Scottsdale, Arizona, like many vacation destinations around the U.S., has a bit of an old-timer’s reputation. For decades, travelers have flocked there for world-class golfing and spa resorts — both of which are fantastic reasons to take a vacation — but Scottsdale has been overlooked for all of its other charms, as well as new attractions that are geared toward younger visitors.
First, some basics: The desert climate makes Scottsdale an excellent warm-weather destination year-round (though you’ll probably want to avoid the hottest summer months). Hiking is very popular, especially on the red cliffs of Camelback Mountain. Scottsdale is also home to Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s former winter retreat — now a school and home to the architect’s foundation. You’ll see Wright’s work, as well as his vast influence on the next generation of architects just about everywhere you look in Scottsdale and the surrounding areas.
But there’s plenty of new attractions that make 2019 the year to visit. The most exciting new opening is The Scott, a design-forward boutique hotel recently completed a top-to-bottom renovation (Mic stayed as a guest of the hotel in November). The new aesthetic is heavy on brass, rattan and painted murals, and feels refreshingly modern — no surprise as the company behind the re-do is AvroKO, a design firm that’s worked on some of the best hotels in the world. Every room here has a private patio or balcony, but you’ll be spending most of your time in the open-air, Instagram-ready public spaces or in the Cuban-inspired Canal Club restaurant.
The restaurants in Scottsdale — as well as surrounding areas of Phoenix, Tempe and more — are becoming destinations as well. For a glimpse of New Arizonan cuisine, which incorporates Native American ingredients and techniques, head to Cartwright’s Modern Cuisine, with a forward-thinking omakase tasting menu that changes based on what chef Brett Vibber forages, or Cotton and Copper, where chef Tamara Stanger works Native and Sonoran ingredients into shareable pub dishes like a tepary bean spread or a desert herb roasted cauliflower with carrot butter.
The one dish you must try
You can’t come to Scottsdale and not try fry bread, a crispy fried dough that’s often served with chili or honey and one of the best-known Native American dishes. Try it at The Stand on the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Reservation, which borders Scottsdale.
Don’t skip this exhibit
Check out the Electric Desert, a trippy new exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden that’s open through May 12, 2019. The nighttime show lights up the cactus and other flora native to the area, and is a great way to understand Scottsdale’s unique landscape.
Hikes to work off all that food
Moderate hikers should try Tom’s Thumb Trail, a four-mile hike in the protected McDowell Sonoran Preserve. For something a bit more challenging, head to the Echo Canyon trailhead with a more strenuous summit trail.