The Scottsdale desert is wild and completely untamed,

A city in the desert, Scottsdale exists in midst of the Sonoran Desert, the hottest, wettest, and most biodiverse desert in North America. It’s easy to forget how wild and unique the surrounding terrain is when you’re exploring Scottsdale’s bustling restaurant scene, hanging out poolside at a resort or relaxing at one of the many world-class spas. We often imagine the desert as a remote landscape when, in fact, the desert is closer than you think.

Once known as the “West’s Most Western Town,” Scottsdale is rooted in frontier values, ranching and farming, hard work, connection to the land and rugged individualism. The city has grown and developed from a small ranch town into an exciting and vibrant place to live and work, but these original values remain a part of the fabric of the city. Spend some time getting to know Scottsdale, from its frontier town roots to today’s burgeoning cosmopolitan city, and you’ll find that there is a reason it has been ranked among top cities in the nation in which to live.















Livable can mean many things, but to me it means that the city offers local, walkable and bikeable options; supports small businesses; and is community-oriented. These are all elements that Scottsdale actively fosters and are found throughout the city. In Scottsdale, we are seeing a return to an effort to live locally. This attitude is immediately obvious in the access to and protection of the natural desert, the support for small locally-owned businesses and restaurants and the increased emphasis on local production and quality of life. Take a tour of Scottsdale with a local lens and see how the city measures up in its efforts to live local in the 21st century.

bike-friendlyTo kick off your exploration of Scottsdale’s local culture, first head to the Museum of the West and get a picture of just what I mean by “frontier roots.” A walk through this incredible facility will help you understand the stories and circumstances of the settlers who explored the mountains and desert of the American West. Much of the landscape they encountered was harsh and unforgiving; it was only with determination and ingenuity that towns like Scottsdale began to grow and flourish. Those same frontier qualities continue to drive Scottsdale’s residents and influence community growth in new ways.











In Scottsdale, the desert permeates each piece of the city. Over time, we’ve learned to live here in peace and harmony with our surroundings, but even in the places that seem most “ours” there are constant reminders of how unique and impressive the desert ecosystem is. We can draw our boundaries, modify, separate, try our best to protect the desert, share with native species, and create our own spaces, but at some point we have to look around and realize that it’s the desert that allows us to be here, not the other way around.


With more than 200 miles of trails winding through 30,200 acres of pristine desert, Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a prime spot for outdoor enthusiasts. Make sure you’re close to the trailhead as the sun starts to dip below the horizon – then pause and wait for the show. You’ll be rewarded with the vibrant glow of backlit cholla, dramatic shadows cast by large saguaro cacti and flushes of rich desert colors like nothing you’ve seen before.

The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts offers a full season of dance, music, theater and films from around the world. The building itself, designed in 1975 by Bennie Gonzales, is at the center of the 21-acre Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, an urban park in downtown Scottsdale.

Performances range from off-Broadway to films, dance, jazz, blues and theater. Even if you aren’t in town for a performance, you don’t want to miss a visit to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The small store inside is open until 5 p.m. daily and filled with artist-made jewelry, unique creations by Arizona artists as well as fair-trade global crafts. There are numerous works of art inside worth checking out, including Kana Tanaka’s Spirit of Camelback in the atrium. Outside, you will find Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture, which is a favorite spot for photographs.