Part of Scottsdale's charm is its proximity to other Arizona marvels, which makes day-tripping a neat pastime. Sedona is two hours away and can be a spiritual escape, with its towering red rock mountains and serene landscapes; art galleries and boutique shops abound. Just a bit further north is Flagstaff, where the Lowell Observatory is a must-do.
One of the oldest observatories in the country, this is where Pluto was discovered in 1930 and where a just-finished $53 million project has resulted in the fifth-largest telescope in the country; guided tours, solar viewings and evening stargazing occur daily.
Hop on the Trail, Forget the Loop
The popular Loop 202 will take you through many of Scottsdale's neighbor towns. But for a true adventure -- the kind of experiential drive inspired by Scottsdale's rugged surroundings --hop on the Apache Trail, an 80-mile roundtrip route that begins in Scottsdale and dates back to the 1930s.
It offers classic Old Western charm, including the tiny, dusty town of Tortilla Flat and the recreated ghost town of Goldfield. The trail's craggy turns reveal jagged mountains and crystal lakes. And a stop at Lost Dutchman State Park offers manageable hiking trails and idyllic picnic spots, while Tonto National Monument lets you glimpse at preserved Indian dwellings.
Eat Low Key, Forget the Reservations
Prime dining finds a comfortable home in Scottsdale. But when you're in the mood for good food at lower price points and with no reservations required, check out Greasewood Flat. The ambiance is unassuming by design: you're sitting down at picnic tables.
A game of horseshoe helps pass the time. But it's the burgers here -- all featuring fresh-ground, 90 percent lean beef and all priced less than $9 – that are legendary. Grab a local brew at the Tap Shack and enjoy live music several days a week.
Visit in summer, skip winter
Balmy weather explains why the winter months mark peak travel season to Scottsdale, while the sizzling summer months can create a travel slowdown. But don't let the towering mercury scare you away; these hot days help create some of the best values in the travel industry, with even the ritziest of resorts dropping summer rates by 75 percent off winter's highs. Discounts and incentives at restaurants, museums and tours become rampant, too.
Gabe Saglie is senior editor for Travelzoo, which features hotel, airfare and a bevy of local deals in Scottsdale HERE.