Scottsdale, Arizona Travel Guide

Scottsdale, Arizona Travel Guide

Arizona was always high on my bucket list of states to visit. I wanted to travel out west, see nature, experience the dry heat… I never knew what to expect. In my head, I thought all Arizona had to offer was cacti and the Grand Canyon. I didn’t know how easily I would fall in love with this beautiful state, and particularly, Scottsdale. 

My Trip

There is no right way to do Arizona, but this was my attempt at seeing as much as I could in the three full days I had. I flew in late on Monday evening and flew out mid-day Friday, so I had Tuesday through Thursday to explore. My friend’s grandparents were gracious enough to host me in their home in Chandler (approximately 30 minutes from Scottsdale).

Check the section below “Where to Stay in Scottsdale” for my suggestions of where to stay if you want to be closer to the action in Scottsdale.

I spent all of Tuesday exploring Scottsdale in the morning and Phoenix in the afternoon. On Wednesday, my friend Patricia and I drove three hours to Sedona. Lastly, on Thursday, we went shopping and hung out by the pool, but it would have been a great day to do some more hiking or see more of Phoenix.

Over the three days, Scottsdale really did capture my heart. I cannot wait to head back!

Having lunch in Old Town Scottsdale

Where to Stay in Scottsdale

Scottsdale is known for its spa hotels – these hotels feature great accommodations and unbelievable day spas with thousands of treatments. Some that I can recommend include the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, and The Phoenician or the Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain.

More boutique-style hotels are also a great choice in Scottsdale. Many are located near Old Town, right in the center of everything. The Saguaro is a fabulous choice!

Things to Do in Scottsdale:

Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale is where you can find cute little local galleries and jewelry stores. Scottsdale is a great place to buy turquoise or Native American jewelry, all produced locally. There are some amazing boutiques that also sell local brands and products! Old Town is also where you can find the best restaurants in Scottsdale.

In Old Town Scottsdale, by the Waterfront

Desert Botanical Garden

I’m from Chicago, where we have one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the USA. However, you can’t find many (if any) cactus’s there. Since I was already in Arizona, I wanted to see as many cacti as possible… so we headed to the Desert Botanical Garden. I did not do my research prior, so I was surprised to find out there was a fee. Just an FYI, students and seniors get discounts!


I didn’t get to hike as much in Scottsdale and I wish I had. There are several mountains and trails to choose from, but make sure to do your research and decide if you are advanced enough for some of these trails. 

Hole in The Rock

Hole in the Rock is an easier trail. Actually, I did hike this trail, in loafer type shoes (see picture below). While it wasn’t a challenge, I did wish I had better shoes on. And I 100% had blisters the next day! This hike is located right next to the Desert Botanical Gardens and Phoenix Zoo, within Papago Park. It took me about 10-15 minutes each way and the view was 100% worth it! Be sure to bring your camera!

At the top of Hole in the Rock (in the shoes I hiked in!)

Tom’s Thumb and Camelback Mountain

Some other easier hikes I had originally planned to do were Tom’s Thumb and Camelback Mountain. However, I quickly discovered Camelback Mountain was not going to be a doable hike in loafers, so I decided to save it for my next trip.

Other Things to Do

There are many adventures to choose from in Scottsdale including hot air balloon rides, visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin West, and several day trips that you could take. My number 1 suggestion? Take a day trip to Sedona!.

Food +Drink in Scottsdale

Scottsdale is a foodie’s heaven. With lots of Mexican influence, and many local options to choose from, its quite literally impossible to not be impressed by the food here!

Diego Pops is a delicious Mexican restaurant that is included in every guide to Scottsdale! Located in Old Town, it did not disappoint. For lunch, I sat on the patio and enjoyed the beautiful dry heat. I ordered a delicious, fried cod taco bowl and loved it! However, the best thing on their menu was the brussel sprout nachos! For dessert, I stopped by Super Chunk Sweets & Treats, right around the corner from Diego Pops. The salted brownie and snickerdoodle cookie were both so soft and gooey!

Brussel Sprout Nachos at Diego Pops

Other restaurants that I recommend include Barrio Queen, Original ChopShop (which has several locations) and Clever Koi (in Phoenix).  Olive & Ivy is a foodie favorite, as is Fat Ox, The Mission, and SumoMaya!

Fun bars and nightclubs are also located in Old Town. Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, The District, and Cien Agave are all places on my to-do list for my next trip! For a more chill vibe, Postino Wine Cafe features an extensive wine menu, and they serve charcuterie and cheese as well!

All in all, Scottsdale is a must visit. Whether your a nature-lover, hiker extraordinaire, spa aficionado, or just a traveler looking to explore somewhere new, Scottsdale will welcome you with open arms!

Have you been to Scottsdale? What were your favorite places you visited while there? Any food recommendations? Let me know in the comments below!

36 Hours in Scottsdale Arizona



  1. Trisha
    January 8, 2019 / 10:59 pm

    After going to Arizona for so many years to visit family I still never knew there were so many new things to do! I’ll definitely be putting these on my list for next time!

  2. Bridget H
    January 9, 2019 / 3:07 pm

    The Hole in the Rock trail looks beautiful – love the pic! I’m glad you enjoyed your trip. I look forward to reading more of your posts about future travels 😊

    • Jet-setting Spirit
      January 22, 2019 / 11:01 am

      Thanks Bridget! It was a fun trail, but I highly recommend wearing real shoes designed for running or hiking (not loafers!)

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