Amid nine distinct neighborhoods lies a unique range of boutique shops, restaurants, museums and art galleries with a magnetic Old West ambience. Aptly named Old Town, it’s the heart of the city and a must-explore while in Scottsdale.
Old Town Scottsdale is where settlement and development began for all of Scottsdale. In 1888, the 640 acres (260 hectares) that now make up Old Town Scottsdale were bought by Winfield Scott. It wasn’t much at the time—just an orange grove and two olive trees planted by Scott—but more than 130 years later, it’s evolved into one of the most eclectic urban downtown centers in the Southwest.
Eat (and Drink) Your Way Through Old Town Scottsdale
The Herb Box
With a powerhouse menu that features vast and varied options, The Herb Box has you covered for everything from a brunch of perfectly poached eggs to delicious dinners. (Phoenix magazine even named The Market Sunflower Salad a ‘showstopper’ that could unseat the Stetson chopped salad as the best in Arizona.)
The Herb Box is all about fresh ingredients and savory twists on much-loved favorites to produce innovative world cuisine. Plus, the warm and whimsical style of this eatery makes it a great choice for working lunches and coffee catch-ups alike.
Satisfy your craving for good old comfort food with the smoked gouda mac ’n cheese or keep it light and bright with the serrano-shrimp salad. For the ultimate refreshment, top your meal with a craft cocktail—The Ruby Red Slipper comes highly recommended.
Regarded as one of the best restaurants in Old Town Scottsdale, The Mission gives visitors a glimpse into the Old Town that was. Sophisticated dinners from an innovative menu that blends Spanish, Mexican, as well as Central and South American cuisines are served by candlelight in a space that takes design inspiration from the heydays of the Southwest.
Although the interior is lovely to look at—and photograph—the food is something to behold. Empanadas with duck confit and habanero glaze, pork shoulder tacos in handmade corn tortillas and chorizo porchetta are just a few of the dishes that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.
Whether you’re visiting for a special occasion or just ticking this one off your foodie bucket list, we recommend kicking things off with the guacamole (made tableside) and margaritas.
Anyone looking to taste Scottsdales’ best locally made craft beers needs to make a stop at Craft 64. Partnering with Phoenix’s Sun Up Brewery, the 36-beer lineup changes regularly to ensure patrons are able to sample firm favourites and seasonal sips from Craft 64’s own recipes and nearby breweries.
Besides the bevvy of beers, Craft also serves up some incredible grub. Made from scratch using local, seasonal ingredients, the wood-fired pizzas, small plates, and incredible sweets are sure to satisfy any craving you might have.
Sip on a Frolic Pale Ale and order a pepperoni pizza for a classic combo.
Berdena’s is a rotating multi-roaster café that has some of the best coffee and ‘not coffee’ on offer—not just in Old Town, but the whole of Scottsdale. Beans are supplied by San Francisco’s Ritual Coffee, so you’re guaranteed that your caffeine kick comes with plenty of flavor. If you take your coffee seriously, this spot is for you.
Named after owner Jonathan Madrigal’s great-great-grandmother, everything about this venue screams cosy cool. From the pastel tiles to the bright tables and scrumptious pastry lineup, every occasion at Berdena’s is prime for a photo op.
The outside patio is perfect for catching some morning sun while sipping on the drink of the day and tucking into Berdena’s Breakfast Sandwich.
Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant
For a true Old Town Scottsdale experience, head to Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant. They’ve been serving delicious ice cream treats and American food to locals and tourists alike since Christmas Eve in 1958. In fact, it’s even listed on Scottsdale’s Historic Preservation Register.
Stepping into this parlor will take you back in Scottsdale’s history to a time of poodle skirts and the twist. Grab a seat at the soda fountains and order a classic sundae or an old school root beer float as let nostalgia for times gone by wash over you.
Immerse Yourself in Art and Culture
An off-the-beaten-path cultural gem, this architectural hub is where the famous Cosanti Wind Bells are made. Besides the stunning show of ceramic and brass bells, the structure itself is something to behold. Built in the opposite of the usual way—from the roof down and the inside out—the imaginativeness of the structure has earned Cosanti a spot on the Arizona Registry of Historic Places.
Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
Located on the former site of the Loloma Transit Station within the Arts District, Western Spirit showcases the art, history and stories of the 19 states that make up the American West. With regularly rotating exhibits and informative programs, this two-story museum brings to life the rich history of the country’s Southwestern hemisphere.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Crafted by the award-winning architect Will Bruder, minimalistic SMoCA (as it’s known locally) holds some of the most beloved modern and contemporary art and architecture from around the world. Featuring a public ‘Skyspace’ by James Turrell, where visitors can witness the constantly changing light of the desert sky, the museum is situated on 21 acres (8.5 hectares) of a local park and presents nine to 12 different exhibitions every year. Be sure to check their site to see the latest arrival being showcased.
Scottsdale Arts Festival
Recognized as one of the best art fairs in America, the Scottsdale Arts Festival is a three-day celebration of art, food, family fun and creativity. With over 180 jury selected artists from all over the US and Canada along with live entertainment, gourmet food trucks and child-friendly activities to keep everyone entertained, this is an arts festival you won’t want to miss.
Please note that this arts festival will return in March 2023, as the Civic Center will be undergoing construction work starting this fall.
On Thursday evenings, make your way to Gallery Row on Main Street to join the weekly Scottsdale Artwalk from 7 to 9pm. Presented by the Scottsdale Gallery Association and the City of Scottsdale, the art walks began in 1975 as a way to celebrate local artists. Each week, galleries open their doors for the public to enjoy the work of featured artists. Spend the evening wandering through spaces at a leisurely pace before heading for dinner somewhere nearby in Old Town.
Where to Stay in Old Town Scottsdale
Hotel Valley Ho
With so much to do, you’ll be in need of a place to rest your weary head. The best place for that in Old Town Scottsdale is Hotel Valley Ho. Retro vibes galore with mid-century modern architecture and luxurious finishes have seen the hotel act as a hideaway for Hollywood stars looking to escape the spotlight throughout its 55-year history. Known as a Palm Springs alternative, this historic luxury property—and its cabana-clad pool—is the place to get those sun-kissed photos for the ‘gram.
From sophisticated dinners to sweet treats and a thriving arts and culture scene, Old Town has it all. Once you’ve had your fill in this neighbourhood, venture a little further and relax in Scottsdale’s famous spas or indulge your creative side.