Scottsdale: The Other Side of Phoenix

The city’s posh counterpart offers upscale shopping, dining and nightlife.
By: Amy Silverman
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For the most part, Phoenix is a pretty down-to-earth place. It knows its limitations and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Heck, most everyone here is from someplace else. We’re just trying to get acquainted. But there’s an exception: Scottsdale. With nicknames like Palm Springs Lite, this mecca of shiny shirts and plastic surgery is a field trip to how the other half lives.

Scottsdale's Transformation

It’s hard to say just when Scottsdale got so hoity-toity. It started out innocently enough, as a haven for tuberculosis patients in the early 20th century. Ranchers still herded sheep along dusty Scottsdale Road in the 1950s, and the Parada del Sol rodeo was long the high point of the year.

But somewhere along the way, the West’s Most Western Town stopped shutting down for the night. The concentration of high-end luxury resorts and the area's walkable (or stumble-able, depending on how many cocktails you’ve consumed) downtown made for a swank night scene. By day the shopping’s always been the poshest in town, whether at Scottsdale Fashion Square downtown or north at the newer Kierland Commons. This is a town with stores with names like Electric Ladyland.

Shopping, Spas and Stars

Today, Scottsdale takes its posh role seriously. The 2008 Super Bowl game was played across town in Glendale, but all the stars stayed in Scottsdale. And the accommodations are lovely, from the heaven/hell-themed Mondrian to the recently restored Valley Ho to brand new W Scottsdale.

The shopping is better than ever, even if you're just window-shopping. Check out The Mix at Southbridge, a spangly Scottsdale take on Fred Segal’s Santa Monica string of boutiques. Garage, A Body Shop for Kids features designer duds for kids, while Jennifer Croll’s sportswear designs share space with the hautest couture.

All too much for you? Indulge in one of the many local spas to calm down. The infamous Bliss just opened at the W; every hotel offers some sort of pampering, from the Hyatt’s time-oriented services (the morning massage differs from the afternoon rub) to the “quantum biofeedback” treatments at the Valley Ho.

Locals agree the Camelback Inn (just over the Scottsdale border in Paradise Valley) has the best spa in town. Sparkling blue swimming pool, thick white robes, deep Swedish massage and no attitude. Well, maybe a little.  

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