For a city blessed with 330 days of sunshine every year, you might think it’s difficult to see summer as a stand-out season in Scottsdale, AZ.

But picture this: deep blue skies stretching over a romantic desert landscape, warmer days inciting a thirst for freedom and adventure, and a city with endless activities and amenities to quench it. Summer in Scottsdale is full of fun and entertainment: from exhilarating hikes across the Sonoran Desert to leisurely strolls along the historic Arts District in Old Town.

With most people still experiencing pandemic-induced cabin fever, this must sound like decadent ice cream on a hot day. But how can you make the most of summer vacation while still observing public health guidelines?

Scottsdale, with its wide, open spaces, is the ideal place to have a great adventure not only during the summer but for all four seasons! And with Arizona allowing all businesses to resume their normal operations, you won’t run out of fun and socially distant things to do.

Safety first

COVID-19 Safety protocols in Scottsdale, AZ

Although the vaccine rollout is allowing more open public spaces and leisure activities, it is still important to comply with the prescribed precautions to keep everyone safe.

Before we head over to our ultimate Scottsdale summer recommendations, here’s a rundown of the health and safety protocols that residents and visitors are strongly encouraged to follow.

Travel requirements

While there aren’t any travel restrictions or quarantine requirements in Arizona, all air passengers (including fully vaccinated people) entering the United States are required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days before their flight. A self-quarantine period is also recommended after arrival.

Wearing a mask

The mask mandate in Arizona has been lifted since March 25, but the Department of Health Services strongly advises everyone older than 6 years old to continue wearing masks in public spaces. And in compliance with federal mandate, the use of face masks is required at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Frequent hand washing and social distancing

Everyone is encouraged to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based sanitizer as often as possible to limit the spread of the virus.

Those who are not yet fully vaccinated are also advised to avoid close contact with others and maintain their distance in public spaces. Take note that contactless payment methods like Venmo, Paypal One Touch, and Apple Pay are preferred in most establishments.

Following local businesses’ own regulations

All businesses have the right to impose their own COVID regulations within their establishment particularly with regards to mask wearing and social distancing.

Most are following the public health recommendations mentioned above, but we advise that you call individual businesses ahead for more detailed information about specific regulations and opening hours.

Socially distant activities to enjoy in Scottsdale

Without further ado, here are the 5 best things to do this summer in Scottsdale, Arizona.

  1. Explore the great outdoors
  2. Scenic Arizona desert landscape with Saguaro cactus at sunset.

    As part of Arizona’s “Valley of the Sun,” Scottsdale’s natural desert landscapes and numerous outdoor amenities are perfect for sun-loving nature enthusiasts, outdoor thrill seekers, or people who simply want to get some fresh air.

    • Journey through mountain highs and valley lows

      Nothing says adventure like the Old West, with horseback-riding cowboys navigating the rugged desert terrain and paving the way into the unknown.

      Although the American frontier is far behind us, you can still experience that thrill and pioneering spirit at Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, home to the awe-inspiring landscape and thriving cacti forests of the Sonoran Desert.

      Here you can find numerous trails for hiking, biking, and even horseback-riding, which is one of the best ways to take in the Sonoran Desert’s breathtaking scenery.

      If you prefer to journey on foot, explore the infamous Hole-in-the-Rock Trail at Papago Park. You can also test your mettle and rock-climbing skills at Pinnacle Peak Park.

    • Beat the heat with water sports

      Contrary to popular belief, living in a desert doesn’t mean you have to bear the dry heat of the sun among rolling tumbleweeds. There’s a lot of lakes and rivers around Scottsdale that can help you cool off and have fun this summer.

      You can enjoy tranquil tubing, canoeing, and paddle boarding at the Lower Salt River and Verde River. But if you’re looking for a more exhilarating rafting and kayaking experience, the Upper Salt River is the place to be. Boating, water skiing, and sailing activities can also be enjoyed at Saguaro Lake, Bartlett Lake, and Lake Pleasant, all of which are less than an hour away from Old Town Scottsdale.

      Around the Superstition Mountain Wilderness Area and Apache Trail are Apache Lake and Canyon Lake, where you can take a Dolly Steamboat cruise and listen to the legends and mysteries surrounding the Superstition Mountains. Roosevelt Lake and Chaparral Lake are also favorites of urban boaters and anglers.

    • Stroll along gorgeous desert gardens

      Desert landscapes aren’t barren spaces— they’re delicate ecosystems teeming with life! And that is what the Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden and the Desert Botanical Garden aim to show. Beyond desert gardening, these places also offer educational resources about reducing outdoor water use and appreciating the exquisite beauty of our desert environment.

      In contrast to the more strenuous outdoor activities mentioned earlier, visiting the desert gardens in and around Scottsdale provide a more relaxing way to explore and appreciate the beauty of the region’s natural environment.

  3. Go on a family-friendly adventure
  4. Beautiful woman enjoying horseback riding in nature with friends.

    Scottsdale is chock-full of activities for kids and kids-at-heart. Make this year’s summer vacation one that the whole family will remember by trying out these fun ideas.

    • Be a cowboy for the day

      Who doesn’t want to live the adventurous life of a cowboy? Take the kids to Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. Here, you can learn more about the history, art, and culture of the Old West through self-guided audio tours. You can also learn about railroad history and get the chance to ride historical trains at The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.

      But learning about the Old West and its cowboys is different from being a cowboy yourself. Gain some Western horsemanship skills and ranching techniques at the Arizona Cowboy College, where you and your kids can take horseback riding programs together.

    • Dabble in some wildlife exploration

      A rainforest in the middle of the desert? It’s more likely than you think. At the Butterfly Wonderland – the largest butterfly conservatory in the country – you can immerse yourself in the wonders of the rainforest by seeing the butterflies and reptiles that live in it up close and personal.

      Learn more about wild animals and how they can be rescued, rehabilitated, and released back into the wild at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. You can also marvel at the strange and beautiful creatures we share our oceans with at the Odysea Aquarium.

    • Work hard and play harder with indoor sports

      What can be cooler than saying you learned how to skateboard and do parkour over the summer? At the KTR Indoor Action Sports Playground, your kids can sign up for skateboarding, parkour, trampoline, tumbling, and scooter-riding classes. Rock-climbing classes and camps for kids are also available at AZ on the Rocks.

      If you and your kids want something with a little more adrenaline rush, you can go for some high-speed kart racing at the Octane Raceway. For the gamers, this place also has a full arcade and Velocity VR, the first free-roam multiplayer virtual reality arena in Western United States.

  5. Check boxes off of your foodie bucket list
  6. Cheerful male friends enjoying beer together.

    Scottsdale offers a gastronomic journey of epic proportions and summer is the best time to sample all the best drinks and food this city has to offer. Here’s a foolproof plan for your Scottsdale summer food trip:

    • Start with a summer classic: a cool glass of lemonade

      If we’re talking about authentic craft lemonade, nothing beats the Spirit of Aloha found in the fresh pressed lemonades at Wowwow Hawaiian Lemonade Stand. If you want a healthy snack made from local produce to go along with your lemonade drink, you should check out Farm and Craft and Flower Child.

      Not a fan of lemons? Sample other fresh juices, superfruit bowls, and parfaits at Chopshop. Of course, another great alternative to lemonade is sweet, creamy ice cream from the folks at Sweet Republic Artisan Ice Cream.

    • Enjoy your lunch or dinner al fresco

      Known as “Arizona’s most welcoming beer garden,” there are 28 craft beers and a wide variety of European-inspired brats, burgers, and sides to choose from at Old Town’s Brat Haus. Customers eat on a spacious patio, where you can enjoy your food and drinks along with some chill patio games.

      Stay cool under a shade of trees at The House Brasserie or Old Town Tortilla Factory, where you can feast on American and Southwestern cuisine that harks back to older days. And if you’re craving some Mediterranean dishes, a waterfront dining experience is a must at Olive & Ivy‘s sunlit patio.

    • Make the most of your summer nights with these nightcaps

      Scottsdale’s desert landscape makes for really cool and refreshing summer nights. At the heart of Old Town, you can grab some Italian food with your local craft beer at Bottled Blonde or have a one-of-a-kind cocktail at Blue Clover Distillery.

      If you have a taste for finer spirits, you can sample the renowned wines at LDV Winery’s Old Town tasting room. But preferring an ice-cold pint of beer after a long day is perfectly fine too, so try out Goldwater Brewing Co., Craft 64, or Scapegoat Beer and Wine. For the night owls, a little late-night coffee run with some live music is possible at Sip Coffee and Beer.

  7. Be enthralled with Scottsdale’s art and culture
  8. The Old Town Arts District of downtown Scottsdale Arizona

    As Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Space is the breath of art.” And no city understands this better than Scottsdale. An entire neighborhood in Old Town exists solely for the city’s art galleries, museums, and thriving arts community.

    • Ever since 1975, the Scottsdale Gallery Association (SGA)—in partnership with the City of Scottsdale – hosts the Scottsdale Art District Art Walk. It’s the best way to explore various art studios and galleries at your own pace, accompanied by great live music and refreshing drinks.

      Even if it isn’t Thursday, you can stroll through the galleries of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Here, you can admire works by local and up-and-coming artists who are paving their way in Scottsdale’s art scene.
    • Explore the rich histories and sounds of musical instruments around the world at the Musical Instrument Museum. For architecture aficionados, Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home masterpiece and laboratory Taliesin West offers “Guided by Wright” audio tours where you can appreciate his life and works.

    • After marveling at the ethereal beauty of the wind bells, structures, and dwellings at Cosanti, end the day right by watching live music and dance performances at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

  9. Indulge in retail therapy
  10. Latin American couple shopping at a clothing store and using facemasks during the pandemic while paying at the till

    There’s no better way to spend a sunny summer day than going on a shopping spree. With over 2,500 luxury stores, local boutiques, and upscale shopping malls, Scottsdale is a shopaholic’s paradise.

    • If you’re looking for homegrown fashion boutiques and jewelry stores, you should drive by Fifth Avenue, home to Scottsdale’s original Arts and Crafts center. You also can’t miss the historical Scottsdale Fashion Square, which boasts an impressive roster of luxury stores, international brands, and world-class dining experience.

    • Stroll around Scottsdale Quarter, also known as “The Beverly Hills of the Desert.” True to its name, this open-air, park-like shopping district is home to over 80 retailers, restaurants, and beauty stores. Kierland Commons is another upscale shopping mall that’s just a short drive away for those living in the North Scottsdale area.

Scottsdale can be your playground this summer

With countless adventures and activities to choose from, Scottsdale is the perfect summer destination. And paired with 330 days of sunshine a year, you can say that summer never ends in the Valley of the Sun.

Looking for the perfect home in Scottsdale?

Let us help you! We are the Matheson Real Estate Team, Scottsdale’s premier luxury real estate team. We are composed of incredibly talented and experienced real estate agents who continue to go above and beyond our clients’ expectations.

Combining individual market knowledge and specializations, our real estate team has extensive insight on all the communities in Scottsdale, making us one of the leading luxury real estate teams in Arizona.

Start the search for your dream summer home in Scottsdale with us today. Call us at 888.656.4830 or send an email at Don(at)scottsdalerealestate(dotted)com. You can also send us questions or messages here.