Discovering Scottsdale: Unwinding and Exploring Beyond the IAIP Annual Convention

By Katharine M. Nohr, J.D.

Scottsdale, Arizona, often hailed as the “desert version of Miami’s South Beach” by the New York Times, is more than just a picturesque desert city. It’s a vibrant blend of cultural richness, outdoor adventures, culinary delights, and relaxation havens. For attendees of the International Association of Insurance Professionals Annual Convention looking to maximize their experience beyond the confines of conference rooms, Scottsdale offers a treasure trove of activities to rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a deep dive into the local culture, this guide will help you explore the best of Scottsdale in your free time.

1. Embark on an Outdoor Adventure

  • Hike the Trails of McDowell Sonoran Preserve: Embrace the beauty of the Sonoran Desert by exploring over 30,500 acres of unspoiled desert wilderness in McDowell Sonoran Preserve. With more than 225 miles of trails, it caters to all levels of hikers, offering breathtaking views of diverse desert flora and fauna.
  • Hot Air Balloon Rides:  If you enjoyed ballooning in Albuquerque, you shouldn’t miss experiencing Scottsdale from the skies with a hot air balloon ride. Witnessing the desert sunrise or sunset from above is an unforgettable experience that offers unparalleled views of the expansive desert landscape and its stunning geological formations. 

2. Dive into the Arts and Culture

  • Scottsdale’s Museum of the West: Celebrate the spirit of the West and its importance in American history at this Smithsonian Affiliate Museum. Its exhibits range from fine art to cultural artifacts that tell the stories of the West’s heritage.
  • Old Town Scottsdale:  Walk through the historic Old Town to soak in the unique blend of old and new. This area is a bustling hub of art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and bars, all housed in buildings that exude a classic Western charm. 

3. Relax and Rejuvenate

  • Luxury Spas: Scottsdale is renowned for its world-class spas. Take time to unwind with treatments that incorporate the desert’s healing plants and minerals. Whether it’s a hot stone massage, a rejuvenating facial, or a detoxifying mud wrap, Scottsdale’s spas offer the ultimate relaxation experience.
  • Scottsdale’s Waterfront: Spend a leisurely evening at the Scottsdale Waterfront, a sophisticated urban space with stunning waterfront views. It’s perfect for a relaxing stroll, fine dining, or simply enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.

4. Culinary Delights

  • Southwestern Cuisine: Scottsdale’s culinary scene is a paradise for food lovers, offering everything from authentic Southwestern dishes to gourmet dining experiences. Don’t miss the chance to try the local specialties like Navajo tacos, posole, or saguaro cactus fruit jams. You might even consider booking an Old Town Scottsdale food tour.

Wine and Brewery Tours:

Explore Scottsdale’s burgeoning wine and craft beer scene with guided tours that take you through some of the best local wineries and breweries. It’s a great way to relax while indulging in tastings and learning about the local production processes. Consider a Pedal Bar Crawl of Old Town Scottsdale or a Verde Valley Wine Tasting.

5. Outdoor Markets and Shopping

  • Scottsdale Fashion Square:  Only a shuttle ride away from the Doubletree Resort, shop till you drop at one of the Southwest’s premier shopping destinations. With a mix of luxury brands, local boutiques, fine dining options and food court, it offers a comprehensive and upscale shopping experience.
  • ArtWalks in Old Town:  Every Thursday evening, Old Town Scottsdale transforms into a lively ArtWalk. Galleries open their doors to the public, showcasing works from local and international artists in a festive atmosphere that includes live music and refreshments. Catch this before or after your regional dinner. 

6. Connect with Nature

  • Desert Botanical Garden: Looking for a place to capture beautiful pictures to post on the Convention App, the Desert Botanical Garden near Papago Park, showcases the beauty and diversity of desert plants. It’s a serene place to connect with nature and learn about the desert ecosystem through its trails and exhibits.
  • Butterfly Wonderland: Experience the enchanting world of butterflies at one of the largest butterfly conservatories in the country. It’s a magical experience that allows close encounters with thousands of vibrant butterflies from around the world.

7. Entertainment and Nightlife

  • Scottsdale’s Entertainment District: After dark and after a day of engaging convention content and networking, Scottsdale’s entertainment district offers lively bars, chic lounges, or dance clubs, there’s plenty of nightlife options to suit every taste.
  • Live Music Venues: For those who enjoy live music, Scottsdale has numerous venues hosting local and national acts. From intimate jazz clubs to large concert halls, the city offers a rich music scene across various genres.

8.  Scottsdale: A Golfer’s Paradise

Scottsdale is a haven for golf enthusiasts, boasting some of the most picturesque and challenging golf courses in the United States. Courses like TPC Scottsdale, home of the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, offer a chance to play on the same greens as the pros. For those seeking a blend of luxury and challenge, courses such as Troon North Golf Club and Grayhawk Golf Club provide stunning desert landscapes and top-tier amenities. Whether you’re a seasoned or a casual player, Scottsdale’s golf courses offer a diverse range of experiences that cater to all skill levels and preferences.

Making the Most of Your Free Time in Scottsdale

The IAIP Annual Convention is an excellent opportunity for professional growth and networking. However, your trip to Scottsdale should also include some off resort fun. By exploring the city’s abundant offerings, you can enrich your visit and take memorable selfies surrounded by the beauty, culture, and spirit of Arizona. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a culture aficionado, a foodie, or someone seeking relaxation, Scottsdale has something special for you. So, take the opportunity to step out, explore, and discover what makes Scottsdale a truly unique destination.

Katharine M. Nohr, J.D. has been a member of IAIP since 2002. She has served as president of the Honolulu Association of Insurance Professionals (HAIP), Hawaii State Council Director, RVP of Region VIII, and has served on many IAIP committees and task forces. She is an insurance defense attorney in Hawaii.

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