Boston Traveler: Scottsdale, Arizona

Outdoor adventures, midcentury-modern architecture, and, yes, plenty of cacti await in this hip desert city.

Find untamed desert beauty just minutes away from Scottsdale’s Old Town. / Photo via iStock


Ditch crunchy leaves for warm sands by hopping on a nonstop flight to Phoenix—American Airlines can deliver you out West in just over five hours. From there, sunny Scottsdale is a short 15-minute drive.


Groovy tunes and ’50s vibes welcome you to Hotel Valley Ho, a midcentury-modern landmark. Kick back like Bing Crosby, Ted Williams, and Zsa Zsa Gabor once did by sipping cocktails in a cabana. Or lay low at the Bespoke Inn, where you can catch a glorious desert sunset while floating in the rooftop infinity pool.

Hotel Valley Ho photo by Mark Boisclair


The beauty of Scottsdale is that nature and culture are only minutes apart, so set your alarm early for a jaunt with Arizona Outback Adventures. Its guides will lead you along trails flanked with saguaro cacti and up to the golden peaks of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, or in a kayak down the Salt River, where wild horses and herons idle on the shores. Fuel up with a brunch of spicy tomato-poached eggs at Virtu, tucked in the bougainvillea-clad courtyard of Bespoke Inn, then hop in the car and prepare to be amazed by Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home and studio. An architectural tour of the property—which doubles as the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation—is a must-do for design lovers.


Still swooning over the way James Turrell sculpted with light in his Mass MoCA exhibit? Catch an equally stunning display at his “skyspace,” dubbed Knight Rise, in the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. From there, take a spin through the 40-plus art galleries in Old Town, including the Bonner David Galleries, which boast an impressive collection of traditional and contemporary works. Round out the day with a meal at FnB, where James Beard–nominated chef Charleen Badman works her magic on daily-changing, vegetable-forward menus. Before turning in, satisfy your sweet tooth with a mesquite chocolate chip cookie from Super Chunk Sweets & Treats: One dunk in a glass of milk, and it’ll be sweet dreams after a long day of desert adventures.