Sweeney Asks the Locals: Jane Blacker

Highlights of Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

The latest in our series of interviews with Valley of the Sun residents is a look at the Scottsdale favorites of Jane Blacker, a realtor with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty who specializes in luxury properties in the Scottsdale and Phoenix Metro areas. Jane has extensive experience working with buyers relocating from other parts of the country. In fact, she is the agent who helped Mr. TWS and me find our home in Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Ranch by really getting to know us and our requirements. Having lived in Scottsdale for 17 years, Jane has in-depth knowledge of its communities and highlights.

Happy Hour on the patio of The Living Room at DC Ranch with Jane Blacker of Russ Lyon Sotheby's Luxury Real Estate

Happy Hour with Jane Blacker at The Living Room at DC Ranch

Jane and I got together recently for a happy hour chat and she was kind to share a few of her tips for things to do in Scottsdale for our “Sweeney Asks the Locals” column. Here’s what she had to say.

What’s so great about Scottsdale?

There’s sunshine most every day! That makes it especially appealing for those who love outdoor activities. People are so friendly and come from all over to relocate or have second homes. Scottsdale is very livable in large part because of its climate and outdoor lifestyle, cultural opportunities, great schools, wide range of dining and shopping, and natural beauty.

What season do you like best here?

Fall is probably my favorite season, particularly October. It’s after the summer heat, but the weather is still nice and warm — perfect for enjoying the outdoors and dining al fresco day or night. Spring is gorgeous with all the desert flowers. In April everything is blooming.

What surprises some people about Scottsdale?

Many are surprised to find that Scottsdale is not just a barren desert. Even beyond the many manicured golf courses, there is so much green to be seen. The desert itself has so many beautiful cacti and other foliage, and the blooms in spring are spectacular.

Tell us about some of your favorite places and things to do in Scottsdale.

Places to take out-of-town visitors

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West

My out-of-town guests have really enjoyed the spas, shopping at Fashion Square and Kierland Commons, and major cultural and natural attractions like Taliesin West, Desert Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Wonderland, and the Musical Instrument Museum. A bit further afield is Saguaro Lake in the Tonto National Forest which is only about 30 miles away. There’s a great 1-1/2 hour boat ride on the Desert Belle. Those are a few of the highlights in and around Scottsdale for visitors to enjoy.


Views of Paradise Valley from elements restaurant at Sanctuary Camelback Resort and Spa

View from elements Restaurant

Elements restaurant at The Sanctuary Resort has great views, food, and patio seating on the northern slope of Camelback Mountain. There are panoramic views of Paradise Valley and Mummy Mountain. Its perfect for a romantic dinner.

Other favorites are Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley, Eddie V’s, Bourbon and Bones, and El Chorro in Paradise Valley. But there are so many more great places for dining here!

Happy Hour

Paul Martin’s happy hour on Monday is great with a wide selection of drink and food items. Their Monday “Wine Dinner for Two” for $60 includes salads and entrees for two as well as a bottle of wine — a great deal.

The Roaring Fork is also fun. I’m not much of a meat eater, but they have a “Big Ass Burger” which is very popular.

The Living Room at DC Ranch has nice prices on name wines — just like this La Crema Chardonnay we’re enjoying right now! I like the comfortable seating outside along Market Street which is very pleasant. (See photo at the top of the post of Jane at The Living Room.)

Spa Resort

For a real zen experience, I like Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia. I enjoy having lunch there and spending time at the pool, too.

Outdoor activity

There are so many trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. My favorite trailhead Browns Ranch which has several easy trails that area less rocky than some others in the Sonoran Preserve.

Hiking on a trail at Brown Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona

Mr. TWS on a trail at Brown’s Ranch

Cultural or historical venue

The Museum of the West in downtown Scottsdale has wonderful western art exhibitions. Heard Museum in Phoenix has ongoing and special exhibitions of Native American history, culture and arts. Both are well-worth a visit.

Event or festival

I enjoy all the events and festivals held in Scottsdale and there are many! It’s great that they attract many visitors to Scottsdale to stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, and contribute to the Scottsdale economy. Arizona Restaurant Week was just on in May and will run again in September. Many of the best restaurants in the valley participate with incredible values on prix-fixe dinners.

Weekend getaway

I love to visit friends of mine who have a home in Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, which is about a 3-1/2 hours from Scottsdale on a scenic drive through the Tonto National Forest. Pinetop is a peaceful and low-key town with great spas and restaurants, including a funky, rustic one I like — Charlie Clark’s Steakhouse. You can really appreciate each of the four seasons in Pinetop and the surrounding area.

Do you have any other insider’s tips?

  • Take a spa vacation during July and August when you can find reduced room rates and spa treatments — wonderful deals to be found during summer in Scottsdale.
  • I like working out at the Village at DC Ranch. The club has a full range of services with great staff and trainers.
  • My favorite of the Harkins movie theater chain is Camelview at Fashion Square. It has very comfortable leather reclining seats, gourmet concessions, and other luxury amenities.

Thanks for sharing your Scottsdale favorites, Jane!

Contact Jane: Jane Blacker at Sotheby’s International Realty

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “Sweeney Asks the Locals: Jane Blacker

  1. Janice Chung

    Great post. I love Arizona and especially Scottsdale, a place I would easily return to so this post was helpful for that future trip. The “Paul Martin’s Happy Hour” is quite the deal! So glad she mentioned it.

  2. Suzanne Fluhr

    I have fond memories of 2 visits to Scottsdale—-in the 1990’s. This was back before Al Gore invented the Internet, so I had Mr. Excitement’s undivided attention as he was not driven to keep up with his work email. Now that I know a travel writer who actually lives there, I’d love to return with your guidance. It looks like you and Mr. TWS have been making the most of the local hiking opportunities. I’d first have to conquer my fear of scorpions and rattlesnakes before I could feel comfortable on desert trails.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Come see us! Don’t give too much thought to the critters. If I can live in the desert knowing about the potential snake and scorpion sightings, anyone can. 🙂

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