find a cozy restaurant for dinner.
Spend the morning shopping at Scottsdale Fashion Square and SouthBridge in downtown Scottsdale. Grab brunch at Arcadia Farms, a charming cottage that serves fresh sandwiches, soups, and salads. Afterward, drive across Scottsdale Road to Old Town for more shopping.
You can also get a dose of historical and modern culture at the Old Adobe Mission and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, which is highlighted by Skyspace, an exhibition by installation artist James Turrell that ingeniously frames Arizona’s changing sky.
If you’re hungry for more art, downtown’s galleries are among the finest in the country, showcasing edgy modern pieces along with traditional Southwestern art. You’re in the heart of Scottsdale’s dining and nightlife scene, so spend your evening sampling the city’s numerous options, such as Roaring Fork and Olive & Ivy.
Horseback ride this morning through the desert and mountain passes of Tonto National Forest with Spur Cross Stables. Customize your horseback adventure or select one of several themed options. Afterward, enjoy lunch at Zinc Bistro and perhaps a quick siesta. Re-energized, drive south on Scottsdale Road to Paradise Valley, where Paolo Soleri’s quirky Cosanti bell foundry and artist community reveals the architect’s theories on environmentally responsible design.
As evening approaches, enjoy a handcrafted cocktail at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa’s stylish Jade Bar, where you can catch Mummy Mountain bathed in a desert sunset. Enjoy a Western-inspired dinner at the historic Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn or go modern at the sleek Bourbon Steak.
Even the quintessentially American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was seduced by the desert. Tour his winter home, Taliesin West, a stone, sand, and glass masterpiece that incorporates indigenous materials and blends indoor and outdoor spaces. Afterward, get a brief introduction to Native American art, culture, and design at the Heard Museum North, an intimate branch of the respected Indian museum in downtown Phoenix.
Have lunch at the charming El Encanto, then drive north to the high desert of Sedona, where massive red-rock buttes reveal Arizona’s rich geological diversity. Once you get into town, head west on Highway 89A to Boynton Canyon, where the hacienda-inspired Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo spa are enveloped by the canyon’s soaring cliff walls. You may never want to leave, though you should for dinner at El Portal Sedona.
This morning, survey the red-rock buttes from the sky while floating in a hot-air balloon over Sedona, giving a bit of perspective of the vast scale of the region’s rocky formations. Once you descend and enjoy the complimentary champagne breakfast, be sure to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, where a local artist and Frank Lloyd Wright’s son created a stunning church that seems to emerge from its red-rock foundations.
Have breakfast at Secret Garden Café at Tlaquepaque, and spend the morning perusing the shops in Uptown or the artists’ studios on Gallery Row, where you may find a piece of colorful pottery or a handmade Navajo rug to take home. Enjoy a picnic lunch at Sedona Memories, and drive back to Phoenix to catch a late flight home.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition