If you know me, you know that I’m a sucker for an undiscovered destination. Unearthing a gem that’s yet to be plastered all over my Instagram feed brings back that real sense of discovery that made me fall in love with travel in the first place.
Yes, everyone loves Palm Springs (guilty as charged!), but I have to admit sometimes it feels a little bit like a small desert enclave of L.A. rather than a getaway. I feel like I always run into someone I know — let’s just say the caftan curation has to be on fleek! — and that doesn’t really allow me to unwind.
When I first visited Scottsdale, I found all those dreamy desert vibes and quirky style I seek out in PS, plus an added bonus of a truly Southwestern twist. And, a place where I can just relax.
So when I was invited out by the folks at the tourism board to take a ditch day, revisiting some of my favorite spots and exploring some new ones, I jumped at the chance. What I’ll tell you is this: Scottsdale deserves so much more than a single day! I definitely recommend tacking on a day off in addition to your traditional weekend, giving yourself some time to truly enjoy the Sonoran style.
Here’s what to do on your weekender in the desert:
Explore the Sonoran Desert
If you need one reason to visit Scottsdale, this is it. It’s a veritable hiker’s heaven, with nearly 1/3 of the city being designated as hiking trails. Everyone is buzzing about wildflower season in California right now, but the desert version is equally as spectacular, especially when paired with their technicolor sunsets. We took an incredible walk along the Gateway Loop, a 4.5 mile hike that can be scaled depending on your energy and ambition after …
Springtime in Scottsdale is synonymous with perfect pool weather. There are so many cute hotels to choose from, but I loved the kitsch and mid-century vibes of the Hotel Valley Ho. First opened in 1956, the property is a haven for googie architecture geeks and fans of mid-century mod alike. What I dig about the idea of lounging here — and I say “idea” because, TBH, there wasn’t a ton of time for us to do so since we jamming in as much as we could in 24 hours! — is that the music isn’t blaring as it is at, say, The Ace. They also have amazing poolside cocktail offerings, like this raspberry mojito that my buddy Aida Mollenkamp of Salt & Wind is pouring. Sign me up!
Dive into the Food Scene
There are so. many. great. spots to eat in Scottsdale! I fell in love with the Arizona wine program at FNB on my first trip, and round two did not disappoint. I know what you’re thinking: wine grown in the desert? Yes, it exists. And yes, it IS good! There’s also a blossoming craft coffee scene, with spots like Four Till Four serving delightful espresso with a side of my favorite Mexican fizzy water, Topo Chico.
Other must stop-eateries include the utterly delicious Diego Pops, where you’ll find the egg topped nachos above as well as snow cone cocktails.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you must stop by the darling little sweets shop Super Chunk, where they sell mini confetti birthday cakes topped with a luxurious French buttercream frosting, and a sesame miso caramel that is outrageously good. The texture is spot on and the miso adds this wonderful depth of character and just the slightest bit of umami. Matcha is really having a moment right now, and I think it’s paving the way for miso to be the next ingredient du jour. Ya heard it here first, folks!
Cruise For Vintage Finds
It’s all about balance, people, so be sure to grab one of the complimentary beach cruisers at Hotel Valley Ho (or rent one if they aren’t available), and go for a spin around the charming Old Town area. There you’ll find Vintage by Misty, who sources really unique accessories, handbags, and headscarves finds from far-flung locales like Israel and Rome, and Fashion by Robert Black, where you’ll find a crazy cool collection of vintage couture, including custom Bob Mackie dresses and a stockpile of Yves St. Laurent. I got an adorable canary yellow 70s era midi-dress with some really great gold details that I can’t wait to sport this spring. (I deserve a gold star for my ability to restrain when it came to the caftans. So many cuties!)
Dive into the Design and Architecture
A trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architecture School and utopian education center Talieisin West, is an absolute must for anyone interested in architecture of the era, as well as stops like the aforementioned Hotel Valley Ho. There’s also Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti foundry, where you can watch artists casting his iconic wind bells and sculptures, which you can take tours through here. Should you find yourself inspired to deck out your own home with a little desert flare, the nearby Melrose District in Phoenix proper, I’ve been told, is a total find when it comes to mid-century mod furniture shopping, and isn’t nearly as picked over as Palm Springs.
I’d really like to come back to explore more of this side of Scottsdale, to be honest. Something tells me I’ll be back.