Arizona: Scottsdale

Imagine a bar that’s shoulder to shoulder with twenty and thirty somethings while also elbow to elbow with baby boomers. Growing up, when I heard the word “Scottsdale” I thought ‘retirement town’. And while a fair amount of the older generation still land Scottsdale/Paradise Valley in Arizona’s wealthiest city category, the young professionals have certainly made their presence known. Much like the population, Scottsdale is crawling with restaurants and bars, old and new alike. As if that’s not enough, there are numerous resorts and spas all of which are guaranteed to offer a day of relaxation and a great game of golf. Bottom line: if you’re going to vacation in Arizona, Scottsdale is a great place to start.

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Camelback Mountain

We’ll start with Old Town. My dad is a huge Clint Eastwood fan. As a kid, it wasn’t abnormal for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or The Outlaw Josey Wales to be playing on television. I was accustomed to cowboys, desert towns and good old-fashioned standoffs. I did grow up with two brothers after all. But Old Town Scottsdale has a way of making you feel as though you’ve landed in the midst of one of Eastwood’s films.

As if at any moment, Clint himself might ride in on a horse to save the damsel in distress while delivering cool, suave lines that writers will attempt to recreate for years to come.
While Old Town is considered a tourist-heavy part of Scottsdale, it is definitely worth the stop on your vacation, especially if you’re souvenir shopping. Amongst the dozens of country-western shops are hidden eateries and boutiques, all within walking distance of one another. Old Town borders the high end Fashion District, once again mixing the old with the new. At night, the streets are brightened by overhead string lights, creating an airy atmosphere. Golf-carts galore fly by carrying groups of thirty somethings onto the next dive bar to drink and dance the night away. Living about a mile from Old Town was pricey, but it sure was convenient.

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Among my love for Clint Eastwood is also my love for food. I’ve heard it said, you either live to eat or eat to live; I certainly fall under the first category. If you’re a foodie like me, then you won’t be disappointed with your choice to visit Arizona. While mexican cuisine is a staple in the Southwest, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find much more variety in the Scottsdale area. Below are just a few of my favorites.

Restaurants/Eateries

O.H.S.O. Brewery & Distillery– a super casual indoor/outdoor spot with a wide variety of local brews and their own house made liquor-based cocktails. The patio is dog friendly and the food is to die for! My favorite brew was an IPA called BOOM Dynamite. *(note:if you go to the Indian School Road location, they offer free valet parking)

Olive & Ivy– the perfect Mediterranean inspired spot for any meal, from brunch to dinner. Slightly higher scale when compared to O.H.S.O but still yoga pants approved. Also, add it to the list of dog friendly patios. Two of my favorite happy hour drinks included the Fig and Ginger Mule or house-made sangria.

Diego Pops– vacationing in Arizona requires ATLEAST two taco stops. If you’re in Scottsdale, Diego Pops should be taco stop number one. You can’t really go wrong, no matter what you order so play a game of eenie meenie miney moe and eat up!

The Henry– an upscale trendy spot with delicious drinks and even better food. The beauty of this joint is that they also have a neighboring cafe that offers the same delicious food and drinks without the fancy atmosphere.

Doughbird– a loud, open space that offers great appetizers and pizza. And who doesn’t love pizza? Try the Lebanese humus with warm pita and tomatoes to start!

The Porch– The patio has porch swings and yard games for crying out loud! If you can stand the heat, try any of their specialty drinks while swinging away outside. *(note: they offer free valet parking).

Morning Squeeze– A great brunch spot with a long list to choose from (full disclosure, not the best food in Scottsdale). But they have mimosa flights and all day breakfast, I mean can you beat that?

Blanco Tacos + Tequila – A chain, I know but it’s the second stop on the taco train. I have a standard when it comes to Mexican: I want a good taco and an even better margarita. Blanco’s has the best combo I could find. Although, I would suggest calling ahead and making a reservation due to crowding. *(note: they offer free valet parking)

Salty Senorita – mexican again. Sorry but mexican-inspired cuisine is my bread and butter. S&S, as I like to call it, has a variety of margaritas and the best outdoor seating on the strip in Old Town. Plus, their patio is also dog friendly so feel free to bring your pup.

Coach House– alright, so complete transparency; this place is a total dive bar. But aren’t those the best kind? Should you find yourself there during the holidays, enjoy the wall to ceiling Christmas lights and the fact that they’re open 365 days a year! I promise it’s worth standing in line-expect dive bar drinks, cheap prices and good conversations.

Pitch– A pizzeria that offers so much more. With half indoor/half outdoor seating, you can’t go wrong grabbing a bite here. This little gem was within walking distance to my unit so Danko and I crashed on the patio often. They offer so much more than pizza, including an extensive wine list and a quieter atmosphere.

GNO at Diego Pops
GNO at Diego Pops
GNO at Diego Pops
GNO at Diego Pops

If you’re not a foodie like me, Scottsdale still has much to offer you! Try your hand at bike riding alongside the Arizona canal, which passes through the Fashion District on a beautiful maintained path. You’re likely to see multiple public bikes with the Grid logo available for public use. You can download the app and pay per minute, day or week. I’m uncoordinated so maybe you’d rather take a stroll through the Desert Botanical Gardens like I did. For the more enthusiastic outdoor individuals, I’d suggest hiking Camelback Mountain. There are two trails that lead you up to the summit: Echo Canyon and Cholla Trailhead.The western trail Echo Canyon, while shorter in length, is steeper so keep that in mind when planning your hike. Be sure to take plenty of water and try not to hike in the heat of the summer, especially if you’re not used to the Arizona heat. I have several friends who had to be escorted down due to heat exhaustion. Another thing to note is the parking situation. There is more parking at the base of Echo Canyon but if you choose to hike Cholla, be sure to get there early for a good spot. Neither of the trails are dog friendly so keep your pups at home. Whichever trail you choose to hike, I can promise the view at the summit won’t disappoint!

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Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Garden

Regardless of what you choose to partake in, I guarantee you’ll find the same sophisticated, warmth that I did while in Scottsdale. Keep an eye out for more on some of my favorite cities in Arizona, including Sedona and Flagstaff!

Happy Travels,

Ragan & Danko

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