Many cities claim to have something for everyone, but few truly do. One exception is Phoenix, or more specifically, the Valley as a whole, comprising over a dozen cities, including Scottsdale, that make up the Phoenix Metro area.
Here, you’ll find every imaginable outdoor activity, world-class dining, vibrant nightlife, quick access to some of the world’s most renowned natural attractions, luxury shopping, and dozens of sprawling, top-tier luxury resorts and spas. All this is in the heart of the beautiful Sonoran Desert, a destination with well over 300 warm, sunny days each year.
With a unique approach to luxury that effortlessly blends prestige and unpretentious approachability, the Valley’s charms shine as bright as its perpetual sunshine.
Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably one of the world’s most influential architects, had a special connection to Arizona throughout much of his life. You can tour Wright’s longtime winter home, Taliesin West, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that served as his “desert laboratory.”
Aside from brilliantly showcasing Wright’s affinity for organic architecture, Taliesin West was a deeply personal project—one he created for himself. Walking tours of the 500-acre property include audio and guided options, lasting about one hour.
Take a scenic 25-minute drive northwest or southwest to Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak to experience firsthand why Phoenix is widely considered to have some of the country’s best urban hiking. But don’t let the in-town accessibility fool you: Both trails require climbing over 1,000 feet in just over one mile, presenting a challenge to even avid hikers. It’s well worth the effort, as the entire valley stretches out 360 degrees in all directions from both summits.
You can take a hot air balloon ride for an even more elevated perspective of the Sonoran Desert and the Valley’s surrounding mountains. The city’s perpetual sunshine and dry climate give it the unique honor of having more optimal flying days than anywhere else in the country! Rainbow Ryders and Hot Air Expeditions offer sunrise flights year-round and afternoon flights in the winter months.
While it’s not in the Valley proper, the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders, is close enough to visit on a day trip, especially on a helicopter. Departing from Scottsdale Air Park, several companies offer daily private flights year-round. The flight is about an hour and a half, and most tours include 30 minutes to one hour in the park, with options to add on private guided hikes, excursions into the canyon, or lunch.
Phoenix has a surprisingly robust food scene for a city synonymous with fantastic Mexican food. Authentic Mexican eateries are plentiful, and you should sample at least a couple. Still, the Valley has a handful of other standouts worth a special trip.
Start at Francine, a buzzy French-Mediterranean restaurant in Scottsdale that is simultaneously intimate, bright, inviting, and exclusive. Celebrities often dine here, just as intrigued as the locals by the restaurant’s innovative French classics. Think roasted octopus alongside chorizo and steak frites with salsa verde.
In North Scottsdale, glitzy steakhouse/Italian/contemporary American restaurant The Americano is another can’t-miss. The menu features the best of all those concepts, with mainstays containing fresh house-made pasta, Wagyu beef, and a delightfully whimsical cocktail program, including the Versace on the Floor and the Drunken Wifey.
If you’re a planner, try to snag a dinner reservation at Binkley’s. The restaurant accommodates only 20 people and offers single seating Wednesdays through Saturdays, with reservations opening six weeks in advance. As you might expect, they’re generally scooped up within minutes, so be sure to set a timer if this is a place that piques your interest.
“Dinner” is almost a misnomer, as a meal at Binkley’s is much more of an experience. It comprises 19-27 courses, and no ingredient is repeated throughout except for seasonings. Curated beverage pairings and upgrades are available, including caviar and foie gras. Diners start on the terrace of the converted Midtown home, then move inside to the bar and finish in the dining room.
To experience a different, genuinely unforgettable side of Arizona’s food scene, make a reservation for the Journey tasting menu at Kai in the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass resort. Kai is Arizona’s only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star-awarded restaurant, and it’s frequently named one of the best restaurants in the world.
What makes it so special? The restaurant is on the Gila River Indian Reservation, with a menu influenced entirely by the state’s Maricopa and Pima Native American tribes, with locally grown ingredients and ancient native and heirloom seeds used wherever possible. One particular dish is lauded globally: grilled tribal buffalo tenderloin with oxtail and smoked corn puree garnished with edible cholla buds and cactus blossoms.
Visitors are spoiled for choice regarding posh resorts in both Phoenix and Scottsdale. In fact, it’s one of the things the Valley is well-known for, and summer “staycations” are practically a way of life. There are dozens of top-tier properties to choose from, but three stand out in particular: Arizona Biltmore, The Phoenician, and the Four Seasons Resort at Troon North.
The historic Arizona Biltmore is a fantastic choice, especially for first-time visitors. The resort was designed by an architect who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, anchoring its eponymously named neighborhood in the heart of the city, and it’s just as timeless nearly a century later. The pet-friendly Waldorf Astoria resort encompasses seven pools, seven dining options, two championship golf courses, and direct access to some of the city’s best shopping.
Tucked away at the base of Camelback Mountain, The Phoenician has a longstanding reputation as one of the finest resorts in the world. That’s no exaggeration; 2022 is the 20th consecutive year of the resort being a Forbes 4-star Hotel and its 17th consecutive year as an AAA 5-Diamond award winner. Choose from luxury guestrooms, casitas, or the renowned Canyon Suites, which have hosted countless sitting presidents and A-list celebs.
Those looking to enjoy the desert’s serenity will feel at home at Scottsdale’s Four Seasons Resort at Troon North. The sprawling property fits harmoniously into its desert surroundings. Its 210 guest rooms, including suites with private plunge pools and outdoor showers, are spread across small casita buildings. Perhaps most impressive are the resort’s add-on activities, including guided mountain bike tours to local wineries, hot air balloon rides, day trips to Sedona, and even transportation in a private Cessna.
The resorts mentioned all have excellent spas, focusing on incorporating unique elements of the Sonoran Desert. However, following a massive multi-year renovation completed in 2018, it’s difficult to top the Spa at the Phoenician. In addition to 24 treatment rooms and a relaxation lounge, the spa houses the resort’s state-of-the-art fitness center and the crown jewel: a rooftop pool overlooking the city. The spa received a Forbes 5-Star Award in 2020 for its flawless service and unique offerings, including customizing essential oils before treatments.