The concept of a winter wellness getaway may not have originated in Scottsdale, Arizona, but generations of Chicagoans have experienced the benefits of spending time in the desert during the coldest time of the year here.
Scottsdale typically delivers sunny and warm days to do what you please.
Sunrise hiking is a ritual for both snowbirds and locals. Download an app called AllTrails to find a hike that suits your ambition and abilities. In Scottsdale, there are 328 trails. The popular Camelback Mountain hike via Echo Canyon and Cholla Trail is rated “very challenging.” The view from the top is special, and if you’re fit and in shape (and carry plenty of water), an adventure awaits.
There’s also the kind of hiking that includes “retail therapy” in Old Town Scottsdale, an area spanning nine neighborhoods with lots of shops, restaurants, art galleries, museums, and historic sites from the 1880s. Old Town is a mash-up of urban chic and the Old West.
Of course, walking generates a big thirst, so sit a spell inside the charmingly tiny Rusty Spur Saloon, Old Town’s legendary “Last Cowboy Bar.” The drinks are cold, the food tasty, the vibe fun and there’s always live music to scoot your booty.
Scottsdale has a staggering 200 golf courses, from the humblest municipal tracks to legendarily tough championship courses. There’s something for everyone. A fun course (not too long with a scenic layout that’s grass-only from tee to green) is Starfire Golf Club. The staff is second to none. Importantly, expect your round to be four hours.
In Europe, there’s a practice called “forest bathing.” The idea is that walking in the woods is healthy because of the sights, sounds and smells. There’s something to be said about taking the same sort of walk in a place as remarkable as the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG). Less than a 10-minute drive from Old Town, DBG is 140 acres with 50,000 plant displays including more than 500 rare and endangered species, flat and winding sidewalks (lots of shady stretches), a seemingly never-ending number of events and special exhibitions, and a cute café for a cool drink and light lunch.
Where to Stay in Scottsdale
The range of Scottsdale accommodations is as wide as the Valley of the Sun. Check out listings on Airbnb and VRBO for sleek apartments or whole house rentals for a big group. If you want to be in the middle of everything in Old Town Scottsdale, be sure to confirm the exact location with your host before booking. Lots of the major hotel brands are in Old Town, including Marriott, W, and Aloft. A fun and refreshed indie hotel generating lots of buzz is Hotel Valley Ho, a mid-century design with plenty of amenities and mountain views. Be advised: Valley Ho is popular with the bachelorette and babymoon crowd.
For a healthy dining experience, check out any of Chris Bianco's restaurants (Pizzeria Bianco, Pane Bianco and Tratto). Bianco is a Beard Award winner (2003 & 2022) and a leader in the slow food movement.