There’s nothing like a trip to a warm destination to get you ready for the summer months, especially if you live in Canada where we’re pretty much begging for the heat at this time of year. If you’re following me on Instagram (@thecityismineTO) then you know that I recently took a long overdue girls trip to Scottsdale, Arizona. Scottsdale was on my list of places to visit for the last year based on good reviews from friends and just the overall vibe and feel of the city.
Since I’ve come back, people have asked me how my trip was and my response is “perfect”. We did a little bit of everything and never felt bored or like we missed out on anything. The weather was incredible, the vibe was super chill and 4 days seemed to go by in a flash. So without further ado, here’s a full recap of everything we did and even a few things that we didn’t get to. I’ll just have to get them done my next time around!
A Little Background
Scottsdale is located in the beautiful Sonoran Desert at the foot of the scenic McDowell Mountains. It is bordered by Phoenix to the West, the Tonto National Forrest to the North, the McDowell Mountains to the East, and the Salt River to the South.
Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, in the city’s northern reaches, is the largest urban wilderness area in the United States and features more than 60 miles of trails through diverse and scenic desert terrain.
From Toronto, you will take a flight into Pheonix which is just under 5 hours. It’s shorter on the way back, promise. There are a lot of direct flights and you can often score a good deal during a flight sale. Once you land in Pheonix, Scottsdale is about a 20 minute drive. Hop into a cab and you’ll be there before you know it.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Hotel Adeline which is any Instagrammer’s dream. The hotel is just over a year old and has followed some recent hotel trends of converting old motels into boutique style hotels. Hotel Adeline used to be a Days Inn and then a Clarion Hotel with a street facing Mexican Restaurant called Papi Chulos. The redesign of the space comes complete with white and gray color palettes, modern mid-century finishes, close to 213 rooms and the cutest spaces to get all your photo opps in.
There’s a bar by the pool, cabana’s throughout and 3 different restaurants that you can either grab a full meal at or get a snack/coffee. There’s even a speakeasy bar which you can grab a drink at if you’re special enough to get the password. The one thing I was a little surprised at was how early things closed. We arrived on Thursday at about 11PM local time and the lobby bar and speakeasy had already closed.
We considered staying at a few other places including: the W Scottsdale, The Scott Resort & Spa and The Saguaro Scottsdale. But once we saw this gorgeous pool view we just couldn’t say no. Hotel Adeline also hosts special weekly events like pool parties and yoga by the pool. If you plan to stay there, definitely check out their website or Instagram in advance to help with your planning.
If hotels aren’t your thing, there are also a huge number of Air BnBs that you can rent out. Just make sure that you’re in the core areas of the city either in North Scottsdale, Old Scottsdale or Fashion Square.
Things to Do
At first I was a little worried that we might get bored in Scottsdale. I kept hearing about the great golf courses or family friendly events and activities so I started wondering what a group of 30 somethings would get up to. Over the last few years there seems to be a real focus on bringing a more diverse and young demographic to the city. I’ve heard it coined as a “mini Vegas” and its becoming a go-to spot for bachelorette parties and special occasions. Here’s a few of the things you can do to spend your time in the city, all of which we indulged in:
One of the things I was most looking forward to was hiking in Scottsdale. Not gonna lie, seeing cacti in their natural environment was a big draw! And just the fact that Scottsdale is in a desert, I just knew the views would be incredible. Scottsdale offers a number of options for hiking whether you’re looking for something challenging or a moderate stroll. Whatever hike you decide to take, make sure to bring lots of water. Those dry temperatures are no joke.
Camelback Mountain – this was the hike that we did. It’s probably the city’s most beloved iconic, and challenging hikes. There are two trails that you can take – the Echo Canyon Summit Trail, and the less-crowded Cholla Trail. We took the Cholla Trail but frankly there were still a lot of people. It’s quite a steep, rocky terrain and slick gravel patches make it difficult especially when you are heading back down.
Pinnacle Peak Park – this is known as the city’s most picturesque hikes due in part to the unique granite formations, the towering saguaros, abundant wildlife, and spectacular views of Scottsdale and Phoenix. It’s a moderately difficult trek but also somewhat short coming in at 1.75-miles.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve – There are more than 100 miles of trails on this 30,000-acre preserve and it offers a variety of hiking experiences. Trailside volunteers can help you select from the six trailheads and multiple routes, from the popular Gateway Trail Loop and scenic Fraesfield to challenging Tom’s Thumb. There are also group hikes that will teach you a little bit about the history and surroundings of your hike.
Apparently Scottsdale is secretly known as the spa capital of the world with more spas per capita then most cities. Let me tell you, the spas here are a whole new world! We knew when going into the planning of our trip that making time for a spa day was an absolute must. We looked into quite a few but decided on the Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale.
Its such a stunning space and I apologize, I don’t have a ton of pictures because frankly, I wanted to leave my phone in the locker and just disconnect. The Fairmont Princess is a huge resort. I mean massive. Imagine the same size of all-inclusive resorts that you see in the South. I can imagine not having to leave the grounds if you decided to stay there.
They have a number of different spa treatments, fitness activities, amenities and of course food that you can indulge in. The lunch was a pretty standard spa lunch, nothing overtly special but clean and healthy. The amenities were probably my favourite – like the waterfall water therapy pool pictured above, cold and hot springs, sauna, steam room and an aromatherapy room. They also have a rooftop pool where you can lounge by the water, grab a drink/snack or just pass out in one of the pool floaties like yours truly did.
Walk around Oldtown Scottsdale
Oldtown Scottsdale is basically the city’s downtown. Its the hub for all the city’s restaurants, boutiques, galleries, bars and nightclubs. This is a perfect area to spend the day just walking around the quaint waterfront, shopping in the local boutiques and of course indulging in all the happy hour deals the restaurants and bars offer.
Like I mentioned earlier, the city seems to be placing a big effort on attracting a younger and more diverse demographic. Starting as of April, maybe even earlier at some locations, pool parties or day parties are hosted across the city. A few that we looked into were Maya Day Party, The W Hotel and Lustre. In the end we decided to book a cabana at our own pool and take in the scene there. Official pool parties at Hotel Adeline didn’t start until the 2nd week of April but we still got to enjoy a DJ and an awesome pool vibe.
Food & Drink
Ah, my favourite part of any trip. Naturally I did a TON of research to try and find the best and most popular places to eat in Scottsdale. What I found through my research is that there is honestly something for everyone. They take alot of pride into bringing local ingredients and inspiration into their dishes while also bringing in cuisines from across the globe. A few of the places that we went which I’d recommend:
The Mission – probably my favourite place of the trip, The Mission is located in the heart of Oldtown Scottsdale and is one of the better Mexican restaurants in the area. The restaurant itself is GORGEOUS, dark, moody, romantic and decadently done up with dark wood finishes, ornate chandeliers throughout and an adorable fire lit patio. Their table side guacamole was my favourite and their pulled pork tacos, which come in a cast iron pan so you can assemble them, was maybe the best pulled pork I’ve ever had. Also, their huge selection of margaritas would have me at the bar for hours!
FnB – also located in Oldtown Scottsdale, FnB (stands for Food and Beverage) and is known for their small menu based on sharing plates and sourcing their ingredients locally. In 2009 when it first opened, it was pretty much dubbed the “Best New Resto” by almost every Phoenix publication. FnB was also a crowd favourite and great for a big group of people. We probably tried most of the items on the menu. The place is small and no frills but very intimate. Wasn’t too impressed by their cocktails so I’d suggest opting for wine if you find yourself here.
Beverley on Main – this was another one of my favourites because I felt like I could come here for dinner or just for drinks. Exactly the kind of vibe I like with exposed brick walls, big cozy booths, dim, romantic lighting, a dj spinning some great mood music and a very expansive food menu. The describe their food as “high end American Fare” which I’d agree with. Nothing overtly unique but all classic dishes. Some of the stand out items were the roasted brussel sprouts, cauli bites and Impossible Tacos.
Other places I was looking forward to trying but didn’t get to: Barrio Queen, The House Brasserie, Citizen Public House and Sumomaya.
If you have time, I’d highly recommend taking a day trip, or even staying the night, in Sedona. Our flight out was a red eye so we decided to make the most of the day and spend it in Sedona. It’s about a 2 hour drive from the Pheonix airport and the drive itself is just breathtaking. Upon arriving in Sedona, the first thing you’ll notice is all the beautiful red rock.
We took a guided meditation tour through the Bell Rock Trail which was super enlightening and peaceful. Sedona has a worldwide reputation as a spiritual epicenter and whether you believe in it or not, it houses some of the most unique ways to access a number of different energy vortexes. At the height of our trail we took out yoga mats and took part in a guided meditation to take in some of the areas’ energy and power. All I have to say is that I have never felt so relaxed or at peace. I fell asleep half way through the meditation! When I come back I will definitely spend more time in Sedona.
And so another trip has come to an end. I am so happy with how Scottsdale surprised and delighted me at every turn. We experienced so many things and even had a few firsts which seem to be far and few between the older we get. It was also very special to spend time with some of my closest girlfriends, reconnecting and making memories. I hope this little travel guide inspires you to put Scottsdale or Sedona on your list of places to go and if you have been, I’d love to hear about your experience.
Until the next adventure!