Scottsdale: What to see and where to stay

The tiered pools are a welcome respite from the desert heat at Mountain Shadows hotel, just outside Scottsdale. Photo, Michele Jarvie Calgary

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If your idea of a perfect holiday sits somewhere between hiking and cocktails, Scottsdale has many options to fill the day.


A painting exhibited at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. Photos, Michele Jarvie Calgary

Art: The Scottsdale Rodeo Museum is not the only one in the city dedicated to western life. On a much grander scale is the Smithsonian-accredited Western Spirit: Museum of the West, which is temporarily closed. Temporary exhibits include Maynard Dixon’s American West (until Aug. 2), By Beauty Obsessed: Gilbert Waldman Collects the West (until Aug. 24) and Paul Calle’s Life of Exploration: From the Mountains to the Moon (until Oct. 11). Permanent exhibits include western bronzes and sculptures as well as the Abe Hays Family Collection, a large gallery with old newspapers, sheriff’s badges, halters, saddles, metalwork, spurs, frontier knives and chaps.

The building itself is architecturally interesting. It is gold LEED-certified with reclaimed and recycled materials and includes a weeping wall outside that feeds all the plants on-site. Some features have been inspired by the natural landscape outside, such as a textured wall that mimics the ribs inside the ubiquitous Saguaro cactus. Another wall resembles blanket weaving.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a renovated former movie theatre. It houses nine to 12 rotating exhibitions a year. It is temporarily closed to April. 5


A custom acoustic guitar made by Frank Gay in Edmonton in the 1950s. It’s comprised of spruce, flamed maple, mahogany, ebony, mother of pearl, ivoroid and acrylic. It;s one of hundreds of instruments on display in Scottsdale’s Musical Instrument Museum. Calgary

Music: While museums might not be high on your agenda, don’t miss the Musical Instruments Museum once it reopens. Interactive and family-friendly, the MIM can easily take over hours of a day as you wander through galleries dedicated to global music. Seemingly every country in the world is represented, along with displays of native instruments whether it be bagpipes, tribal drums or goat hoof belt rattles.

An Artist Gallery is dedicated to influential musicians and includes everyone from Johnny Cash and Elvis to Tito Puentes and Randy Bachman. Special items include Pablo Casals’s cello and Adam Levine’s rare Ibanez electric guitar.

Every exhibit in the museum includes musical selections from that country or artist which play on museum headphones as you approach.

Once inspired, head to the Experience Gallery where you can try out a selection of guitars, gongs, a Peruvian harp, a West African djembe, or Native American communal drums.


A fun and funky cabaret designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at his winter home, Taliesen West. The renowned architect built the room to entertain clients and students of his school. Photos, Michele Jarvie Calgary

Architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright architecture is iconic and instantly recognizable. Some of his major projects include the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Taliesen West, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just outside of Scottsdale, which is closed through March 31.

Wright was famous as the creator of “organic architecture,” a term he coined to describe buildings that harmonize with their inhabitants and environment.

“If you have an open concept house, you can thank Frank Lloyd Wright. He saw that American families were changing how they lived and he opened up the idea of home,” explained a docent leading a recent tour at Taliesen West, Wright’s winter home and design school from 1937 until his death in 1959.

Tour his remarkable home, meeting room, theatre and cabaret and learn about Wright’s ingenious designs that captured the desert light and water with non-conventional materials. The tour volunteers are dedicated to telling Wright’s life story in a way that captures his unorthodox and controversial character. You’ll come away with a real appreciation of the man and his work.


Camelback Mountain looms behind Mountain Shadows boutique hotel outside Scottsdale, Ariz. Calgary


Scottsdale is well served by accommodation, from family hotels with lazy river rides to ultra luxury resorts like Sanctuary, which Jay Z and Beyonce reportedly booked for their honeymoon. Two top options from which to base yourself are Mountain Shadows and the Four Seasons.

Checking into Mountain Shadows in Paradise Valley, you can forgive yourself for expecting to see Frank Sinatra or Sammy Davis Jr. lounging about in the bar. The Rat Pack would have been at home in this hotel which originally opened down the road in 1959 and attracted stars like Lucille Ball, John Wayne and Elizabeth Taylor. But while the vibe is vintage, the furnishings, food and service is anything but. Rooms are massive, with glass-walled showers and floor to ceiling windows opening onto either the executive 18-hole golf course or the Instagrammable-worthy pools.

The restaurant Hearth 61 and adjacent bar is hopping nightly with both hotel guests and locals. Bar tables spill onto an outside deck for poolside dining.

Mountain Shadows is at the base of Camelback Mountain and is a short drive into Old Town Scottsdale.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. Courtesy, Four Seasons Barbara Kraft / Calgary

On the other side of the city, and a world away in design, is Four Seasons Resort and Spa at Troon North. The adobe-style hotel melds into the arid landscape with some units built right into the rocks. Again, the rooms are massive with fireplaces, couches and chairs, well-appointed bathrooms and secluded outdoor patios that take advantage of the commanding views of hills and cacti.

The large pool area is in the centre of the resort, which makes it a great gathering spot. So, too, is the outside terrace of Onyx Bar and Lounge. Get here early for a drink at sunset as it fills quickly with guests seeking the perfect photo.

After drinks, head into the resort’s signature restaurant, Talavera. Headed up by a rising young chef from Mexico, Samantha Sanz, the contemporary Spanish menu includes specialties such as paella, dry-aged steak, Jamón Ibérico seafood and tapas. Check out the special gin room where you can help create your own handcrafted cocktail.