Scottsdale is known far and wide for its world-class resorts and spas, but the Sonoran desert city is also not-so-secretly one of the West's most culture-crazed destinations. It's never a bad time of year to dip your toes into the local scene -- the upcoming summer season means dramatically lower rates at area hotels (not to mention more attractively priced flights into Phoenix, just minutes away). Here's what you do when you hop off the plane.
Experience the country's first art walk
Decades before these became ubiquitous from coast to coast (and around the world), Scottsdale was on it. Each Thursday evening from 7 to 9 p.m., along Main Street and Marshall Way in the city's pleasantly pedestrian-friendly Arts District, a broad selection of the city's often-remarkable galleries stay open late for what's as much a chance to appreciate art as it is an opportunity to people watch.
Hang out with Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy
Even world-famous architects get tired of northern winters, which is how Taliesin West was born. Surrounded by hundreds of acres of the Sonoran desert lands that seduced Wright back in the 1930s, his historic studio compound is now a working architectural school -- the compound is open for tours and events. (In the heat of summer, guided walks after dark are a fun way to see the property.)
Check out one of the country's most unique new museums
The 6,000-plus instruments from approximately 200 countries aren't just sitting on a shelf collecting dust at Scottsdale's Musical Instrument Museum. Audio and video technology allows visitors to see the instruments being played in a collection of often-memorable performances. If you're looking for something even more interactive, you can play a selection of the instruments yourself in the museum's Experience Gallery.
Take a walk along the cutting edge
The minimalist Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is a dramatic renovation of a former movie theatre, packing a small but potent punch in four galleries that feature a rotating selection from the museum's growing permanent collection. There's also anoutdoor sculpture garden, as well as two dramatic installations utilizing light, glass and color to make the building itself as much of an attraction as the art hanging on the walls.
Wrap it all up with a walking tour of the city's celebrated public art collection
The humble canal bisecting the heart of Scottsdale has in recent years become a focal point for pedestrian-friendly development, tying the downtown area together rather spectacularly and making it easier than ever for visitors to experience the best the city has to offer. The Waterfront, as it is known, is a great place to start a walking tour of some of the city's best public art -- a highlight is the canal bridge designed by Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, a luminary in the Arizona creative community. (Download a printable guide and map at experiencescottsdale.com.)
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