Between fashion-forward desert festivals, the chic desert modernism design trend, and many culturati-approved desert art installations, deserts—and the saguaro-studded towns that adorn them—are having a moment like never before. While these arid environs long attracted free spirits, travelers seeking higher-end experiences have now discovered Scottsdale. This 184-square-mile city 10 miles east of Phoenix is the desert’s poshest watering hole, boasting world-class architecture, a thriving arts scene, and almost as many day spas, resorts, restaurants, and golf courses (over 200!) as cacti. Here’s where to eat, play, and stay in this desert oasis.
Entrench Yourself In Modern Art & Iconic Architecture
This may be cowboy country, but contemporary art has such a stronghold in Scottsdale that it’s the focus of an entire section of the city: The Marshall Way Arts District. The jaunt along Main Street and Marshall Way is an art aficionado’s ground zero, with dozens of galleries featuring local and international artists all within walking distance. The best time to look and linger is on Thursdays weekly evening Artwalk, when area galleries throw their doors open and the streets overflow with music and food. Another must-see for modern art lovers? The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA), an ever-changing collection of contemporary exhibitions cleverly curated in a former movie theater.
Alongside its flourishing modern art scene, Scottsdale stands out as one of the country’s top midcentury architectural communities outside of Palm Springs, California. The crown jewel is none other than Taliesin West, famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s former winter home and still-functioning architectural school. It’s a home that showcases Wright at the height of his talents, and a masterful ode to merging indoor-outdoor living. Casual fans can explore the highlights in hour-long tours of the property; enthusiasts can indulge in a three-hour behind-the-scenes viewings.
Make Tee Time Anytime
There’s a big reason why annual PGA, LPGA, and Champions Tour golf events include Scottsdale: the city’s 299 yearly days of sunshine and dry climate make it so ideal for golf that there’s more courses—over 200 of ’em—than square miles in the city proper. And all feature unique, dramatic holes that take advantage of the desert landscape. Break out your finest clubs on the dual layouts of prominent public course Troon North, flanked by stunning vistas of Pinnacle Peak, or test your swing on tribal land at the We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai nation) dotted with breathtaking canyons, ridges, and mountain slopes.
Discover Desert Style As A Way Of Life
The ideal dwelling in the Sonoran desert region is just as much about the outdoor spaces as those inside. Make a seamless transition into true Southwestern-style living by staying at The Rocks Club, a private, gated community of residential villas nestled within a canyon. As one of those signature properties, Tom’s Thumb villa is not only an excellent base for exploring Scottsdale, but it’s thoughtfully designed with approximately 3,000 square feet of window-filled indoor and outdoor spaces to display the surrounding dramatic desert landscape to perfection. In the afternoons, plan a barbecue on the grill, then dine alfresco under the stone arcades; later on, stargaze from the heated hot tub on the terrace or sip a nightcap next to the chimenea. Come morning, you won’t even have to budge from your bed to take in the desert vistas: each bedroom looks out to the rocky canyon. Better yet, the club’s exclusive amenities are at your fingertips during your visit—think spa and massage services, a fitness center and pool, a restaurant, bar, even a dedicated cigar terrace. A stay also includes preferred access to top-tier golfing, with the closest course a mere two-minute drive away.
Dine At Nationally-Recognized Culinary Hotspots
Few jackets-required dining destinations exist in laid-back Scottsdale, but the city’s food and fare is far from just casual. Don’t miss a meal at tiny, award-winning FnB, one of the state’s top culinary destinations set in the heart of picturesque downtown. Take our advice: No matter what appears on the ever-changing seasonal menu, much of which is sourced from nearby agricultural communities, order it (you won’t be disappointed!). But don’t stop there. Add to your list trendy Fat Ox‘s delicious take on modern Italian fare,The Mission‘s popular modern Latin food, and the newest under-the-radar fine dining spot Sel, conveniently slid amid several high-end art galleries in Old Town Scottsdale.
Find Your Bliss, 50x Over
Within central Arizona, Scottsdale is synonymous with spas. More than 50 day spas, wellness centers, and other relaxation-dedicated temples are scattered throughout the small city, many featuring treatments inspired by desert botanicals or Native American healing traditions. With oh-so-many spas to explore, you’re quite literally spoiled for choice. But just remember, spa-hopping may seem like a must-do here…until you’re so profoundly blissed out at your first stop that you can’t imagine ever leaving.