WHY WE LOVE IT
- Lavish resorts in the Valley of the Sun and the Santa Catalina foothills.
- Physical and spiritual highs: awe-inspiring scenery of the Sonoran Desert; deluxe pampering at state-of-the-art spas; spiritual rejuvenation at New Age resorts.
- Sports galore: world-class golfing, plus tennis, mountain biking and horseback riding.
- The thriving culinary scene in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, where award-winning chefs put a Southwestern spin on French, Asian and other cuisines.
- Sightseeing on land at architectural gems like Taliesin West and in the air on balloon rides.
- Too-fabulous wedding venues where you can say "I do" with a scenic mountain view.
- Incredible shopping at Scottsdale's upscale malls.
WHEN TO GO
March, April, September and October are the best months to come. From June through August it's unbearably hot, though rates do drop. Winter in the mountains means snow—lots of it.
WHAT TO PACK
Don’t waste time with the heavy packing. In Phoenix, it’s practically always sunny and warm, perfect for capris and skirts, tank tops and halters. Depending on where you head at night, you may want to dress up. Pack nice clothes for a night out in Scottsdale—dresses for her, slacks and tie for him—and tennis shoes and jeans for hiking. Don’t forget the swimsuit and sunscreen.
WHAT TO BUY
What’s a trip to Arizona without buying your own leather cowboy hat? Just had to have it, didn’t you? Or that baby cactus for your best friend. Forget the junk. If you’re looking for something more practical, Pendleton Indian wool blankets, silver jewelry, concha belts, gemstones, minerals and Frank Lloyd Wright–designed lamps are good buys. When you see them back home, they’ll remind you of your trip to Arizona—and your good taste and sense of practicality.
If we don’t fill your head with enough vacation ideas, log on to this super-handy Web site for more tips on what to do and where to stay. The special-events listings include some sensational festivals. For those looking to take a day trip south of the border, the site includes a "What to Know" section about traveling to Mexico.
There is no waiting period for a marriage license in Arizona, and you don’t have to establish residency; a license costs about $50—in cash or a money order. You’ll also need picture identification such as a driver's license. For those previously married, a copy of your divorce decree is not required. Some counties in Arizona have additional requirements. Once you’ve lined up a wedding site, check to see if there’s any other paperwork you need to provide.
2814 N. 16th St.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza presides over an unpretentious yet terrifically ambitious restaurant serving comida orgullosamente mexicana—proudly Mexican food. The attention to detail is so exacting that she has mole made to her specifications in Oaxaca and driven up. If there's a single star it's the guacamole, made tableside and studded with pomegranate seeds. Among the piñata's worth of other surprises are the tequila-lobster quesadilla first course, the cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork seasoned with red anchiote and sour orange) and the chiles en Nogada (Poblano peppers stuffed with an exotic combination of chicken, raisins and fruit). The downside: Barrio Cafe doesn’t take reservations, and lines can be long. But the bar is a cozy place to wait and sample the many tequilas and Mexican wines.
Sanctuary on Camelback Resort & Spa
5700 E. McDonald Dr.
Even if you're not staying at the region's most style-centered resort, come for a meal at its glass-walled restaurant. Tucked into Camelback Mountain, it has breathtaking views of the starry night sky. Equally stunning is chef Beau MacMillan’s understated American cuisine with Asian overtones. The restaurant's modern-minimalist decor integrates accents of stone, wood and fire into a sleek, sophisticated yet casual environment that sets the stage for a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Make your reservation far enough in advance to secure a window seat, and make sure you’re not stuck at the community table. It’s your honeymoon, after all—there’ll be time enough in the future to socialize.
3770 E. Sunrise Dr.
Adobe meets chandeliers and candlelight in chef-owner Janos Wilder's locally beloved and nationally lauded restaurant. Wilder settled in Tucson prepared to serve French food but found that many traditional foods weren’t easily procured. Instead of sulking, he began exploring new flavor combinations, incorporating indigenous ingredients like the prickly pear cactus, blue corn meal and tropical fruits into his cuisine. (Before assembling a kitchen crew and wait staff, he advertised for gardeners to plant seeds for the foods he’d soon serve.) Patrons dine on dishes like the "10-hour beef short rib" that's braised in red wine and served with a spicy-fruity sauce; a "library" of wine bottles lines one of the dining rooms. The mood and fare are more casual next door at J Bar.
MY BIG FAT GREEK RESTAURANT
4218 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Flaming saganaki—kefalograviera cheese flamed with ouzo and Metaxa—is the star here, but the parade of fanciful flavors begins with appetizer dips like baba ganoush (baked eggplant) and taramosalata (caviar spread). Don’t be intimidated by unfamiliar choices. The exceedingly pleasant wait staff—many of them Greek natives studying at nearby Arizona State—will gladly walk you through the menu, which includes gigantic salads and gyro sandwiches, dolmades (ground beef in grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach and feta inside phyllo dough), braised lamb and a locally favorite assemblage, the Grecian Delight Calzone, that's stuffed with mozzarella, feta, gyro, pepperoni, red onion, green pepper, tomato and lightly spiced with pesto sauce. A traditional "Opa!" is shouted every time a server flames cheese at a table, though the plate-breaking routine is a no-go.
QUIESSENCE RESTAURANT & WINE BAR
6106 S. 32nd St.
Utter tranquility reigns at Quiessence, a refurbished and redecorated farmhouse. The restaurant is part of The Farm at South Mountain complex, which also includes a gallery, a cafe, a spa and other venues. Executive chef Greg LaPrad bases his menu on local ingredients, many of them harvested from the farm's organic garden. What he doesn’t find there, he often purchases at the on-site farmers’ market, which he visits every Saturday (it's open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) for produce, cheese and eggs. Everything, right down to the homemade bread that's baked in the outdoor oven, is made with the freshest ingredients. Try the Gila Bend desert sweet shrimp.
7133 E. Stetson Dr.
Chef Nobuo Fukuda's fantastic creations have turned him into a regional superstar. Omakase it—sitting side-by-side at the counter—and watch your chef do the Japanese tapas-style thing. Try the whitefish carpaccio or just order the sashimi platter (a sensuous artwork in itself) and share. Chef Fukuda has been recognized nationally for his amazing tasting menus, so by all means ask for his recommendations. If nothing else, doing so will save you time: See Saw’s cellar contains more than 3,500 wines.
THE SUGAR BOWL
4005 N. Scottsdale Rd.
If you’re in Scottsdale, lunch at the Sugar Bowl is essential. Well, lunch and dessert. Besides excellent soups and sandwiches, your friendly server will whip up one of the famous fountain treats served here since 1958. A bright-pink building, the Sugar Bowl is hard to miss. If it looks familiar, it might be because cartoonist Bil Keane has featured the restaurant in his Family Circus cartoons many times. Keane's artwork, for sale in the gift shop, decorates the quaint ice-cream parlor. Try the Top Hat Sundae—a fluffy creampuff filled with vanilla ice cream and then showered in fudge. It’s a "special favorite of the baseball stars" (or so the menu boasts). Walk it off browsing the nearby Fifth Avenue Shops.
VINCENT ON CAMELBACK
3930 E. Camelback Rd.
For more than 20 years, chef-owner Vincent Guerithault’s unique blend of classic French cuisine made with Southwestern ingredients has had critics raving and customers craving more. The French-born chef's signature dishes include the grilled boar loin with habañero sauce and the sautéed veal sweetbreads with blue cornmeal and red-wine thyme sauce. For dessert, try the Jack Daniels pecan pie or any of the soufflés. Though the restaurant is always bustling, a laid-back French-country ambience prevails. On Saturdays from October to May, Guerithault runs a French market in his parking lot, selling handmade crepes and panini sandwiches, along with imported cheeses, his bottled dressings and fresh fruits and veggies.
3160 E. Camelback Rd.
A singular dining experience awaits you at this hip hangout, where the waitresses wear traditional Chinese garments and anime videos screen on the walls. Reserve a space in the bar area's "living room," and you’ll dine in a roped-off area that has couches and soft candlelight. Sushi comes traditional-style and in creative combinations: Try a samba roll for the sushi-goes-Southwestern flavors of eel, jalapeño tempura and cream cheese. Low-carb rolls are also prepared, so you don’t have to ruin that diet, but if there’s a place to succumb to a caloric splurge, this is it. The sushi chefs keep slicing until midnight, making this an ideal late-night option (during the bar’s 10 p.m.-till-closing happy hour, free sushi rolls and appetizers are served).
ARIZONA BILTMORE RESORT & SPA
2400 E. Missouri Ave.
For flat-out glamour and celebrity allure, few places in the world can match the Arizona Biltmore. Clark Gable golfed here, Marilyn Monroe basked poolside and aviator/eccentric Howard Hughes wheeled and dealed in the hotel's most expensive suite. Designed in the late 1920s in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Biltmore is also the Phoenix-Scottsdale area's most architecturally significant resort, and with daily afternoon tea, eight pools, seven tennis courts, two PGA championship courses (next door) and a mammoth spa it remains a favorite of the well-heeled. If you're looking for a classy spot to tie the knot, the resort has three outdoor wedding-ceremony sites and three indoor ballrooms.
8600 E. Rockcliff Rd.
Like the Biltmore, Canyon Ranch is a top-tier honeymoon destination, known for its impeccable staff, peerless pampering and range of high-quality diversions. Shamanic journeys and tai chi, yoga and dance classes enthrall sensitive sybarites (and if these don't do the trick for you, perhaps luxe spa treatments like micro-crystal facials and enzyme peels will). But there are also down-to-earth activities for athletic types: tennis, swimming, strength-training, racquetball and basketball—even boxercise classes. After all the body-mind work, you can dine on splendidly healthful cuisine at one of the guests-only restaurants before repairing to your spacious casita. With 150 beautifully landscaped acres, the resort is ideal for couples who want a fantasy getaway but don't want to feel they're just idling away their time.
FAIRMONT SCOTTSDALE PRINCESS
7575 E. Princess Dr.
At 450 acres this pink Mediterranean-style compound wins the size prize, but in this case quality does match quantity, which is why the resort receives plaudits from Condé Nast Traveler (which heaped praise on the amazing Willow Stream Spa) and other travel magazines. The main restaurants have all won prestigious awards too. All the 649 rooms are generously proportioned, but the casitas are probably larger than your first home. For honeymooners, the Fairmont offers a couples' celebration package whose options include a customized candlelight dinner for two and a lovers' hot-air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert. Back on land, you can divert yourself on the two championship golf courses, the five pools, the two water slides or the seven tennis courts.
FIRESKY RESORT & SPA
4925 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Fire, water, earth and air—the elements all come together at FireSky (get it?) to create a magical desert oasis right in the heart of downtown Scottsdale. From the lush garden courtyards to the interior's soft earth tones, enlivened by playful patterns, the entire place delights the eye. The outdoor areas are particularly appealing, especially the sandy beach pool and Mediterranean-inspired lagoon, and the torch-lit heated outdoor pool and hot tub that's surrounded by poolside cabanas and secluded fire pits. The treatments at the 3,056-square-foot Jurlique Spa will have you feeling like you’ve drifted into paradise; the relaxing mood continues in the resort’s 204 guest rooms, all of them decorated to inspire tranquility. Chose from views of the lagoons, desert flowers and cacti or that torch-lit pool.
HOTEL VALLEY HO
6850 E. Main St.
Bing, Bogie, Marilyn: If these are your style avatars, you'll feel right at home at this tongue-in-cheek mid-20th-century downtown classic, reinvented in the early 21st century for retro-desert-loving urbanites. Think ’50s-on-steroids, with vivid colors and decor—sliding-glass walls, terrazzo-tiled bathrooms—that'll have you thinking you're honeymooning on a movie set. For the ultimate blast from the past, there's a Trader Vic's restaurant right on site. Spa services include full-body massages and more exotic treatments like the Tibetan Yoginic massage. (Or just have a quickie: a 15-minute poolside sunscreen rubdown.) The hotel's numerous ballrooms, courtyards and palm-lined lawns are outstanding wedding settings, as is the skyline rooftop deck with scenic views of Camelback Mountain. The whole place is just too cool—and a whole lot of fun.
5000 E. Via Estancia Miraval
Life-changing experiences won't stop when you say "I do" should you honeymoon north of Tucson at this much-lauded luxury resort whose various practitioners seek to heal and stimulate body, mind and soul. The gym here is called the Body Mindfulness Center, which should clue you in to the philosophy that underlies the fantastic programs available. The resort promotes self-discovery through outdoor activities such as horseback riding, nature walks and wall climbing. Indoors (and sometimes outdoors), couples' massages promote togetherness through relaxation, and you can take things to more intimate levels at the couples' sexuality and vitality programs, led by intimacy experts Dr. Lana Holstein and Dr. David Taylor. Your priorities reordered, head off to your exquisitely appointed suite to put your newly honed passion to the test.
600 E. Camelback Rd.
It might be gigantic—with 647 rooms, nine pools, 27 holes of golf, one of the West's largest spas (22,000 square feet) and nine restaurants—but it's still a classic. The rooms are gigantic too: Even the smallest one is more than 600 square feet, and the largest suites are like Park Avenue apartments. (There's no couples' suite, but there are couples' massage lessons, so make sure one of you is taking notes.) For near-total seclusion choose the elegant Canyon Suites, a boutique resort within a resort with 60 guest rooms and suites. When you're ready for a romantic adventure, hop on a mountain bike or into a jeep and explore the rugged canyons and ridges nearby.
SANCTUARY ON CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN RESORT & SPA
5700 E. McDonald Dr.
Desert chic comes in many varieties—the Arizona Biltmore's classic style, the hip silliness of Hotel Valley Ho and the New Age luxury of Canyon Ranch. But with its understated elegance and fabulous restaurant (see Elements, in Eat), Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain easily ranks as one of the Phoenix-Scottsdale area's coolest retreats. Only for weddings does the place go over-the-top, with perks that include decadent half-day and full-day face and body treatments for both bride and groom at the hilltop Asian-inspired spa. The resort's rooms, suites and casitas are all done in earth tones, with beautiful art and furnishings, and they all have large windows, the better to catch the stunning sunsets over Camelback Mountain. A plus for some couples: There's no golf here.
TEMPE MISSION PALMS
60 E. 5th St.
If proximity to shopping, dining and entertainment are a must for you, you'll find all three will be at your doorstep at this resort off Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe. Sushi, Greek food, cheesesteaks and Chinese are all available within walking distance—or you can dine at the on-site contemporary-American restaurant, the Mission Grille. The hotel is also the right place for couples who like to get out and about; it’s minutes from Scottsdale, footsteps from the Arizona State University campus and near major highways. The rooms have Southwestern decor and furnishings, and the grounds here are pleasantly arranged, if not as deluxe as major resorts. But you'll be able to relax in style and at lower rates.
WESTIN KIERLAND RESORT & SPA
6902 E. Greenway Parkway
Come to relax, come to shop and definitely come prepared to play: Enjoy a game of tennis on the lighted outdoor courts, swoop down a 110-foot-long waterslide or play a round of golf. (With its Kierland Golf Experience—27 holes of championship golf, golf instruction by seasoned pros, on-site golf equipment fitting and the latest in golf technology—the Westin is a super choice for golfing couples.) All the 732 rooms have upscale yet casual furnishings and all have terraces or balconies; the larger suites are downright sumptuous. With imaginative restaurants like Deseo, whose award-winning chef, Douglas Rodriguez, prepares Latin-influenced cuisine, this is a place you could settle into for a few days before exploring the area.
Hot Air Expeditions
2243 E. Rose Garden Loop
A few local operators will take you up, up and away, but the best is Hot Air Expeditions, whose sunset flights are followed by champagne and hors d'oeuvres prepared by Vincent Guerithault (see Camelback Farmer's Market, below). If it's your first time in a balloon, you'll also receive a Certificate d'Ascension En Machine Aerostatique you can hang next to your wedding announcement. The desert views while you're aloft are stupendous—don't forget to snap a picture of you and honey smooching in the sky. Unlike some balloon trips, these are fairly low to the ground—generally about 400 feet up—so you'll see plenty of desert life too. Try to keep your eyes off each other long enough to spot jackrabbits, roadrunners, coyotes and other critters.
BASEBALL AT BOB
401 E. Jefferson St.
Even if you and your mate aren't crazy about sports, the cleverly designed home of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team rates a look. Known as Chase Field, the former Bank One Ballpark (hence the nickname BOB) was completed in 1998, has a nine-million-pound retractable roof and natural turf (mostly Bull's Eye Bermuda grass). The roof is designed to let the sun shine on the turf—even on hot summer game days—but minimize sunlight on the concrete and metal; this strategy keeps the grass green yet allows the stadium crew to air-condition the park quickly.
CAMELBACK FARMERS’ MARKET
3930 E. Camelback Rd.
Talk about workaholics: As if having one of Phoenix's finest restaurants (see Vincent on Camelback, in Eat) and supplying balloon expeditions with hors d'oeuvres (see above) weren't enough, superstar chef Vincent Guerithault also runs an upscale farmers’ market on Saturdays in the parking lot behind his eatery. You'll find fresh produce, but since it's your honeymoon let's hope you haven't got kitchen duty. So why come? It's a convivial affair, and there are plenty of foods you can eat right there, including omelets and crepes made to order by chef Vincent, along with his signature panini sandwiches, a slew of crusty breads and homemade butter croissants (to die for) and jams. Vincent also sells imported cheeses and French wines by the bottle or the glass.
2301 N. Central Ave.
The museum started in 1929 by Dwight Heard, the publisher of the Arizona Republican newspaper, and his wife, Maie, has long since outgrown the Spanish colonial-revival structure they built to house their collection of Southwestern art, but it remains one of the state's most intimate places to view Native American art, pottery, jewelry and textiles. The extraordinary exhibit "Home: Native People in the Southwest" will give you a feel for Native American traditions, and with authentic, high-quality goods purchased directly from native artists, the gift shop is a worthy destination itself. The museum, which has satellite locations in North Scottsdale and Surprise, hosts the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market, the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest and other engaging cultural events.
JAPANESE FRIENDSHIP GARDEN
1125 N. 3rd Ave.
Tranquility reigns at this delicate 3.5-acre Japanese garden in downtown Phoenix, whose highlights include its 12-foot-high waterfall and 50 plant varieties. Built in partnership with Phoenix’s sister city, Himeji, Japan, the garden makes for an enchanting, even romantic interlude as you amble across stone footbridges and discover hundreds of colorful fish swimming in the koi pond. Himeji landscape architects, who made more than 60 trips to Phoenix to work on the project, visited Arizona quarries and handpicked the more than 1,500 tons of rocks that decorate the paths and flower beds. Bring a blanket and escape from reality, if only for an hour.
RAWHIDE AT WILD HORSE PASS
5700 W. North Loop Rd.
When you're ready to cut loose, stuff your face and have a rollicking good time, head on over to the Rawhide. Arizona's largest Western-themed attraction, it's billed as an authentic frontier town. Well, sort of—did the 19th-century wild, wild West really have electric-powered mechanical bulls? For a little humiliation you can ride the one here or pose for Ma and Pa Old West photos for your fireplace mantle. About a dozen stores sell gifts, tchotchkes and art (some of the latter touristy, and some not). When you work up an appetite, head to the Rawhide Steakhouse & Saloon for live entertainment and a hearty Western meal.
SALT RIVER TUBING
Tonto National Forest
15 miles north of U.S. 60
Few warm-weather outings are more romantic than floating down the Salt River on inner tubes. It's just you, your honey and magical views of mountain formations jutting out of the desert floor and wild horses lapping up water near the shore. When you get hungry, you can slip on shore, have yourself a picnic and then jump back into the flowing river as you please. Buses shuttle passengers back to the starting point frequently, so you don't have to feel like you're on a tight schedule. Just make sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen. The desert heat may be dry, but it will burn you to bits if you’re not careful.
SCOTTSDALE CULINARY FESTIVAL
More than 40,000 food lovers flock to Scottsdale every April for this nearly weeklong extravaganza. There's swell cuisine at all the venues, but if you're a real foodie, or aspire to be one, score a ticket to one of the semi-exclusive events like the Friends of James Beard Benefit dinner, for which top chefs prepare multicourse dinners, pairing each course with superlative wines. A youngish crowd dresses to impress at the Eat, Drink and Be Pretty Party and drinks (almost) to excess at the On the Rocks cocktail parties at swinging Hotel Valley Ho and the Suede Lounge. The festival benefits numerous arts and arts education programs throughout Arizona and provides scholarships for students enrolled at culinary institutes.
SCOTTSDALE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART (SMoCA)
7374 E. 2nd St.
The award-winning architect Will Bruder, also responsible for Phoenix's splashy Burton Barr Central Library, redesigned a former movie theater into the five-gallery SMoCA facility. Opened in 1999, it bills itself as Arizona's only museum "devoted to the art, architecture and design of our time." SMoCA mounts several temporary exhibits, and the permanent collection is growing steadily. Outdoors in the courtyard, the centerpiece is James Turrell's atmospheric installation, Knight Rise Skyspace. The optical illusion created by the open hole in the ceiling makes the changes in the sky seem close up; at sunset the mood and colors can be enchanting indeed. The museum shop, a delightful stop, carries inspired gifts, books, jewelry and other items from around the world.
12621 Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd.
This architectural mecca—the winter home of the influential architect Frank Lloyd Wright until he died in 1959—has become all the more irresistible now that visitors can view the private living quarters of Wright and his wife, Olgivanna. The buildings and landscaping of this nearly 600-acre complex are arranged so that form and color, beauty and grace, nature and science are blended to exist in perfect harmony. Designed and built by Wright himself—he and his apprentices gathered rocks from the desert floor and sand from the washes to build Taliesin West—the complex is also the winter campus for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.
BILTMORE FASHION PARK
2502 E. Camelback Rd.
If you’re staying at the Biltmore Resort, this fashion mecca is just a short hop away, but even if you're not, head over to Biltmore Fashion Park anyway: A world-class shopping experience awaits. Upscale staples like Cartier, Ralph Lauren and Saks Fifth Avenue are here, along with Macy's, Borders and other chains. When you need to relax—your feet or your credit cards—you can sit amid lush gardens and dazzling fountains.
BORGATA OF SCOTTSDALE
6166 N. Scottsdale Rd.
If you yearned for a Tuscan honeymoon but somehow landed in Arizona, set sail for Borgata of Scottsdale for a glimpse of what you missed. Cobbled walkways and stone turrets surround gurgling fountains at this replica of the 14th-century village of San Gimignano that—not unlike the original, come to think of it—doubles as an open-air mall. The selections at James Elliot and other jewelry shops will leave you speechless, and Pink Paradise, a Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store, will supply you with resortwear and other exclusive finery. If you're planning to start a family (or add to one) soon, check out Twig & Twill's organic cotton garments for infants—and women with child and without. On Fridays from October through April, the mall hosts concerts.
34505 N. Scottsdale Rd.
Surrounded by the colors of the Sonoran Desert and in the shadows of historic boulders and rock formations, the Moroccan-style El Pedregal mall provides sensory pleasures you won't find at other shopping locales. Stroll through the courtyard or relax in El Pedregal’s full-service salon after you browse the upscale shops—don't miss the sumptuous handbags at Stefan Mann or the too-cute outfits at Caribbean Kids. For lunch you can zip over to the Boulders Resort or go Southwestern-Mexican casual at the convivial Spotted Donkey Cantina. With any luck one of the concerts or other charity or cultural events presented at the 1,200-square-foot courtyard stage will be taking place.
SCOTTSDALE FASHION SQUARE
Camelback Road and Scottsdale Road
If you're a shop-till-you-drop kinda gal—or just have to preview every option before you buy something—Fashion Square may be just the ticket for you. With more than 200 shops to browse through, you’re sure to leave no consumer stone unturned, especially not with Neiman Marcus as part of the mix. The mall is in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, not far from the Fifth Avenue Shops, and though it's more commercial than the other destinations mentioned, with its awesome eats, entertainment and decor, it's still far from a cookie-cutter mall. High-fashion shops like Louis Vuitton and Coach are peppered among traditional favorites. When you spot See’s Candies, drop in for some excellent chocolate.
FIFTH AVENUE SHOPS
5th Avenue and Scottsdale Road
Whether you’re looking to pick up a fine-art painting for your bedroom or a shiny diamond for your finger, the Fifth Avenue Shops in downtown Scottsdale, at the foot of Camelback Mountain, provide street after street of options. Locals and tourists can't get enough of this hip spot, and the free trolley service, the bicycle taxis and the shaded sidewalks make it easy to navigate the historic district's many galleries, shops, restaurants and clubs. Two shops worth seeking out for their jewelry are Superstition Mountain Trading Post (7158 E. 5th Ave.; 480-425-0777) and Gilbert Ortega Gallery (7155 E. 5th Ave.; 480-941-9281).
Greenway Parkway and Scottsdale Road
A magnificent park with benches, fountains, lush landscaping and well-placed mini gardens is just one of the elements that lends Kierland Commons its upscale Main Street feel. This is a place you'll come to for the shopping but stay for the comforting, vaguely nostalgic atmosphere. The shops here—among them Coach, White House/Black Market, Tommy Bahama and Lucky Brand Dungarees—are located on manicured streets in multistory buildings that also house a dozen or so cafes and restaurants.
MILL AVENUE SHOPPING
If your wanderings bring you near Tempe, be sure to stop by Mill Avenue. The heart of this college town near Phoenix, Mill Avenue lights up at night with an eclectic mix of fab-to-funky shops and clubs. Street fairs, festivals and concerts often take place on this historic street. American Apparel, Urban Outfitters and other retail chains mix with small bookstores and boutiques, drawing a diverse group of shoppers. Stop at the Bamboo Club for superlative city views and some fine grub before catching an indie movie at the historic Harkins Valley Art Theatre or strolling the shores of Tempe Town Lake. The intersection of Mill Avenue and University Drive is a good place to start your exploration of this lively area.
15816 N. Greenway-Hayden Loop, Suite 300
If you dream of sleeping on pillows made from vegan silk or using stemware made from postindustrial recycled glass, then you'll want to make an expedition into Natural Territory. The green-living shop has made home decor nature-friendly with products like bedding manufactured using organic cotton and natural dyes. The store even sells nontoxic paint. All around you’ll find posters and pamphlets describing the origins of the products used and explaining why they are environmentally sensitive. In some cases you'll learn more than you need to know, but it certainly will make you feel better if you end up splurging in here.
Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts
7380 E. 2nd St.
This playful little shop in the atrium of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is a hidden gem stocked with books, jewelry, home decor items from around the world, whimsical artwork and novelties, and loads of music-related merchandise. If you’re buying souvenirs for little ones, the books, puppets and toys here are a cut above what you might find at Target or other generic vendors. All purchases support the performing-arts center.