In a state better known for producing conservatives like Barry Goldwater and draconian anti-illegal immigrant laws, this arid and burgeoning Phoenix suburb of some quarter-million residents has a hip, cosmopolitan flair that draws seasonal snowbirds from Manhattan and Michigan (not to mention planeloads of Canadians). Downtown – or, Old Scottsdale, as locals call it – has seen a veritable explosion of bars, eateries, and hip hotels in recent years, and the main drag is littered with sprawling resorts and their adjacent golf courses (and more spring-training baseball than you can swing a Louisville Slugger at).
Anchoring the downtown revival is the Hotel Valley Ho, designed in 1956 by Frank Lloyd Wright disciple Edward L. Varney, and a stunning example of mid-century modern use of cast concrete and glass. After an $80-million dollar facelift in 2005, the hotel again became the cool capitol of downtown Scottsdale, attracting high-profile visitors as wide-ranging as Korn and Jamie Foxx. Rooms feature a free-standing bathtub, the pool scene is right out of a 1950s Rat Pack flick, and the burgers at ZuZu are legendarily delicious.
Just down the road a few miles is another time-capsule of Scottsdale past, the Phoenix Royal Palms Resort and Spa, a 1948-vintage hideaway in the shadows of Camelback Mountain's southern slope. If the Valley Ho suggests a throwback to swingers and cocktails, the Royal Palms has more of a Spanish Revival vibe and oozes quiet class and luxury. It, too, has been recently upgraded, which has added some 70 suites and expansive courtyards with fountains and fire pits, creating an ambience that positively reeks of romance and restiveness. Special props go to the Royal Palms' small but charming spa – who doesn't love a sauna so misty you can't see your feet?
As for edibles, Scottsdale is no longer just a steak-and-taters Western outpost, but a multiculti patchwork of high- and middle-end eateries. One could do well just sticking to celebrated local chef Matt Carter's three restaurants downtown – The House Brasserie, The Mission, and the Zinc Bistro. The House is especially charming, built out from Scottsdales' second oldest residence and extending onto a beautiful brick patio (just blocks from the Valley Ho). Try its pastrami brisket, then wait eight hours and head directly to the Latin-themed Mission for the pork belly pibil, a crisp bit of pure dietary sinfulness you will surely rot in hell for eating (but you'll wear a huge smile on your face for all eternity).
A final suggestion for tee-it-up types: Up in the high Sonoran Desert a half-hour from downtown sits the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, a serene and remote luxury enclave with two stunning adjacent golf courses (and, for the record, we aced number six at Troon North's Pinnacle course). Saguaro cactuses stud the surrounding rocky hills, the quiet is downright eerie, and the food at Proof is somehow ambitious and down-home at the same time – a lot like Scottsdale itself.
More Information: Scottsdale Airport, just outside of town, welcomes corporate and private jets, but most of the snowbirds and scratch golfers fly in through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – serviced by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and US Airways, among others – and make the roughly nine-mile drive through Papago Park.
Credit: Harvey Lloyd / Four Seasons