Scottsdale, Arizona in 48 Hours

Recently, I visited the beautiful city of Scottsdale, Arizona. Located just 40~ minutes from Phoenix, Scottsdale is the perfect weekend getaway to escape the cold. As someone who lives in Seattle, I am always looking for more ways to soak in some vitamin D. The beauty of Scottsdale is its diversity – you can wake up early for a hike in the red mountains of Sedona before sipping mimosas by the pool in the afternoon. It’s a city that offers nature, a cosmopolitan feel, but most of all, tons of variety. Below I have created what I think is the best way to spend 48 hours in Scottsdale. NOTE: I am a brunch person, so most of the meals I splurged on were brunch. Luckily, Scottsdale has some of the best spots for brunch.


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Where to stay, eat, and do.

My best recommendations for how to spend a weekend in this desert Oasis.

Step 1: Find a place to stay.

When booking a place to stay, look no further than Stay with Style: Scottsdale. They are a family owned business with some of the most fun & modern properties in the city. With 9 different properties to choose from—you can find one that best suits the needs of your group. I recommend a vacation rental over a hotel for multiple reasons: 1. You can have the pool all to yourselves. One of the things I dislike most about hotel pools is that they’re always so crowded and cabanas cost too much money to rent for the day. With a vacation rental, you can guarantee that there will be spots to lounge by the pool and that it won’t close at 10pm. 2. The kitchen. Seems like a simple thing that you wouldn’t think you would want on vacation, but having a kitchen was a huge bonus to saving a lot of money in the city. All of the properties come with a fully stocked kitchen so you can blend your own drinks to enjoy by the pool and bring your own snacks. Our rental, The Hummingbird house, even had a cute coffee bar to enjoy in the mornings and a BBQ grill to enjoy during the day. The house had everything we needed to have a stress-free weekend. 3. The price. For $265 a night Sadie and I had a 3-bedroom house with a pool all to ourselves. It was the perfect recipe for a relaxing weekend away.

An added bonus of this accommodation is that it came with a free activity planner called Concishare. This made it easy for us to book a balloon flight last minute because the owner knew the people who owned the balloon company. It was definitely a highlight of the trip!

Step 2: Find things to do.

One of my favorite things about Scottsdale is that there is never a shortage of things to do. This is a city that caters to both the leisurely and adventure travelers—and everyone who falls in between. Sadie and I knew that we had to get out and explore Sedona—a very unique and beautiful place in Arizona. Located just two hours away from Scottsdale, the first thing on our agenda was to hike some of Arizona’s red rock mountains. I had always been intrigued by Devil’s Bridge and knew this is where I wanted to spend sunset on the first day. The hike is pretty popular, so be prepared to park in overflow parking. It’s about a 4-5 mile hike roundtrip that is relatively easy. It’s a must see if you plan to make the drive out to Sedona.

Sadie walking across the iconic Devil’s Bridge. It’s relatively sturdy—but please take caution if you decide to walk out there!

A Scottsdale must: fly in a hot air balloon at sunrise.

One of my favorite things we did on this trip was fly in a hot air balloon over Scottsdale at sunrise. Initially I was afraid to go, but it has been a bucket list item of mine for a long time, and when Concishare offered the last minute opportunity, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. It was hands down one of the best experiences I have ever had. Flying in the hot air balloon was extremely peaceful and it was amazing to see balloons speckled across a golden sky. If you can only do one thing in Scottsdale—this should be it. The company we flew with was BalloonsAZ. Their staff was really knowledgeable and funny and they also provided a fun breakfast afterwards.

If you want to splurge and visit a pool bar for the heck of it, I would recommend the pool bar located at the Andaz Scottsdale resort. The drinks were fun and the pool had plenty cabanas to lounge around in while you sip. We spent an afternoon over here to listen to a live DJ and get our tan on.

Sadie sitting at the fun poolside bar. We loved the modern look & feel of this space.

Sadie sitting at the fun poolside bar. We loved the modern look & feel of this space.

Step 3: Find places to brunch.

I am going to be honest here and say—that brunch is by far the best meal while traveling for 2 reasons: it’s delicious and it allows you to eat two meals in the same sitting which allows more time for exploring. That being said, Scottsdale had some of the best brunch places to choose from. The two places below had amazing ambiance and food. Thanks to both Hash Kitchen and Eggstasy for providing Sadie and I with delicious eats!

Spot 1: Hash Kitchen

Hash kitchen is a must visit spot if you’re in Scottsdale. On Saturday mornings the place is like a party. They bring a live DJ, have a bloody mary bar, and serve alcoholic cereal shooters (seen above). It’s a fun way to start the morning off right.

Spot 2: Eggstasy

Located just a short distance from our rental property, Eggstasy was the perfect spot to sit outside and enjoy brunch. With a large outdoor patio and a walk-up bar, you can’t go wrong with choosing this place. Some of our favorites included the lemon ricotta pancakes and their morning hash. Both equally delicious.

The food we ordered. Check out the garnishing on the bloody mary!

The food we ordered. Check out the garnishing on the bloody mary!

Bloody mary with a slice of bacon covered in chocolate.

Bloody mary with a slice of bacon covered in chocolate.

I am excited to be giving away this same experience to two people! See Instagram post for more details :)!

How to Plan the Perfect Weekend in Yosemite

I recently took a 4-day trip to one of my favorite national parks in the U.S.—Yosemite National Park. I hadn’t visited the park since I discovered my love for photography, so I was excited to see this place for the first time through my lens. I was able to hike some of my favorite trails, take way too many photos (see below!), and stay in the cutest cabin right inside the park with some of my closest friends.

For this trip, I teamed up with VacationRenter to find the best rental property (at an affordable price) to stay inside the national park close to all the main attractions. Being able to be within driving distance of Glacier Point was important to getting the photos I wanted to get with the best light. As much as I love camping, the winter months in Yosemite start to drop to the low 20’s during the day and at night, so having a cozy cabin with a fireplace was a huge plus and made our trip a lot more enjoyable.

As many of you know, traveling and being in nature is where I am most happy—so I wanted to put together an itinerary with some tips and tricks so that you can also visit Yosemite and have an amazing weekend. Yosemite truly is like no where else on this planet—waterfalls, valleys, granite walls that reach thousands of feet, and home to a lot of unique wildlife. It is a place I hope to visit time and time again—and you will too!

Step 1: Packing for your Adventure
Fall and winter trips can be amazing if you pack what you need! Being unprepared for the cold is never any fun. I have compiled a list of things I brought on my trip below: 😊

  • Warm clothing: Thermal shirts, down jackets, wool socks, gloves, and a raincoat. You won’t regret having these items if the weather conditions change!

  • Hiking boots: Some of the trails in Yosemite are dusty with a lot of rocks! It’s good to bring proper footwear so you can protect your feet and your ankles. It’s always a bonus if your boots happen to be waterproof as well.

  • External battery pack: This is important if you plan to have your phone charged all day. There won’t be many places in a national park to plug in if you need to!

  • Your camera: This one should be obvious! Who would come to Yosemite without snapping some photos?

  • Snacks/food from the local grocery store: Before entering the park, make sure to stop and get snacks and food from a grocery store. There aren’t many places to eat once you are inside the park—so make sure to stock up before entering!

 


Step 2: Finding the Perfect Cabin

If you’re anything like me—finding the perfect cabin nestled in the woods is like a dream come true. When I have visited Yosemite in the past, I have stayed in a couple different places including: hotels inside the national park, hotels an hour outside of the national park, and of course—camping! However, I usually visited Yosemite in the summer when the weather was much warmer. While the park is beautiful during this time—I found that the best time to visit Yosemite is in the fall/winter. With an average of 4.1 million visitors to the park each year—it’s a pretty popular spot! And most people like to visit when the weather is the nicest. The downside to visiting during the summer is more people and no fall colors—which added a lot of magic to this trip.

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Knowing that the weather was getting colder, I was lucky enough to team up with VacationRenter to book a 3-bedroom cabin that sleeps 9 people! And if you do the math, this can actually wind up being cheaper than booking a campsite (Just bring more friends 😊). For reference, the cabin I booked specifically is here, but the best thing about VacationRenter is that you can find the perfect rental to fit your needs while also staying within your budget.

Personally, I love staying in vacation rentals but have always hated how difficult it is to find the perfect rental that fits the needs of my trip. While using VacationRenter I didn’t have to search a bunch of different sites to find exactly what I needed at the price point I wanted to pay. VacationRenter groups together all the best rental properties in the area you want to stay in from across the web! They do the hard work so that you don’t have to. All you need to do is enter your dates, your destination (Yosemite National Park) and VacationRenter finds you the best options available so you don’t have to go to a bunch of different websites. We took advantage of the outdoor grill and patio area for dinner each night as places to eat in Yosemite are few and far between. Make sure to grab some snacks at the grocery store before entering the park! Yosemite is a large national park with not much cell phone service so it’s good to have some snacks lying around the cabin.

Outdoor balcony with a nice grill! Perfect spot to enjoy the fall colors.

Outdoor balcony with a nice grill! Perfect spot to enjoy the fall colors.

A fully loaded kitchen for all our cooking needs. This was nice to have as there are not many places to eat inside the park. Something you don’t get at a campsite or a hotel 😊.

A fully loaded kitchen for all our cooking needs. This was nice to have as there are not many places to eat inside the park. Something you don’t get at a campsite or a hotel 😊.


Step 3: Find the best spots for iconic photos. (Note—not difficult to do in such a beautiful place, but here were some of my favorites!)

Location 1: Merced River
When seeing photos of Yosemite on Instagram there are some photo perspectives that are easy to find because they have name and a trail (i.e. Taft Point, Glacier Point, Lower Yosemite Falls etc.) but a lot of my favorite photos were shot along the Merced River. Take some time on the first morning to drive/hike along the river to find some unique perspectives! Sharing a few of my favorites below:

In frame: Nicole Renard @nicole_thenomad in front of a view of Yosemite Valley. El Capitan is behind her to the left!

In frame: Nicole Renard @nicole_thenomad in front of a view of Yosemite Valley. El Capitan is behind her to the left!

Location 2: Glacier Point

Half Dome with alpine glow.

Half Dome with alpine glow.

To see the iconic view of Half Dome—Glacier Point is the place you want to be at sunset. If you get lucky like we did with the weather, be sure to hit up this spot for sunset. The way the sun hits half dome at this time of day is unlike anything I have ever seen before—the most beautiful red alpine glow.

The best part about this spot is that—there’s no hiking required! Just drive up and enjoy the view 😊. For some unique perspectives of this place, try featuring the winding road or explore some of the different view points to see half dome in all of its glory.

A an old ’98 Jeep in front of the iconic Half Dome. If you stay past sunset, watch the dome for twinkling lights of climbers trying to reach the summit.

A an old ’98 Jeep in front of the iconic Half Dome. If you stay past sunset, watch the dome for twinkling lights of climbers trying to reach the summit.


Location 3: Taft Point

Hiking required: Approximately 3 miles round trip

**Please note—Taft Point is a popular viewpoint high above the valley with sweeping views of El Capitan and the surrounding mountain peaks. Please take caution when visiting this location and taking photos here as people have died here in the past.

Nicole Renard watching the sunset over El Capitan

Nicole Renard watching the sunset over El Capitan

Quite possibly my favorite location in Yosemite is Taft Point. Like Glacier Point—this location is not accessible in the winter if there’s snow due to road closures, but we were lucky enough to come to Yosemite at the end of fall to witness some of the most spectacular sunset views. I would recommend visiting this location at sunset so you can see the sunlight hit El Capitan before it dips below the horizon. We got lucky and saw someone slacklining at the view point! A gut-wrenching but beautiful sight to see.

A brave man slacklining at Taft Point

A brave man slacklining at Taft Point

This spot is definitely a sunset spot—so If you only have a couple of nights, make sure to prioritize this one! Bring a headlamp to hike back in the dark after the sun goes down.

Standing on the ledge at Taft Point

Standing on the ledge at Taft Point


 

Location 4: Centennial Bridge

For a quick view of Half Dome from the valley floor, drive to Centennial Bridge. If you’re lucky enough to see the tail end of fall, the yellow leaves glisten in the morning sun at sunrise. A popular spot to see black bears getting a sip of water from the Merced River.

Half dome peaking behind some fall foliage at sunrise.

Half dome peaking behind some fall foliage at sunrise.


Location 5: Tunnel View

Tunnel View gets its name for an obvious reason—it’s the first view you see of Yosemite Valley when you drive through a long tunnel! If you plan on visiting this spot at a popular time of day (i.e. sunrise or sunset) make sure to get there early! People line up with their tripods to watch the sun hit El Capitan and Half Dome.

Hey Mac IOS wallpaper—is that you?

Hey Mac IOS wallpaper—is that you?

Let me know if you wind up visiting these places while in Yosemite! I would love to hear about your experiences and see your photos 😊. You can also check out VacationRenter’s blog about my Yosemite experience here.