SUN, SAND, AND SERIOUS EATS IN SCOTTSDALE

A beautiful and luxurious desert oasis, Scottsdale is brimming with great restaurants, five star hotels, and adventurous activities. While weekend trips to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Tucson can be easily arranged, you won’t find the need to leave this Southwestern splendor. Hot days and cool evenings provide the perfect climate to lounge by the pool when the sun’s out, and bar hop in downtown when day reaches night. With more than 330 days of sunshine a year, it’s a bright idea to schedule a trip to this exclusive pocket of Arizona.

Day 1 (Saturday):

We arrived late at night into the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on a JetBlue flight from Boston. We picked up our rental car from EZ Rent-a-Car, where we were given a free upgrade from a Toyota Camry to a Toyota Rav4. The price for the rental was $235 for 9 full days. We drove to the Sheraton PHX Tempe hotel, where we stayed for free, redeeming 3,000 SPG points.

Day 2 (Sunday):

After working out in the fitness center and getting ready, we checked out of the Sheraton and drove to St. Francis in Phoenix for Sunday brunch. St. Francis is a modern, industrial open-air restaurant that has great food and a live jazz band. We ordered the farmer's breakfast, spinach scramble, and crispy, rosemary potatoes.

After brunch, we drove to the Sheraton Desert Oasis, where we would be spending the next seven nights. Check-in was seamless, and we spent some time exploring the property and relaxing in the spacious 1-bedroom unit. For dinner that night, we stayed local and tried out Fat Ox, a sleek, new restaurant in the area, owned by a locals' favorite, chef Matt Carter. If you don’t mind stepping out with your wallet a little lighter, this is a great spot. The restaurant is uber chic and the dishes are a very creative spin on traditional Italian options. We ordered Rigatoni Lamb Verde, the Gigli, and Rosso Crest di Gallo. Our favorite was the Gigli, simple garlicky, red sauce pasta.

Day 3 (Monday):

We woke up early in the morning to take on our first hike. Pinnacle peak is a heavily trafficked 3.5 miles in-and-out trail that is very moderate, with an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet. It offers beautiful views of mansion dotted gold courses.

After we finished the two hour hike, we were on a carb hunt, so we drove to the famous pizza spot, Pizzeria Blanco, in Phoenix. We devoured the bread and olive oil, the seasonal mozzarella tomato salad, Pasta Bolognese, the Wiseguy and Margherita pizzas. For dessert we melted from pure ecstasy while eating the vanilla bean rice pudding and flourless chocolate cake. We basically rolled out of the pizzeria feeling like mounds of dough, but it was so worth it.

After lunch, we drove to downtown Scottsdale where we walked around before heading into Berdena’s for coffee. Berdena’s is a sunlight filled, petite sized barista shop. It became our go-to spot for coffee during our trip.

Since Scottsdale can get rather stifling in the mid-afternoon, we headed back to our room at the Sheraton to cool off and snooze off the carb-loading. In the evening, we drove a mere five minutes to the Scottsdale Quarters shopping area, which is like a mini city. It’s beyond any strip mall, as thousands of shining string lights illuminate the central plaza. For dinner we ate at True Food Kitchen, a healthy restaurant chain from Fox Restaurant Concepts.

Day 4 (Tuesday):

We woke up early again, and drove to the Gateway Trailhead in the McDowell Mountain Preserve and trekked the Gateway Loop, a 4.2 mile moderately trafficked trail. The elevation gain is about 700 feet.

We rushed to finish the hike so we would make breakfast by 11 AM at New Wave Market in downtown Scottsdale. The super cute spot is adjoined to the pastry shop, Super Chunk. We ordered the egg sandwich on a challah roll, a smoked salmon bagel, and the classic breakfast. The café has many local goods and desert themed items if you’re looking to return home with gifts.

After breakfast, we walked over to Berdena’s for iced lavender honey lattes. We perused more of downtown, walking over to the shops and cafes on 1st Ave. There is a micro coffee shop called Fourtillfour, that serves a good cup of Joe and buttery, cinnamon bread out of a renovated garage, to go with its classic automobile vibes.

Another cute spot on the street is Arcadia Farms Café for a garden patio inspired brunch, or its sister marketplace next door, offering fresh to-go items. Later that day, after spending time in the room, we drove to Flower Child for healthy options. The order-at-the-counter café has a beautiful and fun aesthetic, as do most restaurants from Fox Restaurant Concepts, a restaurant group with a major presence in the Phoenix metro area.

After a light afternoon meal, we drove to Kierland Commons for some shopping. Much like neighboring Scottsdale Quarters, Kierland Commons is a charming strip mall with great stores. We really liked the store Sundance, founded by actor, Robert Redford. The store is kind of like a mix between Anthropologie and Free People, but with a rustic, SouthWest vibe. There are a handful of stores around the country, but it has yet to make its way to New England.

For dinner, we opted for Sugar Bowl, a novelty ice cream parlor in Old Town Scottsdale. Entering the parlor doors feels like a journey through a time tunnel, direct to the animated intro of Bewitched. We fell victim to the spell that is the hot fudge sundae.

Day 5 (Wednesday):

Dreaming of ice cream and broomsticks, we woke up early and drove to the more remote Tom’s Thumb Trailhead in the McDowell Mountain Preserve. Tom’s Thumb trail is a challenging four mile out and back hike that features a 1230 feet elevation gain. This was the third hike of our trip, and we all agreed that all the trails are super clean and easy to navigate, and the trailheads are incredibly beautiful and well equipped with bathrooms, maps, and seating areas. The steep climb up offers great views of the valley below. On our way down, we encountered a rattlesnake mid-lunch on a mouse, plopped right in the middle of the trail. We had been forewarned online of these desert creatures in reviews of the trail, but didn’t think we’d actually see one, let alone be held up by one. One of us actually tried to stealthily creep around the snake, but ended up falling over by accident. Inches away from the venomous snake, we were thankful it was preoccupied. It slithered away to the shade of a nearby bush, a poor mouse in its jaws, and we were finally able to finish our hike.

After the close encounter with wildlife, we drove to downtown Scottsdale for an early lunch. We sat outside at Culinary Dropout, another member of the Fox group, and ordered the homemade potato chips with onion dip, burger, and a spring salad.

We walked around the area a bit afterwards, and found ourselves back at our favorite coffee spot, Berdena’s. In addition to our coffee, we ordered a rose & raspberry cake that was perfectly sweet and light as air.

We then walked around downtown, stopping into some resort chic boutiques. This time we made our way further into Old Town, and checked out the Old Scottsdale Schoolhouse, a free museum. Make sure to stop into Saba’s, a mecca for cowboy boots.