An Old West tour of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Pony up to Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West; the Desert Botanical Garden; and Old Town Scottsdale.
Seattle Times features editor
If you go
Scottsdale is full of good bars and restaurants. Here are a few that specialize in Old West ambience or flavors.
The Rusty Spur Saloon
Billed as the oldest saloon in Scottsdale, the Rusty Spur sits right on Main Street and serves up bar food, beer, booze and live country music every day of the week. 7245 E. Main St., Scottsdale (480-425-7787 or rustyspursaloon.com).
This spot offers artfully prepared Mexican food in an attractive downtown Scottsdale location. Try the guacamole — made tableside and topped with pomegranate seeds. 7114 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale (480-656-4197 or barrioqueen.com).
The menu visits Italy, Mexico and the American Southwest (buffalo carpaccio, anyone?); the décor is described as “border baroque.” 7133 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale (480-946-3111 or cowboyciao.com).
An outdoor dance floor, wagons and fire pits remind you that you’re dining in what was once a ranch bunkhouse. On the menu, you’ll find chili, burgers, pulled pork — and nothing much over $10. Live music daily. 27375 N. Alma School Parkway, Scottsdale (480-585-9430 or greasewoodflat.net).
Pinnacle Peak Patio Steakhouse
In this one-time general store, your steak, ribs and “cowboy beans” are delivered to your table by servers in Western duds. Look for a good selection of local microbrews. 10426 E. Jomax Road, Scottsdale (480-585-1599 or pppatio.com).
Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau: 800-782-1117 or experiencescottsdale.com
Northwest travel guides
Scottsdale calls itself “The West’s most Western town.” If you want to get a taste of its Old West history (and cowboy cuisine) here are some places worth visiting in the Arizona town, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Phoenix.
Museum of the West
The newest attraction is Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, which opened on Jan. 15.
The 44,000-square foot, $11.4 million museum was designed by Studio Ma of Phoenix. Its weathered steel exterior and spacious wood and concrete galleries evoke the colors and wide-open spaces of the desert.
The museum’s seven exhibits are devoted to Western art and artifacts, historic and contemporary. The largest gallery on the main floor houses a collection of about 100 paintings and sculptures chronicling Lewis and Clark’s journey west by living artist Charles Fritz. The pictures are hung chronologically alongside key bits of text from the explorers’ journals, so you can follow the expedition’s progress to the Pacific.
Displayed in a nearby room are hundreds of saddles, spurs, chaps, guns and other 19th-century Western items collected by Scottsdale gallerist Abe Hays. The objects, hung alongside monitors screening classic Western films, show the wear they suffered at the hands of actual cowboys, lawmen, outlaws and others.
Upstairs, a highlight for Northwest visitors is three early photographs by Edward Curtis, whose (relentless mission) to photograph members of every native tribe west of the Mississippi was grippingly told in Seattle author Timothy Egan’s “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher.”
Nearby, look for paintings of Native American hunters and mountain men by arguably the most renowned painters of the American West, Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington.
Not every piece of art in Western Spirit is backward-looking. One gallery showcases the work of living artists, and some lovely contemporary sculptures reside in an interior courtyard, where visitors can pause, rest and reflect.
The museum is open Tuesdays-Sundays, 3830 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale; $8-$13 (480-686-9539 or scottsdalemuseumwest.org).
Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden puts travelers in touch with the West through its native plants and landscape.
This 140-acre research-and-exhibition garden is dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of desert habitats, in particular the red-rocked, cactus-studded Sonoran Desert, which covers large parts of Arizona, California and Mexico.
Walk any one of four loop trails organized thematically — or walk them all, covering less than 1.5 miles in total. It’s a wonderland of towering saguaros and infinitely varied smaller cactuses and succulents, punctuated with shady areas and benches where you can escape the sun. (Be warned: The Sonoran Desert is one of the hottest in North America. Avoid midday and take plenty of water.) At every turn, friendly docents offer interesting bits of information.
The Desert Botanical Garden offers a full array of programming, including a Music in the Garden concert series that continues through April 17. Two dining options are on site: Gertrude’s Restaurant, near the entry, and the more casual Patio Café.
Open daily, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway. (Technically in Phoenix but just a 5-minute drive from Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.) $10-$22 (480-481-8188 or dbg.org).
Old Town Scottsdale
Scottsdale was founded in the late 1890s, and a number of its original buildings survive. A schoolhouse built in 1909 now serves as the Scottsdale Historical Museum — a good place to begin a walking tour of the district. (Google “Old Town Scottsdale Walking Tour” to find a good map.) Like most every neighborhood in Scottsdale, the area is flat and pleasant to stroll.
Along the way, you’ll encounter a half dozen blocks of low-rise buildings housing art galleries, souvenir shops and restaurants — some sporting frontier-style facades that were actually added in the 1940s by enterprising businesspeople looking to establish the town’s pioneer credentials.
Favorites on the tourist circuit include The Rusty Spur, which bills itself as Scottsdale’s oldest cowboy saloon (rustyspursaloon.com), and Saba’s Western Wear, a longtime local business that carries a full complement of boots, hats and other Western wear (sabas.com).
Another point of interest in Old Town is Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a mission on First Street and Brown Avenue built by Mexican Catholics in the early 1930s. A yearslong effort is under way to restore this beautiful, white adobe structure. The mission is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, November to April (olphaz.org/parish/ourparish/old-adobe-mission).
Lynn Jacobson: email@example.com