Perhaps you’ve been to Scottsdale a few times already and have seen Taliesin West, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and some of the city’s most famous sites. Now you’re ready to dive deeper and head off the beaten path. Or perhaps you’ve never been to Scottsdale before and enjoy exploring the aspects of destinations known only to true insiders.
In either case, this itinerary is for you. From mid-century architectural masterpieces to some of the more remote trails through Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, where you can experience desert solitude, the focus here is on places that provide different perspectives on Scottsdale. It also includes local favorites that residents of Scottsdale might prefer we not share with the rest of the world. We will, however, let you in on these secrets—like the best place for some authentic Mexican fare and a shared workspace where you can sit in the garden and enjoy a salad of farm-fresh produce. You may soon find yourself wondering how to raise the topic of telecommuting from Arizona once you get back to the office.
Itinerary / 3 DAYS
DAY 1A Day of Art and Fashion
The Bespoke Inn is an intimate hotel with only eight rooms—though two more will be added in fall 2019. As its name implies, every detail has been thought out, from custom furniture to beautiful salvaged tiles and reclaimed bricks. The property’s inspiration was the small village inns of Europe, so fittingly, bicycles are provided to guests who want to pedal around town. When guests return to the Bespoke Inn after exploring Scottsdale, they can take a swim in the infinity pool or find a comfortable chair in the courtyard garden, shaded by majestic oak trees.
After checking in and dropping off your luggage, you’ll join a guided tour of Cosanti, founded by the celebrated artist and architect Paolo Soleri. He was born and educated in Italy, but first visited Scottsdale on a fellowship at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in 1946 and later moved to the city permanently in 1956. He was a visionary ahead of his time, with a goal of creating “arcology,” his term for an architecture that exists in harmony with an area’s ecology. Many of his ideas have been embraced in recent years, as green and sustainable design has become increasingly important. In the 1950s and 60s, however, his emphasis on architecture that conserves water and energy while minimizing waste and pollution was revolutionary. On your guided tour, you’ll learn about Soleri’s vision and have the chance to purchase one of the bells or windchimes he designed. The proceeds from the sale of these collectible items, and unique souvenirs of your Scottsdale visit, support the mission of the Cosanti Foundation.
Afterwards, head to lunch at a restaurant where Soleri, as a native of Turin, would likely feel at home. Andreoli Italian Grocer has become a local institution (and may be familiar to viewers of Guy Fieri’s program on the Food Network). Owner Giovanni Scorzo wanted to bring the true flavors of Italy to Scottsdale—not Americanized versions of Italian cuisine. And he has succeeded, with a menu of antipasti, sandwiches, pastries, and pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven (available only on some days, however).
This afternoon, stop into one of Scottdale’s must-shop boutiques. Perusing the racks at Fashion by Robert Black can feel like a visit to a fashion museum, except that everything is for sale. Owner Robert Black, who was also a founder of the Ford Robert Black Modeling Agency, has a discriminating eye and an expert’s knowledge of 20th-century fashion. Whether you’re looking for a smart Elsa Schiaparelli suit, a glamorous 1940s gown, or a funky design by Bob Mackie or Pauline Trigère, you may find it at Black’s store. There’s also a selection of vintage jewelry and other accessories, and while the store’s strength is women’s fashion, you’ll also find items for men.
Dine tonight at Rancho Pinot. Some acclaimed restaurants emerge on the scene with fanfare and celebrity chefs at their helms. Others, like Rancho Pinot, choose the slow-and-steady route, consistently serving excellent and refined dishes and building a loyal following over time. When the restaurant first opened in 1993, the current emphasis on local, organic, and sustainable cuisine was still in its infancy. Owner Chrysa Robertson absorbed that ethos from her time in California, where she learned from masters like Nancy Silverton, and wanted to bring that style of cooking to Scottsdale. The décor at Rancho Point is decidedly Arizonan in its inspiration, with vintage cowboy art hanging on the wall, but the dishes tend to be rustic-farmhouse Italian with some Southwestern accents.
DAY 2Natural and Architectural Highlights
The 5.1-mile Tom’s Thumb Trail is one of the more advanced routes, but the reward for those who take on the challenge is stunning views from the Lookout Viewpoint. An even more strenuous option is the 11-mile Tom’s Thumb East End Loop, with a 2,500-foot elevation gain. The Bell Pass trail is another good option to consider: You’ll find serene solitude in the desert on this 7.3-mile out-and-back trail after it forks off from the popular Gateway Loop.
After you’ve built up an appetite, head back to Old Town Scottsdale for lunch at Schmooze. This is a favorite of Scottsdale residents, especially those who are self-employed and enjoy having a shared workspace with outdoor gardens. As you enjoy an alfresco meal of a focaccia, a quesadilla, or one of the salads prepared with fresh ingredients grown on nearby farms, you may fantasize about figuring out how to telecommute from Scottsdale.
In the afternoon, join a tour of some of Scottsdale’s mid-century modern masterpieces. While Taliesin West is a world-famous landmark, there are other, less-famous buildings that are also stunning. Your half-day tour will start at the Hotel Valley Ho, which originally opened in 1956 and became a favorite of Hollywood stars. The property was meticulously restored to its original glamorous state and reopened in 2005. Other stops include the Price House (Frank Lloyd Wright’s largest house project in Arizona), the Christian Science First Church designed by T.S. Montgomery in 1962, and the Triangle Building, erected the same year as the church, by local architect Ralph Haver.
There are a number of restaurants in Scottsdale that serve excellent haute or updated renditions of Mexican dishes, but sometimes you want to enjoy a dinner like your abuela might cook. For 25 years, Frank & Lupe’s in Old Town has been serving classic, no-nonsense dishes: chalupas, enchiladas, chile rellenos, and more. Leave some room for dessert—perhaps churros or some of the best sopapillas you’ll find north of the border.
DAY 3Bike Through the Heart of Scottsdale
For students of urban planning and civic engineering, the story of the greenbelt is fascinating. It’s the result of a unique collaboration of citizen activists, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others to address the problem of flooding in Scottsdale. Rather than have a concrete canal run through the heart of their town, an ingenious solution was devised: a greenbelt capable of channeling floodwater during the rare occasions when that’s necessary; most of the time, though, this bucolic area provides a leafy artery connecting Scottsdale’s neighborhoods.
After you return your bikes, it will be time to return home. You haven’t seen all of Scottsdale’s local secrets, but you can leave calling yourself a true insider.