Planning Your Trip
- Where to Go
- The Best of the Valley of the Sun
- Wild West Adventure
- Let Scottsdale Rock Your World
- Finding Water in the Sonoran Desert
- Spring Training
- Arizona Family Road Trip
- Phoenix Points of Pride
- Southwestern Culture and Heritage
- Nocturnal Scottsdale
- Exploring Phoenix’s Architecture
- Unexpected Arizona
- Desert Chic
- Chilly Drinks and Cool Eats in Scottsdale
Where to Go
The Sonoran Desert’s brilliant light and warmth permeate every aspect of Arizona’s state capital, now the fifth-largest city in the country. Thanks to more than 325 days of sunshine a year, it’s possible to dine alfresco, play golf, or hike year-round. The jagged mountains that surround the Valley of the Sun are prime spots to explore the area’s diverse desert landscape. For a little urban fun, downtown Phoenix and the college town of Tempe offer terrific new museums, cultural attractions, and popular restaurants.
Phoenix’s best-known suburb may call itself the “West’s Most Western Town,” but visitors are immediately struck by its pleasure-loving attitude. Scottsdale prospers thanks in part to its chic resorts, restaurants, and nightspots, along with its desert golf courses and eclectic boutiques selling cowboy boots, trendy brands, and luxury goods. The city’s galleries support the country’s third-largest art market, and its five-star spas are among the finest in the world. Even architect Frank Lloyd Wright was seduced by the area, building his winter home, Taliesin West, here in the 1930s.
It’s easy to understand why Sedona is called Red Rock Country. Its massive crimson buttes lure travelers and outdoor lovers with monumental formations and intricate spires. The city’s hidden resorts, charming galleries, and rugged Jeep tours cater to visitors’ desire to explore its otherworldly prehistoric landscape, which is accentuated by deep-green ponderosa pines and leafy cottonwoods. Historic and cultural sights dot the neighboring Verde Valley, such as the ancient cliffside dwelling Montezuma Castle and the Old West mining town of Jerome.
When to Go
Locals like to joke that Phoenix and Scottsdale have three seasons: beautiful, hot, and “it can’t get any hotter.” And though there’s some truth to that sentiment, Phoenicians easily adapt in order to take full advantage of the sunny, desert climate year-round.
There’s no better time to visit Sedona or the Valley of the Sun than spring. Temperatures peak in the 70s and 80s during the day and cool down to “sweater weather” at night. Residents spend most of their time outdoors, taking advantage of the numerous golf courses, hiking spots, open-air shopping centers, and annual events like Major League Baseball spring training and the FBR Open. Also, the desert bursts to life in an explosion of color thanks to the numerous wildflowers and blooming cacti.
You may actually love Phoenix in the summer when it sizzles—of course, it may be the nosedive in rates at luxury resorts and spas that helps you embrace the heat. The searing temperatures and constant sun leave visitors and residents with little choice but to stake out the closest swimming pool. Cooler mornings and late nights provide relief, and sudden monsoon storms that build in the desert deliver a refreshing reprieve many evenings.
Fall kicks off the social season. Eager to escape their air-conditioned confines, residents return to their outdoor haunts in October and November, filling up patios and gathering for festivals and concerts.
By winter, the mercury reaches the 50s and 60s, and the sunny, blue skies make Phoenix a mecca for snow-weary travelers. It can get downright chilly in Sedona, and the occasional light dusting of snow of the red rocks is a spectacular sight.
What to Take
A resort mentality and a Wild West attitude pervade much of Arizona, and overall, visitors will find Phoenix and Sedona to be pretty casual. Jeans are acceptable in most places, and in the summer shorts and flip-flops become de rigueur. That said, Scottsdale’s nicer restaurants, bars, and clubs require that you “dress to impress,” which almost never means a suit or tie. Also, visitors planning to take advantage of Arizona’s myriad outdoor activities should come prepared: sneakers and hiking boots, swimsuits, and golf shoes and clubs.
The desert’s arid climate can create a bit of confusion, as temperatures can swing as much as 20 to 30 degrees from an early-morning low to a late-afternoon high. Fall through early spring, be sure to bring along a sweater or jacket if you plan on staying out when the sun goes down. And it can be downright cold in the winter, with overnight temperatures sometimes falling below freezing.
Oh, don’t forget the sunscreen. Or at least stock up when you get to Phoenix. The Sonoran Desert’s powerful sun shouldn’t be underestimated, particularly in the summer, when in late afternoons, the sun’s rays are most intense and can cause fair skin to burn in less than 10 minutes. Be sure to wear a sunblock with a high SPF by the pool or on the golf course.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition