Today Scottsdale is well-known for its gleaming resorts, art galleries, world-class dining and famously heady nightlife, but did you know that this vibrant and upscale desert city was once a small, quiet farming community in the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert? Although the city has earned a reputation as a desert hotspot, the community holds tight to its history, with many notable historic landmarks shining front and center as some of the city's most popular and beloved attractions. 10 Best brings you a fun, history-filled itinerary that will give you a glimpse into the city's quieter rural past and always-changing identity.
Play cowboy for a day at Scottsdale's oldest saloon, the Rusty Spur Saloon. — Photo courtesy of CEBImagery.com
First Stop: Old Town Scottsdale
While it's possible to come to Scottsdale and not take a stroll through the history-filled streets of Old Town, we certainly wouldn't recommend it. Many of the city's most famous landmarks are located within a few pedestrian-friendly city blocks. Start your day by exploring the Scottsdale Civic Center mall, where you'll find a charming old brick building known as the "Little Red Schoolhouse," now home to the Scottsdale Historical Museum. Stop by the museum for a glimpse at the workaday life of the city's early residents.
Afterwards, browse through Old Town shops specializing in Mexican imports, cowboy sundries and authentic Native American crafts, and then stop in for a treat at The Sugar Bowl, Scottsdale's favorite ice cream parlor since 1958. Down Second Avenue, take a stroll under the stately old olive trees, planted in 1896 by Chaplain Winfield Scott, the founder of Scottsdale. Finally, don't leave Old Town without a visit to the southeast corner of Second Street and Brown Avenue, where you'll find Cavalliere's Blacksmith Shop, built in 1920, and then head up the street to get a glimpse at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission Church, a white adobe church built in 1933 by the community's Mexican residents and still in operation today.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission Church in Old Town Scottsdale was built in 1933 by members of the city's Mexican community. — Photo courtesy of CEBImagery.com
Lunch at the Rusty Spur Saloon
This is the oldest saloon in Scottsdale, and most likely the liveliest as well. Live music, cowboy chili, hamburgers and antlers on the walls make this a rollicking good place to take a break from sightseeing. The building was constructed in 1921 as the Farmer's State Bank and then became the town's first Chamber of Commerce when the bank closed during the depression. In the 1950s, the building reopened as the Rusty Spur Cafe. Today, enjoy the tiny but always lively country western staple in the heart of Old Town.
Last Stop: Taliesin West
You won't find many cowboys wandering around the elegantly understated campus at Taliesen West in Scottsdale, but this is the perfect place to appreciate the changing cultural face of Scottsdale throughout the twentieth century. Built in 1933, Taliesin West was the winter home, studio and architectural school of the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Today, Taliesin West hosts visitors from around the world who come to tour the desert architectural landmark.