Cowboy Chic in Scottsdale | RTX Traveler Magazine

Scottsdale’s nickname, “The West’s Most Western Town,” might conjure images of cacti, tumbleweeds and cowpokes, but there’s much more to the it than the old west kitsch. The town’s proximity to Arizona State University, corporate mecca Phoenix and a headquarters for the Mayo Clinic along with a rapidly growing aviation industry all keep the area modern and sophisticated with some of the best shopping, dining, golf and resort options in the Southwest.

The four distinct parts of Scottsdale are easy to navigate and each has something to offer. South Scottsdale is an up-and-coming area with a thriving nightlife where many Phoenix-based professionals spend time outside of office hours. Central Scottsdale is home to a large number of the resorts and hotels in the area, and North Scottsdale boasts many of the golf courses that are a huge draw for Scottsdale visitors. Downtown, known as Old Town, is a main attraction in itself and a first stop for most visitors.

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Discovering Downtown

The Downtown area is easily walkable and features enough attractions, shopping and dining options to keep you busy for days. There’s ample free parking in several convenient lots and garages, and there’s also a free trolley with four different routes that includes stops at several area resorts and hotels.

The Civic Center Mall is a perfect starting point. At Main St. and Brown Ave., this lush park with plenty of grass, trees, shade, benches and fountains is perfect for taking a rest in between attractions, enjoying a picnic with your family or people watching. On a gorgeous spring day, you may even find yourself witnessing a wedding or two within the park. With its proximity to City Hall and home to a version of Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE sculpture, this public space is ideal for couples seeking a unique setting for their nuptials.

This park is also where the Scottsdale Historical Museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts and the Center for the Performing Arts are located, so be sure to carve some time into your schedule to catch a performance or exhibit at any of these fine buildings. There are several restaurants and bars to choose from if you need sustenance, many with outdoor patios overlooking the park for optimum enjoyment.

The four blocks along Brown Ave. across from the Civic Center Mall are officially the Old Town area, where some of the town’s most historical buildings are located and the Old West theme is prominent. Browse for boots at Saba’s Western Store, located in the building that was the town’s drugstore in 1921, and buy a trinket at the Mexican Imports Shop, which was a pool hall and silent movie theater in the 1920s. Bischoff’s Shades of the West is on the site of the town’s first general store, and today boasts some of the most interesting art and home décor you can find anywhere.

Just west of Old Town is the Arts District of Scottsdale, which has flourished over the years and today boasts more than 100 galleries, which shine during the Scottsdale Artwalk each Thursday evening from 7 until 9 p.m. year round. Art enthusiasts and casual window shoppers alike will be pleased with the variety of art displayed in the galleries along the quieter end of Main Street, where you may happen upon sidewalk musicians playing classical renditions on a cello and saxophone instead of the strumming of country tunes that might be heard a few blocks away in Old Town. One spot that shouldn’t be missed is the American Fine Art Editions gallery, with 12,000 square feet of art by names you’re sure to recognize like Andy Warhol, Frederick Hart, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, LeRoy Neiman and many more.

P1030126 webJust north of the Arts District is the Shopping District, bordered by the Arizona Canal and the town’s waterfront area on its northwest side. The 5th Avenue Shops form the main artery of this bustling district, and shoppers can find everything from clothing and jewelry to specialty candy and tea shops. The boutiques here are among the best in town, but if you still need your fix, head to Fashion Square Mall just across the canal for the most recognized high-end brand names straight off the runway.

Unforgettable Eats

As you stroll through the various districts of downtown, you can’t go more than a few feet without passing a restaurant, and among the many options it’s hard to go wrong. Start your morning off right with breakfast at the Arcadia Farms Café, with pastries, crepes and egg dishes featuring fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms.

For a filling lunch slightly off the beaten path and away from the crowds, check out the Brat Haus for artisan sausage, craft beer and house-made pretzels. For a special dinner experience, head to Tapas Papa Frita on a night when they feature live Spanish guitar or flamenco dancing. Enjoy small plates of Spanish tapas in the cozy and spacious Spanish-inspired dining room or on the waterfront patio when the weather it just right (which is almost always). For a sweet treat to end the night, the Gelato Spot is one of the most beloved places for dessert in Scottsdale.

Local Events

Scottsdale’s weather makes winter and spring and ideal time to visit, with warm, sunny and dry temperatures that most of us dream about when the frost is still thawing on our home ground. While baseball spring training season is a huge draw throughout February and March, other events delight visitors and locals around this time. Each year kicks off with the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction which showcases classic and one-of-a-kind vehicles from rare and exotic rides to souped up muscle cars. For those who prefer four legs to four wheels, the Arabian Horse Association of Arizona presents the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show each year at the end of February. 2014 will mark the 59th year of this celebrated equestrian event.

In early March, the Scottsdale Arts Festival is a weekend-long event with a 40-year history that brings together artists from around the country for this don’t-miss event. Along with the artists, live musicians and entertainers perform and food trucks are on hand to fill your belly, all in the ideal setting of the Civic Center Mall park. For free fun in the park, visit on Sundays mid-January through mid-April for the Sunday A’Fair with free music, an outdoor crafts market and activities for children and families.


It’s easy to be active in Scottsdale, with ideal weather and plenty of options. Rent a bicycle to wheel around town or go for a trek through the Sonoran trails. Go off-roading with Jeep, Hummer and ATV tours led by an entertaining guide to get up close and personal with the desert wildlife and geology. Cool down in warmer temperatures with kayaking or whitewater rafting. Tee off at world-famous golf courses and enjoy the dramatic scenery. After a day of your favorite activity, visit one of the area’s renowned spas and pamper yourself with innovative treatments inspired by Sonoran Desert botanicals and Native American traditions.

Public Art

Wherever you are in Scottsdale, you’re not far from a structure, sculpture or art installation that is part of the Scottsdale Public Art project. With 12 permanent installations and several temporary installations and exhibitions, the town itself becomes an art gallery that can be enjoyed at your leisure. Audio tours are available at each exhibit. Simply look for the phone number or QR code at the site of the artwork for details of the work and its artist.

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Native Trails

Scottsdale’s cultural history can be traced back to the Hohokam, one of four prehistoric archeological cultures in the southwest, and two distinct Native American tribes reside on neighboring Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, giving a colorful cultural significance to the area.

Most Thursdays and Saturdays from January through April, Native Trails performances tell the story of the First Nations of Arizona and North American through traditional dance, music and art. Presented by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the performers represent a variety of First Nations including Hopi, Choctaw, Hualapai, Dine and San Carlos Apache. In addition to the performances, artisan craft makers and tribal elders showcase and sell their work including jewelry, baskets, flutes and paintings. Traditional foods are also for sale at every performance, and the performances are free to the public.

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