How to Treat All 5 of Your Senses in Phoenix and Scottsdale

Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ, get about 300 days of sunshine a year, making the sister cities an ideal vacation spot. Having said that, the former is also the place where the airport's tarmac literally got too hot for planes to take off. But the heat doesn't stick around forever, making Autumn one of the best times to visit.

These cities are more than just hot airports and golf courses, so let's think about how to explore them using your five senses — because Phoenix and Scottsdale are ideal places to indulge all of them.


Taste: Arizona Taco Festival

Visit Scottsdale during the Arizona Taco Festival on Oct. 14 and 15 and get everything from margaritas and small-batch tequilas to guacamole and, of course, tacos. Fifty food trucks host $2 tacos at Salt River Fields. They've also got Lucha Libre (Mexican professional wrestling) matches throughout the day, a chihuahua beauty competition, and a hot chili pepper eating contest.

If you can't make it for that weekend, hit up Diego Pops, one of the 2016 Taco Festival winners. You can't go wrong really with any of the taco options like the grilled shrimp, pineapple pork, or plantain.


Sight: Cattle Track Arts and Preservation

Cattle Track Arts and Preservation in Scottsdale existed before the city of Scottsdale officially existed; the city actually built up around this artist colony that started in the 1930s.

It's a few buildings on a city block where a variety of full-time professional artists from a luthier to a blacksmith to printmakers and ceramicists live and work. You can stop by and visit with the artists and take a look at what they've got going on. The relatively unknown historic spot also hosts gallery shows and events during October to May, their main season.

If you can't make it to the preservation, you can see more work on display at the Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Spa. There, you'll find floating, felted balls in the lobby, one-of-a-kind plates and cups in the restaurant, and a mini gift shop with artists' works for sale. And it isn't a one-off partnership; as Mark McDowell, an artist at Cattle Track since 1959, puts it, "There's not a day that goes by we're not working on something for them.


Smell: Desert Botanical Garden

Visit the Desert Botanical Garden after a rain shower (they do get those on occasion in the desert!), and you'll notice the distinct, fresh, sweet smell of the creosote bush. It's just one of the plants on display among the 140 acres of elaborately landscaped gardens that feature plants from around the southwest along five main trails. Another aromatic plant is the Queen of the Night cactus, which blooms only once a year, and in the gift shop, you can get a perfume inspired by the flower's warm, sweet smell.


Sound: Musical Instrument Museum

The Musical Instrument Museum, which opened in 2010, is the largest museum of its kind in the world. There are over 6,500 instruments from over 200 countries, from a guitar played by Taylor Swift to a nose harp to the still-working Belgian dance hall organ, which gets played every day. The Geographic Galleries are organized, as you might guess, by location, and then find the instruments, and some costumes, of celebrity musicians in the Artist Gallery.

One of the best features is the wireless headset you get when you enter, so when you come up to an instrument on display, the headset automatically switches to give you the audio for the looped video of that instrument being played. Plus, make your own music at the grand piano in the entrance hall or alongside kids in the Experience Gallery.


Touch: Joya Spa or Boulders Resort & Spa

For an over-the-top, high-end relaxation immersion, visit the Joya Spa at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. It's in the center of town, right near the iconic Camelback Mountain. You pick an intention stone on your way in, you wander past a 55-pound glowing quartz crystal, and then go to your spa treatment. An ideal treatment for the dry desert is the lemon olive oil body renewal, which ends with you being rubbed down with moisturizing cream.

Then again, with over 50 spas in the area, it can be hard to narrow down to just one. In north Scottsdale, with more of a desert-quiet feel, is the Boulders Resort & Spa. It's got a wide-ranging spa menu that focuses on mind and body treatments like the lotus blossoming chakra massage and the watsu therapy sessions.