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Trying to decide when to visit Scottsdale? Enjoyable all year round, each season offers pluses and minuses. Remember that winters are probably colder than you think, and summers are even hotter than you might imagine. In addition to significant temperature fluctuations, remember 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, I want to help you decide when is the best time to visit Scottsdale, Arizona!
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Visitors flock to the Scottsdale area each winter in search of sunny weather and relief from snow, wind and freezing temperatures. Snowbirds from cold climates will probably tell you that winter is the best place to visit Scottsdale.
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Scottsdale hosts some of the most popular events of the year in the winter, which also draw visitors to my beautiful city. This influx of visitors drives up prices in the Phoenix area, so expect to pay a premium for your dose of winter sun in Scottsdale. More travelers also mean more traffic on the roads.
Daytime high temperatures tend to hover in the 60s F during the winter season in Scottsdale. Desert temperatures drop to 30 degrees at night, so pack accordingly. Temperatures in Scottsdale are lowest in December and January.
On rare occasions, we will experience a cold snap where the temperature drops below freezing (32°F). That’s when the locals cover our delicate outdoor plants with bedding to keep them warm. But don’t worry, warm weather seekers. This only happens about three times a year.
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Our winter monsoon season generally peaks in February. This makes it the wettest month of the year with an average of 1.3 inches of precipitation.
Scottsdale surprises locals and tourists alike with a myriad of holiday events each winter. Expect extraordinary Christmas light shows, winter festivals and various festive New Year celebrations.
During the holiday season, the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix with 8,000 glowing celestial bodies in Las Noches de las Luminarias. In addition, Christmas at the Fairmont Princess always impresses with its outdoor ice rink and other fun activities. Meanwhile, Ballet Arizona’s Nutcracker Ballet is hailed by some as one of the best in the United States. Find out more about this and other Christmas events in Scottsdale.
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In January, more than 300,000 people attend the Barrett-Jackson Auction at WestWorld in Scottsdale. Car collectors and revelers gather to view vintage and futuristic cars, listen to live music, bid on memorabilia and vehicles, and generally have a good time.
Scottsdale is home to more than 200 golf courses, luring players to the Arizona desert. This is especially true in the winter when courses are closed in snow destinations in the United States.
A large number of sports fans also flock 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.
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Many people, including myself, believe that the best time to visit Scottsdale is spring. The weather is almost perfect, everything is blooming, and you want to enjoy outdoor activities almost every minute. Keep your eyes peeled for adorable desert babies like bunnies and adorable waddling Gambel’s quail brood.
Idyllic Scottsdale weather is found in March and April. That’s when the average temperature is in the dreamy 70s and 80s.
In May, temperatures begin to drop into the mid-1990s. In the desert, this feels quite pleasant due to the lack of humidity.
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The Cactus League’s spring and preseason practices take place in mid to late February at the Valley of the Sun each year. (Technically, most spring training takes place in the winter. The first day of the official Major League Baseball season typically occurs in mid-to-late March, after the spring equinox. But I digress.)
Fifteen Major League Baseball teams call Arizona home for spring training, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants. Games will be played at 10 different venues in the Valley of the Sun, including Scottsdale Stadium and the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale.
Spring in Scottsdale is the perfect season for outdoor play, making it a great springtime getaway. The Sonoran Desert comes alive with beautiful flowers in the spring, making nature walks especially beautiful.
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There’s also no better time to visit the Desert Botanical Garden with its many budding plants or its neighbor, the Phoenix Zoo with its newborn spring animals.
From bike and ATV tours to outdoor shopping and hot air balloons, check out the best outdoor activities in Scottsdale!
Summer temperatures in Scottsdale can reach up to 120+°F. (But it’s dry heat!) These higher temperatures mean fun times at hotel pools, water slides and man-made lakes. This extreme heat also makes summer the low season for travel. That means it’s the best time of year to visit Scottsdale and take advantage of great deals on Scottsdale luxury resorts.
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The summer monsoon season in Arizona officially runs from June 15th to September 30th. It typically peaks in late summer, with August hosting the rainiest days in an average year.
Although it doesn’t generally rain much in Scottsdale compared to other destinations, buckets of water pour down from the sky when it does. Once the rain stops, the sun will soon shine again.
Thunderstorms are common in Scottsdale during the summer months and are beautiful to watch. Often these storms are accompanied by rain, but sometimes you’ll be treated to zigzags of electricity lighting up a clear night sky.
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Phoenicians often sit outside to enjoy nature’s dazzling fireworks display. For safety reasons, stay away from pools and other bodies of water if you see lightning or hear thunder. Also, avoid using umbrellas during Scottsdale thunderstorms.
To get the most out of a summer visit to Scottsdale, plan outdoor play early in the morning when temperatures are at their lowest. In the afternoon, plan an indoor air-conditioned activity at a museum like the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the interactive Arizona Science Center, or the impressive Musical Instrument Museum. It’s also a great time to relax with a treatment at one of the best spas in Scottsdale.
Then enjoy dinner at one of Scottsdale’s more than 800 restaurants. After the sun goes down, head back outside to enjoy ArtWalk, which takes place every Thursday evening at the many art galleries of Old Town Scottsdale. Then head to one of the many bars and nightclubs in downtown Scottsdale.
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In early fall, temperatures begin to drop. In addition, there are fewer tourists than during the high season (late autumn, spring and winter months). Fall is probably the best time to visit Scottsdale, especially for those looking for vibrant sunsets in the Sonoran Desert.
September remains warm, but luckily over 100 days are rare. As in the spring, outdoor activities in Scottsdale are enjoyable in the fall.
Even into October, average temperatures hover around the 80s, which many Scottsdale tourists love. By November you will need light sweaters or hoodies and long pants. Layers are the name of the game during fall in Scottsdale.
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Scottsdale does not have an abundance of colorful fall foliage. (But we do have some!) More importantly, Arizona boasts some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. And late fall is peak season for sunsets in Scottsdale.
That’s because the air in Arizona is especially dry in the fall. According to Atlas Obscura, “In environments with more water vapor in the air, this results in sunsets that are more washed out or more pastel-colored. But in the desert, the drier air allows more vibrant color wavelengths to shine through.”
In addition, Arizona does not observe daylight saving time. This means that our sun sets earlier in the fall than in other destinations.
Before Our Show
Some good places to watch valley sunsets include the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Camelback Mountain and Papago Park in Phoenix. To enjoy the view of the sunset while sipping a cocktail, head to Orange Sky at Talking Stick Resort and Casino for happy hour with breathtaking, expansive views of the sun painting streaks of color across the desert landscape.
Year round, you can saddle up for fun at the MacDonald’s Ranch. But if you’re visiting in the fall, you’ll definitely want to book a sunset drive for the most amazing view of the desert.
If you’re visiting Scottsdale in October, also plan a visit to the beautiful pumpkin patch at MacDonald’s Ranch. Expect a petting zoo, pony rides, old-fashioned games and a barbecue food truck. The highlight is riding a horse drawn carriage or tractor train to a pumpkin patch surrounded by saguaro cacti and sagebrush.
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There is much to explore and enjoy in Scottsdale year round. 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 is really up to YOU!
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