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Things to do in Scottsdale

Itineraries for Your Trip to Scottsdale

Scottsdale locals share their perfect days.
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3 Days in Scottsdale for First Timers

Curated by Elisa Parhada travel writer with many ties to Arizona.

Swimming pools, cocktails, and the bright blue skies against beautiful McDowell Mountains—these are just a few of the things I like about Scottsdale and its luxurious offerings. Known for its resorts, golfing, and shopping, the city is one of my favorite landing spots to explore the Sonoran desert, and it's never too uncomfortably rustic. An effortless getaway, Scottsdale is especially great for girls’ weekends and personal retreats.

Scottsdale always feels like a true escape, and it's one where you don't need to stress about the details. After decades of escaping to this luxury spot in the desert, here are my must-dos for folks experiencing this glam little gem for the first time.

Expect sunny days in Scottsdale, so don't forget your swimsuit.

If you only have time for one thing, make it McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Day 1

Get situated in Old Town with an electric bike or Segway tour offering an overview of what to do, see, and experience. Your guide will point out good food spots, the Scottsdale Waterfront, Fashion Square, and the best shops and cafes in Old Town. Refresh with lunch or dinner in Old Town at The Mission for street-style tacos and epic guacamole.

The desert at sunset is magical. Just a 20-minute drive north brings you to Tonto National Forest and Pinnacle Peak Park. An off-road Jeep tour is a great way to experience places that you otherwise couldn't access.

Day 2

Scottsdale was once considered the West's most Western town. Now it's well-known for posh resorts, golf courses, and a serious food (and wine!) scene. Get a taste of Scottsdale on a food tour of Old Town for a deep dive into its flavors.

The McDowell Preserve is a place to see the Sonoran desert up close, in all its saguaro-covered glory. Nearby you'll find legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home and architectural school, Taliesin West—an inspirational stop everyone should see.

Day 3

Scottsdale is situated in a unique part of Arizona, with easy access to wine country in Verde Valley, the beautiful red rocks of Sedona, and the Wild West ghost towns of Jerome and Tombstone. Consider taking a day trip to explore one of these areas for an enriching taste of Arizona culture.

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