The 5 Senses of Scottsdale

By local contributor
Emily Lawrence

Whether you like to discover a new city by taste, touch, sight, sound or smell, Scottsdale has it all. Me, I’m a foodie and love to explore a new city through its cuisine, but one can only eat so much! Follow along as I round up my picks for the best and most unexpected senses of Scottsdale.


Scottsdale’s dining options range from elegant restaurants overlooking Camelback Mountain to divine Mexican markets with amazing street tacos. But to get a true taste of Scottsdale, look for indigenous ingredients that are used in many local dishes. Gertrude’s restaurant at the Desert Botanical Garden features locally inspired, seasonal dishes that incorporate native ingredients such as Anasazi beans, named after the tribe who first cultivated them centuries ago. These heirloom beans were a staple in the diets of local Native Americans and are known for their high protein content.


Old Town Scottsdale, the heart of the city, is known for one-of-a-kind shopping experiences, with locally-owned boutiques stocking everything from Western wear to vintage treasures. Feel the real leather at Buffalo Collection, which offers exquisite handcrafted journals, handbags, furniture and home accessories. Bischoff’s Shades of the West, another Old Town Scottsdale classic stocks soft Pendleton blankets and hand-woven Native American baskets.


Many people who travel to Scottsdale don’t expect to actually see the Sonoran Desert. But a short drive from Old Town will take you to Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, where the desert’s beauty is on full display. The Preserve’s numerous trailheads are open from sunrise to sunset daily, and offer hiking for all skill levels. If you’re new to the desert, try the Bajada Nature Trail at the Gateway trailhead, which will introduce you to common desert sights like Gambel’s quail, jackrabbits, Gila woodpeckers and our infamous Saguaro cacti. For the most stunning panoramic views, take a sunrise hot air balloon ride and glide along the rolling Sonoran Desert foothills.


From soothing nature sounds and the beat of local bands to the bustle of an urban city, Scottsdale is filled with the hum of life. If, like most of our visitors, you’re in the mood to relax try kayaking on the Lower Salt River, where the call of songbirds, the nickering of wild horses, and the howl of a lone coyote might fill the air. Looking for something with a little more beat? Head to the Old Town Entertainment District where live bands and DJs amp up the music and the fun.


There’s a fragrance we desert dwellers love – the crisp, green smell of creosote after a rain shower. Thought to be the longest-living plants in the world, creosote bushes release their perfume when their leaves are crushed or dampened. But creosote isn’t the only enticing scent you must look forward to in Scottsdale. Freshly roasted coffee beans at Old Town bistros, savory mesquite-grilled steaks, juicy prickly pear margaritas and orchards filled with springtime orange blossoms are just a few of the aromas you can savor in Scottsdale.