After my National Geographic photography workshop, I stayed in Scottsdale for an extra day to sightsee. Scottsdale is a city in Arizona, although some consider it a suburb of Phoenix. It's a quick 15-20 minute taxi or Uber/Lyft ride from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. If you're planning to tour around Arizona, it's best to rent a car, but since I was only staying in Scottsdale, I took Ubers and Lyfts most of the time. In terms of public transportation, there are buses, but it wasn't a convenient option from where I was staying.
I was in Scottsdale in late March, which is a great time to be there because it's sunny and hot but not too humid. No wonder so many Canadians come here to winter. Here are some recommendations for fun things to do based on my experiences.
Thank you to the Desert Botanical Garden and Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation via Experience Scottsdale for the press passes. All opinions are my own.
1. Chill at a Resort
Scottsdale is known for its luxury resorts. I had a great time at the new Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Spa, which is hip, laid back, and full of contemporary art. I would've been happy here for a week, simply hanging out by the pool, getting spa treatments, and drinking elderflower cocktails. Their on-site restaurant, Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, sources food locally, and the patio has a great view of Camelback Mountain.
If you're too lazy to walk around the resort, say, from your suite to the front desk, you can request for someone to pick you up in a golf cart. If you're traveling within 5 miles outside of the resort, a chauffeur can give you a free ride in their Tesla, although you have to find your own way back. They have a good gym and a calendar of activities if you're looking to be more active too. I can't say enough good things about this hidden gem of a resort, although I wish they could be more eco-friendly. I do see some sustainable initiatives like having their own branded water made from 100% recycled plastic, and stocking organic and locally-sourced snacks and drinks for the minibar.
Outside of the resort has strip malls with plenty of restaurants, like the Fat Ox, where I had a late night snack and drink with a friend. Nearby is a consignment shop called To Be Continued with lots of secondhand designer goods. I was good though and didn't buy anything.
2. Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden is not far from Andaz Scottsdale, so I got a lift there in the resort's Tesla. The Garden is a really lovely, family-friendly place to visit, especially if you want to see every type of cactus ever. They have a collection of nearly 400 rare, threatened or endangered desert plant species. There are plenty of trails, so I recommend wearing comfortable shoes and a hat. For the eco-conscious travellers, the Garden has water bottle refilling stations throughout the property.
Right now (March 4 - May 14, 2017), there is a Spring Butterfly Exhibit in the Butterfly Pavilion. All kinds of butterflies are fluttering among flowers. They kept landing on my purse! Before you exit, an attendant brushes you with a duster to make sure butterflies don't leave with you.
3. Go Hiking
People come to Arizona to hike, so you'll always find others on hiking trails. Camelback Mountain, Pinnacle Peak Park, Papago Park, McDowell Sonoran Reserve, Piestewa Peak—there's always a new trail to explore.
Bring lots of water. A good rule of thumb according to one local is to turn back once you've finished half your water supply. If you also want to get some good photographs—or to avoid getting blasted by the sun, go early in the day or before sunset. You can probably get a book of hiking trails from your hotel's concierge.
4. Taliesin West
I didn't know anything about American architect Frank Lloyd Wright before this trip. I took the Insights Tour of Taliesin West, his winter home and Scottsdale's only National Historic Landmark.
What I liked about the space was the connection to the surrounding desert. The property is secluded and has great views all around. From how Wright was described on the tour, he sounds like a pretty pompous guy, but some of his ideas were interesting, such as "compression and release." If he didn't want you to linger in a certain space, such as the foyer, he'd design it in a way that you'd feel tense and uncomfortable standing there, forcing you to move on, "released" to the room he wanted you to stay, which would be more spacious and inviting.
Taliesin West is also the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, so there are students working and living there. We got to see their studio space and quietly walked past some of them working at their desks.
This is a popular attraction to visit in Scottsdale. It's worth checking out if you're an architecture fan.
5. Old Town Scottsdale
I didn't get to spend too much time Old Town Scottsdale, mainly eating dinner at RA Sushi and then checking out a gallery and a store. This is a popular area downtown for locals and tourists alike. There are plenty of galleries, retail shops, restaurants and bars.
If you're in a shopping mood, the Scottsdale Fashion Square, a huge mall, is not too far away. Plenty of restaurants are there too so you'll never run out of food to try.
If you need more ideas, check out Experience Scottsdale. I wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride but the timing wasn't right. Perhaps next time!
I had a great time in Arizona and now have so many things on my bucket list to visit, such as the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and ghost towns.
Have you been to Scottsdale or Arizona? Let us know your recommendations for things to do in the comments below.