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In Arizona, Scottsdale is well-known for its luxurious resorts and golf courses, which makes it a popular vacation spot for anyone looking to unwind. 48 hours in Scottsdale might not seem like a ton of time (it isn’t), but a weekend getaway to this relaxing city will still recharge your batteries in the best possible way.
I understand if you’re a little skeptical. Scottsdale isn’t the cheapest place in the world. So, is it it worth visiting if you’re not a golfer? Absolutely!
Hikers, foodies, shopaholics, and art lovers, who don’t want to spend all their money on spas, resort fees, and golf courses, are still able to enjoy Scottsdale’s vibes.
In fact, this guide focuses on activities that are enjoyable even off the resort’s grounds. However, I still leave juuuuuuust enough flexibility, so that you’re able to book a facial or massage too.
All in all, Scottsdale is the perfect city to spend a weekend. As a smaller city, with a walkable old town, it’s easy to see a lot of things without too much stress. I even loved visiting Scottsdale alone.
Scottsdale Weekend Travel Tips
First off, I wanted to share a couple of travel tips before getting into specifics about what to do with 48 hours in Scottsdale.
These tips will show you how to get around and where to stay, as well as touch on safety concerns (spoiler alert: there aren’t many; Scottsdale is one of the best places to travel alone in the USA).
Getting Around Scottsdale
Like most of the US, Scottsdale and its surrounding area are most accessible if you rent a car. Public transportation is pretty much non-existent.
Only Old Town Scottsdale is pedestrian friendly and walkable. In fact, for the attractions in Old Town Scottsdale, I recommend not using a car and walking everywhere. Sadly, parking is a bit of a hassle here, so leave your car at the hotel when exploring the old town neighborhoods.
However, for attractions further away, such as Taliesin West, you will need a rental car. Don’t cringe at the thought of renting your own wheels. I’m speaking from experience. I didn’t want to shell out money for a car, so I used a lot of rideshares, but in retrospect, this turned out to be a lot more expensive than just renting a car for the weekend.
Rent the car. You won’t regret it.
Safety in Scottsdale
As far as crime, Scottsdale felt pretty safe to me. Normal street smart precautions apply.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is Scottsdale is very popular for bachelorette parties. Avoid confrontations with drunk people, and keep a close eye on your own drinks. Only drink when served by the bartender, and if traveling solo, limit yourself to two drinks.
Your biggest danger will come from desert conditions. Scottsdale is unbearably hot in July and August, and although this itinerary talks about hiking, you shouldn’t go hiking in the summer. Opt for the resort pool or more museums instead.
Even in spring and winter, always bring enough water with you on hikes. Your sweat instantly dries in Arizona, and you won’t realize that you’re dehydrated until it’s too late. The rule of thumb is to turn around on your hike after you finish half your water bottle.
Honestly, if you’re not a skilled hiker, it’s not a bad idea to go with a guide. I’ll talk a little more about my own guided hike later in this itinerary.
What to Pack for Scottsdale
- Bathing Suit: Planning on hitting the spas or hopping in the pool? Then don’t forget to bring your bathing suit with you, friend!
- Hiking Boots: A lot of the trails in and around Scottsdale are very, very, very rocky. You need a strong pair of hiking boots for most desert hikes. Seriously, don’t skimp here unless a broken ankle is appealing to you.
- Leggings: I practically lived in leggings in Scottsdale. Leggings are especially important for outdoor activities.
- Lonely Planet Southwest USA: I’m a huge fan of Lonely Planet. This Lonely Planet Southwest USA guide covers Scottsdale, as well as the entire region, which is helpful if you’re planning a longer solo trip.
- Reusable Water Bottle: You need to drink a ton of water to stay healthy in the desert. Always have a reusable water bottle on hikes. As a side note, once you drink half your water, turn around to go back, and never, ever, ever hike in the middle of the day in summer. Dehydration and heat stroke are sneaky.
- Sunblock: Use lots of sunblock even if you think you don’t need it. You don’t want to bring a red sunburn back as a souvenir from your solo trip to Scottsdale.
- Sunglasses: I personally think an adorable vintage pair of sunglasses fits in well with Scottsdale. You’ll look like a 1920s star with these shades!
- Wide-Brimmed Hat: Scottsdale’s strong sun will burn your face even in winter. Bring a foldable brim hat with UV protection to keep your skin cool and happy.
Where to Stay with 48 Hours in Scottsdale
- Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows: This high-end desert oasis is geared toward Millennials (as are all Andaz hotels), and is seriously a place to unwind and relax. Perfect if you’re willing to splurge on your solo trip to Scottsdale. Compare prices on Expedia.com | Booking.com.
- Hotel Valley Ho: This retro hotel was originally built in 1956 and is a downtown icon! Come here for a splash of Scottsdale’s history. Compare prices on Expedia.com | Booking.com.
- Hyatt House Scottsdale/Old Town: I stayed at the Hyatt House in Old Town, and thought it was perfect! This more budget-minded option will free up some money for activities. Compare prices on Expedia.com | Booking.com.
If you prefer to rent an apartment, Vrbo has some lovely options such as this gorgeous condo that’s perfect for a single person!
48 Hours in Scottsdale: A Detailed Itinerary
In this itinerary, I’ve included a variety of activities, such as hiking outdoors and going to museums and eating lots of desert-inspired cuisine, but as a traveler, I don’t play golf or go to spas much. However, I know that Scottsdale is very popular for both of those.
So, don’t feel bad about squeezing in a spa visit on either of these two days, or eliminating something that doesn’t interest you.
Day 1 in Scottsdale
Welcome to your first day in Scottsdale! Scottsdale has a lot of excellent breakfast spots, so you’ll want to fill up on your energy for a ton of great sightseeing. Let’s go!
Delicious Meal at Breakfast Club
Your first top is a breakfast at the Breakfast Club. This restaurant fills up fast during busy mornings. As a single diner, it’s easy to score a seat at the bar, though. The food here is delicious. I personally loved the Border Bowl with hot sauce. Yummy.
No doubt, the Breakfast Club definitely knows how to pull off a Southwest breakfast and is a great start to your weekend getaway in Scottsdale.
You can find the Breakfast Club at 4400 N Scottsdale Road.
Morning Walk at Desert Botanical Garden
After breakfast, take a short drive to Desert Botanical Garden. These 55 acres of desert landscape offer plenty of glorious views and easy-going walks. I have a confession: I actually cried at how incredible the cacti were here. I never knew that they were so, so tall.
At Desert Botanical Garden, you can participate in a variety of activities (check the calendar in advance) or go on a guided tour to learn all about the thousands of species of cactus, trees and flowers that surround you.
You can find Desert Botanical Garden at 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy.
Hike the Hole in the Rock in Papago Park
You’ll have plenty of time to easy hikes with 48 hours in Scottsdale. Your next stop is very close to the botanical gardens: Hole in the Rock at beautiful Papago Park.
You can park your car a short distance away from the rock. Keep in mind that you don’t scramble up to the hole in the rock from the front (where the parking lot is, facing the zoo). Instead walk around it and take the well-managed trail to the opening. Hole in the Rock gives you sweeping and beautiful views of downtown Phoenix.
The hike itself is short and easy. I’m not super fit (by any stretch of the imagination) and managed just fine.
Eat Lunch at the Mission
After your hike, return to Old Town Scottsdale and have a light lunch at The Mission.
Inside, the gorgeous Himalayan salt block wall makes for a unique dining experience. In particular, I loved Tecate Creekstone Skirt Steak tacos and desert-inspired prickly pear cocktails. I sat at the bar, but there’s a wide variety of seating available, including outdoors.
You can find The Mission at 3815 N Brown Ave.
Explore Old Town Scottsdale
Old Town Scottsdale is a walkable area packed with restaurants, shops, galleries, museums, and so much more. The tourist information center has plenty of maps and advice available, should you need help.
In particular, I loved seeing all the terrific public art, going inside the Old Adobe Mission, and spending too much money at the storied Fifth Avenue Shops.
For visitors wanting a more in-depth experience, I suggest booking an afternoon Segway tour that takes you all over Old Town Scottsdale.
Admire the Art Galleries
Scottsdale attracts many artists. Seriously, if you love art, then this is the perfect city for you.
Small galleries are everywhere in Scottsdale’s Historic Art District. If you’re here on a Thursday, the galleries have extended hours, as well as opportunities to meet the artists and drink a glass of free wine (or two, or three). Even if you don’t buy anything, the art galleries are fantastic to visit, and make you feel as if you’re in a top-notch art museum.
Eat Dinner at HULA’S Modern Tiki
Last but not least, why not enjoy some Tiki to unwind after an epic first day in Scottsdale?
HULA’S Modern Tiki has a fun atmosphere, Polynesian-inspired cocktails, and hella great food! I absolutely devoured my Spicy Thai Chicken Bowl. Yummy! The bar is also huge with plenty of comfortable seating.
You can find HULA’S Modern Tiki on 7213 E 1st Ave.
Day 2 in Scottsdale
I hope you had a good night’s sleep, because the second half of this 48 Hours in Scottsdale itinerary is going to be packed with plenty of outdoor activities. But, first, let’s talk about breakfast.
Breakfast at Prep & Pastry
Prep & Pastry has some of the best homemade pastries in Scottsdale. Seriously, the daily pastry is so, so, so good. Like, melt in your mouth delicious. They also make a really good Southwest twist of Eggs Benedict with carnitas and goat cheese hollandaise.
The inside of Prep & Pastry is super cosy too, and definitely one of the more “Instagrammable” places in Scottsdale, if that sort of thing is important to you, haha.
You can find Prep & Pastry at 7025 E Via Soleri Dr #175.
Learn History at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
I’m a huge fan of museums, especially themed museums specific to a city or region, so I highly visiting Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West during your 48 hours in Scottsdale.
This two-story museum tells the history of the American West, and as a Smithsonian affiliate, the exhibits do a comprehensive job educating the public. I loved all the examples of Southwest art and photography from decades past.
You can wander the museum on your own, or if you have you own headphones, do an audio tour.
Have a Showstopper Milkshake for Lunch
You must be ready for lunch now. Or, you’re like me and can always eat.
Our next stop is ZuZu set inside the retro Hotel Valley Ho. For me, I had to order the Show Stopper Shake for my lunch. Yes, a milkshake for lunch. Hear me out.
The Show Stopper Shake is thoughtfully crafted and changes frequently to fit a monthly theme. The home-made and diverse ingredients piled on top are wonderful for photography and to eat. Obviously. Sure, the shake looks too pretty to eat, but do it anyway.
And, alright, if you don’t want a ton of sugar, there are lots of other lunch options available on the menu, haha.
Admire Architecture at Taliesin West
Time to leave Old Town Scottsdale and head to the outskirts for a special treat. Taliesin West Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert laboratory and winter home that overlooks the beautiful and rugged landscape of the McDowell Mountains. Taliesin West is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a “must see” for your 48 hours in Scottsdale.
Taliesin West is quite far from Old Town Scottsdale, so you will either need to drive or book a rideshare. Rideshares wait times might take awhile. I was getting a little nervous, because Taliesin West was closing as I waited for my rideshare, so keep that in mind.
You also need to book your tickets in advance. Taliesin West sells out. You can either book an audio tour or a guided tour online.
Taliesin West is worth the trip even with only 48 hours in Scottsdale.
Go on a Sunset Desert Hike
After Taliesin West, see more of the desert with a classic sunset desert hike. Personally, I suggest booking a tour for walking in the desert at sunset, especially if you travel alone to Scottsdale.
I’m not belittling anyone or judging anyone’s hiking abilities, but I’m a strong believer in respecting nature, especially as night approaches. On my own desert hike, I needed a head lamp to get back to Scottsdale.
Ultimately, it’s easy to get lost in the desert (unless you’re going to the Hole in the Rock) and having hiking companions is a good way to stay safe.
I recommend taking a sunset desert hike with Mad Desert Trekking. You’ll go with an experienced guide and learn all about the flora and fauna of Arizona’s deserts.
Eat Chopped Salad at Citizen Public House
Your 48 hours in Scottsdale is slowly coming to an end. No need to despair, though, because you have a great dinner ahead of you at Citizen Public House.
Oh man. Where to begin? You must, must, must order the chopped salad. This is seriously the best chopped salad that I have ever had in my life and I still dream about it, haha. I would come back to Scottsdale just for this salad. The server chops it for you at the table or bar, which makes for a cool experienced, and then the final product is just … *chef’s kiss*. Perfect.
You can find Citizen Public House on 7111 E 5th Ave.
I hope you enjoyed reading how to spend 48 hours in Scottsdale. As always, reach out to me if you have any further questions about planning your visit to this wonderful city.