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Scottsdale Arizona: Inviting downtown, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Sonoran desert

Everyone is looking for just the right destination. It should have great weather, fabulous resorts, excellent recreational options, a city that's fun to explore. Everyone is looking for Scottsdale.

Bright blue skies, warmth of the sun, the pristine beauty of the desert Scottsdale is phenomenally well-located, and then builds on its natural beauty with world-class destination resorts, activities galore and a something for everyone ambiance.

With 71 hotels and resorts, and 22 golf courses visitors can surely sleep and swing all across town.

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Exploring the City

Start your trip by exploring the heart of Scottsdale. The city makes this easy with its free trolley system. Park your car by one of the stops and step aboard. Stay on for a complete tour of the city, or hop on and off to explore the different districts including the arts, shopping areas, and historic Scottsdale. Or, do both. The drivers range from chatty tour-guide types to the more silent kind, but they’ll help you find your stop and are unfailingly pleasant.

The Waterfront area is in the process of growing, but right near the canal and the crossover is the wonderful sculpture dedicated to the Hashknife Pony Express. It’s called Passing the Legacy by Herb Mignery. In fact, Scottsdale has an impressive permanent collection of public art For over 50 years members of the Navajo County Sheriff's Pose, under the oldest continuous official contract with the U.S. Postal Service, has carried the U.S. Mail from Holbrook to Scottsdale, via "pony express" style. They do the run every January, picking up mail along the way.

After exploring the Arts District, cross Scottsdale Road for Old Town, and then, behind the shops on both Scottsdale Road and tiny Brown Avenue on 2nd Street is the Museum of Contemporary Art. Thursdays is Scottsdale ArtWalk from 7 pm to 9 pm with the galleries providing special exhibits and entertainment

Soleri and Wright

Art lovers will also want to see the workshop of Paolo Soleri at Cosanti. Soleri is famous for his bronze and ceramic windbells. Wander through the earth-formed concrete structures, even Cosanti has some. Weekday mornings you can watch an actual pour. The windbells are rustically gorgeous and unique. Fans of Frank Lloyd Wright should head to Taliesin West at the north end of the city in the Sonoran desert and the foothills of the McDowell Mountains. Started in 1937, Wright designed and built the complex there before anyone was living in the area and was said to be quite upset as the city began encroaching on his pristine desert. Today it is the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and his school of architecture.

There are public tours of the buildings - the only way to see them. There are several different tours which explore Wright’s buildings and provide anecdotes and insight into Wright’s creative process and his personality. But if you want to see the buildings created by the students, you’ll need to make a reservation for the Desert Shelter tour offered only once a day and only from mid-November through April.

Destination Resorts

Every conceivable type and price range of accommodation is available. I stayed in the Four Seasons Troon North and Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and both are true destination luxury resorts.

Four Seasons

Located in the more rural outskirts of Scottsdale in the area known as Troon North nestled next to Pinnacle Peak, The Four Seasons Resort provides a taste of the good life complete with world-class amenities, the most dedicated and concerned staff I have ever had to pleasure to meet, and a restaurant that is truly gourmet.

The Four Season family of hotels and resorts has a well-earned reputation for excellence, but Troon North has garnered AAA Five Diamond Award, been names to the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List, and is among Travel + Leisure 500 World’s Best Hotels.

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch is green both in terms of lush landscaping and inviting water features, as well as being a truly eco-friendly resort on its way to LEED certification.

It is a delight, from their very special oasis features - their "Water Playground" filled with pools, fountains, and waterfalls to their plush rooms, and the eco-friendly initiatives.

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Explore the Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran Desert is not only the youngest desert in the world, it’s probably the greenest as well. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve comprises over 16,000 acres. It is part of the city of Scottsdale, but protected from development offering hiking and horseback trails with, of course, views of the McDowell Mountain Range.

The Sonoran Desert is one of the four major deserts in North American, stretching over parts of Arizona, California, and Mexico -- about 100,000 acres. It is also the home (and only home) of the Saguaro cactus plant, perhaps the loveliest of all cacti.

There are trailheads through the Preserve or you can take guided hike through the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.

We chose to explore the desert with a self-drive TomCar tour. This is one fun vehicle to drive, especially to drive through the desert beauty of the Sonoran. We searched for turquoise at an abandoned mine, crossed rivers, and went into the heart of the desert. Our guide, Brandon, spoke with passion about the plants of the desert, stood in stands of saguaro, and learned about the history of the area, including the story of man who founded Phoenix.

And throughout the whole trip, Brandon took photos, hanging out the side of the Tomcar, or as we rumbled by. These aren’t sold, they’re part of the package and you can download them for free. Offered by Desert Wolf Tours this was both a fascinating discovery of the desert and total fun.

There are other vehicle tours as well, from Hummers to Jeeps, from drive yourself to being driven and hot air balloons.

Learn more about visiting Scottsdale at Scottsdale Visitors Bureau

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Neala McCarten

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

August 6, 2016

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