I bet you didn’t know Scottsdale, Arizona, has about 300 sunny days each year. That’s an example of why we think it’s one of the best secret winter sun destinations. Scottsdale is a great winter vacation for the whole family. So today I’m sharing our family friendly Scottsdale AZ travel guide!
We were starting to get a little stir crazy. Traveling is one of our things. But with everything going on, we wanted to feel safe.
That’s one of the reasons we like to rent out cabins and homes—it feels safer. It’s really the way to go.
Honestly, our winter vacation was so dreamy we had to share it with you. Scottsdale, Arizona, is one of the best winter sun destinations we have ever been to. We enjoyed great (family-friendly, safe, and socially distanced) accommodations and countless family-friendly activities.
Keep reading to find out exactly why we are looking forward to going back to Scottsdale, AZ next year.
Scottsdale AZ Travel Guide
Where to Stay in Scottsdale, Arizona
When considering winter travel, it comes down to location, location, location. Some people enjoy winter skiing, but our family also really enjoys food, sun, and nature.
Since we already adore living in sunny Florida it’s sometimes challenging to imagine other winter sun destinations. We found a winner with Scottsdale, Arizona.
Scottsdale offers art, food, culture, and countless activities, like seeing the numerous ranch operations. In fact, Scottsdale is “The West’s Most Western Town,” making it one of the more unique winter sun destinations—unlike our tropical origins. We love the change of scenery and experiencing all a western town has to offer.
Find a place that has it all!
When traveling with family, I HIGHLY recommend finding a home rental that has it all. While we really do love the fun amenities of resorts as well, sometimes it’s even easier when everyone has their own space (meaning the babies can get to sleep on time), with room for everyone to spread out, play together, have a break and play together some more.
We stayed at a wonderful home rental called the Bella’s Villa Voltaire. It is an open-air, alfresco living home and includes a heated pool, a kid’s playground, and an air hockey table… and it was PERFECT for our Scottsdale gateway!
We love rentals like these. The 4 bedrooms and 4 baths are perfect to accommodate a large family like ours. And even better we love the savings plus convenience by eating in a full kitchen and using the in-home washer and dryer (just about daily!).
Bella’s Villa Voltaire had such beautiful indoor/outdoor living spaces that we even canceled some of our activities so we could simply enjoy the rental. And when you are on winter vacation that’s really saying something.
Check out the video tour of bella’s villa voltair below, i’m sure you’ll love it as much as we did!
Things to Do in Scottsdale Arizona
When you’re looking for great family vacation winter sun destinations, we recommend looking for a location with a variety of activities to keep your clan entertained. Scottsdale doesn’t disappoint. There is so much to do we can only share some of the best suggestions.
Outdoor Activities in Scottsdale, AZ
Our family loves outdoor activities and with the pandemic, this has been the safest way to vacation for us. Winter sun destinations are the best choice for naturally socially distanced outdoor activities everyone can enjoy.
- Hiking in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. We started one morning with a family hike at McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It features the beautiful desert Saguaro cacti and roadrunners. We took the award-winning Bajada Nature Trail with an interactive experience for the kids—they loved it. And it ended up being one of my favorite photo spots too, the views were gorgeous!
- Guided Desert Hummer Tour. If you’re looking for a splurge and some adventure this is the way to go. Kids can partake in this unique tour experience they will never forget, and it’s SO on my bucket list for next time, because yes, we will be visiting Scottsdale again. Our littlest adventurers were too young, so we’re saving this adventure for the next time.
- Hot Air Balloon Flight. This one speaks for itself. You’ll love the amazing views.
- Road Biking along Scottsdale Greenbelt. We like bike riding as a family. These paths are easy-going, scenic, and full of picnic spaces.
- Horseback Riding. Enjoying a horseback ride speaks to the western culture of Scottsdale. Your littles, 6 years old and up, can enjoy a desert tour. Our entire family LOVED MacDonald’s Ranch. I took the older kiddos on a horseback ride through the gorgeous desert views and terrain, while Chris took the little ones to the petting zoo and other family activities. It really was so much fun!
More Fun Activities in Scottsdale Arizona
- Arizona Boardwalk. In the OdySea Aquarium, we explored over 30,000 marine animals in the largest aquarium in the Southwest, and we were SHOOK by the shark tank views in the restroom!! Then the kids wished for butterfly landings at the Butterfly Wonderland the largest state-of-the-art atrium in the United State, and we played around at Surprise Your Eyes the one-of-a-kind selfie museum. You can find even more fun things to do including Laser Mirror Maze, Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs, and a Titanic exhibit.
- Musical Instrument Museum. This self-led tour with headphones lets you hear the music of the world as you walk through the various exhibits. This is a great educational experience for kids and there is even a gallery with hands-on instrument opportunities.
- Wonderspaces. This rotating, interactive art gallery uses light, sound, movement, and virtual reality to immerse viewers into the artwork.
- Octane Raceway. Find casual family fun at this indoor arcade and cart racing.
- Topgolf. If you haven’t heard of Topgolf, it combines a driving range and a video game, where you aim for targets as you practice golf.
Where to Eat in Scottsdale Arizona
These are just some of the culinary delights Scottsdale Arizona has to offer. We didn’t realize what an amazing foody place Scottsdale is until we got there.
- Hash Kitchen Frank Lloyd Wright is a creative breakfast & bar known for its Build-Your-Own-Bloody-Mary bar and has become a local brunch hotspot… and one of our family’s FAVORITE places to eat. Every single dish and drink we ordered was delicious, fun, and inspiring. I’m ready to go back to Scottsdale just for a meal here.
- Culinary Dropout is a rock n’ roll-inspired gastropub with an amazing specialty drink menu featuring the Bacon Infused Bloody Mary, Smashed Irishman, and El Matador. Everything was DELISH.
- Hula’s Modern Tiki is a modern, urban twist on the classic tiki restaurants and bars of the 50s and 60s with a delicious Polynesian and American fusion menu. The food was so good!
- The Lodge is a new on-property pop-up restaurant for Christmas at the Princess. This resort transforms into an enchanting holiday wonderland with festive decorations and over 4.5 million sparkling LED lights. Our time at Christmas at the Princess was seriously magical, with ice skating, a train ride, Santa’s cookies and more! The food at the Lodge was great, but the atmosphere was even better. If you’re around during the holiday season, I highly recommend it.
- Farm & Craft is focused on healthy and sustainable food featuring menu paths for an anti-inflammatory diet, increasing probiotic levels, maintaining high levels of antioxidants, and reducing your overall stress.
- Stratta Kitchen is a casual, counter-service concept conceived by James Beard Award winner and two Michelin-star chef, Alex Stratta. We took our delicious meal to-go and set it all up at our amazing rental house for a fun game night. It was perfect, and we all loved tasting all of the flavorful combinations.
- Original ChopShop Co. is a trendy eatery full of health-conscious juices, salads, and protein bowls.
- Jalapeno Inferno is a lively Cantina featuring rotating menus including the annual Hatch Chile Harvest menu, “99 Nights of Summer” promotion, Taco Tuesdays, and Daily Chefs’ Specials. We’re always happy with a good taco night, and Jalapeno Inferno didn’t disappoint.
And of course, there are some other great, simple kid-friendly places to eat in Scottsdale for a quick or on-the-go bite:
Burgers & Fries
• In-N-Out Burger
• Yard House
Light & Healthy
• Flower Child
• Café Zupas
• Humble Pie
• PV Pie & Wine
Holiday Activities in Scottsdale, AZ
We were lucky enough to take our winter vacation before the holidays. Scottsdale, AZ has lots of holiday-related activities going on, but these are just a few we were able to participate in.
- Holiday Lights train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. This is a Scottsdale holiday tradition. This ticketed event is a magical experience (even at half capacity due to coronavirus health restriction) of lights and a mini train ride. The kids loved it along with the historic Charros Carousel and cup of hot cocoa from Hartley’s General Store were icing on this fun family event. It was SUCH a fun night!
- Christmas Lights Segway tour of Old Town Scottsdale. This super fun family activity is limited to children 12 and older. It’s a modern twist on the traditional family light seeing.
- Las Noches de Las Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden. This annual holiday event illuminates the botanical garden’s vast collection of cacti, succulents, and other desert plants with hundreds of luminarias and twinkling lights, all set to music. This is a fun nighttime experience your family is sure to love.
- ZooLights at Phoenix Zoo. You can walk or drive through this event, so if you want something with ultra social distancing, this is it. This is a ticketed event so be sure you make a reservation before you buckle up and enjoy.
- Christmas at the Princess. Of course, no matter the season, you can’t visit Scottsdale and NOT check out the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, located on 65 acres in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. The Fairmont Scottsdale offers no fewer than five distinctive restaurants and lounges, plus Well & Being Spa, and five heated outdoor swimming pools, including Sonoran Splash with two waterslides, and five tennis courts. During the holiday season though, the entire property is made over into an enchanting holiday wonderland with over 4.5 million sparkling LED lights. Go ice skating and watch colorful light shows in the Enchanted Plaza. Roast marshmallows and make s’mores together. Sled down the ice hill or ride the ferris wheel. Get your picture taken with Santa Claus and meet cute holiday characters.
Final Thoughts on Winter Sun Destinations
If you don’t understand why we think Scottsdale Arizona is one of the best winter sun destinations by now we aren’t sure what more you could be looking for. This place is amazing.
There is indoor and outdoor fun galore, more gourmet dining options than we could enjoy in one trip, and a unique western ranch feel.
The rental we enjoyed was out of this world and we would recommend it to anyone.
In the comments below, let us know which Scottsdale, AZ hotspot sounds like fun to you.
What did you find most helpful about this Scottsdale AZ travel guide? Let me know in a comment below!