Enjoy amazing outdoors and cowboy roots on a winter visit
Why go now: Scottsdale’s become synonymous with swank, but the town’s Western, outdoorsy roots are still alive and kicking. Feburary’s cowboy events and mild weather make it a perfect time to visit.
Trail city: Scottsdale has more than 280 miles of hiking, riding, and biking.
Get duded up: At Saba’s Western Wear (3965 N. Brown Ave.; 480/947-7664).
Prehike stop: Grab backpack-ready sandwiches at the Hyatt Regency’s new Canyon Market (7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd.; 480/444-1234); it also has touch screens that help you pick a hiking trail.
Rent a bike: At Arizona Outback Adventures (from $25; 16447 N. 91st St.; 480/945-2881).
Post-trail rubdown: The therapist at Bicycle Haus knows how to knead those quads and loosen up hamstrings (from $90; 7027 E. Fifth Ave.; 480/994-4287).
Ogle the supermodels of the equine world: During the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show (Feb 17–27; $10; WestWorld; scottsdaleshow.com).
Wanna be a real cowboy? A week at Arizona Cowboy College covers roping, riding, and branding (Feb 7–12; $2,250)
Saddle up for a ride: On a Fort McDowell Adventures trail ride in the Fountain Hills, just east of town, you’ll splash through the Verde River and take in the views of craggy mountains, plus glimpses of herons, jackrabbits, and coyotes. From $45 for 1 hour; fortmcdowelladventures.com
Hike into the desert: Spring wildflowers start peeping out in late February at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale’s 16,000-acre backyard. You can access this wide-open desert park and its 60 miles of looping multiuse trails from a number of trailheads—we like the 4-mile loop trail from the Gateway Trailhead. Free; scottsdaleaz.gov/preserve
Do some south-of-the-border sipping: Take a load off with a round of avocado margaritas at the Mission, whose menu stretches from Mexico down to Chile. Try roast corn gorditas or deep-fried short ribs. We love the casual-yet-glam dining room and bar carved out of a historic 1920s warehouse. $$; 3815 N. Brown Ave.; 480/636-5005.
Get your yee-haw on: Boots and cowboy hats are the dress code at Parada del Sol—a monthlong Western-palooza that ends with a rodeo on March 4. Cheer on 30 Hashknife Pony Express riders as they gallop into town with bags of (real!) mail (noon Feb 11; hashknifeponyexpress.com). The next day, watch floats, bands, and 1,000 horses on parade, then hit the street dance. paradadelsol.org
Make it a weekend: Back in the ’30s, cowboy artist Lon Megargee built an adobe home and studio in the desert. These days, it’s the Hermosa Inn, a luxe hotel and informal gallery of Megargee’s work. Check out the updated rooms, the tiny new spa, and the always romantic restaurant Lon’s ($$$). From $269; hermosainn.com
Kick up your heels at classic cowboy bars
The rustic desert hangout: Dance under the stars at Greasewood Flat, ringed by towering salt cedars. Dress warmly, grab a beer, and commandeer a picnic table near a firepit to stay toasty in between two-stepping to the live music. $; 27375 N. Alma School Pkwy.; 480/585-9430.
The honky-tonk: Don’t know the swing from a line dance? Join lessons at Handlebar J, where rafters are festooned with old cowboy hats, or cool your heels on the streetside patio. Free dance lessons 6:45 p.m. Sun; 7116 E. Becker Lane; 480/948-0110.
The saloon: Step through the swinging doors and you’ll literally be rubbing elbows with cowboys, tourists, locals, and the occasional country music star at the teensy, beloved Rusty Spur Saloon, open since 1951. Hold your beer above your head when you maneuver the dance floor so you don’t spill. 7245 E. Main St.; 480/425-7787.