In the saguaro-studded desert east of Phoenix, this buzzy city is blooming as an arts and design destination.


We all know Scottsdale's reputation as a laid-back retreat for retirees seeking Arizona sunshine. But as the trend cycle has come back around to all things Midcentury Modern, this resort town's architectural treasures and vibrant arts scene have attracted a younger generation of travelers and transplants. Now, with new restaurants, hotels, and cultural attractions, it's indisputable — Scottsdale is a bona-fide desert design capital.

“Knight Rise” by James Turrell on view at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)
“Knight Rise” by James Turrell on view at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
| Credit: Sean Deckert/Courtesy of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

A huge part of the area's draw: high-style hotels like the two-year-old Mountain Shadows, in adjacent Paradise Valley. After a decade in disrepair, the property was rebuilt in 2017 to mimic its original 1959 footprint, with butterfly roofs, Modernist guest wings, and a pool area framing views of Camelback Mountain. The same owners perfected their vintage-meets-modern sensibility at Scottsdale sister spot Hotel Valley Ho, a 1950s icon that once hosted Bing Crosby and Zsa Zsa Gabor, which just rolled out an architecture tour of notable buildings like the Price House, Frank Lloyd Wright's largest project in Arizona. Nearby, the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows has unveiled its 16 Cattle Track Suites, whose guests have exclusive access to workshops with local painters, potters, and photographers at the famed Cattle Track Arts Compound. And next year, the 215-room Ritz-Carlton, Paradise Valley will debut on more than 20 sprawling acres of desert splendor.

The pool at Mountain Shadows has views to Camelback Mountain
The pool at Mountain Shadows has views to Camelback Mountain
| Credit: Mark Boisclair/Courtesy of Mountain Shadows Resort

More dramatic design awaits at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, home of the James Turrell "Skyspace" Knight Rise. After a spin through the galleries, drive 20 minutes to the home and studio of one of Scottsdale's most influential residents, Frank Lloyd Wright. Taliesin West, with Wright's trademark open floor plans and warm-hued interiors, is part of a new UNESCO World Heritage site celebrating his oeuvre. Back in town, immerse yourself at Wonderspaces, a 16,000-square-foot gallery of interactive art exhibits. And through May 2020, the Desert Botanical Garden is home to "Wild Rising" by the collective Cracking Art, with more than 1,000 colorful animal sculptures lining the trails.

FnB restaurant, Scottsdale, Arizona
A dish at FnB restaurant.
| Credit: Jill Richards/Courtesy of FnB

Staple restaurants like FnB still wow — FnB's Charleen Badman just nabbed the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest — but don't overlook the newcomers. Indulge your red-sauce-and-parm weakness at the airy Fellow Osteria & Pizzeria, serving classic pastas and pies. Sample Arizona wines (Shiraz, Barbera, and Viognier thrive in this climate) at Merkin Vineyards' just-opened tasting room in Old Town. Or visit Maple & Ash, former resident Danny Grant's first outpost of his acclaimed steak house.