Guess where I went last week? Arizona! Something about a balmy 80 degrees in desert sunshine is all the therapy a human being needs. Since I live in San Diego, I’m lucky that Scottsdale is a 6-hour drive away. I can pack a weekend bag and jump in the car for instant soul rejuvenation. I have lived in the Scottsdale area in the past, and my best friend Alison lives in Gilbert. Gilbert and Scottsdale are both suburbs of Phoenix and are about 30 minutes apart, so I’ll include some stops in both places. Why not?
The Trip to Scottsdale
True, I am a sucker for a good road trip. I was surprised at how long it took me to decompress from the day-to-day! It took me a good three hours drive time to detach from my work day and feel the freedom of the road. The drive to Scottsdale is one of my favorites since it takes me through rough canyons and then leads to soft sand dunes. By the time cacti started appearing, I felt like I was already in another world.
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Hike in the Morning
April is a gorgeous time of year in Arizona. The desert is in full bloom thanks to “monsoon season” in March and everything is green. If you are planning a trip to Scottsdale, be sure to add a hike through the desert to your list! If you leave between 6am and 8am, you will be in perfect weather. By perfect, I mean high 70s and a lovely breeze. Things start to heat up around noon, so plan accordingly. The most popular hike close to Scottsdale is up Camelback Mountain. I also recommend staying at an Airbnb at a local neighborhood nearby. It is a fraction of the cost of a hotel and most places have a kitchen, too. Use this link to book your next Airbnb trip and save $40! I stayed in Gilbert and hiked the Superstition mountains at Jacob’s Crosscut Trail. Terrific! I won’t mention that we got lost on the way back and had three little trooper kids with us. That would just be evil. No! I mean, an adventure. Ha ha, we really did have a great time 😉
Relax at a Spa Getaway
There’s a time to be active and a time to relax! Something about the desert is so healing and rejuvenating. You notice it the moment you arrive. I just can’t get enough of the warm air and desert smells. As much as I love being out walking along the trails, I also love some good down time. The most popular spa in Scottsdale is the Phoenician because of its location and amenities. If you’re traveling with a golfer, you can set up multiple luxury spa treatments while they tread the 27-hole championship golf course. See ya, honey! Be sure to check out the resort’s special offers – many times you can get an extra night free by extending your stay. This makes sense if you’re driving especially. Gotta’ have that extra day.
There are a myriad of easy eateries around Scottsdale and the Phoenix area. For foodie-approved fare in downtown Scottsdale, Diego Pops does not disappoint! Deigo Pops has a great atmosphere and a breezy outdoor patio. I absolutely love dining al fresco whenever humanly possible. Plus, tacos and guacamole are a no brainer!
Joe’s in Gilbert
I would also be remiss if I didn’t drop a shout out to Joe’s in Gilbert. If you’re in the mood for barbeque slow cooked over pecan wood, then drop in to Joe’s Real BBQ. The family also recently opened Joe’s Farm Grill, where they use fruit, vegetables, and herbs from The Farm at Agritopia. Anything that doesn’t come from their own farm, they source as much as possible from Arizona locals. I recommend the BBQ Bacon Blue Burger and a homemade shake for obvious reasons! Both places are family favorites and are a must-go whenever I’m in town.
Visit Old Town
There is something about kick knacks from the desert that taps into anyone’s Southwestern spirit. Your best shopping (or window shopping!) will be in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. I love the bright colors of imported goods from Mexico along with the rustic charm of the street. If you’d like to hit the Farmer’s Market during open season (closed in the summer), be sure to plan your hike on a different day than Saturday. The market is open 7am – 11am and is a great time to get out with the locals. Otherwise, take in some of the amazing art galleries along Main Street (more on that later). If you’re feeling lazy, jump on the trolley, which loops around downtown and is a great way to see Old Town. Check out the trolley routes for the routes and schedules of weekdays and weekends.
OSG Frank Lloyd Wright
Any lover of architecture should add a Frank Lloyd Wright home to their list. Taliesin West is a desert masterpiece and was used as Wright’s personal winter home, studio, and architectural campus. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Frank Lloyd Wright years ago when I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The main character is loosely based on Wright and focuses on the spirit of a true artist and skilled professional. A nature lover, he used organic architecture to create provocative and inspiring homes and buildings. Check out the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation website for tickets and tours. Totally worth it!
So much culture, so little time! Back to those galleries I mentioned above. Hopefully, you’re considering taking that extra free day and are extending your weekend. I recommend adding Thursday to your trip so you can check out the Scottsdale ArtWalk. ArtWalk starts at 7pm and goes until 9pm. It is the perfect way to enjoy a little culture during cocktail hour. I love the evenings just as much as I love the mornings and live music under a dusky sky is like heaven. Old Town has so much character and they do a really good job keeping things casual and fun.
Dinner at Culinary Dropout
Another bonus is that Scottsdale has a great night life. And this, coming from Southern California! Great crowds, definite eye candy, and you will find yourself dancing all night long. Be sure to start your night at Culinary Dropout and then go from there. Culinary Dropout is a bomb gastro pub with free live music from the best local bands in town. Check out their menu for food, vices, and antipasti. Korean-Style Brussels Sprouts and Turkey Pastrami on a pretzel roll had me at hello! What is it about pretzel rolls that makes any sandwich completely addictive?
Bottom line – no matter where you go in the evening, be sure to be outdoors as much as possible! Springtime in Scottsdale is like heaven on earth with the most amazing sunsets that burn away to an endless starry sky. If only it was this temperature year-round! Plan all of your Springtime outings with as much time taking in nature as you can fit in. Your mind and spirit will salute you! I really did time my trip perfectly by heading out there after the rainy season. There was so much desert bloom and definitely was a much needed change of scenery. Variety is the spice of life..
Get a Fresh Perspective
Need a brain break? I’m always surprised by the immediate sense of peace I feel when I reach Arizona. Likewise, leaving the desert is bittersweet for me. Something about taking a step back and being in the open expanse of nature is hard to leave. I’m kicking myself for not getting out there as frequently as I should! Special thanks to my dear friend Alison who contributed to this article and for hosting my stay last weekend. Can’t wait to return soon! Arizona people are so cool and down-to-earth. How lucky am I to be best friends with a local? Super lucky. I walked right into that one 😉