Old West Meets the New West in Scottsdale
Equine Offerings Abound in the West’s Most Western Town
WANNA BE A COWBOY?
Learn to rope and ride with the best of ‘em at Arizona Cowboy College, where visitors are exposed to authentic cowboy skills at a working cattle ranch. Students can choose between one-, three- and five-day sessions working alongside real-life cowboys. At Fort McDowell Adventures, guests take a horseback ride in the desert and round up cattle while they’re at it. Riders seeking the “City Slicker” experience can opt for a two-hour cattle drive pushing herds from the fort’s remote pin back to the stables. On the way, they observe spectacular views of the Mazatzal Wilderness and Tonto National Forest, and possibly encounter some of the desert’s wildlife — wild mustangs.
Relive the Old West at Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse at Wild Horse Pass in nearby Chandler, Ariz. The 1880s town provides a full day of family adventure, including multiple rides, games and attractions, and daily performances by the high-fallin' Rough Rider stunt men. If you like to shop, check out the collection of Western stores. Continue your Western adventure with a stop at MacDonald’s Ranch. Located on 1,300 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert land, there is fun for the whole family at this premier horseback riding destination with guided horseback rides, hayrides, stagecoach rides, pony rides and a petting zoo.
Explore one of the leading horse training facilities in the U.S., Los Cedros USA, designed in the style of a Moroccan style citadel. Los Cedros USA houses and trains horses who specialize in Arabian, Hunter, Jumper, Dressage and Western styles. During a visit to the facility, watch the horses swim for exercise and pop your head into the “throne room” featuring traditional Moroccan style artwork and relics.
The Hashknife Pony Express makes its 200-mile ride every January from Holbrook, Ariz., to downtown Scottsdale to deliver 20,000 first-class letters by horseback. The ride, led by the Navajo County Hashknife Sheriff's Posse to kick off the annual Parada del Sol Rodeo, is the oldest officially sanctioned Pony Express in the world. Riders are sworn in as honorary mail messengers braving weather, terrain and modern-day obstacles to deliver the United States mail.
Celebrating 64 years, the Parada del Sol Parade is the world’s longest horse- drawn parade and takes place every February in downtown. Following the procession is the popular Trails End Celebration with Western entertainment, music and a pancake breakfast. The parade kicks off the Parada del Sol Rodeo, a full week of boot stompin’ fun at WestWorld of Scottsdale that includes rodeos, dances, live country music, children’s activities and more. Also in February is the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, a 10-day spectacle where the event’s namesake breed of horse competes for highly-coveted awards among multiple disciplines.
At the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Horses & Horsepower in November, polo’s top contenders compete during four polo matches and attendees get a sneak preview of the aforementioned Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.
SADDLE UP AND SHOP
Western themes dominate much of Scottsdale’s art and shopping – particularly the gallery scene in the Main Street Arts & Antiques District and the Western boutiques and souvenir shops in Old Town. The boutiques offer everything from expensive Remington bronzes to the latest in chic cowboy fashion. Along with the growing market for Western memorabilia and historical collectibles, the city’s downtown redevelopment has strengthened the Old West shopping districts. In fact, strolling downtown one can find traditional hitching posts for riders, and the streets are still patrolled by Scottsdale’s mounted police unit.
Saba's Western Wear has been an Arizona tradition for 89 years. It made its home in downtown Scottsdale when coyotes were still roaming freely and the main mode of transportation was by horseback. From hats, boots and clothing for men, women and children, this family-owned-and-operated business is the place to find all of your cowboy life staples.
Cave Creek, the town just north of Scottsdale, is home to a unique and colorful history that dates back to the 1870s. The town wasn’t incorporated as a municipality until 1986 and much of its history is still reflected in special events and fun, kitschy retail shops that dot the streets. Shopping in Cave Creek attracts not only the casual browser, but also the serious collector as offerings include everything from spurs to custom jewelry by local artists. To get a taste of Western flare, visit Buffalo Chip Saloon and Steakhouse. With roots dating back to 1951, Buffalo Chip is a favorite among locals and visitors alike with its country music, dancing and professional bull riding.
A HORSE IS A HORSE
The City of Scottsdale has made an incredible investment in public art, making it a dynamic part of the cityscape. The result is a masterpiece of urban aesthetics, including several magnificent sculptures that portray the city’s passion for horses. One of the most notable is Ed Mell’s famous bucking bronco sculpture, “Jack Knife,” found at the intersection of Main Street and Marshall Way. Also in the Fifth Avenue shopping district is the popular Bob Parks horse fountain featuring several bronze horses at attention. In Old Town, the “Yearlings” sculpture attracts kids wanting to get their picture taken with the three young foals. There’s also the symbolic “Passing the Legacy,” a bronze sculpture designed by Herb Mingery depicting the melding of Scottsdale’s historic and modern Western appeal with a vintage 1860s rider passing a mail bag back to a modern-day rider. “Water Mark” by Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan is a series of five, 14-foot “horse gargoyles” that sits along Indian Bend Wash and pays homage to the history of Arabian horses in nearby McCormick Ranch. Just down the street at WestWorld of Scottsdale is “Impulsion,” a 40-foot-long horse that stands nearly 30-feet-high. This sculpture is comprised of 10,000 pounds of stainless steel tubing that lights up at night.
Visitors of all ages can delight in authentic stagecoach rides through downtown Scottsdale. Pulled by North American spotted draft horses, the carriage takes guests on a Western-themed ride through the Old Town area, highlighting significant stops and public art along the way. Guests also can enjoy horse-drawn rides through downtown Scottsdale’s art district from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays during the weekly Scottsdale ArtWalk event.
A TASTE OF THE WILD, WILD WEST
Known as Arizona’s original family steakhouse, Rawhide Steakhouse celebrates the spirit of its Western roots through traditional cooking and true hungry cowboy portions. The diverse menu features everything from bacon-wrapped meatloaf to center cut top sirloin.
No trip to Scottsdale would be complete without a visit to Rusty Spur Saloon. This registered historic landmark in downtown was the Farmers Bank of Scottsdale from 1921 to 1933. The bank closed during the Great Depression and reopened years later as a saloon. The old bank vault holds liquor for those hoping to satiate their thirst. Just a few miles north, Handlebar J also pays homage to the Old West. It’s served up steaks, drinks and live country music since 1966.