Old Town Scottsdale
Start: Scottsdale Historical Museum.
Finish: Scottsdale Waterfront.
Time: 2 hours (not including shopping and visiting the museums).
Best Times: Thursdays, when the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art waives its usual admission charge and art galleries stay open late.
Worst Times: Mondays, when galleries and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art are closed, and summer, when it's just too hot to do any walking.
From tacky souvenir shops to art galleries dealing in $100,000 paintings, downtown Scottsdale has a lot going on. With half a dozen distinct shopping districts around the area, it's easy to miss many of the highlights. This walking tour leads you past the best downtown Scottsdale has to offer.
After finding a parking space in the large public garage at the corner of Brown Avenue and First Street, walk to the northwest corner of the garage where, at 7333 E. Scottsdale Mall, you will find the:
1. Scottsdale Historical Museum
Housed in a little red schoolhouse that was built in 1909, this museum will help you understand that despite all the modern buildings, Scottsdale really does have a past. Here at the museum, you can pick up a map to the various historic buildings in the neighborhood. On this walking tour, you'll pass most of the buildings on the museum's map.
After acquainting yourself with Scottsdale's history, turn right as you leave the museum and take a stroll around the:
2. Scottsdale Civic Center Mall
Oddly enough, in such a shopping-obsessed city, this mall is a park rather than a shopping center. (Conversely, the nearby Biltmore Fashion Park is a shopping mall, not a park -- go figure.) Amid the mall's green lawns and flowering shade trees, you'll find nearly a dozen sculptures. You might also catch some sort of event going on here. In the spring there are Native American dancers and musicians a couple of days a week, and live music on Sunday afternoons.
Near the main entrance to the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, which faces the mall, you'll find the city's most beloved sculpture:
3. Robert Indiana's Love
With its canted letter O, this image, which consists of the word "love" spelled out in large block letters, will likely be quite familiar. The iconic image is nearly as symbolic of the 1960s as the peace sign, and was once used on a postage stamp.
Primed with a bit of pop art, head around the side of the arts center to the:
4. Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
The galleries of this museum are used for a wide variety of often-challenging contemporary art exhibitions. Even if you aren't interested in contemporary art, you might want to check out Knight Rise, a room-size art installation off the gift shop. There's never a charge to visit this unusual space that uses light and the sky as canvas.
Head back out of the mall by way of the walkway in front of the little red schoolhouse, and you will see a statue of:
5. Winfield Scott
If you haven't already guessed, Scott was the founder of this city, and it is for him that Scottsdale is named. This statue, which shows Scott with his wife and his mule, Maude, is on the site of Scott's original homestead.
To the left as you exit the mall, at 3925 N. Brown Ave., you'll find:
6. Bischoff's at the Park
Don't confuse this shop full of Native American jewelry and other Southwestern arts and crafts with the affiliated Bischoff's Shades of the West across the street. The latter is a low-end souvenir shop, while the former is full of higher-quality merchandise and is fascinating to explore.
Turn left when you come out of Bischoff's and walk a block and a half south to the:
7. Old Adobe Mission
This small mission church was built in 1933 by Hispanic and Yaqui Indian families and has been undergoing restoration in recent years. Inside, you'll usually find someone ready to answer questions about the building.
Across the street, you'll see the colorful sculptures of Elizabeth Conner's:
8. Hidden Histories
These sculptures are colorful, oversize renditions of familiar objects, including a cowboy hat and an old tire. The sculptures are adjacent to the public parking lot that on Saturday mornings, from November through May, is the site of the Old Town Farmer's Market. If the market is going on, be sure to wander through and try some free samples.
Now walk back north on Brown Avenue to Main Street and turn left. On this block, you'll find lots of souvenir shops and stores selling Native American jewelry. In the middle of the block, you'll find a longtime favorite Scottsdale watering hole.
9. Take a Break -- Rusty Spur Saloon
For many years, Scottsdale billed itself as the West's most Western town, and at the Rusty Spur Saloon, 7245 E. Main St., the West lives on with country bands playing throughout the day and couples dancing and drinking the night (and day) away. If you're a cowboy or cowgirl at heart, you owe it to yourself to stop in for a beer.
Continue on down Main Street to the intersection with busy Scottsdale Road, and across Main Street, at 3925 N. Scottsdale Rd., you'll see the:
10. Gilbert Ortega Gallery & Museum
This shop has one of the best selections of Native American jewelry in Scottsdale and also has museum-quality displays of Native artifacts around the store.
In front of this store stands a metal cutout of a:
11. Cowboy Holding a Lasso
This unofficial welcome-to-Scottsdale sign has been around for more than 50 years and is another of the city's top photo-op spots.
From here, cross Scottsdale Road and continue along East Main Street. You will now leave the souvenir shops behind. This end of the street is lined on both sides with art galleries and antiques stores. At 7164 Main St., you'll find one of my favorite antiques shops, the cluttered and cramped:
12. Bishop Gallery of Art & Antiques
This place is divided into two rooms, one full of rare and unusual antiques from around the world and another filled with original works of art. I could spend hours in here.
Across the street, you'll find several more interesting shops and galleries, including, at 7155 E. Main St.:
13. Overland Gallery of Fine Art
At this gallery, you can see the angular Southwestern landscapes of Ed Mell and the more traditional landscapes of contemporary American realist Gary Ernest Smith.
A few doors down, at 7149 Main St., there's:
14. Arizona West Galleries
Antique cowboy gear and the trappings of the American West are the specialty of this antiques shop.
Next watch for, at 7103 E. Main St.:
15. Faust Gallery
Stop in here to look for old Native American baskets and ceramics, as well as Navajo rugs.
At the intersection of East Main Street and Marshall Way, you'll see, in the middle of the roundabout, Ed Mell's sculpture:
16. Jack Knife
This was Mell's first large-scale sculpture, and the horse shows the same sort of angularity that you will have seen in his landscape paintings at the Overland Gallery.
Continue through the intersection, and, at 7077 E. Main St., you'll come to:
17. Old Territorial Indian Arts
This is the oldest Indian arts-and-crafts shop on Main Street, and features a good selection of Hopi kachina dolls, Zuni fetishes, and Navajo silver jewelry.
A few doors away, at 7033 E. Main St., there's also:
18. River Trading Post
Here you'll find ancient Southwestern pottery, Navajo rugs, and a good selection of reasonably priced Native American crafts.
Now walk back to the roundabout and cross the street to 7056 E. Main St. and:
19. Knox Artifacts Gallery
You won't believe your eyes when you step through the doors of this amazing shop. Museum-quality pre-Columbian artifacts, as well as antiquities from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, fill the shelves and cases.
Continue north on Marshall Way, and at the intersection with Indian School Road, you'll find the unusual:
20. Horseshoe Falls
The columns of Michael Maglich's sculpture are actually stacks of horseshoes arranged in the shape of a horseshoe. Mist periodically rises from the ground beneath the statute.
Now cross Indian School Road to the Marshall Way contemporary-arts district where you'll find a dozen galleries scattered along the 2 blocks between Indian School Road and Fifth Avenue. Galleries not to miss include, at 4142 N. Marshall Way, on the west side of the street:
21. Lisa Sette Gallery
It's difficult to categorize the eclectic shows mounted at this gallery, but whatever is on the walls, it will likely be intriguing.
Across the street, at 4161 N. Marshall Way, there is:
22. Bentley Gallery
This is the most cutting-edge major gallery in the Valley. It also has an outpost in a large warehouse south of downtown Phoenix.
In the middle of the roundabout at the intersection of North Marshall Way and East Fifth Avenue, you'll see Bob Parks's:
23. Bronze Horse Fountain
The four life-size bronze horse statues thundering away from this fountain have long been a symbol of the Fifth Avenue shopping district.
From the roundabout, walk a block up Stetson Drive to the pedestrian bridge that connects the SouthBridge area with the Scottsdale Waterfront. At the north end of the bridge, you'll come to yet another horse sculpture, Herb Mignery's:
24. Passing the Legacy
This classic Western bronze statue shows two Pony Express riders passing the mail at a full gallop. One sculpture is meant to represent cowboys of the past, while the other represents cowboys of the present.
From this sculpture, head 2 blocks along the landscaped walkway on the north bank of the Arizona Canal. Across the canal, you can see the shops and restaurants of the Mix, while on the north bank, you'll be skirting residential condominiums and the shops of the Scottsdale Waterfront shopping center. Just before the canal reaches Scottsdale Road, you'll find the:
25. Soleri Bridge and Plaza
Arizona-based architect Paolo Soleri, well known in the state for his bronze wind bells and his Arcosanti architectural experiment in the desert north of Phoenix, has been designing bridges for decades, but this stainless-steel pedestrian bridge was the first to ever be constructed. Dedicated in late 2010, the bridge is anchored by a 64-foot pylon that has massive bronze wind bells suspended from it. Each day at solar noon, sunlight shines through the bridge pylon onto a red stripe on the bridge deck. Note: Solar noon is different from noon on your watch.
Walk back across the bridge and continue a few steps to the corner of Scottsdale and Camelback roads where you'll find Donald Lipski's unusual sculpture:
26. The Doors
From the outside, this sculpture looks like three huge colonial doors leaning against each other, but step inside the doors, and you'll find yourself inside a giant mirrored kaleidoscope.
From here, you can continue shopping your way through the Scottsdale Waterfront, the Mix on the SouthBridge side of the Arizona Canal, or across Camelback Road in the huge Scottsdale Fashion Square shopping mall.
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.