How to Spend a Long Weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona (2024)

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Article written by: Rebecca
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Planning a weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona? Great idea! Here are my tips for making the most of a break in this great little city.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m planning a weekend away, I’m usually looking for somewhere with sunshine. And I’ve discovered a place with a lot of sunshine. More than 300 days of sunshine a year, to be precise.

Where is it? Scottsdale, Arizona.

Now, you may have heard that Scottsdale’s the place to go if you’re retired and love golf. Forget that. This city, part of Greater Phoenix, has so much to offer everyone of all ages: outdoor adventures, great food, relaxation and pampering, and art and culture.

We spent almost a week in Scottsdale and Phoenix, but here I’ve distilled the best of the best into a weekend in Scottsdale itinerary so you can start planning your own getaway. I discovered 3 days in Scottsdale really isn’t enough, but hopefully this guide will give you an idea of how to make the most of a weekend!

Pro tip: plan to fly in on Friday evening and out early on Monday morning to maximise your time in Scottsdale.

A sun-drenched desert landscape featuring a dirt path lined with an array of towering saguaro cacti and scattered desert foliage under a clear blue sky. This is the Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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Day 1: Check in

Head straight from the office to the airport and board a flight to Phoenix. When you arrive, rent a car – it’ll make your time in Scottsdale much easier.

As soon as you land, make a beeline for Scottsdale to check in to the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows.

The entrance of the Andaz hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, at dusk with modern architectural design, featuring sharp lines, wooden overhangs, and a sign bearing the hotel's name, flanked by tall palm trees against the twilight sky.

The check-in here process is slick – there’s no check-in desk, just a handful of staff milling about with their handheld tablets, ready to whisk you through the check-in process in minutes.

Oh, and offer you a complimentary beer or wine on arrival – yes, your weekend in Scottsdale is starting off right!

Stay close to the hotel this evening and grab a table on the patio of Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, the Andaz Scottsdale’s signature restaurant. The menu is inspired by fresh, local Arizona ingredients and changes regularly.

A close-up of a vibrant meal of fish tacos with colorful toppings like purple cabbage, mango salsa, and grilled avocado, served on a ceramic plate with a side of pickled onions. A hand is squeezing lime over the tacos.
Fish tacos at Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen

If you’re lucky, you’re dining as the sun’s going down. We had some spectacular sunsets from here during our stay, overlooking the glittering pool with the Camelback mountain range in the distance.

A luxurious poolside view at sunset with loungers and cabanas set against a backdrop of palm trees and a colorful sky reflecting the fading hues of the sun behind a mountain silhouette. This is the pool at the Andaz Scottsdale hotel.

Day 2: Hiking, architecture and the arts


On any weekend getaway, there’s bound to be some indulgence (in fact, I encourage it!), so make sure you prep your body for what’s to come by starting off with a hike in the desert.

At more than 30,000 acres, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the largest urban preserve in the United States. Even though it’s hot here, hiking and outdoor activities are one of the most popular things to do in Scottsdale, and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve has plenty of hiking options for all levels of fitness.

  • The Gateway Loop Trail – one of the Preserve’s most popular trails, this 4.5-mile (7.2 kilometres) loop trail has great views
  • Marcus Landslide – an easy 3.7-mile (6 kilometres) loop trail with some interesting boulders to check out
  • Granite Mountain Loop Trail – hike through boulders and stunning views on this 6.1-mile (9.8 kilometres) trail of moderate difficulty

Whichever hike you choose, you’ll see plenty of saguaro cacti – it’s like you’re in your own Western movie! This cactus variety is only found in the Sonoran Desert, can live to 150 to 200 years old and is the largest cactus in the country.

A hilly Sonoran Desert scene showing a mixture of cacti, including a prominent saguaro, with a bright sun illuminating the green foliage and the rugged terrain. One of the best things to do on a weekend in Scottsdale is a morning hike.

You may also spot coyotes, roadrunners, javelinas and jackrabbits in the Sonoran McDowell Preserve. A friend even saw a desert tortoise, which I never knew existed!

If you want to really push yourself, hike iconic Camelback Mountain. There are two short trails, both of which are classed as difficult and are only recommended for experienced hikers. This is serious stuff, so don’t attempt this if you’re not fit. Unprepared, inexperienced hikers are regularly evacuated from the summit by helicopter.

Not up for pushing yourself too hard? Try this e-Bike and Hike Tour of Camelback Mountain!

If you’re visiting Scottsdale in summer, as I did, plan to hike early in the morning – the temperature can hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degress Celsius) by 8am. Take plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat.

You can do any of these hikes alone, but if hiking in the desert makes you a little nervous, then join a group guided hike.

Late morning

If a Bloody Mary is your drink of choice, then your eyes will pop when you stop off to refuel with brunch at Hash Kitchen. This popular spot has more than 50 items in its build-your-own-Bloody-Mary bar – I’m talking bacon, olives, cheese, eggs. I’ve never seen anything like it before.

But be responsible and team that Bloody Mary with something edible to line your stomach. Whatever you choose, make sure to end brunch with the fried-to-order cannoli donuts.

A dessert display of three spiral-shaped pastries filled with cream and dusted with powdered sugar, presented on a wooden cutting board garnished with fresh mint leaves.

After brunch, head out to Taliesen West, the former winter home of architecture great Frank Lloyd Wright.

This UNESCO World Heritage site and National Historic Landmark was (and still is) Wright’s architecture school. On a 90-minute In-Depth Guided Tour (one of the most popular Scottsdale attractions – reserve your spot on the tour well ahead of time), you’ll learn more about the man himself, including that he had no formal education in architecture, something I never knew.

You’ll also explore Taliesen West’s close link to nature and see for yourself how it was built in harmony with its surroundings, a philosophy that echoes across all of Wright’s designs.

An indoor wall inscription quoting Lao Tse, "The reality of the building does not consist in the roof and walls but in the space within to be lived in," written in elegant, script font. One of the best Scottsdale attractions is Taliesen West.
A well-manicured outdoor setting with a rectangular swimming pool, green lawns, and desert landscaping, featuring a view of a distinctive red-roofed building with large windows. This is Taliesen West, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's stunning buildings.
A red-roofed building, seen from across the swimming pool, highlighting the stone steps leading up to the glass doors and a striking boulder at the entrance. This is Taliesen West, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's stunning buildings.

As a side note, if you’re an architecture fan, make plans to check out Cosanti, the gallery and studio (and former residence) of the late Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri. It’s one of the secret things to do in Scottsdale – not many people know about this place.

Soleri constructed the earth houses here himself, many of which are partially underground, providing year-round insulation. Stroll through the myriad doorways and secret paths for a glimpse of still-running workshops and buildings that blend into their surroundings.

Tours are offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9.15am and 11.15am.

A semi-circular adobe structure with petroglyph-style engravings depicting various anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, with small openings allowing light to pass through. This is Cosanti, one of the most interesting things to do in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Cosanti in Scottsdale – one of the things to do in Scottsdale that not many visitors know about!


Head over to Old Town Scottsdale for the afternoon. Stop for lunch at Hula’s Modern Tiki, which whips up Polynesian fusion dishes. The menu is huge, but you can’t go wrong with the macadamia-encrusted mahi, smothered with a mango-papaya sauce.

A bustling street view in Scottsdale showcasing an array of quaint shops and restaurants, with red wooden facades and a rustic charm, under a clear blue sky adorned with string lights.

There’s plenty to keep you occupied in Old Town Scottsdale for an afternoon. Depending on your interests, here are a few things I recommend to check out:

  • Sip Arizonan wine along the Scottsdale Wine Trail. I only recently discovered that Arizona has a wine industry while on a weekend in Sedona. Download the map and stop in at a few (or all) of the five tasting rooms along the trail.
  • If beer is more your thing, you’re covered: there’s also an Ale Trail that highlights the great breweries in the area.
  • Get interactive at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). This impactful museum features one of only a handful of “Skyspaces” by the artist James Turrell, who’s known for his work with light and space (I was lucky enough to see one of his installations in a remote part of north Argentina).
  • Stop by Sugar Bowl for an ice cream sundae. This old-fashioned ice cream parlor is inside a (very Instagrammable!) bright pink building, so you can’t miss it!
  • Eat your way through Scottsdale’s Old Town on this 3-hour walking tour, which stops at some the of the area’s best restaurants.
Exhibition at SMoCA


Have an early dinner at The Mission, a Scottsdale favourite. Avocados are king here, so start with an order of the guacamole. The staff whip up a fresh bowl of guac right at your table.

The Mission is also known for its avocado margarita (I had the regular margarita, which was delicious, but friends of mine loved the avocado version!). If you’ve only got 3 days in Scottsdale, then you’ve only got 9 meals. The Mission should definitely be on your eating list for one of those meals.

An attentive waitress preparing tableside guacamole in a warm, dimly-lit restaurant with a rustic aesthetic, complete with chandeliers and a full bar in the background.
Fresh guacamole made right at our table at The Mission

Check out this guide for more delicious places to eat in Scottsdale.

Day 3: The desert from above and relaxation


Today, you’re getting up early. Really early. Like, alarm-going-off-at-3-am-early.

I know there haven’t been any sleep-ins on this weekend in Scottsdale itinerary, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. The desert is stunning in the morning.

You’re up early to see the desert from above, on a hot air balloon ride with Hot Air Expeditions. It’s rather spectacular to see the sun rise over this barren landscape, watching the shadows creep over the mountains, and looking for wildlife scampering about far below.

Bonus: there’s a champagne breakfast at the end!

The boarding location is a half-hour drive from Scottsdale, and transfers can be arranged.

A vibrant and colorful close-up inside view of a hot air balloon, showing the intricate weave of the balloon's fabric in bright shades of blue, red, orange, and green.
A serene early morning view of a hot air balloon adorned with a cactus design floating in the sky, with a landscape of mountains and the rising sun in the background. One of the best things to do on a weekend in Scottsdale is an early-morning hot air balloon ride.

You should be pretty well satiated after the breakfast provided by Hot Air Expeditions, but you may have also been eyeing off that Nutella French toast on Weft & Warp’s brunch menu. Go on, go ahead and enjoy it.

After that early wake up, take some time to relax at one of the more than 50 spas in Scottsdale – that calculates to about three per square mile!

I highly recommend the Prickly Pear Wrap treatment at Andaz’s Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary. The prickly pear seed has oils that are rich in essential fatty acids perfect for protecting and nourishing the skin. The treatment will see you scrubbed, wrapped and smothered in products made from prickly pear. This was 90 minutes that I never wanted to end.

A tranquil spa lounge room with neutral tones, displaying wall art of agave plants, comfortable reclining chairs, and neatly stacked towels, inviting relaxation. Scottsdale has more than 50 spas!


Fully pampered, head into Scottsdale for lunch at waterfront Olive and Ivy Restaurant + Marketplace.

This Mediterranean-inspired restaurant is always buzzing, no matter the time of day. Share a mix of the bruschetta, or one of the huge salads or flatbreads.

An alternative option is Diego Pops for some fun Mexican. The California burrito is messy and delicious, and the fried plantains are sticky and sweet. Great margaritas, too!

A humorous marquee sign that reads "Seven days without a taco makes one weak," set against a dark backdrop with a single orange balloon.

After lunch, explore Wonderspaces. The first permanent location of the popular art pop-up is inside Scottsdale Fashion Square. Even if you’re not a huge fan of museums, you’ll probably enjoy the diverse, interactive and immersive exhibits at Wonderspaces.

Exhibits change regularly, but when we were there, we found ourselves “painting” artwork by dancing and moving, exploring a UFO abduction through virtual reality, and submerging ourselves in a beautiful landscape of more than 8,000 coloured lights.

An art installation of a heart made from suspended red and clear crystals creating a floating, three-dimensional shape, displayed in a gallery with controlled lighting to accentuate its form.
An immersive art exhibit with hundreds of blue LED lights suspended from above, creating a starry-night effect, while visitors walk through the captivating display that resembles a galaxy. There are lots of great art galleries and immersive exhibits in Scottsdale, Arizona.

You can’t visit Scottsdale without some pool time, so for the rest of the afternoon, lounge by the Andaz Scottsdale’s pool – you’ve deserved it. Reserve a private cabana in advance so that you can alternate between reclining in the shade and sipping a cocktail in the pool.

A daytime view of a resort pool lined with lounge chairs and tall palm trees, with mountains in the backdrop, under a partly cloudy sky, reflecting a relaxed and luxurious atmosphere. This is the amazing pool area at Andaz Scottsdale, one of the top hotels in Scottsdale.

Later on, book a table at Postino for a relaxed dinner. Share a few of the restaurant’s so-called “snacky things” (the skewers are divine) or keep it simple with a charcuterie board and glass of wine.

The next morning, fly out and start planning another weekend in Scottsdale!

Scottsdale weekend getaway guide

Where to stay in Scottsdale

Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows

I stayed at the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows. All 185 guest rooms are private bungalows and each has a private patio (some larger than others). It was lovely to sit out on the patio each morning as the sun came up. The rooms have a minimalist design, and large, comfortable beds.

The Andaz’s resort-style pool area is a huge draw, and is usually buzzing on the weekend. When I stayed, there was a mix of families enjoying a splash in the pool, as well as groups of friends sipping cocktails, so the hotel really is for everyone.

The hotel even has a Tesla that will take you anywhere you want to go within five miles of the hotel. Doesn’t sound far, but it’s plenty because the Andaz is located close to all the top Scottsdale attractions.

The outside of a white bungalow at the Andaz Scottsdale hotel, showcasing large agave plants and a variety of cacti in a desert landscaped garden, with the clean lines of the bungalow's white exterior and wooden door in view.
The bungalows at the Andaz Scottsdale

And if you can’t leave your furry friend behind on your weekend in Scottsdale, no problem – the Andaz Scottsdale is pet-friendly (with a fee). Our little guy Diego got his daily dose of cuddles from the friendly staff across the resort!

Check the latest rates and book a weekend in Scottsdale online now on or Expedia.

The Phoenician

We spent an evening at The Phoenician, a luxury hotel. Across the sprawling property there are plenty of rooms to choose from, and a huge pool complex – I could definitely see myself relaxing there!

The Phoenician has eight options for dining, so you’ll never run out of choices for food on a weekend in Scottsdale.

Check rates for The Phoenician online.

A night view of a resort pool illuminated with teal lights, with the glow of the pool lighting up the surrounding palm trees and loungers, creating a serene and inviting outdoor evening setting. This is one of the pools at The Phoenician hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Views over The Phoenician

Scottsdale vacation rentals

If you’re travelling with a group of friends or family, a vacation rental might be a great choice. And there are some absolute stunning properties in Scottsdale! Check out VRBO for options.

What to pack for a weekend in Scottsdale

Here are a few essentials to pack for your weekend in Scottsdale:

  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! You can never have enough sunscreen in Scottsdale. This Sun Bum brand is great
  • Reusable water bottle to stay hydrated in that dry desert heat
  • Sunglasses – the glare is real
  • Moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated in the dry desert air. This one is my favourite – it smells divine
  • Swimwear for those lazy afternoons by the pool. I like the gorgeous and affordable swimsuits from Cupshe

How to get to Scottsdale

Scottsdale is only a 20-minute drive from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport (PHX), which receives more than 1,200 flights daily, including international arrivals.

I recommend renting a car to get around Scottsdale. There’s Uber, of course, but if you want to be flexible, a car is your best bet. I always check the vehicles and prices at Discover Cars.

When to visit Scottsdale

Scottsdale is a year-round destination.

If you visit Scottsdale in summer, you’ll no doubt complain about the heat. Probably multiple times. And every time a local will say “but it’s a dry heat”. Dry heat, wet heat, it doesn’t matter: as soon as you step outside you’ll feel like a turkey roasting in an oven on Thanksgiving.

So why would you visit Scottsdale in the summer? Because you can get crazy discounts! Resorts offer up to 60 percent off and every resort has an incredible pool to cool down in.

Everything I’ve outlined in this weekend in Scottsdale itinerary I did myself in the soaring heat of summer – and really enjoyed it.

If that’s just too hot for you, then in spring and autumn you’ll find milder temperatures of between 47 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) and 87 F (31 C). These two seasons are a great time to explore Scottsdale’s outdoor activities.

Even in winter, Scottsdale’s temperature hovers between 40 F (4 C) and 70 F (21 C) – still perfect for outdoor adventures.

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Have I got you planning a weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona? Drop any questions you have in the comments below!

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Before you go… Looking for more USA travel inspiration? You might like these articles!


  • Book flights to and around the USA online with Skyscanner. I like this site because it shows me which dates are cheaper.
  • Find a great hotel in the USA. Check prices on and Expedia online.
  • Check out the huge range of day tours throughout the USA on GetYourGuide or Viator. There’s something for everyone.
  • A copy of the Lonely Planet guide to the USA will be handy.
  • One thing I always purchase is travel insurance! Travel Insurance Master allows you to compare across multiple policy providers, while SafetyWing is great for long-term travellers and digital nomads.


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I'm a travel junkie who started dreaming about seeing the world from a very young age. I've visited more than 40 countries and have a Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. A former expat, I've lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the United States. I share travel resources, tips and stories based on my personal experiences, and my goal is to make travel planning just that bit easier.

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