Smart Cities: Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale has turned an arid desert landscape into a cultural gem of delicious cuisine, beauty, and history.

Desert dwellers are a determined lot. In few places is this truism more pronounced than in Scottsdale, which mixes the shimmer of luxury resorts with a shrewd sense for sustainability. In 1995 that spirit was a driving force behind a voter-approved tax to set aside a third of the city as the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Now a point of pride for locals, the initiative protects a desert ecosystem from development while providing citizens with 182 miles of hike-bike trails. It’s not just saguaros that have found a haven. Scottsdale celebrates Native American and cowboy art at its Museum of the West, honors Frank Lloyd Wright at the architect’s winter home, Taliesin West, and supports local arts in gallery districts on Main Street and Marshall Way. “Scottsdale’s desert environment forces you to be creative,” says Gio Osso, the owner and chef at Virtù Honest Craft. “We Scottsdalians always return here, asking, ‘What will we think of next?’"

Gastronomic Oasis

Virtù Honest Craft is known for its weekly menu of garden-fresh Mediterranean dishes; visitors shouldn’t miss sampling Chef Gio Osso’s signature plates, such as scallops with white-chocolate beurre blanc and charred octopus with Calabrian chili butter. At FnB, Chef Charleen Badman highlights the region’s natural bounty: Think grilled spicy broccoli in a tangerine aioli or Peruvian chicken spring rolls with local tomatillo. The first to feature an all-Arizona wine list, FnB is a fitting finale to Scottsdale’s Urban Wine Trail, a network of downtown tasting rooms showcasing the state’s diverse varietals.

Artsy Abodes

Mountain Shadows resort opened this April as a revamp of the 1960s namesake that stood in its place, retaining much of the original mid-century charm and blending the city’s glossy modern architecture with the stark desert environs. The new-in-2016 Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa, inspired by the vibrant hues of ’60s textile artist Alexander Girard, doubles as a gallery for local artists thanks to a robust partnership with the nearby Cattle Track Arts Compound. Cattle Track’s creative denizens designed the hotel’s decor, including the oft-Instagrammed art installation of colorful fiber balls in the lobby.

Hike, Soar, Paddle

Hit the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in early morning for a hike along its Gateway Loop Trail, and watch the sun rise above saguaro cacti. Float Balloon Tours begins its hot-air balloon rides over the Sonoran Desert with cookies and coffee. Look for coyotes and bobcats as you drift past buttes and volcanic hills. Then tuck into a postflight feast served alfresco. Kayak rides down the lower Salt River with Arizona Outback Adventures traverse an unexpectedly green and tranquil desert terrain. As you paddle, keep your eyes peeled for sightings of bald eagles and wild mustangs.

Desert Designs

Consignment shop Vintage by Misty presents the owner’s curated anthology of retro European designer fashion—bright, fun, and the perfect bit of eccentric. Buy limited-edition artworks and high-fired stoneware directly from artists at the Cattle Track Arts Compound or at Andaz Scottsdale’s Textiles & Objects gift shop. The small-batch, handcrafted confections at Super Chunk Sweets & Treats—such as chocolate bacon caramel corn and mesquite chocolate-chip cookies—are souvenirs worthy of space in your luggage.