Scottsdale was once a ranch town in the Sonoran Desert where farmers grew citrus and cowboys kicked up dust in the fierce, dry heat. That era earned Scottsdale the nickname of “The West's Most Western Town.” Today, though, you’d hardly recognize it—where lemon and orange groves once spread out endlessly, there are stucco mansions; where dry cotton fields were, you’ll find high-end shopping centers complete with landscaped green grass and trickling fountains. The New York Times has called downtown Scottsdale "a desert version of Miami's South Beach,” a fitting name for this stylish oasis in the Valley of the Sun.
Scottsdale 101: The Basics
- Old Town Scottsdale: Lively bars, restaurants, lounges, and kitschy clubs fill this densely packed area. Look for the hidden entrance to Kazimierz World Wine Bar to kick back with a chilled glass of white as the locals do.
- Shop till you drop: When it’s hot outside, head indoors for some air-conditioning and retail therapy. The upscale Biltmore Fashion Park is popular; there’s also Scottsdale Fashion Square, one of the largest malls in the country.
- Tee off at one of the nearly 200 golf courses in the area. Some 330 days of sunshine a year and dramatic mountain scenery equates to one of the best places in the country to play—more than 40 PGA and LPGA Tour golfers call Scottsdale home for a reason.
- Taliesin West: Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s former winter home and school is open to the public, with guided tours of the house and grounds. It’s a very popular attraction, so buy tickets in advance online.
- Scottsdale canals: In a city hundreds of miles from any major body of water, miles of canals designed to hold torrential rain overflow serve as a car-free place to take a walk or bike. No swimming allowed, though—not only are the banks steep, but swimming is totally illegal.
- North Scottsdale: Take a leisurely drive through North Scottsdale, where the average home price is well above a half-million dollars. When admiring the majestic royal palm trees in the landscaped yards, take note: royal palm trees are not native to Arizona, and each one was imported and re-planted at great expense.
- Talking Stick Resort Casino: Slot machines and blackjack, roulette, and poker tables rule at this mega-sized gaming center. The theater within hosts big-ticket music and comedy performances.
Where to Stay
- Hotel Valley Ho: An iconic midcentury hotel steps from shopping and restaurants in downtown Scottsdale. Retro-chic rooms have oversize bathtubs and views of Camelback Mountain; there’s also a swank cocktail lounge and pool.
- The Gainey Suites Hotel: A newly renovated hotel with an expansive outdoor lounging area, close to high-end shopping.
- Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia is at the base of Camelback Mountain; from the pool, you can take in views of the rocks and cliffs that surround the resort.