Mountains. Desert. City.


To visit Scottsdale, Arizona, is to discover a place with many sides.


Located next to Phoenix in the Sonoran Desert and at the foot of the McDowell Mountains, Scottsdale has a reputation for offering the good life in a beautiful setting.


If you’re planning a trip to Scottsdale, as I did in August, here are five ways to experience the city while also social distancing.


On horseback


From the towering saguaro cactuses to the unpredictable desert landscape, hopping on a horse at Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch is like taking a trip back in time. Our one-hour tour, which took us through the winding trails of the Sonoran Desert in the Goldfield Mountain Range, allowed us to fully envision ourselves as cowboys and cowgirls of the Old West. Saguaro Lake also offers kayaking, tubing, bird-watching and fishing.


Info: saguarolakeranch.com


By golf cart


For a four-wheeled view of Scottsdale, book a tour with JoyRidesAZ, which is run by wife-husband team Monica and Kirk Nicodemus. During our one-hour sunset tour, we zipped past famous Scottsdale landmarks, including the history-rich Scottsdale Rodeo Museum, the towering, lasso-wielding Old Town Scottsdale Cowboy, and Hotel Valley Ho, which first opened in 1956 and has been restored in recent years to its classic, contemporary roots. Our golf cart was outfitted with a clear drop-down screen for added protection due to COVID-19. JoyRidesAZ also offers themed tours, such as a "sip and shop" tour, a gelato tour, and an Instagram tour.


Info: joyridesaz.com


On foot


Scottsdale is filled with stunning places to hike, but during much of the year, you’ll want to get up early, as temperatures can quickly climb into the 100s. One ideal place for a morning workout is the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a protected space that includes Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountains and the Sonoran Desert. Or, for a farther-flung day trip, head to Saguaro National Park, located less than two hours away.


Info: mcdowellsonoran.org


By the food


First things first, if you’ve never tried Lucky Charms French toast at Hash Kitchen in Scottsdale, you’re missing out. The thick-cut brioche French toast, topped with whipped cream, Lucky Charms marshmallows and yes, gold dust, is a revelation, as is most of the menu at this Scottsdale favorite. Want a tipple? You’re covered there, too, thanks to its sprawling build-your-own Bloody Mary bar and its popular mimosa flights. Other local favorites include the wellness-focused Farm & Craft, the trendy Hula’s Modern Tiki, and meat-paradise Hand Cut Burgers and Chophouse.


Info: hashkitchen.com


Where you sleep


Seeking a family-friendly place to rest that’s filled with five-star amenities? Don’t miss the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, a AAA Four Diamond property that offers panoramic views of both Mummy and Camelback Mountains. Whether you’re enjoying tableside guacamole as the sun sets on the patio at Rita’s Cantina & Bar or relaxing in the 32,000-square-foot Spa at Camelback Inn, which incorporates the healing benefits of the desert into its treatments, there’s a little something for everyone. Add in 453 guest casitas, four pools, championship golf and six tennis courts, and you may never want to leave.


Info: marriott.com/hotels/travel/phxcb-jw-marriott-scottsdale-camelback-inn-resort-and-spa