Head to Scottsdale or Sedona for Your Next Desert Fix

More than just the land of endless golf courses and spa resorts, Arizona will surprise you with its unique range of outdoor activities and mystical charm.


For residents of Southern California, the Coachella Valley is in such close proximity that we often take other desert locales for granted. While there is something to be said for the mid-century marvels of Palm Springs and the golf course oases of Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage, the Arizona desert landscape offers an entirely new scene—just an hour’s flight away. Rent a car at PHX and start by exploring Scottsdale, which perfectly combines the amenities of a city with the pace of a resort, then head to Sedona, about 90 minutes away. Plan for a weeklong escape full of outdoor adventures, luxurious spas, culinary feasts, and quality time.

The Phoenician

The Pheonician
The Pheonician

With 450 standard guest rooms starting at 600 square feet, seven dining venues, a multi-tiered pool area with waterslides and an adults-only area, a Phil Smith–designed golf course, full-service spa (there’s even a Drybar), a game room with arcade, and a 4,600-square-foot athletic club, there’s little the Phoenician doesn’t have. Located in the heart of town, the property is the perfect landing pad for both rest and recreation and ideally situated for exploring the city’s numerous activities.

Historic Old Town

There’s no shortage of shopping in the area, but head to Old Town to explore the more independent boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Among the region’s 100-plus dining destinations, highlights include: Citizen Public House, chef Bernie Kantak’s modern American restaurant featuring favorites like pan-seared scallops, pork belly pastrami, and of course the famous Original Chopped Salad with smoked salmon, couscous, marinated tomatoes, and buttermilk-herb dressing; the kid-friendly Hula’s Modern Tiki; health-focused The Herb Box for satisfying brunches; Daily Dose Kitchen & Bar for indulgent breakfasts of made-from-scratch cinnamon roll pancakes, breakfast nachos, banana bread French toast, and of course, a bacon bloody Mary; and Berdena’s for classic coffee shop fare. Find a full rundown of the area at experiencescottsdale.com

Biking and Kayaking

Scottsdale Kayak

Even for those who don’t consider themselves “outdoorsy,” the desert landscape is hard to resist. REI Co-op Adventure Center offers a range of guided tours for all ages and levels—gear included. Choose from a half-day Scottsdale mountain bike tour, road bike tour, greenbelt bike tour, canyon lake kayaking, lake paddleboarding, and even a Grand Canyon Fly & Hike Tour, which takes you via plane to the Grand Canyon for a picnic lunch and guided hike.

Drinks at The Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain

Nestled directly into the mountainside, the Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain has a more adult-focused feel. Leave the kids with room service and sneak away for a date night at the property’s Jade Bar. Outdoor fireplaces, live music, and a happy hour that runs from 5–10 p.m. complement the menu of Wagyu beef and ginger dumplings, seared foie gras on banana French toast, and udon pumpkin curry.

Golf and Spa at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

There’s no shortage of stunning golf courses in Scottsdale, but the Four Seasons at Troon North is particularly special for its perfectly green grass, challenging play, pure-nature vistas, and landscape filled with boulders, rabbits, bobcats, and an array of cacti. Should not everyone in your group crave the links, the property’s spa has an aroma design bar where you can create your own spa products and treatments incorporating indigenous ingredients, such as the Prickly Pear Renewal, as well as Reiki and even a golfer’s massage.

MacDonald’s Ranch

Explore 1,280 acres of the Sonoran desert on horseback at this cowboy-themed ranch. There’s also a petting zoo, hayrides, and pony rides for kids as young as 10 months. Located about 30 minutes from the center of town, the ranch makes for a great half-day activity. End your day there with a “cowboy cookout” complete with sunset dinner, bonfire, and entertainment.

Indoor Pursuits

Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some air conditioning. Should you need some indoor activities, head to Octane Raceway for go-kart racing, bowling, an expansive arcade, and Velocity VR. And just down the street, iFly Scottsdale offers indoor skydiving.


The city’s striking landscapes are surreal. Terra cotta–hued mountains, layered and stacked and somehow climbable, complement sunsets in shades from magenta to violet to cerulean every day of the year. It’s no surprise that the area has attracted a plethora of healers, guides, and proprietors with passions for healing with crystals and trekking through vortexes. A handful of new and newly renovated properties make the town more desirable than ever, so plan to spend a few days hiking, healing, and simply stargazing, as Sedona’s designation as the world’s eighth International Dark Sky Community makes for spectacular nights.

Sedona Mystical Tours

Whether you consider yourself spiritual or a skeptic, you will likely be intrigued by Sedona’s many vortexes. Both male and female ones are said to exist, giving off different kinds of energy that may heal, calm, and even activate fertility. While the region’s numerous hikes are well marked and simple enough to do on your own, get the full experience with a guide from Sedona Mystical Tours. Hikes, meditation, and yoga are just some of the options.

Uptown Shopping

Along route 89A, you’ll find numerous shops for healing crystals, Baja-style ponchos, aura readings, and souvenir T-shirt shops. Touristy, yes, but that’s part of the charm.

Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village

This outdoor shopping area is modeled after a Mexican town and filled with stores like Ninibah for everything from turquoise jewelry, pottery, and handmade knives to toys, Arizona wine, and handmade quilts.


Scottsdale Arizona Ambiente

Years in the making, this landscape hotel is finally set to debut in May. Comprised of 40 cubed-shaped glass and steel atriums—many with their own private rooftop decks for stargazing—the property is nestled between the highway and miles of hiking and biking paths directly outside your door. A central swimming pool, restaurant, and boutique spa round out the offerings.


Set in Boynton Canyon, about 15 minutes north of the main town, this 218-room resort has just been entirely renovated. The new Trail House offers access to 400 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails, while the new spa suites allow guests to focus on well-being with experiences led by neighboring property Mii Amo’s team of top-notch therapists (expect sound healing, aura reading, and meditation).

The Wilde Resort & Spa

This just-opened property offers 105 contemporary-styled guest rooms inspired by the desert landscape. Located at the base of Thunder Mountain, the property features courtyards with Italian cypress trees, an expansive pool, a culinary concept, Rascal, inspired by classic American diners, as well as a spa with outdoor soaking tubs and sound baths.

L’Auberge de Sedona

Set directly on the banks of Oak Creek, in the heart of town, the well-established L’Auberge de Sedona offers a range of accommodations for groups of all sizes. Creekside cottages offer sounds of water flowing just steps from your room, while the Vista cottages feature 180-degree mountain views and telescopes for a closer look at the dark sky. Book the five-bedroom Creekhouse for an extended family getaway merging the privacy of a home with the amenities of a resort.

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