North America

Scottsdale Arizona: In a word? Unique

Photo credit: Dru Bloomfield

Scottsdale, named after Major Winfield Scott, was founded on February 26, 1910. It has preserved its Western roots while becoming one of the fastest growing cities in Arizona. Visitors come from around the world to experience this mix of Old West values and contemporary luxuries.

And it’s easy to understand why!

Located in the picturesque Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale is bordered by Phoenix to the west and the McDowell Mountains on the east. 

It’s also no wonder that Scottsdale is annually rated among the nation’s most desirable communities to live in, and certainly to visit. Scottsdale’s vibrant downtown is considered the finest urban center in Arizona. High end shopping destinations are one of the primary attractions of the city. For example, the Fashion Square Mall is near downtown Scottsdale and is one of the biggest malls in the United States. The extensive number of galleries, – some 90 in number – display works both from local artists and from around the world.

Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, in the city’s northern reaches, is the largest urban wilderness area in the United States and features more than 60 miles of award-winning trails and facilities trails through diverse and scenic desert terrain. The Preserve is like no other place in the Valley. It is stunning geography, lush cacti forests and diverse wildlife.

And of course, there’s the weather, golf, spas and dining … But first, let’s have a look at Scottsdale.

The city is loosely divided into areas: Old Town (Downtown), Central Scottsdale (also known as the “Shea Corridor, South Scottsdale” and North Scottsdale. The real estate market in Scottsdale is among the most expensive in the United States.

Old Scottsdale

Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

Old Town includes the older Scottsdale area that extends from Thomas to Camelback on Scottsdale Road. Western stores like Saba’s Western Wear, have become staples here, along with upscale restaurants and an art district, which boasts artists from around the world who come to display their art in some of the most popular galleries in the West, like the Faust Gallery and the Legacy Gallery.

Old Town is also the home of the annual Parada del Sol Parade, which features floats, food and great fun. This parade has become a popular yearly event and takes place in February. The Scottsdale Stadium holds thousands of fans each year, as they watch the San Francisco Giants hit the ball around one of the oldest baseball stadiums in Arizona. Other attractions situated here include the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the annual Scottsdale Culinary Festival.

Old Town is flanked on the north end by the large fashion shopping mall, Scottsdale Fashion Square, a mall that, no doubt, you will be visiting.

Central Scottsdale / Paradise Valley

Traveling north from downtown, Scottsdale’s richest shopping and restaurants continue for miles from Camelback Road to Lincoln Drive. The Borgata of Scottsdale and the Hilton Village are two specialty malls that offer unique stores in a rich, relaxing environment. Both are outdoor malls and feature opportunities for window shopping and comfortable strolls. The Borgata also features art galleries, fine gifts, home furnishings, jewelry stores and superb restaurants. The Hilton Village offers unique shops and excellent dining experiences in a more casual environment.

Don’t tell anyone.

Neighborhood: Central Scottsdale. Cattle Track Arts Compound is an artists’ colony located on 13 acres of land in the middle of a Scottsdale residential community. Built in 1937 by local engineer George Ellis, this little-known enclave (many Scottsdale residents aren’t aware it’s there) is where architects, printmakers, blacksmiths, jewelers and ceramicists come to work and display their art. Cattle Track’s most famous artist-in-residence was Philip Curtis, a founding member of the Phoenix Art Museum who lived onsite from 1947 until his death in 2000. Three of Cattle Track’s buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the area is registered as a Scottsdale historic property.

North Scottsdale

With the advent of the 101 freeway, the North Scottsdale area is now accessible. This attractive area includes the cities of Carefree and Cave Creek, and boasts some of the most natural landscapes in Arizona. Here you can enjoy the McDowell Mountains at the Marriott , taste real rattlesnake at Rawhide , eat great steaks under the stars at Pinnacle Peak Patio and see history come alive at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West .

Traveling north, you will find the five-star Grayhawk Golf Club and community. With homes in the multi-million dollar range and property of like value, the beauty is overwhelming. Del Webb may be most famous for Sun City in the Valley of the Sun, but he also left behind Terravita, a master-planned community ans a considerable legacy. If this beauty isn’t enough, keep traveling north and you will find el Pedregal Festival Marketplace. Here, specialty shops line a pueblo-themed outdoor mall. This elegant shopping experience is a celebration of aromas and visual delights. Then head over for western fun in the city of Cave Creek. Crazy Ed’s Satisfied Frog is a must visit for anyone.

Of note: The Canals

The valley of the sun has over 130 miles of canals. Most of them were built in the last 100 years to provide water for the irrigation of farm land. However, now that the valley is much less agrarian the canals are primarily used to carry away storm water. Some are also used to generate hydroelectric power.

These often overlooked gems are open to the public. One can take in the beautiful desert scenery and fresh air while strolling along the canals. They provide walkers, joggers, and bikers with a nice refuge from traffic.

Annual Cultural Events and Fairs

Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

“The West’s most western town” prides itself in its rich Western history, preserving while heavily promoting its plethora of “western” activities and events. The Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show has been a tradition since 1955. Today, the show attracts thousands of visitors and tourists, to see nearly 2000 purebred Arabian and Half-Arabian horses competing for various prizes and recognition. The show also features over 300 vendors and exhibitions, and over 25 demonstrations and shows.

Perhaps the most famous present-day “cowboy” event is the Scottsdale Jaycees Parada del Sol, an annual month-long event that has been held in Scottsdale since 1954. Originally named The Sunshine Festival, the PRCA Rodeo was added in 1956. Cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation converge in Scottsdale to participate in this cultural and historical event. The event begins each year with the Parada del Sol Parade, the world’s largest horse-drawn parade with over 150 entries in any given year.

Every January for nearly forty years, the city of Scottsdale has been home to the Barrett-Jackson Auto Show. Due to the success of this annual week-long event, the organizers behind it have more recently inaugurated similar but smaller shows in Palm Beach, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada. Now held at the expansive West World exhibition complex in North Scottsdale, the event is an auto enthusiast’s and collector’s spectacle. The show is known for featuring exotic, luxury and historic vehicles which have been expertly restored to mint condition.

In what is considered to be the longest continually running festival of its kind in the nation, the Scottsdale Culinary Festival is held annually during April. Though many of its individual events are held city-wide, the event is concentrated in the downtown area. Entirely, it is estimated that the week-long festival draws some 40,000 people. The most heavily attended such event is the festival’s Great Arizona Picnic, an outdoor fair-like showcase of both well-known local and national chefs and restaurants.


The city is home to many high-end corporate retail outlets, as well as independent boutiques.

There are many shopping areas within the city of Scottsdale, ranging from small districts to large centers. The most notable regional centers include the upscale Kierland Commons in North Scottsdale, and the massive Scottsdale Fashion Square in Downtown Scottsdale, a major destination for high-end retailers. These shopping centers (and others) in Scottsdale claim dozens of marquee brands that are unique to both Phoenix and the Southwestern region. At nearly 2 million square feet (and ever-expanding), the Scottsdale Fashion Square is routinely ranked as one the most profitable shopping malls per square foot in the Southwest United States. The enormous center is anchored by Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s, and Barneys New York department store.

The city also plays host to the annual Scottsdale Fashion Week each November. The event routinely features runway shows from influential local, national and international designers.


Named by The New York Times as one of the “hippest and most happening” places in the country, Scottsdale is home to a variety of high-end nightclubs, restaurants, hotels, lounges and bars. Over the past decade in particular, these establishments have grown in great numbers, many catering to a more “young, fashion-conscious crowd.”

The majority of nightlife is centred downtown, between Camelback and Osborn Roads. Similar to well-known nightclub districts in other major cities, much like Atlanta’s Buckhead district and Miami’s South Beach, most of Downtown Scottsdale’s major lounges and clubs are generally located within walking distance, often providing a vibrant and buzzing scene during most evenings. Thursdays through Sundays being the most active, crowds of over 40,000-strong are known to congregate to this area.

And now for the fun stuff!

Go for the Golf

Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

Arizona is a year-round golfer’s paradise. In winter, the mild climate and warm sunny days create peak playing conditions for the golf enthusiast. Both spring and fall offer mild temperatures and great mid-season rates – creating great value for groups of 2 to 20.

Scottsdale may well be one of the world’s finest golf destinations. There are nearly 200 Scottsdale-area golf courses and there is 330 plus days of sunshine annually.

Courses range from the rolling green fairways of traditional courses, to desert golf designs. The Robb Report cited Scottsdale as, “America’s Best Place to Live for Golf.” The Boulders Resort & Golden Spa and Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North were selected in 2005 as the second and fourth best golf resorts in the nation by Travel + Leisure Golf magazine. Other notable golf courses in the area include Desert Mountain, Grayhawk, The Phoenician and Silverleaf.

To Spa for

When you’re ready to pamper yourself from head to toe and psyche to soul, look no further than Scottsdale’s renowned spas and wellness practitioners.

Here you’ll find innovative resort and day spas that draw their inspiration from the bounty of the Sonoran Desert and the area’s Native American traditions, as well as from cultures around the world. Treatments run the gamut from traditional massages and rejuvenating facials to exotic offerings like a warm turquoise clay wrap or a Sonoran honey and citrus sugar scrub. You’ll also find a host of workout options at spas and yoga centers that will help you meet your fitness and relaxation goals while you travel.

Take a hike

Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is like no other place in the Valley. The Preserve encompasses the McDowell Mountains, where recent discoveries are causing geologists to rethink how this region formed and evolved. New trails and amenities are bringing Scottsdale’s “mountains of discovery” closer to residents and visitors. The 17,000 scenic acres boasts stunning geography, lush cacti forests and diverse wildlife. It features award-winning trails and facilities.

All-in-all, Scottsdale promises an experience unlike any other. Light takes on an ethereal quality, bathing the sky, desert and mountains in rich, vibrant hues. Trails laced with whimsically shaped cacti, playful wildflowers and fragrant desert plants invite exploration and adventure. And glittering star-filled skies create an ideal backdrop for a romantic dinner or exciting night out on the town. One could say unique …

All content © 2011-2018 Great World Getaways unless otherwise noted