Our agents travel to some pretty awesome destinations. When they return, our excitement to hear about their adventures is almost as great as their excitement is to share them. In ON LOCATION, they talk about the little nuances that make each place special. From Peru to South Africa, Switzerland, and Croatia, experience a fantastic second-hand journey and maybe take away some travel inspiration while you’re at it.
Just 700 miles south of my hometown, Scottsdale, Arizona sits unassuming and alluring in all its desert rapture. This city – dotted with saguaro cacti and sprawling landscapes – has managed to build their community on diversity and inclusion. Maintaining warm and sunny days through winter months, this destination is for any snowbird seeking an escape from their dark, cold and snow-filled existence.
I was impressed by the library system of Scottsdale. City residents can check out cultural passes for visitors to the area. As I explored the area with my go-to gal, Carrie, this clever library process worked in our favor as a friend checked out two passes to the Desert Botanical Garden for us. This place was awesome. With over 4,000 different desert plant species (in 140 acres of desert), this botanical garden filled our afternoon and evening with a sense of calm as we walked along the well-maintained paths and took in the southwestern beauty. We enjoyed the experience immensely while we avoided getting pricked by the any of the many pointy plants in the garden. Adding to the fun was their night-time Electric Desert display. This was an auditory and visual experience. An artist mapped several clusters of plants in six unique exhibitions throughout the garden and set the bright lights to music. It was totally awesome and I highly recommended it.
We stayed in Old Town Scottsdale, not far from their historic shopping area in Old Town. Some of the shops included Native American jewelry and pottery as well old-timey candy stores or BBQ restaurants.
Dining places like Lo-Lo’s Chicken n’ Waffles, Joe’s BBQ, Rehab Burger Therapy, and Portillo’s left us wishing we had a franchise of each here at home. One place we ate at that is still ringing in my mind was Organ Stop Pizza located in Mesa, a neighboring city of Scottsdale. The restaurant is home to the largest theater organ in the world. The Wurlitzer organ housed there was built in 1927 and uses nearly 6,000 pipes to orchestrate a variety of percussive and wind sounds. One of the four hired organists plays the organ each night. They create a musical experience specific to each audience. They take hand-written requests throughout the night and play the organ from memory and sheer talent accrued by years of practice.
One experience that felt a bit lack-luster was our tour of Taliesin West, the winter home and architectural school designed, built, and founded by Frank Lloyd Wright. This campus was used every year during freezing Wisconsin winters. He frequently boasted of being the greatest architect in the world. Having seen a couple of Wright structures in my life, I was very excited to see the bold choices he used to design his desert home. Personally, it was more a history on his life rather than a look at any great architectural feat. It didn’t seem particularly unique and felt more like a place carved into the mountainside a couple decades before its time. It left me disappointed. I’ll say that anyone who has been able to make a home in the desert from nothing, and so far from the city center, gets props. But my opinion is that a person visiting the area could save their money in Scottsdale and see a different (and more impressive) Wright structure elsewhere in the world. Wingspread in Wisconsin, for example, is worth it!
To add some zip to our stay, we rented Lime electric scooters (available in most big cities now). This was a top experience as we took the scooters around Tempe Town Lake near Arizona State University (Tempe Campus) at night. We rode up and down the edge of the lake and around the different light posts and planters. The wide sidewalks and foot bridges made the 17 mph ride that much more enjoyable as we didn’t have to worry at all about stop lights or dodging man-crushing cars.
All in all, I recommend Scottsdale to anyone seeking a comfortably-paced city with dry, cacti-filled outdoor experiences, unique restaurants, and shopping to tantalize the soul.