Scottsdale is home to a plethora of activities and destinations. While there are plenty of go-to, top-of-mind locales (Scottsdale Fashion Square, anyone?), there are also several unique experiences available only in Scottsdale.
‘Touch’ the Sky
There are only 14 public skyspaces in the United States, and one is in Scottsdale at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. There, experience “Knight Rise,” which was created by internationally acclaimed artist James Turrell. Viewers can observe the sky through an opening at the top of the structure, which by its design, helps create the illusion that the sky is descending into the space.
Skyspaces are also spaces created to frame the sky as pure color. According to Scottsdale Public Art, they “show us ‘the changing light of the sky, altering what we see with our own eyes.’ Skyspaces allow us to see the sunset (and sunrise) as never before. At those times it seems the sky has come closer, as if we can reach out and touch it.” 7374 E. Second St.
Find Gourmet Eats at a Gas Station
Hungry? For 10 years, one of Scottsdale’s best restaurants for barbeque has been … at a gas station. Now a Scottsdale landmark, The Thumb, located in North Scottsdale, is best known for its award-winning barbeque, in-house bakery, car wash and service, artisan gift market, and for being featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” It opened in 2012 inside a gas station/car wash location.
For breakfast, find options including Pulled Pork and Eggs; a Chorizo Burrito; and the Hangover, which includes a choice of fries or sweet potato fries, cheese sauce, sliced brisket or pulled pork, pico de gallo, chopped bacon, sour cream, one sunny side up egg, and green onions. Lunch and dinner choices include The Brisket Wedge Salad, a Sliced Brisket Sandwich, a burger, and meat platters. There are seats indoors, as well as a large outdoor patio. 9393 E. Bell Road
Learn to be a Cowboy
Have you ever dreamed of being a cowboy or cowgirl? You can, without going far from home. In Northeast Scottsdale there’s Arizona Cowboy College, the only school of its kind in the world. There are one- to three-day options, where students work (and stay overnight, depending on how long they are there) on the ranch. Lessons and activities can include riding, gathering cattle, chute work, tagging, and more. The college is family-owned and run by Lori Bridwell, wife of the late Lloyd Bridwell. Rocco Wachman, famous for his role in Country Music Television’s Original Series “Cowboy U 2003,” “Cowboy U 2004,” and “Cowboy U Molokai,” is the senior instructor. 30208 N. 152nd St.
Dine While Watching Planes Take off From a Private Airport Runway
On the second floor of Scottsdale Airport fnd Volanti Scottsdale Airport. The restaurant has indoor and patio seating, and is open for lunch, happy hour, dinner, and weekend brunch. While you dine on options ranging from salads to sandwiches to a pork chop—or the Hundred Dollar Hamburger featuring caviar aioli and Veuve 375—you can watch planes as they take off and land. Since the restaurant is in the business center that overlooks the airport, diners do not need to go through security to access the restaurant. While there’s free covered parking, the locale is also just a short 6-minute walk from Scottsdale Quarter. 15000 N. Airport Drive
Watch Shakespeare, Do Yoga, or View a Film at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West
While a visit to architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Taliesin West may have already been on the radar, visitors are often surprised to learn that the destination offers a variety of unique events, including performances by Southwest Shakespeare Company and films in locales such as Wright’s Music Pavilion and Cabaret, on-site yoga and tai chi, and more. 12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd.
Grab Ice Cream at the Authentic 1950s Ice Cream Parlor Often Featured in a Famous Comic Strip
Step back in time at the iconic Sugar Bowl, which has been serving up food, ice cream, and milkshakes at its Old Town Scottsdale location since 1958. There’s the authentic 1950s soda fountain, and the menu and overall decor have remained virtually unchanged since the restaurant’s debut. Bil Keane, who drew the popular comic strip “Family Guy,” was a fan and featured the locale in his cartoons several times. 4005 N. Scottsdale Road
View Artwork That Doubles as a Solar Calendar
Architect, artist, and philosopher Paolo Soleri created a unique structure at Scottsdale Waterfront in Old Town Scottsdale. Soleri Bridge and Plaza is not only a pedestrian bridge, but a solar calendar.
The bridge is anchored by two 64-foot pylons and is 27 feet wide on the south and 18 feet wide on the north. There’s a 6-inch gap between the pylons that was designed to mark solar events. The gap allows the sun to create a shadow at solar noon, and the length varies depending on the time of year. The summer solstice (June 21) is the only day no shadow is cast, while the winter solstice (Dec. 21) produces the longest shadow. 4420 N. Scottsdale Road
Follow the (Wine) Trail …
Scottsdale may be in a desert, but the wine still flows. In Old Town Scottsdale, follow the wine trail (a map is available online), which includes seven wine-tasting rooms: LDV Winery, Merkin Vineyards, Salvatore Vineyards, Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, Carlson Creek, The Wine Collective of Scottsdale, and Aridus Winery & Vineyard. They are all within walking distance of each other, and showcase wines grown and produced in Arizona.
At any of the locations, purchase the Wine Trail Passport for $5 and receive $2 off a wine tasting at each location. The passports don’t have to be used all in one day.