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A Dozen Diamonds for a Desert Gem

Situated in the stunning Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale "says" what's so special about Arizona in so many ways. Along with the desert scenery and activities, visitors will find a thriving arts and culture scene, lots of special events, world-class shopping and dining, mild to wild adventures, soothing spas, and 50+ championship golf courses (plus another 150+ nearby). Quite simply, there's something for everyone at this gleaming desert gem in the Arizona sun.

The city of Scottsdale celebrated its 60th anniversary in mid-2011 with more than 60 events in 60+ days that highlighted Scottsdale's Native American and Western heritage and history--which is much older than the city itself. Festivities that were--and are--oh-so-Scottsdale included: rededication of prominent public art; historic tours of the city; an old-fashioned cowboy campfire; a family scavenger hunt; and the debut of the "Scottsdale Spring Training History Exhibit" at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Scottsdale's 60th birthday served as a prelude to the state's centennial celebrations. The centennial features many events before and beyond the actual date (February 14, 2012; www.arizona100.org), including galas, motorcycle tours, outdoor festivals, culinary celebrations, and down-home rodeos. Nearby Phoenix will be highlighted February 10-12 with a "Local First" focus on food, wine, beer, and more.

Back in Scottsdale, old and new always seem to be celebrated somewhere. Let the Scottsdale gem search begin.

Downtown Scottsdale's Urban Renaissance
What's old is new again, as downtown Scottsdale's ancient canal system is now the city's hub of pedestrian activity and urban vitality. With 100+ restaurants, 30 or so lounges, bars, and nightclubs, and 30,000 or more visitors on any given night in high season (generally from January to March), one highlight of the $3 billion-plus downtown renaissance has to include SouthBridge, an urban development boasting independent restaurants and a variety of unique boutiques--with the obvious lack of national chains giving SouthBridge an independent spirit visitors quickly notice.

Green by Design
Scottsdale features a number of "sustainable" eco-options when it comes to non-motorized sightseeing tours, human-powered pedal cabs, desert hikes, green spas, farm-to-table dining, and much more. One Scottsdale must-see is Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West (see below), an icon of sustainable architecture built well before green building was trendy--it's celebrating 75 years in 2012.

All the Wright Places
Frank Lloyd Wright came to Scottsdale in 1937 and began building his winter camp, Taliesin West, soon thereafter. He created a new form of desert architecture and established a legacy that's seen at the world headquarters of Taliesin Architects. Now a National Historic Landmark, visitors come from around the world to Taliesin West--still a living laboratory of Wright's ideas. Along with a variety of events celebrating Taliesin West's 2012 anniversary, the Phoenix Art Museum's "Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century" exhibit will feature 33 never-before-shown Wright drawings and rare home movies. Wright's vision and influence can be seen throughout the area, including: his noted spire at the northwest corner of the Promenade (originally designed for the Arizona State Capitol building); Tempe's Gammage Auditorium (one of Wright's last designs); and Wright-influenced iconic buildings (many by Wright protégées) like Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, Arizona Biltmore Resort, Spa Avania, and Soleri Bridge and Plaza--designed by Italian-born designer and visionary Paolo Soleri, who spent nearly two years with Wright at Taliesin West and Taliesin East in Wisconsin. With a life-long commitment to creative urban planning, Solieri made Scottsdale his home in 1956.

A Need for Speed (Safely)
The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving features a 1.6-mile road course and more, with a variety of serious General Motors offerings that top 100 mph. There's also a renowned cart driving school as well. The F1 Race Factory also features karts, as well as Segways, billiards, an arcade, a rock climbing wall, and more.

Wanna' be a Cowboy?
Cowboys at heart will love Arizona Cowboy College. Featuring first-hand experiences with true cowboy life, Arizona Cowboy College offers comprehensive classes and activities about cattle and horsemanship, as well as on-the-range lessons covering cutting, branding, inoculating, dehorning, and driving cattle. Those looking for more of a trail ride and resort-style cookout experience will love the offerings from Fort McDowell Adventures.

All Aboard!
Scottsdale's McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park features railroad-themed exhibits, a small-scale steam train chugging passengers around a mile-long track, and even a carousel for kids-and kids at heart. The park's most recent addition is the $2.2 million model train building that's designed for learning about and experiencing model trains with touch screen computers, visitor-operated model railroads and trains, and exhibits with lots of information, photographs, and illustrations. For those looking to ride the "real thing," Northern Arizona features two historic train adventures: a stunning tour through Arizona's mountainous Bald Eagle country on the Verde Canyon Railroad and the stately Grand Canyon Railway, which has been delivering passengers right to the rim of this natural wonder since 1901.

Bon Appetit
Scottsdale's chefs are serving up seriously local food (and Arizona wines and beers) at a wide variety of restaurants. Those who also like to cook up their own meals will want to head to the downtown Old Town Farmer's Market to sample a cornucopia of locally-grown flavors and Sonoran Desert specialties--as well as other farmer's markets in the area. "The Farm Sessions" dig even more deeply into the Scottsdale food scene, with a farm-to-table experience where area chefs lead participants on a shopping excursion through the bustling market and then host a seasonal cooking class using only locally-sourced ingredients.

Go Sonoran
One of only four major deserts in North America and likely the most lush desert in the world, Scottsdale's Sonoran Desert features a wide variety of exploration possibilities. From a cool early-morning hike up Pinnacle Peak or through Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve to a desert tour by Jeep or Hummer--or a hot air balloon ride above the desert floor--it's easy to go Sonoran in style.

Go Wild
Besides the Sonoran Desert, there are many other area opportunities to go wild. Nestled amidst Papago Park's rolling red buttes, the Desert Botanical Garden is home to five thematic trails illustrating everything from how desert plants are used for nourishment and tools to the blooming beauty of desert wildflowers. Located in neighboring Camp Verde, Out of Africa Wildlife Park whisks passengers away in traditional safari vehicles for an authentic African-style photo safari complete with up-close animal encounters--including big cats, camels, giraffes, and more. Also nearby, the Phoenix Zoo is consistently ranked among America's best, thanks to the popular Safari Train, the Giraffe Encounter, interactive Stingray Bay, Monkey Village, camel rides, and so much more.

With more than 330 days of sunshine and just 7.7 inches of rain each year, plus the aforementioned sheer number of layouts (200 and counting in the area), Scottsdale's serious about some fun golf. A year-round median temperature of 70 degrees has also led to more than 12 million rounds of golf annually at desert golf gems like Troon North Golf Club, Boulders Golf Club, Grayhawk Golf Club, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, and TPC Scottsdale. The legendary TPC hosts the annual PGA TOUR's Waste Management Phoenix Open--where about 500,000 spectators make it the best-attended golf tourney in the world!

Double Diamonds
With an opening last spring that was a big hit, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick became Arizona's newest Cactus League spring training facility. Hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, the word "fields" refers to the 12 practice fields within the facility that are adjacent to the sparkling 11,000-seat ballpark and diamond. The term "Talking Stick" is a historical reference to the traditional Pima calendar stick on which Native American carvers recorded significant events and milestones. Scottsdale now hosts three Major League clubs for spring training, thanks to Scottsdale Stadium and their long-time tenant, the San Francisco Giants. The all-you-can-eat-drink "Charro Lodge" offering behind the right field fence provides one of baseball's premier experiences.

Just Say Spahhh
Scottsdale has many unique spa experiences at a wide variety of day spas. Today's treatments marry age-old elements of the Sonoran Desert with modern healing techniques and fresh ingredients that will surprise even the most seasoned spa lover. Indigenous elements--including Sonoran Desert clays, muds, and herbs, Arizona river rocks, Arizona honey--as well as other unique items (like limes, aromatic eucalyptus, amethyst, natural oats, and even heated golf balls!) are used by local spas to detoxify, pamper, relax, and reinvigorate spa guests. A spa visit is a great way to end--or begin--a Scottsdale stay.

Information, Please
Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau
Galleria Corporate Center (Visitors Center)
4343 N. Scottsdale Rd. Ste. 170
Scottsdale, AZ 85251