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Among the Saguaros: Scottsdale, Arizona

Horseback riding, desert hiking, and a flourishing wine and culinary scene await.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve outside Scottsdale, AZ.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve outside Scottsdale, AZ.

I recently visited Scottsdale, Arizona, and fell in love with the city’s relaxed vibe and natural connection to the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro cacti at MacDonald's Ranch

With the variety of things to do, sights to see and places to eat, it was easy to imagine staying beyond a few days and living the desert life.

How to Get There

The quickest way to get to Scottsdale is to fly from San Diego to Phoenix. If you prefer to drive, settle in for a 6-hour road trip through California and Arizona.

Where to Stay, Eat, and Drink

I stayed at The Scott in Old Town Scottsdale. The hotel underwent extensive renovation a few years ago, and its lobby and lounge were refreshed in 2017.

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Sponsored

An architectural standout, the property combines Old Havana flair with Bauhaus geometry. I’m happy to report that my room was spacious, comfortable and peaceful.

The Canal Club, located inside The Scott, was my introduction to the 1930s Havana aesthetic. The restaurant specializes in Cuban cuisine – I loved the old world charm and Latin flavors. Dining options include the patio, a private cabana, around a fire pit or poolside.

Wine tasting at Merkin Vineyards

As a wine aficionado, I was in my element in Scottsdale. Merkin Vineyards' tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale caught my attention. They serve local, sustainable wine and homemade pizza and pasta. Almost all of Merkin’s fruit and vegetables are cultivated in the family’s orchards, greenhouses, and gardens. Oh, and they play rock/metal music all day, which was a cool touch.

Treat yourself to modern Latin cuisine at The Mission, complete with palm wood floors, marble bar and indoor waterfall. I started with tableside guacamole and a margarita. Try the shrimp aguachile, grilled street corn, and butternut squash tacos. Save room for dessert; their espresso churros are a can't-miss!

Where to Play and Explore

Check out the boutiques, galleries and historic sites in Old Town Scottsdale. It's all urban chic meets Old West charm, if you're into that sort of thing. The Merchantile, Leela Market and Carmen were my favorite shops.

For art and culture buffs, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is home to the latest in art, architecture and design.

I was intrigued by the Skyspace, a concrete theater where visitors can watch the ever-changing sky. The SMoCA showcases current talent by offering rotating exhibitions and community events.

Horseback riding at MacDonald's Ranch

There's no better way to discover the desert around Scottsdale than on horseback. MacDonald’s Ranch lives and breathes Western adventure. You name it, they’ve got it: horseback/pony rides, cowboy cookouts, a petting zoo and a gem mine. I participated in a group trail ride, and the wranglers ensured that it was a safe and memorable experience for everyone.

If you prefer to explore Scottsdale on foot, hike the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Gateway Trail Loop is a 4.5-mile loop that wanders up to a saddle (650-foot elevation gain) before winding back to the trailhead. The Gateway Trail Loop is challenging, so take your time and admire the towering saguaros, colorful wildflowers and diverse wildlife.

Gateway Trail Loop

Riding Into the Sunset

It's safe to say that Scottsdale’s spirit left a lasting impression on me, and I'm looking forward to more adventures in the Grand Canyon state. Your turn to see what blooms in the desert!

More Scottsdale: check out the Reader's article on Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.

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The McDowell Sonoran Preserve outside Scottsdale, AZ.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve outside Scottsdale, AZ.

I recently visited Scottsdale, Arizona, and fell in love with the city’s relaxed vibe and natural connection to the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro cacti at MacDonald's Ranch

With the variety of things to do, sights to see and places to eat, it was easy to imagine staying beyond a few days and living the desert life.

How to Get There

The quickest way to get to Scottsdale is to fly from San Diego to Phoenix. If you prefer to drive, settle in for a 6-hour road trip through California and Arizona.

Where to Stay, Eat, and Drink

I stayed at The Scott in Old Town Scottsdale. The hotel underwent extensive renovation a few years ago, and its lobby and lounge were refreshed in 2017.

Sponsored
Sponsored

An architectural standout, the property combines Old Havana flair with Bauhaus geometry. I’m happy to report that my room was spacious, comfortable and peaceful.

The Canal Club, located inside The Scott, was my introduction to the 1930s Havana aesthetic. The restaurant specializes in Cuban cuisine – I loved the old world charm and Latin flavors. Dining options include the patio, a private cabana, around a fire pit or poolside.

Wine tasting at Merkin Vineyards

As a wine aficionado, I was in my element in Scottsdale. Merkin Vineyards' tasting room in Old Town Scottsdale caught my attention. They serve local, sustainable wine and homemade pizza and pasta. Almost all of Merkin’s fruit and vegetables are cultivated in the family’s orchards, greenhouses, and gardens. Oh, and they play rock/metal music all day, which was a cool touch.

Treat yourself to modern Latin cuisine at The Mission, complete with palm wood floors, marble bar and indoor waterfall. I started with tableside guacamole and a margarita. Try the shrimp aguachile, grilled street corn, and butternut squash tacos. Save room for dessert; their espresso churros are a can't-miss!

Where to Play and Explore

Check out the boutiques, galleries and historic sites in Old Town Scottsdale. It's all urban chic meets Old West charm, if you're into that sort of thing. The Merchantile, Leela Market and Carmen were my favorite shops.

For art and culture buffs, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is home to the latest in art, architecture and design.

I was intrigued by the Skyspace, a concrete theater where visitors can watch the ever-changing sky. The SMoCA showcases current talent by offering rotating exhibitions and community events.

Horseback riding at MacDonald's Ranch

There's no better way to discover the desert around Scottsdale than on horseback. MacDonald’s Ranch lives and breathes Western adventure. You name it, they’ve got it: horseback/pony rides, cowboy cookouts, a petting zoo and a gem mine. I participated in a group trail ride, and the wranglers ensured that it was a safe and memorable experience for everyone.

If you prefer to explore Scottsdale on foot, hike the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Gateway Trail Loop is a 4.5-mile loop that wanders up to a saddle (650-foot elevation gain) before winding back to the trailhead. The Gateway Trail Loop is challenging, so take your time and admire the towering saguaros, colorful wildflowers and diverse wildlife.

Gateway Trail Loop

Riding Into the Sunset

It's safe to say that Scottsdale’s spirit left a lasting impression on me, and I'm looking forward to more adventures in the Grand Canyon state. Your turn to see what blooms in the desert!

More Scottsdale: check out the Reader's article on Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West.

Comments
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The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

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