As everyone who’s ever met me knows, I am from Texas. This means a lot of things: I say “y’all,” I am offended when chips and salsa aren’t free, and I love hot weather. So when I heard that you can visit Scottsdale, Arizona, during the hottest summer months for a steep discount, I took it as a thrilling challenge. Yeah, but it’s *dry* heat, I said to myself. What’s 100 degrees if there’s no humidity?
Turns out, it’s still very hot (Scottsdale’s summer slogan is literally “It’s that hot”), but the sweat is very much worth it. During the city’s heated off-season, you can stay in extremely fancy resorts for less than $100 a night. And if you’re willing to drink a gallon of water and wake up early, you don’t have to sacrifice a single plan. After a long weekend sipping Arizona wines, kayaking through the desert, and drinking coffee at sunrise, I’m officially a summer-in-Scottsdale evangelist. So, please, allow me to evangelize.
First: Your 100-Degree Packing List
I have very no-nonsense opinions about all things Tex-Mex. So when I saw Brussels sprout nachos on the menu at Diego Pops, a local cafe in Old Town Scottsdale, I was...concerned. But these colorful ’chos exceeded my high expectations. They come on an entire roasting pan and are covered in two kinds of cheese (!!!), pickled onions, Brussels sprouts (duh), some very cute beet sauce, and a fried egg. Hit up Diego Pops for lunch, sit outside under the fans and water misters, order this snack, and post a pic of the sun’s rays shining on all that cheese.
Now that your tum’s full of nachos, you’re ready to taste some local Arizona wines. While Scottsdale itself doesn’t have any vineyards, there are a few tasting rooms and they’re spittin’ distance from each other. Hit up LDV Winery first and buy a bottle of the reserve petite sirah (unless I got the last one, in which case, sorry). Then walk across the street to Merkin, a newly opened tasting room owned by MJ Keenan (like, the rock star), and taste all the new canned wines—my fave was the sparkling garnacha, a fizzy-ish chilled situation somewhere between a rosé and a red. Before you do *too* much sipping, get a photo of your glass of vino with the full bottle in the background.
Spend at least some of your stay in Scottsdale at Mountain Shadows, a resort in a little town called, literally, Paradise Valley. The hotel’s backdrop is Camelback Mountain, which you can stare at from your dinner table at Hearth ’61. Reserve a spot near the windows or on the poolside patio for 5 p.m. on a Friday, when manager Jim Gallen does a special champagne-sabering ceremony with the mountain in the background. Get a slo-mo video of the bubbly shooting out of the bottle, post it, and enjoy the rest of your meal sans phone.
Book Now Mountain Shadows Resort
The key to summering in Scottsdale is to wake up early, before the sun heats up the desert and turns everyone into human lizards. Make the morning enjoyable by treating yourself to room-service breakfast and eating it on the private patio attached to your hotel room. Snap a photo of your fruit, eggs, and coffee with Camelback Mountain in the background. The sunrise makes the rocky terrain glow orange—no filter necessary.
About a $15 Lyft ride outside of Scottsdale is Taliesin West, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s West-Coast-ish outpost (and also now a UNESCO World Heritage site). Wright’s thing was to build into the environment, which means Taliesin West was constructed using rocks from the surrounding desert and looks, somehow, like it was always meant to be there. Book a morning tour and snap photos of the entire thing. Be especially sure to grab a shot of Wright’s living room—a dreamy orange-colored den with funky chairs and benches along the walls for seating. Post several and pretend this is where you live now.
If you drive just 30 minutes away from Scottsdale’s main drag, you can rent a kayak and drop it in the Salt River, which winds through mountains and reservation land. Don’t worry about gear—Arizona Outback Adventures, a local outfitter, has all that covered. If you’re lucky, you’ll see what I did: a family of literal wild horses walk down to the river to drink and cool off in the water. I didn’t expect to cry, but you try floating past a foal trotting along a riverbed without shedding a tear. Leave the horses be, but have a friend grab a pic of you looking sporty in your life jacket and baseball cap with the mountains in the background.
Book Now Arizona Outback Adventures
Just off Scottsdale’s main square is FnB, a veggie-centric restaurant with a James Beard Award–winning chef (who’s also a woman, hell yeah). Every single thing on the menu is beautifully constructed in that too-pretty-to-eat way, but you’re gonna wanna eat it. I highly suggest doing what I did: Tell your waiter one or two dishes you definitely want and then let them pick the rest of your plates. The menu changes constantly, but if the elote or the carrots with labneh are on the list, ORDER THEM. Before you dig in, take an overhead photo of the colorful food on your table, and be sure to brag in the caption about how good it all is.
I live in New York City and am rich in vintage shopping options. But none of the spots come close to the shops in Scottsdale. Start at Fashion by Robert Black, which specializes in the most beautiful vintage gowns and cocktail dresses you’ll ever touch. Ask nicely for a peek at the secret back room, where Black keeps movie-star gowns, including some by Hollywood costume designers and others worn by starlets on red carpets, that all look like museum pieces. Then walk over to Vintage by Misty, where anyone who loves color and being the coolest person in a room will faint, probably. I could’ve brought the entire store home with me, but I didn’t so there’s plenty left for you to grab. Snap a dressing-room mirror selfie, caption it, “Was this made for me?” and let your commenters convince you to buy the outfit.
Wake up before dawn on a vacation?!? Yes, I am telling you to do exactly that. Book a sunrise trip with Hot Air Expeditions, and don’t worry about eating breakfast before—once you land, there’s a cute little spread (complete with champagne) waiting for you. Take a panoramic photo of one of the other balloons taking off with the sunrise in the background (swoon)—and whatever you do, don’t look down.
Book Now Hot Air Expeditions
You woke up before the sun, so you deserve to sit back and do nothing for several hours! Book a daybed alongside the pool at Hotel Valley Ho (up for grabs to guests and nonguests), a midcentury daydream once frequented by Hollywood starlets trying to escape the paparazzi in Palm Springs. Slather on your sunscreen, read a book (or nap), and order a bunch of snacks and frozen drinks as you lounge. Snap a thirst trap from beneath your umbrella and show off how refreshed you look after spending several days recuperating in the desert.
Book Now Hotel Valley Ho
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