One of Scottsdale’s Best-Kept Secrets

With an estimated 125 galleries full of arts, crafts, and edgier stuff, Scottsdale is one of the Southwest’s best cultural destinations.

7374 E 2nd St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA
The museum’s collection and calendar of exhibits is a little more daring than you might imagine, but the permanent installation of James Turrell’s Knight Rise presents visitors with the biggest art jolt of all. The work, open to the public for free, consists of a circular bench beneath a luminous domed ceiling. An elliptical hole cut into the top of the dome contains a glimpse of sky. When observed in this manner, even the clearest desert sky seems to shift and pulse and fill the window with pure exuberant color. Come at dawn or sunset for the best (and often most solitary) viewing.
4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050, USA
Don a headset, approach an exhibit, and wirelessly listen to African thumb piano or Mongolian throat singing at the vast Musical Instrument Museum. Besides browsing some 15,000 artifacts that represent different musical genres, visitors can catch a concert, take a drumming class, or recharge at the café, which serves global fare made from local products.
7106 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA
Every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m., downtown Scottsdale’s galleries host Scottsdale ArtWalk. It’s the country’s longest running event of its kind and is more like a casual open house with live artist demonstrations and free drinks and snacks. Throughout the year, the gallery association hosts the following themed events: Summer Spectacular ArtWalk (July), Western ArtWalk (November), Fiesta Bowl ArtWalk (December) and Best of Scottsdale ArtWalk (March).
6433 E Doubletree Ranch Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253, USA
Italian-born architect, artist, philosopher, and ceramicist Paolo Soleri originally came to Arizona to study with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West. His legacy is seen all over Scottsdale, notably at the Soleri Bridge and Plaza in downtown, which spotlights his signature hand-casted ceramic and bronze wind bells. The bells are still hand-poured at Cosanti, Soleri’s studio and former home, where bells of all shapes and sizes can be bought.
Old Town Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ, USA
Downtown Scottsdale’s historic district has plenty to peruse. Shop for cowboy wares, authentic Native American artifacts, and handcrafted leather goods. People who are into Southwestern décor love Shades of the West, which was once Scottsdale’s original general store. Concha belts and turquoise jewelry are bestsellers at Atkinson’s Indian Trading Post and Gilbert Ortega Gallery of Indian Art. For bold Arizona pottery, stop in at River Trading Post and Pueblo Arts.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks