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Sat under the gaze of the lofty McDowell mountains smack bang in America’s Wild West country is the aptly named ‘Valley of the Sun’. Scottsdale is actually an upscale part of Phoenix, albeit a town in itself with bags of history and some glorious landscapes at the town’s environs. Due to its mild winter climate, it makes the perfect escape for northerners during the harsh winter months. Whether visitors are in the centre of town or outside, having a car is a must as it is very spread out.
Who to Book With
The main airport in the city—Sky Harbor Airport—has the most car rental options and is represented by the likes of Alamo, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty and Budget, among others. An online comparator website will bring you the best rates. Shuttles run out to the cars and the drive to Scottsdale is nine miles or so via the AZ-202 and North Scottsdale Road.
Best Time to Go
This part of the US has excellent weather throughout the year, with 300 sunny days and mild winters. Summers are hot and best avoided, but if you do visit in the winter or early spring (November to April) be aware that car and hotel rates are higher as this is when the town is busiest. Many festivals also take place during this period, such as the Jaycees Parada del Sol in March.
Need to Know Essentials
For car hire, you will need to produce the following documents onsite:
- A United Kingdom driver’s licence or International Driving Permit
- Valid photo identification, preferably your passport
- A printout of the reservation, showing the booking reference
- The credit card used to book the vehicle
Like most western towns, Scottsdale is big and spread out so having a car is a must. It was made for drivers and there are major routings connecting with Phoenix and suburbs in all directions. Road surfaces are excellent and well policed, so be especially prudent with your speed as they are sticklers for limits here. Always have your passport and driver’s license to hand when driving in the States.
Our Guide to the United States contains more detailed driving information.
Scottsdale doesn’t have a metro and is very spread out, meaning car rental is really the only viable option for tourists wanting to get to attractions and for daytrips. There is a useful trolley system in the downtown area, however, as well as a bus network, but without a car you’re going to struggle.
Phoenix and the airport are connected by rail and there’s a light rail system in the capital, but the closest thing to a train within Scottsdale itself is the Scottsdale Trolley. There are three trolley routes—serving downtown, Miller Road and Neighborhood—with services running about every 15 minutes.
Valley Metro operates the buses, though they are not that much use to visitors unless you want to head into the suburbs or to Phoenix. The free Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) is a better bet, which runs most of the day on weekdays to the Heritage and Science Park. Use the Free Local Area Shuttle (FLASH) for Mill Avenue and the university.
Taxis are quite useful if you want to get between attractions within the downtown area, since distances are shorter. Both Scottsdale Cab and Yellow Cab run all day and have good prices. Avoid taking a taxi right across the valley, though, as it gets expensive.
Though Scottsdale is but one part of a vast metropolis, it sits on the eastern flank of the Phoenix conurbation quite close to the wilderness. Thus, with a car, you can be out and about into Arizona wonderland in a jiffy. There’s some beautiful country out here, complete with gold rush era towns and various other delights.
Old Town Scottsdale – If you want to see how a Wild West town looks, take a drive to the old town in South Scottsdale. Covering six city blocks, this area is one of preserved, in-the-day shop fronts and is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs.
Phoenix Zoo – Actually located closer to Scottsdale than downtown Phoenix itself is the fantastic Phoenix Zoo. As one of America’s best, it is a must for those with kids, with a beautiful park setting housing well over 1,000 beasties. Also nearby are the Papago Golf Course and the Desert Botanical Garden.
Goldfield Ghost Town – Located just a 30-minute drive to the east of Scottsdale is the ever so touristy, but fun, re-creation of a typical Wild West Ghost Town. The replica town harks back to the 1800s and comes complete with authentic saloons and shops, along with mine tours, train rides and even gun fights. You could combine this trip with a look at the nearby McDowell Mountains by car hire for fine views over Scottsdale.
The Canals – There are miles of irrigation canals in town which are mainly used to carry away storm water today. Though not an immediate attraction, they make for some peaceful walking and riding and often stretch out into the desert. You can drive to them from all points in Scottsdale.