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NATIVE LIFE AND LEGEND

For a vibrant and entertaining learning experience, head downtown to see Native Trails, presented by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and produced by the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Now in its 15th season, these free noontime festivals take place most Thursdays and Saturdays Jan. 12 to March 30, 2017 at Scottsdale Civic Center Park. Each performance features traditional music, colorful dances and customary attire that showcase the traditions of various Southwestern tribes. The sensory journey ends in the audience-participation Round dance, bringing the immersion experience full circle.

The past and present come together at Talking Stick: A Cultural and Entertainment Destination Area at Talking Stick Resort. Its cultural center showcases a 100-piece collection of pottery and distinguished artwork from the Pima and Maricopa tribes. There’s also a permanent exhibition of historic photographs that date as far back as 1880.

Dive into the culture of the Pima and Maricopa tribes at the Huhugam Ki Museum, which was constructed from adobe and desert plants. Huhugam Ki means “house of the ancestors,” and inside are exhibits that showcase the heritage of the two tribes, from the ancient past to the present. If you’re lucky, you may see a demonstration of Pima basket-making or have a chance to sample traditional foods.

The Native American Learning Center at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch is an ongoing collaborative venture between the resort and Native artists and educators. The center showcases life on the Hopi and Navajo nations, efforts to preserve the languages, and the significance of art such as jewelry textiles, pottery and ceremonial Katsina dolls. Additionally, explore Native American culture through song and dance during Friday performances at the resort from 5-5:30 p.m.

The Yavapai Experienceat Fort McDowell Adventures is a cultural heritage tour that shares the story of the Yavapai people on their ancestral land. The excursion is led by a professional guide who facilitates the tour with tribal members born and raised at Fort McDowell. Learn about the ancient culture, history and heritage of the Yavapai and take part in a nature trail where guides show how the tribe’s lives are connected to the Sonoran Desert. The tour is available to groups with a minimum of 10 people, and reservations through Fort McDowell Adventures are required.

SCHOOL ON VACATION?

For a new look at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West talk with the students who live and learn there. Armed with a desire to live in harmony with the environment, apprentices at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture offer a wealth of knowledge and interesting insight into life in the Sonoran Desert. Take the Desert Shelter TourNovember through April for an up-close-and-personal visit to the self-designed and built desert dwellings of the students, which are customized according to the apprentice's personal interests and talents.

Scottsdale Artists’ School opened in 1983 to provide a place where artists of all skill levels could learn from the best working artists in the country. With the addition of studio space and instructors, the school now boasts a variety of programs that cater to all skill levels and artistic mediums. For youngsters, the Youth Academy provides drawing, painting and pottery instruction to students between 6 years old and high school age during fall and spring breaks. For adults, sessions, including watercolor, photography and sculpture, are offered on a daily and weekly basis.

CONNECTING WITH THE SONORAN DESERT

The Desert Botanical Garden is dedicated to promoting greater enjoyment, understanding and stewardship of the Sonoran Desert. It offers several educational opportunities, including workshops on gardening, sustainability and desert photography. Classes provide a jumpstart on mastering the topics and a solid foundation on which to build. Opportunities for preschoolers, in-depth camps and service-learning teen programs are also offered to help stimulate children’s connection to nature and discovery.

Boulders Resort & Spa’s Desert Photo Touris a guided nature walk with an artistic twist that allows you to capture the stunning flora and fauna with the help of the resort’s resident nature photographer, Linda Covey. Held at sunrise and sunset, the two-hour exploration surveys the desert’s most pristine scenic areas and includes tips on approaching nature and desert plants, as well as an “off the beaten path” trek in which encounters with wildlife like javelina, lizards, coyotes and even bobcats are likely.

Or take a step back in time with the Boulders’ Boulder Walk. Professional geologist Richard Allen guides you on this nature excursion that leads you through the prehistoric Sonoran Desert. He provides background on the topography, flora, fauna and the property’s namesake 12-million-year-old boulders. Learn about the rich geological history of the space and how the desert came to be some 2 billion years ago during the Precambrian era. You’ll also get an up-close look at the amazing "Levitation Rock" formation and artifacts left by the Hohokam Indians, who mysteriously disappeared in the mid-1400s.

If thrill-seeking drives you, hop on board with Arizona Outback Adventures or 360 Adventures and learn about the history and beauty of the Arizona landscape by hiking, biking, kayaking, rock climbing or even stand-up paddle boarding. Take guided tours from the air, ground or water while you discover the majesty of Arizona’s natural wonders.

CUISINE IS KING

You become the chef at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North during the Chef for a Dayprogram. You’ll spend an evening with Executive Chef Mel Mecinas and learn the ins and outs of culinary creation. Look the part in a chef’s jacket embroidered with your name and the Four Seasons logo – a keepsake from the experience – as you assist with the preparation for the evening dinner service at Talavera. Chef for a Dayincludes with a private dinner in Talavera, complete with chef-selected enhancements.

Celebrating food and history, Arizona Food Tours offers a delicious insider’s look into the restaurants that dot downtown Scottsdale. A Taste of Old Town Scottsdaleis a walking food and historical tour that opens minds and palates with tales of the area’s rich history – one taste at a time. Travel the same streets that were once infamous stomping grounds for some of the West’s greatest cowboys while enjoying historical tales and special food tastings from local restaurants and shops.

At Taste It Tours, take the Scottsdale Trolley Food Tour and experience the best of Old Town’s culinary scene while riding in style on a trolley. The tour will also educate you about Old West traditions while you ride and walk your way to delicious fare such as Mexican street tacos, pasta, Neapolitan pizza and cake truffles. Or you can hit the Taste of Scottsdale Food Tour, which focuses on some of the best international dining in the city. A trolley ride is also included on this tour.

Satiate your dessert cravings with Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale.  Feel like a character in “Charlie in the Chocolate Factory” as you weave through four of Scottsdale’s downtown districts – the Arts district, the Fifth Avenue Shopping district, the Southbridge district and the Waterfront district – sampling a variety of goodies at six stops. Enjoy tasting brownies, ice cream, Belgium chocolates, and cannolis from local gems Chocolade van Brugge, Caketini, Classic Cakes & Confections Bakery, Godiva Chocolatier, Sprinkles Cupcakes and The Herb Box.

SCOTTSDALE 101

Get a glimpse of downtown with local expert Ace Bailey on the Downtown Scottsdale Art & Cultural Trolley Tour offered by Ultimate Art & Cultural Tours. The free tour starts at 10:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of every month and takes you through the area’s notable spots. Along the way, learn tidbits about the history and background while seeing the famous downtown landmarks. Or, learn about Hotel Valley Ho’s history and design elements on the Magical History Tour, also offered by Bailey. This appointment-only experience shares the legends associated with the property’s famous Hollywood guests and gives a historical perspective to the mid-century modern design of the hotel, which first opened in 1956.

WORLDLY TUNES

Take a melodic journey through the world at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), the first global instrument museum. MIM showcases cultures from around the globe with more than 5,000 instruments from nearly every country in the world on display. Transport to another land with wireless headsets and LCD video displays depicting the sounds and sights of the instruments and the people who use them. See the recreation of a gong workshop, listen to the sounds of the traditional Beijing Opera or experience a contemporary Ukrainian wedding procession. After enjoying a worldly concert, try out your own musical abilities in MIM’s Experience Gallery, where you can play instruments such as guitars, gongs and drums.

A CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH THE CREATIVE KIND

The Artist-in-Residenceseries at The Hermosa Inn, a boutique hideaway celebrates the historic property’s creative origins as the original home of cowboy and artist Lon Megargee. The series allows visitors to mingle with accomplished local artists over an intimate dinner or brunch at LON’s. Dinners bring guests together for an intimate evening of fine dining in LON’s at the Hermosa, while the brunch series features complimentary one-on-one workshops with the artists and an a la carte hacienda brunch on the restaurant’s patio.

IT’S A KIDS’ WORLD

At The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa’s seasonal Digital Kids Camp, kids between the ages of 8 and 13 can create their own stop-motion animation videos, design computer games, or create music videos, movie trailers and comic books.

Each day in the Trailblazers Kids Clubat Fairmont Scottsdale Princess brings a new learning opportunity for kids. From solar cooking to fishing at the lagoons, children learn through themed games, sports, Southwestern crafts, animal interactions and nature walks.

The Phoenix Art Museum celebrates creativity through its PhxArtKids Gallery and quarterly PhxArtKids Days. The interactive gallery is full of hands-on and “brains-on” activities that allow children to experience art in a new fashion. PHXArtKids Days celebrate the power of storytelling, encouraging young visitors to imagine stories about the artwork throughout the gallery while enjoying themed activities and performances.