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Travelogue: Scottsdale, Arizona

In 1888 a United States Army Chaplain called Winfield Scott bought 640 acres of Sonoran Desert for $2,240. Now Scottsdale has some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

The area was named as Orangedale after the huge orange groves that were planted by Winfield and his brother George, who cultivated the land to great effect. The town was renamed Scottsdale after it’s founder in 1894.

The Old Town retains much of it’s 19th Century Wild West flair. It’s more than a little kitsch, with it’s tourist souvenir shops selling cowboy boots and indian jewellery. It is also the centre of much of Scottsdale’s nightlife with many bars and restaurants. The oldest saloon in Scottsdale, the Rusty Spur has to be worth a stopover for a pint.

One building with genuine history is the 1909 Little Red School House, now home of the Scottsdale Historical Museum. Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is Arizona’s only permanent showcase to modern art and is very cutting edge. Also worth a closer look was the beautiful Adobe Mission Church. A white building made of 14,000 individual adobe blocks. Someone was inside willing to answer questions.
The Civic Center Park was a quiet place to seek solace. It’s not always quiet I expect as a load of events are listed. There were numerous sculptures and plenty of shady trees, respite from the summer heat.

Over at the Arts District the most photographed landmark in Scottsdale is the Bob Parks Horse Fountain (photo, top left). This part of town alongside Fifth Avenue attracts a different kind of shopper to the Old Town. Less wild west and more west end.

We were on the look out for some local art and parted with some money at the On The Edge Gallery on E. Fifth Street. The gallery is run as a co-operative and represents over 40 different artists from Arizona including the people that worked there. There is an ArtWalk every Thursday evening, which would have been nice to do, but browsing was second-best until it was time to eat.

The Waterfront area was very chic with its sun drenched patios and expensive clothes shops. It is the Arizona Canal that runs through here and both the land and the water were an oasis for public art displays. When we were there local artist Jeff Zischke was showing ‘Water Striders,’ a collection of eight 12-foot-long fiberglass bugs in vibrant changing colors that float and using a touch screen on the canal’s south bank viewers can change the colors of the bugs. Very cool.

imageA pedestrian-only bridge, the Soleri it is called, links the canal to Southbridge, but we didn’t venture that far and settled on a spot of lunch instead at Olive & Ivy.

Canals are very prevalent in Scottsdale, 130 miles of them. Mostly they are now used to carry away storm water and to generate hydroelectric power, and as the city has expanded the canals are forever reminding you of their existence as the roads are laid to go over them creating a mogul effect.

Just a short distance from the Waterfront was the huge Fashion Square Mall, which we did a couple of circuits off. 250 shopes under one roof offering convenience but little culture. We avoided the Entertainment District because it was before opening and we had a 4-year old in tow, so we jumped back on the free trolley, which was more like an express bus than a meandering tourist vehicle, and got back to our car.

Scottsdale is a sprawling city that stretches over 30 miles. Many new gated communities dot the landscape, one of which was North Troon, which was where our hotel was located.

The Four Seasons was beautifully situated (photo below) and the hotel and it’s staff impressed me more every day we were there. The pools and grounds were sedate and the restaurant offerings were excellent. I loved our date night dinner in Talavera and the family friendly Proof was excellent.

imageScottsdale is renowned for its golf courses. There are nearly 200 courses in the area and the North Troon GC close to the hotel had a choice of two. The Pinnacle Course and Monument Course are PGA ready with the Monument in reverence to a British Open-style links course.

Outside activities are aplenty with trails for biking, hiking and climbing available. Our daughter did a little pony riding at the MacDonald’s Ranch. The ranch also had a small petting zoo and stagecoach rides. Our daughter panned for gold and got lost in the maze and it was a fun place for families with young kids. We also looked into, but didn’t go to the Phoenix Zoo, which was a little bit too far to drive when we were on a short fuse.

The city also hosts three major baseball team’s spring training camps, a massive boom to the area. The San Francisco Giants play at the downtown 12,000 seater Scottsdale Stadium, whilst the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies share the Salt River Fields a little bit further out of town.

imageBaseball fans just add to the spring crowds in this part of Arizona when the weather is at its best. Not it’s warmest however, because you don’t want to witness that, not unless you are a camel. Scottsdale averages 107 days a year when the temperature rises to 100 degrees or above and nearby Phoenix leads the United States in the hottest city in the country.

I loved Scottsdale, the contrast, the outside air, the adventure. Dramatic landscape with endless possibilities, this part of Arizona is well worth a visit, with the flourishing Phoenix to the west and the McDowell Mountains to the east. Part gruff Wild West, part dazzling modern society.

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