The Sun Shines On Scottsdale, Arizona: A Desert City With Limitless Appeal

Dubbed “The West’s Most Western Town,” Scottsdale, Arizona has a lot to offer. It’s as if the city has multiple personalities: a sprawling family-friendly suburb just as much as it is an upscale vacation destination.

The area first saw major growth in the 1880s when U.S. Army chaplain Winfield Scott recognized its potential for agriculture. He bought 600 acres, and he and his brother became the first residents of what was then called Orangedale. The city was renamed Scottsdale in 1894 in honor of its founder. Today, more than 240,000 people live in Scottsdale, bordered on the west by Phoenix, the state capital. Despite its dense suburban population, Scottsdale ranks among the most livable places in the U.S. The desert city is also a popular vacation destination, with upscale hotels, 50-plus day and resort spas, and golf courses. Popular neighborhoods for luxury homes include DC Ranch, Troon North, Desert Mountain and others.

A Bronze fountain in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona. (Shutterstock)

The Vibe in Scottsdale

Hiking, horseback riding and off-roading are popular, as are tennis and golf (there are more than 50 courses within the city limits). If outdoor activities aren’t your thing, Scottsdale has a vibrant nightlife and a thriving art scene with more than 100 galleries History lovers can celebrate the town’s heritage by attending festivals, rodeos and parades.

Year-round warm weather and sunshine fuel tourism, a major economic driver. During the winter, thousands of visitors and retirees, a.k.a. snowbirds, descend on Scottsdale and often purchase second homes.  Retirees represent about 15% of the population. 

Resorts and golf courses pepper the desert in and around the Arizona city. (Shutterstock)

How the Locals Live in Scottsdale


Butterfly Wonderland: The biggest indoor butterfly conservatory in the U.S. features a 3D movie about the monarch butterfly, one of the world’s most recognizable–and endangered–species. 

Eldorado Park and Community Center: The public park on North Miller Road is the go-to destination for lake fishing, swimming, basketball, sand volleyball and other sports. 

Scottsdale Stadium: The San Francisco Giants make this stadium its home for spring training. It can seat as many as 12,000 fans in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale.    

Taliesin West: Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and desert laboratory was built in 1937 at the base of the McDowell Mountains. Wright’s most personal creation is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. 

Dining and Shopping

Old Town Scottsdale: Scottsdale’s downtown district features hotels and resorts, bars, restaurants and nightclubs in nine walkable neighborhoods.

Fashion Square: The upscale shopping mall, north of Old Town Scottsdale, claims to have the “largest collection of exclusive stores and brands” in Arizona. 

Senna House Hotel-Cala Restaurant: If you can’t decide where to eat in Old Town Scottsdale, try the Cala bar and restaurant at Senna House Hotel. Celebrity chef Beau MacMillan oversees a menu featuring dishes from Greece, Italy, Morocco and Spain. 

An Arizona resort with a calming pool. (Shutterstock)

Need to Know

The Scottsdale Airport, about nine miles north of downtown, is home to a large number of corporate jets and other private aircraft, making it convenient for area residents and business travelers Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is 15 minutes by car from Scottsdale. 

The Scottsdale Trolley System provides free service on weekdays. The system has three fixed routes; check the trolley map for buses that operate at 20-minute intervals. Motorists reach Scottsdale via Arizona State Route 101 (Loop 101). A one-way drive to the suburb of Mesa via Loop 101 takes less than 20 minutes.

BASIS Scottsdale: More than 1,000 students in grades 5 through to 12 attend this tuition-free charter school, which ranks among the top four STEM high schools and the top five charter high schools in Arizona..

Cheyenne Traditional School serves more than 850 students from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. The elementary school ranks among the top five in Arizona, the middle school among the top 13 in the state. The student-teacher ratio is 18 to 1.

Scottsdale Preparatory Academy/Great Hearts: Great Hearts describes itself as the “highest-performing charter school network” in Arizona. The public school accepts students for grades 6 through 12.