Scottsdale Has Fun and Sun Any Time of the Year


By Judy Karnia


ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Travel writer Judy Karnia provides a delightful overview of what to experience in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on Podbean.



When most people think about visiting Scottsdale, they probably envision golfing and attending spring training games in the winter and spring. As a resident year-round, I can assure you that Scottsdale offers a wide variety of activities at any time of year.

We enjoy almost daily sunny skies and constant flowering plants and bushes, providing a gorgeous backdrop to any outing. If you like art, parks, hiking, hanging out at a pool, music, museums, shopping, wine tasting, or eating, this is the vacation spot for you.


Exploring Downtown Scottsdale

At the heart of Downtown Scottsdale lies the Civic Center, a park with space for festivals, concerts, strolling, and relaxing. Two picturesque stages front sloping lawns with areas of shade. Surrounding these are a xeriscape garden, splash area, playground, fountains, sculptures, and many bistro tables along the paths. On the edges of the park sit museums, the main library, City Hall, and a few restaurants.

Just to the east is the area known as Old Town due to the Old West look of covered sidewalks with wooden posts and hanging lantern lights. Most days see a throng of tourists buying turquoise jewelry, prickly pear candy, or t-shirts with clever sayings about the desert. Depending on the ages of your group, you can grab a drink at Rusty Spur Saloon or ice cream at Sugar Bowl, which have both been welcoming visitors since the 1950s. Other options include a tiki bar, Italian and Mexican restaurants, and sports bars.

Keep walking east past Scottsdale Road to explore the gallery district along Main Street. Most of the artists featured are contemporary and range from local to international.

Head north across Indian School Road to the Scottsdale Waterfront for more events, restaurants, and boutique shops. Two popular festivals occupy a couple of weeks along the canal: Scottsdazzle, with holiday lights and music, and Canal Convergence, with large-scale, interactive art.



Wine Tasting

Arizona vineyards have been growing in number and quality. Several tasting rooms in Scottsdale offer an opportunity to sample a variety of local wines. Good options in the downtown area include Aridus Wine Company, Merkin Vineyards, and LDV Winery Tasting Room.

Enjoy Nature

Throughout Scottsdale, you can take advantage of the pleasant weather by hiking, walking, or cycling. The Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt extends north for 11 miles from the border with Tempe, providing many options for recreation. A paved path offers a safe route through parks and golf courses for walking, running, and cycling.

Chapparel and Eldorado Parks embrace the multi-use path, containing lagoons, gardens, fields, and playgrounds. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park has two playgrounds, two train rides, a carousel, a model train museum, and refreshments for sale.

Hiking in the desert means breathtaking views and unique flora and fauna, but also a few potential dangers. The days may start off cool but can heat up very quickly and it is very easy to get overheated and dehydrated. Also, cacti needles are sharp, many of the trails are rocky, and rattlesnakes live here. However, if you choose a trail that fits your abilities and follow good hiking practices, a foray into this gorgeous landscape will be a highlight of your trip.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve contains over 30,000 acres of wild land and can be accessed from 10 trailheads in Northern Scottsdale. My favorite, the Gateway Trailhead, has a large parking lot, modern restrooms, and a good choice of trails of varying length and difficulty. The Bajada Nature Trail is a wide, relatively flat path with educational placards along the way. The Gateway Loop’s four-and-a-half-mile course provides scenic views over the Phoenix Valley, as well as a secluded feel on the backside.

Cultural Activities

Many options await visitors for finding some culture in Scottsdale, especially on those scorching afternoons. On the edge of the Civic Center, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art offers three galleries of rotating exhibitions. Next door, the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts hosts concerts, musicals, and dance performances.

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West sits in the gallery district and presents permanent and traveling exhibitions of Western art and history. Canvas of Clay features stunning Hopi pottery with intricate designs. The Spirit of the West Collection showcases 1400 items from the Old West collected by A.P. Hayes, such as spurs, holsters, and badges.

In North Scottsdale, you can tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and studio at Taliesin West. On display is Wright’s iconic style of imitating nature to blend local stones with wood and glass to fit seamlessly into the desert environment.

Where to Dine

Another major benefit of a temperate climate is the profusion of outdoor dining options throughout the city. Whether in Old Town, around the waterfront, or up north in Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter, you can enjoy every meal out on a patio. Heaters and misters extend the season to almost year-round.

An ideal day for me would be breakfast at Prep & Pastry at the Waterfront, lunch at Grimaldi’s in Old Town or Scottsdale Quarter, then dinner at AZ88 at the Civic Center. However, I have dozens of local favorites and you can find every type of cuisine and price point.

Explore Phoenix

Scottsdale is a perfect launching pad for activities throughout the Phoenix metro area. Many lodging options include hotels, resorts, and vacation homes. Especially during the warmer months, having a pool to lounge in during the afternoon fits perfectly with enjoying all of the city’s indoor and outdoor fun.

The Phoenix area offers many urban attractions, with museums and concert halls in its downtown and adjacent cities. Hiking trails and parks abound in the city and on the outskirts. The Desert Botanical Garden and the Musical Instrument Museum are two truly unique spots that should not be missed.

Any time of year, visitors to Scottsdale can enjoy a wide array of restaurants, shops, and activities. Downtown Scottsdale is a perfect home base to explore locally and throughout the Phoenix Valley.

Judy retired after 30 years as a feline veterinarian and is now focusing on travel writing and guiding forest bathing. After growing up in Chicago and living in the Midwest for many years, she moved to Scottsdale for the warm weather and desert scenery. She enjoys visiting urban areas to explore art and culture but also seeks out peaceful natural areas to recharge. Follow her adventures at



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About the Author:

Judy retired after 30 years as a feline veterinarian and is now focusing on travel writing and guiding forest bathing.

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