With more than 330 days of sunshine each year, Scottsdale is a perfect getaway during the dreary winter months. The city is so much more than the golf and spa destination it’s best known for. Anyone wanting to be outside has the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, with almost 31,000 acres, more than 195 miles of shared-use trails and 36 designated climbing areas. During Cactus League spring training, fans cheer on three Major League Baseball teams that play there: the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. If the rugged outdoors don’t appeal to you, Scottsdale’s vibrant downtown has loads of upscale shopping, a walkable waterfront, a public art program with exhibitions and events, and the art galleries and one-of-a-kind boutiques in charming Old Town. The destination has much to offer with its thriving local restaurant scene — including an abundance of Arizona wines and craft beers — while also retaining that laid-back resort vibe that first attracted snowbirds seeking a warmer climate.
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows
This mini-sanctuary, one of just four Andaz resorts, feels miles away thanks to its open spaces, winding paths and series of one-story buildings spread across 23 acres. Casita-style guestrooms have terraces, pale tones mixed with bright local artwork, and spacious bathrooms with walk-in showers and oversized towels. With Camelback Mountain as a backdrop, the delicious Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, three pools and a spa, you won’t want to leave. But if you must, the Andaz is a quick drive to almost anywhere in the city.6114 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, scottsdale.andaz.hyatt.com.
Hotel Valley Ho
A short walk from Old Town, this historic, urban resort’s retro-chic details — vintage furniture, bright colors, clean lines — reflect its 1950s roots and combine the best of midcentury design with modern comfort. Guest rooms have private balconies or patios, pillow-top beds, gourmet minibars and roomy terrazzo tile bathrooms with organic Red Flower products. Seasonal American cuisine, including brunch, is dished up at ZuZu. Two pools — the OH Pool with cabanas and cocktails and the serene OHasis Pool — complete the hip hotel. 6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale, hotelvalleyho.com.
Charleen Badman, named 2019's best chef in the Southwest by the James Beard Foundation, takes farm-to-table to new heights with her ability to create unfussy yet boldly flavored dishes from local produce. The seasonal menu gets tweaked based on what’s currently available at market, like a recent bounty of peaches that became heavenly peach custard pies. To complement the food, sommelier and co-owner Pavle Milic has curated a list of the best Arizona wines.7125 E. Fifth Ave., Suite 31, Scottsdale, fnbrestaurant.com.
Chef Matt Carter cooks scrumptious modern Latin cuisine that blends Spanish, Mexican, and South and Central American influences. Start off with a signature blood orange or aguacate margarita and guacamole made to order tableside before choosing among tacos like pork shoulder, mahi-mahi or butternut squash that arrive in light, hand-pressed tortillas. Enjoy everything fireside in the cozy outdoor area when the weather’s right. 3815 N. Brown Ave., Scottsdale, themissionaz.com.
Regional Italian classics get a contemporary twist at this smart establishment also helmed by chef Matt Carter. To start, the veal meatballs are delicious and perfect to share. Housemade pastas include classic and seasonal dishes like Rosso Crest di Gallo made with red wine and duck sausage. Enlist the sommelier to choose something from the global wine list, naturally heavy on Italian vintages, to balance your wild seafood or prime steaks from Meats by Linz. 6316 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, ilovefatox.com.
With a bright blue espresso machine and soothing atmosphere, this locally owned coffee shop is the perfect spot to start the morning. They even offer almond, oat or macadamia milk to accompany their delicious espressos and teas. Among the limited yet tasty menu items, the smashed avocado toast with lemon, flaky sea salt and red pepper flakes deserves being named the best in town by Phoenix New Times. 7100 E. Fifth Ave., Suite I, Scottsdale, berdenas.com.
LDV Wine Gallery
Arizona wines are an easily acquired taste, and fortunately the couple that owns LDV Winery, located about three hours away in southeastern Arizona, operates a comfy tasting room in Old Town. They are often behind the bar happily pouring and chatting with visitors about their award-winning, handcrafted, Rhône-varietal wines. Afterward, savor a glass or two on the pleasant patio. 7134 E. Stetson Drive, Suite 100, Scottsdale, ldvwinery.com.
Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale
This inviting tasting room also brings a bit of the vineyard to Scottsdale and showcases the northern Arizona wineries Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards. If affable manager Jim Cunningham recommends starting with the Chupacabra Bubbles before selecting from the menu of almost 20 wines, do it. Most produce on the tapas menu comes from the vineyards’ greenhouses, making a visit to Merkin a real Arizona experience. 7133 E. Stetson Drive, Suite 4, Scottsdale, merkinoldtownscottsdale.com.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous winter home and studio is a must-see. The iconic architect and his apprentices literally built this sprawling masterpiece by hand with rocks found on the property. Guides share details and anecdotes about the property and his life as they take visitors on a tour that includes stops in his private quarters, drafting room and outdoor pavilions. Reservations are highly recommended for this UNESCO World Heritage site. 12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale, franklloydwright.org.
You can’t mention Scottsdale without including golf. Well known as a premier destination, the area has more than 200 courses to satisfy the demand for tee times. Among the top choices are the new Phoenician, a cohesive 18-hole course with a natural rhythm and flow — and no surprise bunkers or blind hazards — and Troon North Golf Club’s two 18-hole courses that stretch through the foothills of the Sonoran Desert for the ultimate golf experience. experiencescottsdale.com/golf.
The Phoenician Spa
The Phoenician Spa, housed in a new three-story building at the luxury resort, has it all — 24 treatment rooms, a tranquil relaxation room, fitness classes and a Drybar. The luxurious Gem Stone Healing Facial uses six different crystals during an 80-minute vegan treatment and leaves your spirit as renewed as your skin. Afterward, lounge at the rooftop saltwater pool and soak in 360-degree views of the resort. 6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale,thephoenician.com/spa.
Hot Air Expeditions
The Sonoran Desert is beautiful at ground level, but it is absolutely amazing when seen from a hot air balloon. The experienced team at Hot Air Expeditions offers morning and afternoon trips that go up to 3,000 feet for breathtaking views of the valley and mountains and low enough to spot local plant and animal life. Once back on earth, this bucket-list experience ends with Champagne and gourmet fare among the cacti. 2243 E. Rose Garden Loop, Suite 1, Phoenix, hotairexpeditions.com.
Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West
Scottsdale’s tagline, "The West’s Most Western Town," is on full display here. The stunning contemporary building holds rotating exhibitions of artwork, memorabilia and rare artifacts on loan from some of the world's foremost collectors and institutions, a quiet sculpture courtyard, and an impressive array of saddles, guns and rodeo gear. This trip back in time is steps away from Old Town shops. 3830 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale,scottsdalemuseumwest.org.
Photographs courtesy of Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa, Experience Scottsdale, Fat Ox, Hot Air Expeditions, LDV Winery, The Mission, The Phoenician, Ryan Cardwell, Brian Oar, An Pham and Bill Timmerman for Studio Ma Architect