Its days as the West’s most western town are long gone, but Scottsdale delivers a Western experience of urban chic and backcountry action. This sampling doesn’t do the Valley of the Sun community justice with its sampling, but Experience Scottsdale is the official city visitor website.
There are three ways to experience Scottsdale. Enjoy an active lifestyle, night life and dining, luxuriant visiting.
Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve at more than 30,000 acres, is the largest city park in the world. With more than 100 miles in developed trails, the pristine desert park can be visited by hikers, cyclists and equestrians of all skill levels. The taxpayer-funded park has visitor centers, ranger-led activities and multiple points of entry for trails. Its nearby neighbor, Phoenix’s South Mountain Preserve, is the second-largest city park in the world.
Thousands of Scottsdale visitors take advantage of proximity to desert and geologic marvels by off-road tours. Numerous touring companies feature Jeep, Hummer and all-terrain vehicle tours. Self-driving rentals of sport utility vehicles and ATVs are also available in the city.
From its urban core, it’s hard to think about this being a Western town, but horseback riding is another option for the active visitor.
Even though this is a major city, it is still the heart of the Sonoran Desert, and desert safety is necessary for any outdoor activities regardless of season and temperature. Always carry water, and during activities, one liter per person per hour is the rule. More in the summer.
|Airpark Bicycle Center||480-596-6633|
|Arizona Outback Adventures||480-945-2881|
|Old Town Cruisers Bike Shop||480-994-1082|
|Pedego Electric Bikes||602-752-7380|
|Apache Trail Tours||480-982-7661|
|Arizona Outdoor Fun Adventures and Tours*||602-400-2445|
|Fort McDowell Adventures#||480-816-6465|
|Green Zebra Adventures*||480-214-4435|
|Pink Jeep Tours||928-282-5000|
|Stellar Adventures Hummer and ATV Tours*||602-402-0584|
|* – Also self-driving tours; # – Also equestrian rides|
|Adventures Out West||800-755-0935|
|Desert Wolf Tours||877-613-9653|
|Equestrian rides and rentals|
Night Life and Dining Scottsdale
Scottsdale’s entertainment district in its Old Town area is a world renown destination for entertainment. Night clubs with life music, spacious patios, dee-jays, even swimming pools, are side-by-side and within walking distance. Activities appeal to all ages, but particularly the young- and young-at-heart. The Old Town area is a destination of such importance, seeing known celebrities and sports figures is not uncommon.
Beyond the downtown entertainment district, the city is dotted with craft breweries, places for families in the evening, and a long list of dining options. Scottsdale’s culinary scene is heavily influenced by locally owned and local-celebrity chef restaurants.
The dining experience starts with happy hours, and these are Scottsdale legends. While there are many restaurants in the city with well-known names, there are also small, quiet gems scattered throughout the area. Arizona’s year-round climate also connects most restaurants with extraordinary patio dining settings.
Scottsdale is known as the land of luxury and style. Its shop offerings are often a destination in their own right. The city is known for its stellar resorts, such as The Phoenician, a resort of such reputation, it doesn’t need to say “resort and spa” in its name. Other well-vetted resorts are based in Scottsdale, such as Four Seasons, Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch, chic W Scottsdale in the middle of the Old Town night life district, the historic Valley Ho and newly-revamped The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch.
Each of this sampling of high-end hotels offers day spa options for visitors as well as resort guests. In addition to the hotel services, Scottsdale has a large number of day spas with full services of massage, facials, and body work.
These are located throughout the city, but many are close to resort hotel centers in Scottsdale, and most are proximate to the main north-south street in the city, Scottsdale Road.
|Sample of Scottsdale Day Spas|
|Aura Salon Day Spa||480-595-9590|
|New Serenity Spa||480-998-6991|
|Spa du Soleil||480-994-5400|
|Zolton’s Salon and Day Spa||480-513-8414|
Just Taking in Scottsdale
Scottsdale is home to two downtown museums that should be on the must-see list.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 E. Second St. just west of Drinkwater Boulevard. SMOCA, as it’s known, is a multi-exhibition room of rotating exhibits. There’s always something new in contemporary art being displayed in the museum. Exhibits are not just limited to conventional art. SMOCA has displays of sound, light, furnishings and objects beyond descriptions.
Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, 3830 N. Marshall Way, just east of Goldwater Boulevard. Western Spirit is the Valley of the Sun’s newest museum. It celebrates the history, culture and stories of the American West. The focus of the museum is the 19 states that comprise the “West” and western culture. It has a combination of permanent and rotating exhibits. Western Spirit opened in 2015 as a tribute to Scottsdale’s heritage as the West’s Most Western Town, the city’s slogan.
image: Flickr/Dru Bloomfield