Welcome to Scottsdale AZ, where the saguaro cactus meets Cartier (and other luxury brands). Originally founded in the 1890s as a farming community by U.S. Army Chaplain Winfield Scott, Scottsdale was once coined “The West’s Most Western Town”, but this Sonoran Desert destination has developed a new, uptown reputation and has since been described as “a desert version of Miami's South Beach” by The New York Times. Scottsdale continues to grow with a host of new luxury resorts set open in Scottsdale within the next year.
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa is one of the latest luxury accommodation openings in Scottsdale. Soak up picturesque views of Camelback Mountain as you breathe in the unmistakable air of the desert. Andaz is the boutique luxury arm of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, which celebrates local culture – and the Scottsdale resort is no exception. Local art abounds in the contemporary resort, which manages to be luxurious whilst remaining sympathetic to its Sonoran Desert setting.
Opened in November 2016, the hotel has the luxury of modern technology, including USB electrical ports that come in handy for the foreign traveller who fails to pack enough adapters.
While the cool swimming pool might be calling your name, take a stroll around the grounds (complete with swaying palm trees) to your bungalow.
There are 201 guest rooms and suites at Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa, each designed with a nod to the mid-century modern movement and drawing inspiration from Arizona artists such as Alexander Girard, Frank Lloyd Wright and Paolo Soleri, who used the desert as a creative landscape for expression.
Similarly, the architecture and interiors of the Andaz bungalows serve as the perfect canvas for colourful artworks from the local artists’ collective Cattle Track Arts Compound.
The bungalows are both spacious and contemporary, and are positioned in small clusters so it has a more intimate desert resort feel. Each ‘studio’ has its own private terrace from which to enjoy the sun-baked backdrop of Camelback Mountain and the desert landscape.
Food & drink
Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen follows the art theme at the Andaz. The central bar is ideal for enjoying a speciality cocktail, but the signature restaurant has mastered the art of sharing plates. Executive Chef Adam Sheff presented a tapas-style evening meal to revive us as we arrived at the resort, jet-lagged and travel weary, sitting agog at his name. It wasn’t until we returned for brunch the next morning, following a rejuvenating sleep, that we could articulate our excitement: “Nominative determinism – that’s the theory that people have a tendency to gravitate towards careers that fit their names!” Adam Sheff may or may not have been born to be a chef, but having worked in Hyatt kitchens (including Park Hyatt New York) since 2008, his experience and creativity come together in harmony here in Scottsdale.
If you can lure yourself away from the seasonal Sonoran sharing plates at Weft & Warp, FnB Restaurant in nearby Downtown Scottsdale is a must visit for foodies. Good food that showcases the best of Arizona's farming and agricultural community paired with expertly selected local wines is the focus of this acclaimed joint venture by Chef Charleen Badman and Front of House Manager and Beverage Director, Pavle Milic.
Mexican flavours are also big news in Scottsdale, with The Mission Old Town serving modern Latin American cuisine in a contemporary cool setting lined with chandeliers. Be sure to order the table-side guacamole, which is made in ceremony using fresh haas avocados smashed in a molcajete, along with your choice of ingredients: jalapeño, red onion, fresh garlic, sea salt, lime, tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, chipotle puree, cilantro, cotija cheese and roasted pepitas (pumpin seeds). Crispy pork belly and a cola lime glaze was also popular on our table (the frozen margaritas, too).
While in the Old Town, head to Rusty Spur Saloon for an authentic Wild West experience (but a warning, Brits, don’t forget your ID – no matter how mature you are). It’s said to be Scottsdale’s last ‘real cowboy saloon’ and has seen celebrities such as Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston walk through the satifying swing doors. Enjoy the Old West decor, local beers and live country music.
If you wake up to find that you've overdone it in the desert, you’ll find a mean Bloody Mary and a pleasingly American brunch or lunch at Hash Kitchen.
Things to do in Scottsdale, AZ
If you’re feeling active, Scottsdale’s rugged landscape is crying out to be climbed. Do head out early for a morning hike as that desert sun will make hiking harder later in the day. Camelback Mountain is the biggie (so named as its shape resembles the hump and head of a kneeling camel); be warned, the tougher of the two available hikes – Echo Canyon Summit Trail – has a near-vertical stretch towards the start. Hold on to the rail and hike your way up, as it gets easier past that point and the views from the top (the trail has en elevation of 1,876 feet) are incredible.
For a less taxing but wonderful way to see the desert in all its glory, choose to hike through McDowell Sonoran Preserve (an interpretive trail allowing people with disabilities to enjoy the park is also available) to see those towering Saguaro cacti up close.
For an overview of the city from up high, take a Balloon Experience with Hot Air Expeditions (don’t forget your sunglasses, sunscreen and do wear closed-toe shoes). If you’ve never been in a hot-air balloon before, it’s surprisingly serene – though the heat element can be noisy – and an unrivalled way to spot local plant life and wildlife, from 5,000 feet.
Back on the ground, Scottsdale Fashion Square is the area’s premier mall with boutiques from Bulgari and Gucci to the more American brands such as J. Crew and Macy’s, so be sure to head there for luxury shopping.
Then there’s Arizona’s awe-inspiring landmark – the Grand Canyon. I could write an essay about the majesty of the iconic gorge (we flew over it and then hiked back up and it was the trip of a lifetime) but instead I’ll simply say it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world and you have to see it to truly appreciate its beauty. Don’t be alarmed if you cry.
How to get there
We flew with British Airways from London Heathrow Airport to Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport (around 10 hours 45 minutes in the air). From Phoenix, Scottsdale is an 11-mile drive. We travelled to Grand Canyon with Westwind Air Services and Arizona Outback Adventures.