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When The New York Times originally described Scottsdale as being “a desert equivalent of Miami’s South Beach” it omitted to note that the town is most renowned for being “The West’s Most Western Town”, too. Scottsdale is just 31 miles long and 11 miles broad, yet it has filled that space with some wonderful attractions such as parks, museums, retail centers, and music venues, to mention a few. Its 230,500-person population as of 2014 has been staying busy with all of them, so let’s check out what’s going on!

Sonoran Preserve at McDowell
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a massive, permanently protected, and sustainable desert environment that provides some great family walks. There are also a variety of hikes available at various levels of difficulty and fitness. The Gateway Loop, for example, is fairly rough, so wear your hiking boots and carry poles! Browns Ranch, on the other hand, is much simpler and allows you to take in more of the desert beauty because you won’t have to look down all the time! What about the Bell Pass, Sunrise, and Wingate? The list goes on! There is a route for everybody who wants to get out and experience the best of desert nature.

Stillman-McCormick Railroad Park
The massive 15-inch-gauge train, Magma Arizona Railroad engine, a railroad museum, and much, much more will delight children (and parents!) of all ages. There are hundreds of square feet of finely designed dioramas with model trains in every gauge going about, as well as interactive buttons that allow you to activate different equipment, sound, and light sections! The park contains numerous play areas, a carousel, and a gift store where you can buy refreshments and souvenirs.

Butterfly Kingdom
Butterfly Wonderland is a great spot to take the family for a fun day out. Its spectacular state-of-the-art structure houses an astonishing glass atrium that provides the ideal tropical rainforest habitat for hundreds of butterflies from across the world to soar around freely. There’s a 3D educational “Flight of the Butterflies” movie to view, and I’m sure an interactive bug display will be of special interest to the youngsters. There is also a gift shop and a café selling great snacks. Don’t forget to bring a zoom lens!

The Museum of the West in Scottsdale
This amazing museum in Scottsdale Old Town contains information about all 19 western states, from Texas to the Dakotas (including Hawaii and Alaska), and is 35,000 square feet of engaging facts, artwork, and antiques for everyone. The museum provides changing exhibitions, gallery tours, and events that bring its Western past to life. One of the museum’s most recent exhibits is Cowboy Artists of America, which highlights the contributions of its 77 artists to western culture and fine arts. (From November 7, 2015, through May 31, 2016). The museum’s friendly personnel will gladly answer any questions you may have, and there is also a gift store selling high-quality products.

For a more enjoyable trip and a more comfortable location to stay, we recommend a Sprinter van rental in Scottsdale.

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Institute
A trip to the SWCC is an excellent approach to engage children in learning about wild animal rescue. The Conservation Center is neither a zoo nor an animal park, but rather a refuge dedicated to the rescue of abandoned, wounded, or orphaned wild animals. Whenever feasible, the animals are rehabilitated and subsequently released back into the wild, while those that are unable to do so are cared for at the sanctuary. The children will enjoy meeting the residents, and the caring staff will be delighted to share their expertise about what the institution does. Donations are always welcome.

Rancho McDonald’s
Spend the day with your family at MacDonald’s Ranch, Scottsdale’s top equestrian riding facility. There’s much to do here, from guided horseback rides to hayrides and cowboy cookouts, all against the stunning backdrop of the Sonoran Desert. Whatever the family’s experience, the ranch’s skilled guides ensure that all riders, regardless of ability, are safe. The ranch’s horses are very kind and docile. Enjoy a leisurely ride across the region and the opportunity to learn about some of the area’s animals, flora, and fauna.

Fashion Square in Scottsdale
This luxury shopping complex includes over 2 million square feet of lavish store choices, ranging from Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus to Gucci and Louis Vuitton. The mall is Arizona’s largest and one of the top 30 largest in the country. So put on your best walking shoes! Throughout the retail mall, you can also find helpful and friendly service. Though the shops are high-end, you may be able to find some discounts in anchor stores like Macy’s!

Originals by Cosanti
The term “Cosanti” is derived from two Italian words, “Cosa” and “anti,” which signify “before (or against) things” when combined. As you discover more about the owner and artist Paolo Soleri’s sculpture studios, you will see that Soleri’s anti-materialist position pervades the whole structure. In the mid-1950s, Soleri and his pupils began construction on the experimental structures of Cosanti, which were subsequently named an Arizona Historic Site. This historic foundry is full of unique elements, and it’s a joy to witness the family at work on the legendary foundation bells.

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