Scottsdale is named after Winfield Scott, but not the one you’re thinking of.
The bustling, upscale city (population 221,000) takes its name from a little-known Army chaplain, not from “Old Fuss and Feathers,” the renowned general of Mexican-American War fame.
Although Scottsdale today is well known for its plush lifestyle, the “West’s most Western town” still celebrates its cowboy roots with everything from museum exhibits and art galleries to a month-long Western extravaganza.
In 1888, the young chaplain purchased a 640-acre homestead for the princely sum of $2.50 an acre under the Desert Land Act. But his brother, George, who set up a tent on what is now the northeast corner of Indian School Road and Scottsdale Road, is generally regarded as the town’s first citizen. After retiring from the Army in 1893, Winfield, along with an Army mule named Old Maud, finally moved to his homestead.
Old Town Scottsdale is chock full of Western-themed shops and galleries.
Bibliophiles won’t want to miss Guidon Books, established in 1964. The family-owned bookstore is legendary for its selection of new and out-of-print books on the American West, the Civil War and American Indian cultures.
Visitors can explore the Sonoran Desert, one of the great deserts of the American West, in several ways. Hikers can chose from more than 20 trails in the 21,400-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve, while horseback riders can saddle up at MacDonald’s Ranch, which also offers cookouts, hayrides and stagecoach rides. Another option is to climb aboard a rugged 4×4 open-air jeep for a backcountry adventure with Arizona Desert Mountain Jeep Tours.
The best way to get an overview—literally—of the region is via a balloon ride with Hot Air Expeditions.
For a song and dance showcase, celebrating the history of the Pima and Maricopa tribes, head to Talking Stick Resort at Salt River Fields.
Camelback Inn, built in 1936, was Scottsdale’s first luxury hotel. The
AAA Four Diamond-rated resort is just a little north of the region’s iconic Camelback Mountain.
For a taste of the Southwest, try the enchilada plate (a stack of three homemade tortillas stuffed with your choice of chicken or beef, topped with a fried egg and served with rice, beans and two sopaipillas) at Frank & Lupe’s, a Scottsdale tradition since 1996.
The Parada del Sol Parade, billed as the world’s largest horse-drawn parade (with nearly 1,000 horses), is one of the highlights of Scottsdale’s month-long Parada del Sol celebration in February, which culminates with its PRCA-sanctioned rodeo.