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How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in Scottsdale (Without the Kids!)

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I’ve spent a ton of time traveling in Arizona over the last three decades, and I still love it enough to keep going back for more. Our latest foray was a little different in that we got to spend an entire weekend in Scottsdale kid-free!

Whether you’re busy parents of busy kids on a quick escape or you just need a relaxing break from your routine, a Scottsdale weekend getaway is a fantastic choice. There are options for outdoor exploration, culture, cuisine and just plain leisure. After reading this guide you’ll know where to stay, what to do and more.

An in the interest of clarity, this article has photos from half a dozen trips I’ve made to the area – you’ll get to see me at many different ages in this Scottsdale itinerary!

Where to stay in Scottsdale

In contrast to my recommendations for where to stay in Scottsdale with kids, if you’re visiting on an adults-only trip you probably want to avoid the huge properties with water slides and family activities. There’s a time and a place for everything, but we opted for an amazing adult-oriented boutique hotel this time and we wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The Royal Palms Resort & Spa is nestled at the foot of Camelback Mountain. It’s a beautiful, impeccably-run property under the Hyatt umbrella – the perfect place to get away for the weekend, whether you want to use it as a base for sightseeing or spend much of your time relaxing at the resort. When I jokingly suggested to my husband that we go back two weeks later, he looked at me with a combination of hope and pleading. You can read my in-depth Royal Palms Resort review for more info.

The best way to book in my opinion is using an Amex Platinum card through their Fine Hotels & Resorts program. You’ll get a $100 property credit toward spa or dining, free breakfast for two, a room upgrade, late checkout and more. If it’s a personal Platinum, you’ll also get a $200 statement credit for Fine Hotels & Resorts once per year.


The perfect weekend in Scottsdale itinerary

Friday evening

When you land at the Phoenix airport, pick up your rental car or grab a ride share and head to Royal Palms Hotel – it’s just 20 minutes away so you won’t be wasting any of your precious vacation time!

Once you check in, let the relaxation begin. If it’s early enough, you can sit out on your patio and read while you enjoy views of the iconic Camelback Mountain. Once your stomach starts rumbling, head to the on-site restaurant T. Cook’s for their top-rated food. They offer a variety of meats and pastas with a Mediterranean bent.

After dinner, head next door for hand-crafted cocktails, dessert and live music at Mix Up.

If you happen to be arriving in Scottsdale on a Thursday, don’t miss the ArtWalk in Old Town Scottsdale! It’s a fun weekly event that runs from 6:30 to 9pm, with plenty of open galleries and sometimes even wine, live music and hors d’oeuvres.

Read more: Your Arizona Packing List: 10 Must-Haves From a Frequent Visitor

Saturday

Enjoy a filling brunch at the hotel before you set out for your morning adventure! Be sure to grab a table on the charming back patio, which has misting fans to keep you cool on hot days.

Thankfully you won’t have to go far to get to your first destination, Papago Park. How to start your time there will depend on the weather. If it’s not too hot, head over to the quick Hole in the Rock hike. I hesitate to even call it a hike – from the base to the top only took me about 10 minutes. It’s a pretty easy walk around the back side up a set of stairs to get a lovely view of Papago Park and into Phoenix. If you’re using ride share this weekend, you may want to hail a ride to get from Hole in the Rock to your next spot – it’s about a 30 minute walk to the entrance.

Whether or not you check out Hole in the Rock, your next stop is Desert Botanical Garden. It’s one of my favorite places in Phoenix! This incredible place has thousands of species of cacti, tons of desert wildflowers and often sculpture installations. Desert Botanical Garden is beautiful, peaceful and worth visiting in every season. It’s gotten busier over the years, so you may want to reserve tickets in advance to ensure you admission time. Grab lunch on-site at Gertrude’s Restaurant, which serves up an Arizona take on farm-to-table.

Head back to Royal Palms for your complementary 2pm mixology class. Not only do you get a free (delicious) cocktail out of it, but it’s a really fascinating look at the care and creativity that go into crafting amazing drinks. You’ll learn about ingredients, tools and techniques. It’s limited to 6 participants, and each person gets to choose their own cocktail from the menu. Be sure to sign up in advance to reserve your spot!

After enjoying the shade and AC, it’s time to head back to your room to change and grab your book to hit the pool! While the pool at Royal Palms isn’t huge, it’s refreshing and tranquil. You’ll often find floaties and tubes to relax on, and no one will judge you for bringing a beverage into the pool with you.

Be sure to drink some water as well to stay hydrated! In my experience, Phoenix tap water is absolutely terrible (it’s extremely high in minerals so most businesses and residences use chemical softeners that impact the taste but make it usable). So while I’m usually not a fan of bottled water for environmental reasons, this is one case when I suggest relying on the water provided in your hotel room.

As the sun sets, head back to your room to clean up. You’ll leave the property to head to nearby Postino Wine Cafe for dinner tonight. While it has spread around the region in the last few years, the original namesake outpost is just a few minutes away in a converted 1940s post office (hence the name) – be sure to select Postino Arcadia. Postino is a different concept than your traditional restaurant, focusing on wines, cheeses and bruschettas. Everything is intended for sharing so feel free to order up and sample it all! The wine selection here is really incredible, but the cocktails are also delicious.

Pro tip: If you arrive by 5pm, you can opt for a $6 glass of wine or pitcher of beer. For those whose “weekend” falls during the week, Monday and Tuesday after 8pm they offer a bruschetta board and full bottle of wine for just $25 – it’s almost enough for an entire meal for two.

Sunday

Just because it’s your departure day, that doesn’t mean the fun has to end! If you’ve booked the hotel with an Amex Platinum card through the Fine Hotels & Resorts program you’ll have a guaranteed 4pm checkout coming your way, along with free breakfast.

This morning’s activity is such a fun and unique one, but it is better to go by rental car than ride share. You’ll be visiting Taliesin West, the winter architecture campus established by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1937. It’s a beautiful site nestled harmoniously into the surrounding desert landscape, and a tour there is the perfect way to learn about the property along with Wright’s impact on American design. (Yes, that’s us in the photo – nearly 20 years ago!)

I’ve been on the tour several times and it’s downright fascinating, even if you aren’t a student of architecture. During the summer months it’s a self-guided audio tour (BYO headphones!) while it’s docent-guided the rest of the year. Either way, expect the tour to last a little over an hour and give yourself time to shop the Frank Lloyd Wright Store; it has really neat pieces that reflect Wright’s unique aesthetic. Note: many of the buildings aren’t climate controlled, so they may be hot in summer and cool in winter – dress appropriately.

If it’s not too hot when you’re visiting, either before or after your visit to Taliesin you can visit the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead just a few minutes away for a beautiful walk around the park. The Ringtail/Lost Dog Overlook loop is a nice ~2 mile jaunt that most visitors can tackle in about an hour – I was on the trail for closer to 90 minutes because golden hour provided so many amazing opportunities for both photos and solitude! You’ll have great views of the McDowell Mountains as well as desert flora and fauna. Bring ample water since it’s still the desert, no matter how easy the trail. It’s rocky in places so I recommend decent shoes, though you can get away without boots in my opinion. I’d probably do this hike before Taliesin in the spring/fall or after Taliesin in the winter.

If you’d rather be in nature without hiking, consider planning a fun desert photo shoot with Flytographer! We had a great session along the nature trail at Lost Dog Wash – it’s a really unique backdrop especially given how accessible it is. Save $25 on your first shoot with Flytographer.

For lunch, there are a few great options at your disposal. If you want amazing tacos, head to La Santisima in central Phoenix, just 15 minutes west of Royal Palms. For a more cultural affair, you can grab lunch and do some gallery hopping in Old Town Scottsdale, which is even closer and sort of on the way back from Taliesin. Most of the galleries are clustered around E Main Street, so pick a restaurant in that area if you want to park and stroll. There so much awesome local art and jewelry that you could spend hours wandering!

For the final act of your relaxing Scottsdale weekend, you’ll head back to Royal Palms to hit the spa! If it’s about time to checkout, feel free to bring your luggage with you and leave it at the spa desk. You’ll have a locker available during your treatment anyway and can continue using it until you leave.

Royal Palms’ spa offers a wide array of massages, skin treatments and beauty services. Choose whatever works for you to add even more relaxation to your weekend! We opted for a 50 minute couples’ massage, which we followed up with a soak in the hot tub for me and a turn in the steam room for my husband – choose your own adventure!

If you have time before your flight, feel free to take another dip in the pool. You can use the spa’s locker room to clean up and change until they close 5pm.

Alas, your perfect couples weekend in Phoenix is coming to a close. I’ll leave you with a final tip for managing the Phoenix airport, which can have atrocious wait times during peak seasons. First, both terminals have TSA Precheck and CLEAR lanes to move you through faster (we actually completed our CLEAR enrollment at PHX, and we get both services for free on our Amex Platinum cards). If you don’t have either of those options, you can reserve your security screening time up to six days in advance using the PHX RESERVE program – it can be a huge time saver.

If you have more time available, I definitely recommend taking a day trip to Sedona! It offeres a major change of scenery, great hiking and it’s at least ten degrees cooler.


Planning your trip to Arizona

Don’t miss these helpful resources as you plan an amazing trip to Scottsdale!

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