#10 Scottsdale, Arizona
Although it has a well-earned reputation as an upscale community, complete with tony restaurants and world class golf courses, Scottsdale keeps one cowboy-boot-clad foot planted firmly in the past. The former farming community celebrates its heritage with a dazzling array of events, museums and art galleries, many located in Old Town, where strict design guidelines ensure that the district’s Old West appearance will be forever maintained.
In 2012, Scottsdale saw the grand opening of George “Doc” Cavalliere Park, just one part of the town’s contributions to Arizona’s year-long centennial celebrations. Cavalliere, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 92, ran the Reata Pass Steakhouse and Greasewood Flat tavern. He also was one of Scottsdale’s first council members and operated the family’s historic downtown blacksmith shop for 50 years.
The town’s Convention & Visitors Bureau debuted its eye-catching “Western List” brochure that shows visitors several dozen ways to discover and enjoy Scottsdale’s Western heritage, including tips on everything from horseback riding to outfitters and adventure guides.
Also, the long-anticipated Scottsdale Museum of the West took a big step toward completion in 2012 when a nonprofit group submitted new design concepts and facility operations proposals. Once final design is approved, construction on the two-story, 40,000-square-foot Western art and history museum is expected to take about 14 months. It will be located on city-owned land near Marshall Way and Second Street.
In the meantime, visitors can continue to take in more than a dozen historic sites during a short walking tour of Old Town. Plus, with well over 100 art galleries and studios, Scottsdale has become one of the country’s largest art markets, noted especially for its Western and American Indian-themed art. And one of the best Western history bookstores is found here, Guidon Books, which offers an outstanding selection of new and out-of-print books.
Annual activities include the Western ArtWalk and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. But the town’s signature event is the month-long celebration of Parada del Sol, featuring the Hashknife Pony Express mail delivery, the Parada del Sol Parade (billed as the world’s largest horse-drawn parade) and the PRCA-sanctioned rodeo. Mark your calendars: The parade takes place on February 9; the rodeo will run March 1-3.
Scottsdale may have a population just a little north of 220,000, but the “West’s most Western town” draws more than 8.6 million visitors annually.
John Stanley, the Arizona Wildlife Federation’s 2007 Conservation Media Champion, is a former travel reporter and photographer for The Arizona Republic. He still loves to explore the back roads, ghost towns and out-of-the-way nooks of the Great American West.