Tucked next door to Phoenix on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale is both an arid Old West town and a modern oasis of culture, fine dining, and upscale leisure. Its quiet neighborhoods and dazzling skies make it a haven for artists, whose work fills more than 100 galleries; and for architects, who are transforming public and private spaces with cutting-edge monuments. Dense with amenities for travelers, the resort community challenges visitors to choose from more than 50 golf courses, 70-plus hotels and resorts, and 50 spas. And though Scottsdale lists chili as its official food, the city of 218,000 residents offers way more than a bowl of beans at its more than 600 restaurants.
You don’t have to be an architecture buff to appreciate Taliesin West ($24 to $60), the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright. Tour the National Historic Landmark on its 75th anniversary. Artwalk offers a vast range of art—Southwestern, Russian, Native American—in dozens of galleries every Thursday night in the Downtown Arts District. Peruse oil paintings, handmade teapots, and vintage foreign movie posters. Interactive galleries allow visitors to see and hear instruments from more than 200 countries at the 3-year-old Musical Instrument Museum (free to $18) in nearby Phoenix.
Chef Charleen Badman’s FNB is acclaimed for its menu ($6 to $33) that matches seasonal foods with unexpected partners—Swiss chard in falafel, blood oranges with olives, mint with Brussels sprouts. Regulars clamor for the braised leeks, mozzarella, and a fried egg, crowned by breadcrumbs. An all-Arizona wine list, too. At Citizen R+D, a lounge on the second story of the Citizen Public House in Old Town, mixologists use laboratory equipment, fire, and even a paint-can shaker
to craft cocktails ($11 to $18) such as cotton candy, eucalyptus, and pumpkin butter.
Travel back to 1956 at the downtown Hotel Valley Ho ($139 to $249), where an $80 million renovation has revived the 191-room resort. The pool-centric property takes visitors through its celebrity-filled history on by-appointment tours ($19.56). The Fairmont Scottsdale princess ($125 to $499) puts the luxury resort spin on its five pools, tennis center, championship golf course, and the new Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa, which offers massage for athletes, golfers, pregnant women, and the merely stressed; and programs to coach you to better nutrition, sleep, or meditation ($40 to $539).
Southwest Airlines and US Airways fly nonstop from John Wayne Airport to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Shuttle services travel the eight to 10 miles from the airport to points in Scottsdale.
Photograph by Andrew Pielage, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
This article originally appeared in the May 2013 issue.