If you only have two days to spend in the Arizona desert then too bad, because this sensational shopping/dining/resort/golf region just north of metro Phoenix deserves much more time. Especially at this time of year: When the winds are blowing and snow is falling in much of the country, Scottsdale is warm and sunny and the golf courses extra inviting.
The Boulders. There are two Jay Morrish-designed courses at this beautiful, self-contained resort famous for its big stone outcroppings. Both the North and South courses are desert classics, featuring vast views of the surroundings—rocks, cacti, distant mountains—and requiring subtly strategic play to avoid the wasteland. Both courses were also recently fitted with “short” tees, nine holes of 100 to 200 yards each perfect for new golfers or those with only about an hour to get a taste of either course.
Troon North Golf Club. Sitting in the shadow of iconic Pinnacle Peak, the two courses at Troon North—Monument and Pinnacle, both recently updated by original architect Tom Weiskopf—are the epitome of desert design. Even within the rugged landscape, the courses favor traditional modes of play, forcing golfers to make risk/reward decisions and offering options for attacking holes.
Taliesin West. The former winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright (pictured above) was also his studio and “architectural campus,” where he worked with and trained his disciples. Now open to the public with daily tours, the campus not only shows off Wright’s design ideas but is an early example of eco-design, integrating indoor and outdoor spaces.
Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Feeling the need for speed? Want to push a ‘Vette or Mustang to 100 mph—legally? The Bondurant school features a 1.6-mile road course and classes in how to drive fast and safe.
Old Town Farmers’ Market. If you think the desert isn’t vibrant and alive, check out this farmers’ market in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, where local seasonal specialties range from cider and apples to flowers, beef, local cheeses, breads, jams, and organic, pesticide-free produce.
Tonto Bar and Grill. Located in nearby Cave Creek at Rancho Manana (you can skip the golf), Tonto regularly wins Best Southwestern Food in local contests for its fusion of native and New West cuisines. Great meat and fish (there’s surprisingly good fish throughout the area), tempting desserts, and fine wine and cocktail lists.
Distrito. This just-opened restaurant in Scottsdale’s newest hotel, The Saguaro, is captained by award-winning chef Jose Garces and specializes in the cuisine of Mexico City including Barbacoa, Mexican barbecue.
Citizen Public House. On the site of the old Trader Vic’s, this “upscale tavern” mixes the casual comforts of an old-style pub with exciting dishes, craft beers, and unusual cocktails.
WHERE TO STAY
The Boulders. All 160 rooms and 60-plus villas of this classic resort have been recently refreshed with new colors and amenities. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with fireplaces and easy chairs, and look out over the incredible desert scenery. The resort also features tennis courts, walking trails, and a Golden Door spa on property. And try Latilla restaurant, which serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes made with locally sourced products.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. Nestled into the rocky desert, this luxurious resort features 25 casitas housing 210 authentically Southwestern rooms and suites. Onsite attractions include an outdoor pool and adult whirlpool, spa, tennis, hikes, rides, and tours into the desert, fitness classes, wine tastings, and privileges at the Troon North Golf Club.