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Scottsdale: Top Five Reasons to Go

VIA's managing editor makes a pitch for visiting a desert oasis that is full of surprises.

  • poolside at Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona, image
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    Lounge chairs, tropical drinks, and a sparkling pool await at Hotel Valley Ho.
  • prickly pears and desert bluebells in Scottsdale's Desert Botanical Garden, image
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    Prickly pear cactus and desert bluebells brighten the scene at the Desert Botanical Garden.
  • Robert Indiana's sculpture LOVE in Scottsdale, Ariz., image
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    Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture makes hearts flutter on the Civic Center Mall.
  • Taliesin West at night, Frank Lloyd Wright's building in Scottsdale, image
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    You can take a nighttime tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Taliesin West.
  • the exterior of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, image
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    The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art shimmers in the early evening.

Perhaps the chance to see the World Championship San Francisco Giants in spring training is all it takes to lure you to Arizona. But wait, there’s more . . .

5. Taliesin West

I’d like to take a bite out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Western headquarters—its distinctive walls of concrete and native stone look just like delicious nutty nougat. Mostly, though, I marvel at how Wright’s buildings (which still house a working architectural school) snuggle so comfortably into the desert landscape, their shape a soft echo of the McDowell Mountains to the north. Docents lead a range of terrific tours, including a night visit that shows off a dragon sculpture exhaling real flames.

Taliesin West: 12345 N. Taliesin Dr., (480) 860-2700,

4. Poolside leisure

Unlike Wright’s masterpiece, few local resorts—with their lush golf courses and manicured grounds—harmonize with the parched beauty of their surroundings. But I’m a sucker for their chlorinated, crystal-blue persuasions, especially the retro-chic Hotel Valley Ho’s luscious “OH” pool in the shape of a speared olive in a martini glass. On deck is my favorite splurge: rentable cabañas that come with a range of amenities, like fresh fruit smoothies or kids’ pool pack.

Hotel Valley Ho: 6850 E. Main St., (480) 248-2000, (866) 882-4484,

3. Cool drinks

I adore Arizona so much I want to consume its flavors in liquid form. Scottsdale’s best new restaurant of 2010—FnB (for “food and beverage”)—showcases Arizona wines and microbrews, like Pillsbury 2009 Roan Red and SanTan’s golden-maroon Devil’s Ale. Locals also recommend the prickly pear margarita at the Four Seasons’ Saguaro Blossom café; lucky guests can sip, then dip in the nearby pool, indulging in reasons No. 4 and 3 in one fell swoop.

FnB: 7133 E. Stetson Dr., Ste. 2, (480) 425-9463,

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale: 10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr., (480) 515-5700,

2. Art

On a warm night, who wouldn’t like a kiss of cool mist? Horseshoe Falls tickles my fancy: Michael Maglich’s public installation employs concrete, steel, and periodic emissions of fog. The city’s public art collection includes the brilliant new Soleri Bridge and Plaza, Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture on the Civic Center Mall, and some 70 other permanent works. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) also won my heart with cutting-edge exhibits and a building that’s a minimalist redo of a former movie theater.

SMoCA: 7374 East Second St., (480) 874-4666,

1. Cactus

Plants can be works of art, too, and Scottsdale bursts with prickly pulchitrude: Consider the spindly, sculptural intensity of ocotillo, the huge, cartoonish saguaro, and the ferociously barbed jumping cholla. My favorite place to admire them—the Desert Botanical Garden with 145 acres and 50,000-plus plants—is technically in Phoenix, but only a 10-minute drive from downtown Scottsdale. In spring, the thorny denizens erupt with gorgeous blooms—dangerous beauties indeed.

Desert Botanical Garden: 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., (480) 941-1225,

Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

This article was first published in January 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.