Elegant shops, art walks, nightlife, and fancy hotels: This Arizona downtown is now anything but dusty
Our hike up Cholla Trail to the peak of Camelback Mountain isn’treally about exercise ― although that last heart- pumpingstretch, a scramble up granite boulders, surely burns a millioncalories. Instead, my husband and I are seeking a little yin to theyang of downtown Scottsdale, radiating below us to the southeast,where we’ve just spent a dizzying long weekend, sampling all sortsof excitement in the once-sleepy suburb.
Lulled by sunny March days and balmy nights, we have grazed ourway through swank eateries, sipped one too many cocktails,nearly maxed out our credit cards, and gazed at inspiring art. Andwe even managed to stay up waaaay past our bedtime at the pulsatingnightclubs for which Scottsdale is quickly becoming known. Ourhike, then, is atonement for urban excess.
But who could blame us for getting caught up in downtown’s newtemptations? Bristling with cranes and construction fencing, thecity’s center has seemingly reinvented itself overnight as asophisticated destination and a large, floating party scene,complete with fashionable hotels, pricey boutiques, and restaurantsthat alone are worth a trip. More than $2 billion is being sunkinto the 2-square-mile area roughly centered on Scottsdale andCamelback Roads ― and it shows.
Retro swank reborn
Our time in Scottsdale starts innocently enough. We establishbase camp at Hotel Valley Ho, itself a reinvention story. The circa1956 garden-style motel had the bulldozers circling until newownership transformed it into a paradigm of midcentury cool,outfitted with a see-and-be-seen bar and olive-shaped pool, spa,and two retro-chic restaurants, Café ZuZu and the ubiquitousTrader Vic’s.
We kick back in the lobby’s multicolored chairs andpeople-watch; passersby are so stylish that they look like they’vestepped off a Hollywood movie set.
We slink around the serpentine bar and toast legendary actorsRobert Wagner and Natalie Wood, who had their wedding receptionhere not long after Hotel Valley Ho originally opened. And then weretire to the pool, the sparkling centerpiece of the hotel, forsome serious lolling.
We could easily spend hours lounging in our shaded cabana,summoning froufrou cocktails and snacks from the Oh Pool Bar, butdowntown beckons. As does the San Francisco Giants’ springtraining, which is always a major tourist draw this time ofyear. So, as stereotypical as it sounds, my husband splurges for a$15 bleacher seat ― and I follow retail’s siren call.