I moved to Scottsdale when I was 9 years old and although I left to attend graduate school in California, this desert city is still home to family and friends. While I go back often, the growth over the past 30 years has rendered it almost unrecognizable to me at times, so when I had the chance to put together a Spring Training trip this year, I welcomed the opportunity to take a fresh view of the city I grew up in. Playing tourist rather than resident opened my eyes to new sights and experiences while allowing me the benefit of not getting lost! For those contemplating a visit next year, herewith is a completely biased overview of how best to enjoy Scottsdale in the spring.
Go for the baseball; stay for so much more!
For anyone who loves baseball, the Cactus League is just shy of heaven. Warm weather, intimate fields, a preview of up and coming prospects, awesome margaritas, TexMex barbecue and a festive atmosphere, can make you feel like you’ve stepped into a scene from Bull Durham. Heaven, right? Yes, except for the prices which have shot up over the past few years as this has become somewhat of an annual tradition for many baseball devotees. While you can spend all of your time watching my beloved SF Giants, there are 14 other teams to explore in the Valley of the Sun. Begin planning at least six months ahead for best pricing and then just relax and enjoy.
So what else is there to do once you’ve gotten your baseball fix? Let me count the ways to enjoy yourself!
Scottsdale is home to wide variety of talented artists. I planned this trip to coincide with the annual Scottsdale Arts and Wine Festival. It’s a great venue with artists, food, music, activities for kids and opportunities for silliness with friends.
If you are interested in architecture, a visit to Taliesin West, home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s School of Architecture is a must. Take the tour and learn about the history of this visionary man; a man who endeared himself to me because he built a theater on site for his lovely wife!
For nighttime entertainment, I recommend the Rhythm Room with bands like Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns, one of the best group of musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of dancing to. Tell their rhythm guitar player that Korie sent you . . .
Does shopping count as an outdoor adventure? I’d dare say yes, especially in downtown Scottsdale with it’s many streets of quaint and unique artistic shops. Wear good walking shoes and enjoy! Once you are shopped out, try hiking up to “hole in the rock” in Papago Park, which is just that…a big ol’ hole…with a great view of the valley and even a sneak peak into the zoo.
The Desert Botanical Garden is another treasure to be explored, especially at this time of year with so many plants in bloom. If you want to do both the daytime exhibit and the night time light show, be aware that you have to buy a ticket for the same day in order to get a discount. We opted for only the night show which was awesome.
Dry heat demands hanging out at watering holes
They say it’s a dry heat, and by golly it is. So where should you wet your whistle in the desert town? There are so many to choose from it’s a little bit crazy-making. Most have outdoor seating with misters which makes it very enjoyable this time of year. Here are just a few to get you started:
The Pink Pony – Classic, fun, talk up the servers, they are well travelled.
The Grapevine – Lavash is their main dish, sit upstairs, enjoy the view, karaoke most nights if you’re feelin’ the urge.
Culinary Dropout Waterfront – Boy, am I glad these guys dropped out of culinary school! Great food, drinks, and a sports bar!
Olive and Ivy – Enjoy the view with a cold cocktail and pick up great food to bring back to the hotel with you.
Los Olivos – What can I say? I get cravings for their cheese crisp. Best Mexican food in the valley with tons of character.
The Sugar Bowl – Classic old-timey ice cream parlor sure to cool you down after walking in the heat.
You can avoid the necessity and expense of a rental car if you stay in downtown Scottsdale and use the ever present golf carts to literally cart you around. Drivers work for tips only so it’s your discretion what to pay. Advice here – chat up your driver – he or she may be a medical student studying to be a heart surgeon! You can also coordinate with them to pick you up at designated times so it’s like having your own personal driver. Of course, there’s always Uber or Lyft as well.
Finally, getting some sleep . . . in bed or next to the pool
Staying in downtown Scottsdale at any of the many hotels may be slightly more expensive but affords you the luxury of being within walking distance to the stadium, an abundance of restaurants, bars and more shopping than you could possibly accomplish during a short visit. A pool is a necessity if only to cool off from the afternoon game and take a nap before the evening’s festivities. I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott and would recommend it highly not just for the location and pool but honestly, the staff was the friendliest I’ve encountered in many years. And perceptive! When they realized I desperately needed a latte to help recover from a slight hangover, they opened the coffee bar just for me. I would have hugged them but the room was still spinning slightly.
And speaking of hugs, I’d like to give a virtual hug and big shout of thanks to my family and friends who ventured out with me on this trip. It reminded me once again that it really isn’t the place you travel to but who you travel with.