The desert, as it turns out, is an extraordinary canvas for a variety of artistic experiences. Scottsdale, Arizona, has morphed into a cultural powerhouse, with the urban design of the city itself mirroring its significant population of artists, architects and designers. From an established citywide public arts program to increased investment in artistic events and facilities, Scottsdale offers more than just streets of private galleries (although those are pretty amazing, too). Whether you aim to spend the weekend gallery hopping or simply want to take an artsy stroll to give your Instagram feed some love, Scottsdale has just the spot to fit your fancy.
In its heyday, Hotel Valley Ho hosted celebs like Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Charmed by the long distance from downtown Phoenix (nine miles seemed much farther back in the day), these stars found an intimate getaway at this minimalist modernist inn. Designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students, Edward L. Varney, it remains one of Scottsdale’s premier midcentury hotels, updated with any and all modern conveniences. For a truly luxurious experience, snag one of the newly renovated Tower Suites, outfitted with retro decor that somehow doesn’t feel one bit stuffy. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like an actor on Mad Men, this place is for you.
World-renowned architect, urban designer and bronze caster Paolo Soleri first made his home in Scottsdale when it was a remote desert outpost. Today, his former studio and home, Cosanti, remains open in the epicenter of a posh neighborhood, offering visitors a peek in on the foundation’s ongoing work. The public is invited to tour the foundry and watch students practice casting bronze bells and metalwork in the style of Soleri. The experience hearkens back to the days of old, when crafting art with one’s own two hands was the order of the day.
This picture-perfect cafe welcomes visitors with crisp white walls, fresh green succulents and gleaming copper chairs to complement its cakes and coffees. The delightful lemonades feature cotton candy artistically swirled around the straw, and the housemade macarons are works of art.
If you visit one destination on this list, make it Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. This staggeringly well-done museum rivals any in the American West, boasting sustainable architecture, thoughtful presentations and interesting collections. Home to regularly changing exhibitions on the topic of the American West, the museum strives to present new perspectives on how the West developed, incorporating the voices of indigenous artists, visitors and tourists alike. For those who don’t delight in strolling around a museum, interactive spaces allow for engagement with the objects. Lovers of Western artwork, including Minnesotan collector Christopher Cardozo’s favorite Edward B. Curtis, will be absolutely thrilled.
The Desert Botanical Garden is stunning on its own; however, its beauty will be amplified by light and sound until May in a complex event imagined by Klip Collective. Every evening, visitors can witness moving light shows set to music projected onto the backdrop of the garden’s cacti, flowers and succulents. After measuring each plant individually for 3D imaging, the designers created a perfectly projected show that will mesmerize children and adults alike. The most stunning of the projections comes in the form of an 11-minute show displayed onto the side of an entire butte, allowing visitors to take a seat and watch the landscape literally light up.