Scottsdale is known for its many athletic opportunities. The city has dozens of blue-chip golf courses; there are miles of trails for running, biking, and horseback riding; and during high season, baseball fans swarm to spring training games. Of course, there are many visitors who are content to spend their days poolside, and why not? With its mountain panoramas, towering palms, and saguaro cacti, the rugged beauty of the Sonoran Desert landscape looks just as good from a chaise longue as it does on a hike through the McDowell Sonoran Preserve or the Desert Botanical Garden. Scottsdale is also an oasis of culture, with theaters, galleries, a museum devoted to the arts and crafts of cowboy and Native American life, and a world-class collection at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Be sure to also explore the city’s landmark architecture. Taliesin West, the 1937 winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, is a marvel of Modernism. Additionally, Wright’s best-known protégé, Piero Soleri, crafted his own vision of an organic and futuristic style at Cosanti, an artists’ compound that is said to have inspired George Lucas’s Star Wars worlds.
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THINGS TO DO
You can’t come all the way to cowboy country and not experience a bit of the Old West. Although Scottsdale is a sprawling modern community, this historic 1,300-acre ranch in the north end of town recreates a dusty Main Street complete with a general store and cowpokes dressed in snap-front shirts and chaps. The free attractions include a petting zoo and pony rides make for a fun-filled family-friendly day. Practice your roping, board an authentic red stagecoach, take a hayride through the desert, and enjoy a chuck-wagon cowboy dinner under the stars. Kids of all ages love the experience. For the more adventurous, there are horseback riding lessons and trail rides across the saguaro-studded landscape.
Desert Botanical Garden
This rugged and serene swath of desert sits on the southwestern border of Scottsdale and Phoenix, and is home to some 50,000 cacti, succulents, agaves, shrubs, and trees. A stand of agave created by acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly greets visitors to the park, which offers fine dining at Gertrude’s, a library, and garden shop. A variety of tours are offered, including summer flashlight expeditions at night. First-timers should try to come early in the day or late in the evening, when the sunlight is incredible, or for one of the seasonal events like springtime wildflowers and evening luminarias during the holidays.
Museum of the West
Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, which opened in January 2015, is located in Old Town on the former site of the Loloma Transit Station. In accordance with the city’s nickname, “The West’s Most Western Town,” the museum is dedicated to the history, culture, and art of the West. The strikingly contemporary two-story building houses eight galleries, a multimedia theater, and a sculpture courtyard. The space hosts exhibitions of paintings, bronzes, photography, and historic cowboy gear. Don’t miss Heritage Hall, which displays photographs of famous Westerners including Billy the Kid and Bill Gates.