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Among the Saguaros: Scottsdale, Arizona

Horseback riding, desert hiking, and a flourishing wine and culinary scene await.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve outside Scottsdale, AZ.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve outside Scottsdale, AZ.

I recently visited Scottsdale, Arizona, and fell in love with the city’s relaxed vibe and natural connection to the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro Cacti at MacDonald's Ranch

With the variety of things to do, sights to see and places to eat, it was easy to imagine staying beyond a few days and living the desert life.

How to Get There

The quickest way to get to Scottsdale is to fly from San Diego to Phoenix. If you prefer to drive, settle in for a 6-hour road trip through California and Arizona.

Where to Stay, Eat, and Drink

I stayed at The Scott in Old Town Scottsdale. The hotel is undergoing extensive renovation, and its lobby and lounge were refreshed in 2017.

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Sponsored

An architectural standout, the property combines Old Havana flair with Bauhaus geometry. I’m happy to report that my room was spacious, comfortable and peaceful.

The Canal Club, located inside The Scott, was my introduction to the 1930s Havana aesthetic. The restaurant specializes in Cuban cuisine – I loved the old world charm and Latin flavors. Dining options include the patio, a private cabana, around a fire pit or poolside.

Wine Tasting at Merkin Vineyards

As a wine aficionado, I was in my element in Scottsdale. Merkin Vineyards' tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale caught my attention. They serve local, sustainable wine and homemade pizza and pasta. Almost all of Merkin’s fruit and vegetables are cultivated in the family’s orchards, greenhouses, and gardens. Oh, and they play rock/metal music all day, which was a cool touch.

Treat yourself to modern Latin cuisine at The Mission, complete with palm wood floors, marble bar and indoor waterfall. I started with tableside guacamole and a margarita. Try the shrimp aguachile, grilled street corn, and butternut squash tacos. Save room for dessert; their espresso churros are a can't-miss!

Where to Play and Explore

Check out the boutiques, galleries and historic sites in Old Town Scottsdale. It's all urban chic meets Old West charm, if you're into that sort of thing. The Merchantile, Leela Market and Carmen were my favorite shops.

For art and culture buffs, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is home to the latest in art, architecture and design.

I was intrigued by the Skyspace, a concrete theater where visitors can watch the ever-changing sky. The SMoCA showcases current talent by offering rotating exhibitions and community events.

Horseback riding at MacDonald's Ranch

There's no better way to discover the desert around Scottsdale than on horseback. MacDonald’s Ranch lives and breathes Western adventure. You name it, they’ve got it: horseback/pony rides, cowboy cookouts, a petting zoo and a gem mine. I participated in a group trail ride, and the wranglers ensured that it was a safe and memorable experience for everyone.

If you prefer to explore Scottsdale on foot, hike the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Gateway Trail Loop is a 4.5-mile loop that wanders up to a saddle (650-foot elevation gain) before winding back to the trailhead. The Gateway Trail Loop is challenging, so take your time and admire the towering saguaros, colorful wildflowers and diverse wildlife.

Gateway Trail Loop

Riding Into the Sunset

It's safe to say that Scottsdale’s spirit left a lasting impression on me, and I'm looking forward to more adventures in the Grand Canyon state. Your turn to see what blooms in the desert!

More Scottsdale: check out the Reader's article on Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.

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The McDowell Sonoran Preserve outside Scottsdale, AZ.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve outside Scottsdale, AZ.

I recently visited Scottsdale, Arizona, and fell in love with the city’s relaxed vibe and natural connection to the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro Cacti at MacDonald's Ranch

With the variety of things to do, sights to see and places to eat, it was easy to imagine staying beyond a few days and living the desert life.

How to Get There

The quickest way to get to Scottsdale is to fly from San Diego to Phoenix. If you prefer to drive, settle in for a 6-hour road trip through California and Arizona.

Where to Stay, Eat, and Drink

I stayed at The Scott in Old Town Scottsdale. The hotel is undergoing extensive renovation, and its lobby and lounge were refreshed in 2017.

Sponsored
Sponsored

An architectural standout, the property combines Old Havana flair with Bauhaus geometry. I’m happy to report that my room was spacious, comfortable and peaceful.

The Canal Club, located inside The Scott, was my introduction to the 1930s Havana aesthetic. The restaurant specializes in Cuban cuisine – I loved the old world charm and Latin flavors. Dining options include the patio, a private cabana, around a fire pit or poolside.

Wine Tasting at Merkin Vineyards

As a wine aficionado, I was in my element in Scottsdale. Merkin Vineyards' tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale caught my attention. They serve local, sustainable wine and homemade pizza and pasta. Almost all of Merkin’s fruit and vegetables are cultivated in the family’s orchards, greenhouses, and gardens. Oh, and they play rock/metal music all day, which was a cool touch.

Treat yourself to modern Latin cuisine at The Mission, complete with palm wood floors, marble bar and indoor waterfall. I started with tableside guacamole and a margarita. Try the shrimp aguachile, grilled street corn, and butternut squash tacos. Save room for dessert; their espresso churros are a can't-miss!

Where to Play and Explore

Check out the boutiques, galleries and historic sites in Old Town Scottsdale. It's all urban chic meets Old West charm, if you're into that sort of thing. The Merchantile, Leela Market and Carmen were my favorite shops.

For art and culture buffs, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is home to the latest in art, architecture and design.

I was intrigued by the Skyspace, a concrete theater where visitors can watch the ever-changing sky. The SMoCA showcases current talent by offering rotating exhibitions and community events.

Horseback riding at MacDonald's Ranch

There's no better way to discover the desert around Scottsdale than on horseback. MacDonald’s Ranch lives and breathes Western adventure. You name it, they’ve got it: horseback/pony rides, cowboy cookouts, a petting zoo and a gem mine. I participated in a group trail ride, and the wranglers ensured that it was a safe and memorable experience for everyone.

If you prefer to explore Scottsdale on foot, hike the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Gateway Trail Loop is a 4.5-mile loop that wanders up to a saddle (650-foot elevation gain) before winding back to the trailhead. The Gateway Trail Loop is challenging, so take your time and admire the towering saguaros, colorful wildflowers and diverse wildlife.

Gateway Trail Loop

Riding Into the Sunset

It's safe to say that Scottsdale’s spirit left a lasting impression on me, and I'm looking forward to more adventures in the Grand Canyon state. Your turn to see what blooms in the desert!

More Scottsdale: check out the Reader's article on Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
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Previous article

A poem for Thanksgiving by Lydia Maria Child

The New-England Boys’ Song About Thanksgiving Day
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The Sun's angle creates optical effects, tarantulas roam the streets

Low-lying Temperature Inversions create Marine Layer along the Coast
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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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