I can’t wait to share some of the details from our recent vacation to Scottsdale, Arizona with you. We had such a great trip and I really don’t know why I haven’t visited this pretty city before. We only had 48 hours but we certainly packed in a lot of fun and great memories. Scottsdale is a fantastic city to consider for a girl’s weekend, family vacation or any time you want a dose of sunshine.
Sometimes big cities can all feel the same but I found Scottsdale to have a very vibrant and unique personality. There is art everywhere you look from freeway overpasses to fun cowboy/wild West sculptures downtown.
We visited Scottsdale in April, which was perfect! The weather was warm but not too hot and we arrived the week after Spring Break thus missing most of the crowds. Winter and Spring are very popular times to visit but don’t be scared off by summer travel! The prices are really affordable (I noticed flights are $375 in Spring and only $99 in summer from my city) and there is a lot to do indoors and at various pools and water parks.
Here are some of the highlights from our trip that you might also enjoy. Note I was traveling with my husband and our two girls (aged 9 and 7.)
WHERE TO STAY:
There are several incredible hotels in the Scottsdale area to choose from but we are pretty loyal to Hyatt hotels. (As you might remember from our Maui trip and Charleston trip and Seattle trip).
This time around we booked the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. I loved this hotel. Easily one of my favorite hotels we have ever stayed at for many reasons.
(The golf course and lake and a grassy area with giant bean bags to relax and read or nap.)
*The setting is stunning- the Hyatt is attached to a golf course with a lovely seven acre lake. You can view the lake from the outdoor dining area and pools AND they offer gondola rides for guests. This was one of our favorite little surprises! We went right after dinner as the sun was setting and it was so relaxing and lovely.
(Grassy area leading up to the restaurant and lobby)
*It is incredibly family friendly. You will see as you arrive the lobby opens up into a bar and dining area and huge, grassy steps leading to the massive pool areas. The setting is so picturesque with little tables and chairs and sofas and a lot of room for the adults to enjoy cocktails or a bite while the children run on the grass and play. Something about grassy spaces is so fun for my kids. Can you spot my daughter tearing up the stairs and gearing up for a round of cartwheels back down?
(Chicken tacos at the pool)
*The pools are something else. There is a massive pool that is family friendly and filled with floaties and balls and toys and a three story waterslide. If that isn’t fun enough, one end of the pool is actually sand so get ready to build plenty of sand castles! They also have games like shuffleboard, giant yard Jenga pieces, a life size chess board and a climbing wall. You can dine at the pool for reasonable prices and the food was actually quite good. The children got pizza and chicken, my husband absolutely demolished his chicken tacos and I got a tomato and mozzarella panini with fruits. Not the greasy food you normally see at a pool for sure.
(Adult Pool with waterfall overlooking the gold course and lake.)
*If you are kid free (or just want a break from your own) there is a lovely adult pool with a swim up bar and stunning views of the golf course and lake. A third option is a mineral pool in the spa area that is incredibly luxurious. I did a tour of the spa (you can use the amenities with a treatment or Regency club rooms).
(The Hyatt sells pool floats and provides a few for kids to borrow.)
*Daily event listings. The hotel has a ton of activities. We arrived on Easter Sunday and just missed a big egg hunt on the lawn. We were greeted with cute goody bags filled with bubbles and stickers and little toys for the kids. They also had authentic Native American jewelry making classes (I was sorry to miss this- the necklaces the kids were making looked really nice) and other little crafts and activities.
*The rooms were very spacious and clean and fresh. We had a pretty little private balcony that overlooked a grassy area and was quite peaceful. I escaped out there a few times in the morning and evening to get a little work done.
All in all this was a great start to our trip and I would without a doubt return to the Hyatt Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch again.
There is just so much to do in Scottsdale. We only had 48 hours but we made sure to hit a few fun spots:
Desert Botanical Gardens. This is a pretty spot to see all the plants native to the Sonoran Desert. There are 140 acres and over 15,000 plants. You will also find a restaurant, Gertrude’s, inside the gardens that was absolutely packed and looked fantastic. We enjoyed touring the gardens- typically you think of cactus or small, scrabby little bushes for desert landscape and we were really impressed by the botanical gardens. They were truly bursting with vibrant colored plants and trees and lush gardens and landscaping. It was quite hot the day we visited but the gardens do a really nice job of providing tons of spaces to rest in the shade. We saw several people in comfortable chairs under shady trees reading books all morning. There are tons of events at the gardens including a ballet that looks incredible, winter concerts, classes and a nighttime flashlight tour that my girls would have really enjoyed.
(I never would have expected the desert to be bursting with colors like this. So pretty!)
Definitely enjoyed this stop and recommend taking one of the free tours available. We learned quite a bit from the guide and left with a bunch of ideas for our own yard/garden.
Butterfly Wonderland. The butterfly wonderland is a huge, indoor glass atrium that is filled with butterflies. My two little girls love butterflies so I wanted to make this stop for sure. My husband was not excited at all about this stop and as we were leaving he said “You know I really enjoyed that.” So we gave Butterfly Wonderland a thumbs up all around. Inside you will find a calming, warm atrium filled with trees and plants and a waterfall and butterflies everywhere! We have been to a few places similar to this but I have never seen so many different types of butterflies and just so many concentrated in one place. They will land on you which was thrilling to my girls.
(I have never seen so many varieties and colors of butterflies. They were stunning!)
Odysea Aquarium. The Odysea is a large aquarium with an indoor helmut diving Seawalk adventure, touch pool and more. We have been to some of the best aquariums in the country and we really thought Odysea was right up there as far as sealife and experiences. This is in the same outdoor plaza as the Butterfly Wonderland and right as you walk in you are greeted with giant, functioning fishbowls on the ceiling as light fixtures. They are pretty amazing. Next I ran into the bathroom and had to turn back around and grab my girls to head back in. The bathrooms have glass walls over the sinks and you get a perfect view right into the shark tanks! This was such a fun start to our afternoon and we stayed for several hours.
(The balloon next to us taking off)
Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloons. This was really quite an experience and something I have wanted to do my entire life. We went up in a hot air balloon with Rainbow Ryders! This was such a delightful experience as we took the sunrise experience and got to actually see the sunrise in a balloon that went over the desert and up to 6000 feet in the air. We got lucky with a smaller basket (so just the four of us plus the pilot) and had such stunning views of Arizona and a glimpse of Colorado. I thought this would be a scary experience as I am terrified of heights but our pilot was very professional and solicitous and I never had a single moment of concern- even with small children in the basket. After the ride it takes a few minutes to pack the balloon up so they spread out a lovely champagne breakfast on a picnic table and we enjoyed fruit and croissants and juice right in the middle of a state park. So fun!
(Inside of the balloon- these are gigantic)
And this is out of focus but one of my favorite shots from the entire trip. The moment the balloon started to take off- you can see my daughter is pretty darn excited.
Not all hot air balloon companies are the same but we thoroughly enjoyed our experience with Rainbow Ryders.
(Giant cowboy boot downtown. So many whimsical statues to see!)
Old Town Scottsdale. Remember when I mentioned Scottsdale has a very clear personality? Wild West meets modern art, playfulness and dramatic landscape. Old Town features a charming strip of stores and restaurants and historic landmarks. Old Town is quirky and fun with a new sculpture or piece of art around every corner. The kids in particular loved seeing this little area. There is a free 90 minute walking tour that I was sorry we missed and there is also a free trolley that goes around the Old Town area from 11am until 9am daily. If you plan a trip at the end of winter, there are also horse drawn carriages available to tour around the downtown.
*I had to stop at the famous LOVE sculpture on the way to Old Town right next to the public library. If you have Harry Potter fans with you, I suggest walking up the library doors where you will find a gigantic sculpture of a quill and ink pot.
(My little ball player at the stadium right by the library/LOVE sign. You will also find a full size baseball mural in Old Town.)
(So cute right? Photo of Superchunk courtesy of Superchunk.)
WHERE TO EAT: Scottsdale is without a doubt a food city and you can choose from tons of restaurants or do a food tour! We wanted to do a food tour but didn’t have a chance on this trip. Next time for sure! We really didn’t get many opportunities to dine out but here were some highlights:
*Humble Pie: Delicious pizza in the same complex as Butterfly Wonderland and Odysea.
*Sweet Republic: Ice cream with delicious and interesting flavors to choose from. We got carrot cake ice cream and strawberry buttermilk and it was excellent.
*Superchunk: I was sorry to have missed this as they were closed on both days of our trip. Superchunk is a bakery/sandwich store that looks so bright and happy. They are most famous for Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies and I was totally planning to grab these to take back to our house sitters and dog sitters. Boo!
*Desert Doughnuts: We didn’t actually get a chance to go to this spot. Our hot air balloon guy was raving about it (apparently doughnuts are made to order on the spot and they have all sorts of crazy flavors) but the driver actually picked up doughnuts while we were in the hot air ballon and shared with us over breakfast. They were quite good!
Most of our meals were at the Hyatt during our stay and the restaurant and poolside cafe at the Hyatt served delicious food. No complaints at all.
Whew! That wraps up a whirlwind trip to Scottsdale. I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did!
Thanks so much to the Scottsdale Tourism Bureau for help with an amazing itinerary for our trip.
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LOVE Scottsdale, AZ! One of our favorites is the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park: http://www.therailroadpark.com/ I have boys and they love riding the train and watching all the model trains on display by the model railroad clubs. The largest model railroad display I have ever been to. They also love the Science Museum in downtown Phoenix.
Yeah thank you for the great tips Adena! I can’t wait to go back. 🙂