Traveling through Arizona recently, we stopped into Scottsdale’s Historic Old Town District for a few hours.
Scottsdale was founded in 1894 and incorporated at the start of the 1950s. Winfield & Helen Scott, along with Winfield’s brother George, moved into the valley and planted citrus groves, naming the town Orangedale at first. The name changed to Scottsdale in 1894 when it was officially founded.
There are around 250,000 people living in Scottsdale’s 185 square miles now, which makes its Arizona’s fifth largest city. It is only a twenty minutes’ drive northeast of Phoenix.
Scottsdale is located within the northern part of the Sonoran Desert and has more spas per capita than any other US city. You could say it is for the affluent, but its official slogan is “The West’s Most Western Town.”
Old Town is Scottsdale’s “downtown” and as a whole, it has nine districts. Historic Old Town is just one of them.
Historic Old Town is the southernmost part of Old Town, wedged between the Arts and Entertainment Districts, Brown & Stetson District, 5th Avenue Shopping District, Fashion Square, The Waterfront, and South Bridge Districts. I found this map by Experience Scottsdale very helpful.
The tiny Historic Old Town district is only about four blocks along Scottsdale Road. You can find it between Indian School Road as its northern boundary down to 2nd Street, and two blocks east over to Drinkwater Boulevard.
The main intersection of Historic Old Town is at Scottsdale Road and Main Street.
Shopping in historic Old Town was most interesting because of all the local Native American art and jewelry. We really enjoyed the Grey Wolf Native American Gallery on First Street.
Mexican Imports gift shop had some cool finds too.
Native Art Market was my favourite place out of all the shops. It was the first Indigenous-owned store in Old Town, and showcases work from over 300 Native small businesses.
The employee we talked to is a member of the family who owns this market. He told us that every item in the store was made by someone he knows, that lives nearby, and that they sometimes have smaller outdoor markets with various members of the collective ownership.
Every inch of space is covered in vibrant paintings and imagery, handmade accessories and décor, and visually stunning pieces. The staff and family members regularly host “Sip ‘N Shop” events with live music and dancing and cultural demonstrations.
He told us about Native Ground Coffee, their brand of coffee and hot chocolate. We tried a cup, and I ended up taking some home.
Frontier Town is the name of one of the shopping complexes in Old Town, not to be confused with the actual city called Frontier Town.
Frontier Town in Old Town has a cute collection of local shops, western themed-décor, cowboy kitsch, and Wild West memorabilia. It is highly stylized and great for photo ops.
The Cowboy on the corner of Scottsdale Road and Main Street is Historic Old Town’s prime spot for selfies.
I liked these bronze horse and cowboy statues a lot too.
Bischoff’s Shades of the West was a fun western wear shop. It is the kind of place that briefly makes me want to trade in my knee high combat boots and black dresses for chaps and cowboy boots. I don’t know if I could be about that life, though.
Be sure to visit three of Historic Old Town’s most fascinating historic sites, the Scottsdale Historical Museum, the Old Adobe Mission, and the Noriega Livery Stable/Scottsdale Rodeo Museum.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts are also in Historic Old Town, as well as several galleries ranging from high end to whimsical.
Rusty Spur Saloon, Old Town Tavern, Back Door Lounge, Porter’s Western Saloon are some of the most notorious western bars in Old Town.
Restaurants like Capriotti’s, Cien Agave’s, The Grapevine Restaurant & Karaoke Bar, Hula’s Modern Tiki bar, Red Canyon Café, AZ/88 and Rehab Burger Therapy all looked amazing.
Sugar Bowl was our pick, based on aesthetic alone.
This baby pink 1950s diner serves a great Reuben, adorable little tea sandwiches and fruit cups, orange sorbet, and more.
There is so much more to Old Town and Scottsdale proper, this is just what we found on our short, first visit. What did we miss?
If you are fortunate enough to have more time to spare in Scottsdale, consider visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West home or the McDowell Sonoran Preserve with over 30,000 acres and 200 miles of desert trails.
In the area for a while? Follow me to Phoenix, Desert Botanical Gardens, Sedona, Amitabha Stupa, Verde Valley, Jerome, or take a hot air balloon ride!
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