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Best Time to Visit Scottsdale, AZ: Pros & Cons of Every Season

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Trying to decide when to visit Scottsdale? Enjoyable all year, each season offers pluses and minuses. Keep in mind that winters are likely chillier than you think, and summers are even toastier than you might imagine. In addition to significant changes in temperatures, be aware that activities, prices, events, and traffic vary with the seasons. As a local who has spent most of my life in the Valley of the Sun, let me help you decide when is the best time to visit Scottsdale, Arizona!

Spring, the best time of year in Scottsdale, Arizona
Sonoran Desert in spring Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Winter

Visitors flock to the Scottsdale area every winter seeking sunny weather and relief from snow, wind, and freezing temperatures. “Snowbirds” hailing from chilly climes would likely tell you winter is the best to visit Scottsdale.

Scottsdale hosts some of its most popular events of the year in winter, which also lures visitors to my fair city. This influx of visitors pushes prices up in the Phoenix area, so expect to pay a premium for your dose of Scottsdale winter sunshine. More travelers mean more traffic on the roads, too.

Sunshine lures visitors to Scottsdale in winter
Sunshine lures visitors to Scottsdale in winter (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Winter Weather

Daytime high temperatures tend to hover in the 60s F in winter season in Scottsdale. Desert temps drop up to 30 degrees at night, so pack accordingly. Scottsdale temperatures are lowest in December and January.

On rare occasions, we'll experience a cold snap with temps plummeting below freezing (32° F). That's when locals cover our delicate outdoor plants with bedsheets to keep them warm. Worry not, though, warm weather seekers. This only happens around three times per year.

Our winter monsoon season typically peaks in February. This makes it the wettest month of the year with an average of 1.3 inches of rainfall.

Outdoor ice rink at Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in winter
Outdoor ice rink at Christmas at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Holiday Season in Scottsdale

Scottsdale wows locals and tourists alike with a jolly array of holiday events every winter. Expect extraordinary Christmas lights displays, winter festivals, and a variety of festive New Year's celebrations.

During the holiday season, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix with 8,000 glowing luminaries at Las Noches de las Luminarias. Plus, Christmas at the Fairmont Princess always impresses with its outdoor ice rink and other fun activities. Meanwhile, the Nutcracker Ballet by Ballet Arizona is lauded by some as one of the best in the United States. Learn more about these and other Scottsdale Christmas events.

Barret-Jackson Scottsdale Auction
Barret-Jackson Scottsdale Auction (Photo credit: Barrett-Jackson)

Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction

In January, over 300,000 people attend the Barrett-Jackson Auction at WestWorld of Scottsdale. Car collectors and party people gather to view vintage and futuristic cars, listen to live music, bid on memorabilia and vehicles, and generally have a wonderful time.

Tournament Players Club Scottsdale
Tournament Players Club Scottsdale (Photo credit: TPC Scottsdale)

Waste Management Phoenix Open

Scottsdale is home to more than 200 golf courses, drawing players to the Arizona desert. This is especially true in winter when courses are closed in snowy destinations across the U.S.

A multitude of sports fans also come to Scottsdale each February for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world, the Phoenix Open takes place at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) Scottsdale

Blooming pencil cholla cactus
Blooming pencil cholla cactus in spring (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Spring

Many people, myself included, believe the best time to visit Scottsdale is spring. The weather is pretty much perfect, everything is in bloom, and you'll want to spend nearly every minute enjoying outside activities. Keep your eyes open for darling desert babies like bunnies and adorable wobbling broods of Gambel's quails.

A brood of Gambel's quails
A brood of Gambel's quails (Photo credit: Heatherms27, Depositphotos.com)

Spring Weather

Idyllic Scottsdale weather can be found in March and April. That's when average temps are in the dreamy 70s and 80s F.

In May, temps start to ease into the low to mid-90s. This feels downright pleasant in the desert due to a lack of humidity.

Cactus League spring training at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Arizona
Cactus League spring training at Salt River Fields (Photo credit: SaltRiverFields.com)

Cactus League Spring Training

Pre-season Cactus League spring training games and practices batter up mid to late February every year in the Valley of the Sun. (Technically, most of spring training actually takes place in winter. The first day of the official Major League Baseball season typically takes place mid- to late-March, after the spring equinox. But I digress.)

Fifteen Major League Baseball teams call Arizona their spring training home including the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants. Games are played at 10 different locations throughout the Valley of the Sun, including Scottsdale Stadium and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. 

Bicycle in Old Town Scottsdale
Bicycle in Old Town Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Outdoor Activities

Spring in Scottsdale is the perfect season for playing outdoors, making it an excellent spring break destination. The Sonoran Desert comes alive with beautiful blossoms in spring, making nature hikes particularly pretty.

Spring at the Desert Botanical Garden
Spring at the Desert Botanical Garden (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Also, there's no better time to visit the Desert Botanical Garden with its many budding plants or its neighbor, the Phoenix Zoo with its newly born spring animals.

From bicycling and ATV tours to alfresco shopping and hot air balloon rides, take a look at the best outdoor activities in Scottsdale!

Shopping at Scottsdale Quarter in summer
Summertime fountain at the Scottsdale Quarter shopping area (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Summer

Summer temperatures in Scottsdale soar as high as 120+° F. (But it's a dry heat!) These higher temperatures mean fun times at hotel pools, water slides, and manmade lakes. This extreme heat also makes summer the low season for travel. That means it's the best time of year to visit Scottsdale to take advantage of great deals at luxury resorts.

Saguaro Lake into Tonto National Forest near Scottsdale in summer
Saguaro Lake into Tonto National Forest near Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Summer Monsoon

Arizona's summer monsoon season officially runs from June 15 to September 30. It typically reaches its peak in late summer, with August hosting the most rainy days in an average year.

Although overall it doesn't rain much in Scottsdale compared to other destinations, when it does, gushing buckets of water pour from the sky. After the rain stops, the sun will soon be shining again.

Lightning storm in Scottsdale
Lightning storm in Scottsdale (Photo credit: DCA88, Depositphotos.com)

Nature's Fireworks

Lightning storms are common in summer months in Scottsdale and are beautiful to behold. Often these storms are accompanied by rain, but sometimes you'll be treated to zigzags of electricity lighting a clear night sky.

Phoenicians often sit outside to take in nature's dazzling fireworks. For safety's sake, steer clear of pools and other bodies of water if you see lightning or hear thunder. Avoid using umbrellas during thunderstorms in Scottsdale, too.

Lazy river at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Lazy river at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa (Photo credit: Westin)

Summer Vacation Itinerary

To make the most of a summer Scottsdale visit, plan outdoor play in the early morning when temperatures are coolest. In the afternoon, plan an indoor activity in air conditioning at a museum like the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the interactive Arizona Science Center, or the impressive Musical Instrument Museum.

Next, enjoy dinner at one of Scottsdale's 800+ restaurants. Once the sun begins to set, you can head back outdoors to enjoy ArtWalk, which takes place every Thursday night at Old Town Scottsdale's many art galleries. Then, hit up one of the many bars and nightclubs in downtown Scottsdale.

Read my tips for planning a Scottsdale vacation in the summer!

Fall leaves at Lake Chaparral in Scottsdale
Fall leaves at Lake Chaparral in Scottsdale (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Fall

In early autumn, temperatures begin to drop. Plus, there are fewer tourists than during high season (late fall, spring, and winter months). Fall may well be the best time to visit Scottsdale, especially for those seeking vibrant Sonoran Desert sunsets.

Tween girl  at Scottsdale Civic Center in fall
My daughter at Scottsdale Civic Center in fall (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Autumn Weather

September remains toasty, but thankfully 100+° days are rare. Similar to spring, outdoor activities are pleasant during autumn in Scottsdale.

Even into October, average temperatures tend to stay in the 80s, which many Scottsdale tourists love. By November, you'll need light sweaters or hoodies and long pants. Layers are the name of the game during fall in Scottsdale.

Scottsdale sunset in fall
Scottsdale fall sunset (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Best Sunsets

Scottsdale does not have a plethora of colorful autumn leaves. (But we do have a few!) More importantly, Arizona boasts some of the world's most gorgeous sunsets. And late fall is peak sunset season in Scottsdale.

That's because Arizona's air is especially dry in fall. According to Atlas Obscura, “In environments with more water vapor in the air, this results in sunsets that are more watered down, or pastel-colored. But in the desert, drier air means more vivid color wavelengths are able to shine through.” 

Another beautiful Scottsdale sunset
Another beautiful Scottsdale autumn sunset (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Also, Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings. That means our sun sets earlier in fall than in other destinations.

Some good spots to view sunsets in the Valley include the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Camelback Mountain, and Papago Park in Phoenix. To enjoy your sunset view over cocktails, head to Orange Sky at Talking Stick Resort and Casino for happy hour with breathtaking, sweeping views of the sun painting stripes of color across the desert landscape.

MacDonald's Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona
MacDonald's Ranch (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Horses and Pumpkins

All year long, you can saddle up for fun at MacDonald's Ranch. But if visiting in fall, then you definitely want to book a sunset trail ride for the most stunning desert views.

When visiting Scottsdale in October, plan to visit the delightful pumpkin patch at MacDonald's Ranch, too. Expect a petting zoo, pony rides, good old-fashioned games, and a barbecue food truck. The highlight is boarding a horse-pulled hayride or tractor-pulled train to a pumpkin patch surrounded by saguaro cacti and sagebrush.

The Yearlings bronze statue in Old Town Scottsdale
The Yearlings bronze statue in Scottsdale's downtown area (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The Verdict

When is the best time to visit Scottsdale?

  • Spring for the best weather, blooming plants, outdoor activities, and baseball.
  • Winter to escape the cold, enjoy sunny days, and experience popular annual events.
  • Summer for pool time, fewer crowds and traffic, and the lowest hotel prices.
  • Autumn for moderate temperatures, outside adventures, and the best sunsets.

All year long, there's plenty to explore and enjoy in Scottsdale. There really is no “worst time” to come to the Valley of the Sun, as long as you know what to expect. The best time of year to visit Scottsdale really is up to YOU!

Arizona sunset with kids
Scottsdale with kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Learn More About Arizona

Planning a family vacation? Read about 27+ fun things to do in Scottsdale with kids.

Discover America's biggest ghost town with the best things to do in Jerome, AZ.

Explore Northern Arizona with this extensive list of things to do in Flagstaff.

Experience the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Las Vegas, and two Utah national parks with the best road trip from Phoenix.

When is the best time to visit Scottsdale, Arizona?

Save These Scottsdale Tips

For future reference, save these reasons to visit Scottsdale during every season of the year. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

What do you think is the best time of year to visit Scottsdale, Arizona? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, TravelMamas.com. She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

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