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For the most part, shopping in the Phoenix area means malls. They're everywhere, and they're air-conditioned, which, I'm sure you'll agree, makes shopping in the desert far more enjoyable when it's 110°F (43°C) outside.

Scottsdale and Phoenix's Biltmore District (along Camelback Rd.) are the Valley's main upscale shopping areas, with several high-end shopping centers and malls. The various distinct shopping districts of downtown Scottsdale are among the few upscale outdoor shopping areas in the Valley and are home to hundreds of boutiques, galleries, jewelry stores, Native American crafts stores, and souvenir shops. The Western atmosphere of Old Town Scottsdale is partly real and partly a figment of the local merchants' imaginations, but nevertheless it's the most popular tourist shopping area in the Valley. With dozens of galleries in the Main Street Arts and Antiques District and the nearby Marshall Way Contemporary Arts District, it also happens to be the heart of the Valley's art market.

For locals, Scottsdale's shopping scene has been moving steadily northward over the past decade. Kierland Commons and the SHOPS gainey village are both north of Old Town Scottsdale on North Scottsdale Road and are packed with women's fashion boutiques.

Antiques & Collectibles

With more than 100 antiques shops and specialty stores, downtown Glendale (northwest of downtown Phoenix) is the Valley's main antiques district. You'll find the greatest concentration of antiques stores just off Grand Avenue between 56th and 59th avenues. A half-dozen times each year, the Arizona Antique Shows (tel. 602/717-7337; www.azantiqueshow.com), Arizona's largest collectors' shows, are held at America's Home & Garden Center, 13802 N. Scottsdale Rd., Ste. 142 (at the corner of Thunderbird Rd.).

Art

In the Southwest, only Santa Fe is a more important art market than Scottsdale, and along the streets of Scottsdale's Main Street Arts and Antiques District and the Marshall Way Contemporary Arts District, you'll see dozens of galleries selling everything from monumental bronzes to contemporary art created from found objects. On Main Street, you'll find primarily cowboy art, both traditional and contemporary, while on North Marshall Way, you'll discover much more daring contemporary art.

You'll usually find a huge tent full of art along Scottsdale Road in north Scottsdale. The annual Celebration of Fine Art (tel. 480/443-7695; www.celebrateart.com) takes place each year between mid-January and late March. Not only will you get to see the work of 100 artists, but on any given day, you'll also find dozens of the artists at work on the premises. Admission is $8 for adults and $7 for seniors. Call or check the website for location and hours of operation.

Books

Major chain bookstores in the area include four Barnes & Noble locations: 10235 N. Metro Pkwy. E., Phoenix (tel. 602/678-0088); in Kierland Commons, North Scottsdale Road and East Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale (tel. 480/948-8551); 10500 N. 90th St., Scottsdale (tel. 480/391-0048); and Tempe Marketplace, 2000 E. Rio Salado Pkwy. (tel. 480/894-6954).

Fashion

There are lots of great shops in malls all over the city. Favorite destinations for upscale fashions include Scottsdale Fashion Square, Biltmore Fashion Park, the SHOPS gainey village, the Borgata of Scottsdale, and el Pedregal Shops & Dining at the Boulders.

Malls & Shopping Centers

While locals don't want to call it a shopping center, the Scottsdale Waterfront, an ambitious mixed-use development along a canal at the corner of Camelback and Scottsdale roads, is essentially just that. There are shops, most of which are either national chains or satellites of popular local boutiques, restaurants (once again national and local chains), and high-rise residential towers. The only real difference between the Scottsdale Waterfront and the attached Scottsdale Fashion Square is that at the waterfront you actually have to (get to?) walk around outside. On the south side of the canal, you'll find the fun little boutiques of the Mix Shops (www.shopthemix.com), which is part of the SouthBridge development. This bank of the canal also has several good restaurants.

Now, when I say this development is along a canal, don't start thinking Venice-style canals. Scottsdale's canal, a cement-lined trough, is not exactly a romantic watercourse, although it is lined with attractive pathways, gardens, fountains, and sculptures that together make this the prettiest shopping and dining destination in town.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.