Chef-driven restaurants and hotels with distinct personalities are proving that this Arizona resort town offers more than just spas and sunshine.
The hacienda-inspired Bespoke Inn has become downtown’s top address since it opened in 2013. The four rooms come with freestanding tubs and cozy patios, the roof has a lap pool fringed by daybeds, and the adjacent bicycle shop lends out English Pashley cruisers for exploring the neighborhood’s galleries. Nearby, the sceney Hotel Valley Ho is a Midcentury time warp. Spacious rooms have oak credenzas and Saarinen chairs, and the spa specializes in detox treatments.
Global flavors mixed with local techniques define Scottsdale’s food scene. At Virtù, in the Bespoke Inn, Gio Osso gives Mediterranean cooking a Southwestern spin, spicing up octopus with chili butter and spiking the burrata with fire-roasted peppers. The vibrant interiors at Sumo Maya set the stage for bold Latin-Asian flavors like Korean beef tacos and Mexican pho. In Old Town’s waterfront district, Barrio Queen dishes out Mexico City–style antojitos including carne asada tortas and churros drizzled in goat-milk caramel. Chef Charleen Badman of FnB pairs a Middle East-inspired menu (kale falafel, wheat-berry tabbouleh) with a wine list focused on Arizona’s budding wine country.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter house and still-operating architectural school, Taliesin West, remains a pilgrimage site for its masterful expression of desert design. On the northeastern edge of town, the 30,000-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve has 130 miles of trails through an arid, otherworldly landscape along with some of the area’s best rock climbing.
Flight Time: About 1½ hours from L.A., two from San Francisco.
February Averages: High 71 degrees; low 48 degrees.
Number of Spas: More than 50 (about three per square mile).
Wild Things: The Sonoran Desert has more than 500 animal species and some 2,000 native plants, including the iconic saguaro cactus, which can grow up to 70 feet tall.
Jeff Ficker is Travel + Leisure's Scottsdale Local Expert.