Bad Yogi City Guide: Scottsdale, Arizona
Sometimes, it’s hard for me to admit that I’m from Scottsdale. The second the word is out of my mouth, people think of golf courses, gated communities and Botox. But hey, there’s more to my city. I live in the southern part of Scottsdale, where you can actually walk places and find local businesses. If you want to see Scottsdale that way I do, here’s where you need to go.
Find Your Yoga in South Scottsdale
Just after I moved to south Scottsdale, Hot Yoga University opened up near me. I’d taken other hot yoga classes, but HYU proved a winner: It’s not only close to my house, but it’s inexpensive and very welcoming. They offer non-heated classes and HIIT classes in addition to cardio flow (my favorite) and vinyasa classes. There’s also a yoga nidra class that succeeded at getting even me to slow down.
Before I started doing hot yoga, I spent most of my mat time at Metta Yoga, which is just a wee bit across the border into Phoenix. I found it unpretentious and friendly, with instructors who dish out helpful advice. These days, Metta has a new home — and they’re offering aerial yoga and kundalini, if you need something a bit different. I always found their restorative classes a nice change of pace when my body was feeling a bit trashed.
Real Scottsdale Flavors
When I have out-of-town visitors, I take them to the Pig & Pickle for dinner. Here’s the best compliment I can give them: I’ll eat things at the P&P that I wouldn’t eat anywhere else, like blue cheese and crispy trout skin. The rotating menu uses as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. The chefs put a creative spin on traditional dishes, and the beer and cocktail menu is beyond impressive.
For lunch, you’ll do well at Inner Circle Cafe. The owner is a long-distance runner who has an excellent eye for melding nutrition and taste. My favorites there are the avocado tuna salad and the coconut chia pudding.
I’m also a huge espresso fan — to the point where I’ll give the stinkeye to any coffee shop that has more than one size of cappuccino. That’s what usually leads me to Cartel in Old Town Scottsdale. I’ll brave the hectic parking because they consistently do excellent espresso drinks.
Finally, here’s something for you beer people: Goldwater Brewing Company is great with every style that I enjoy, from barleywines to stouts to IPAs (sorry, you’ll have to ask someone else about blonde ales or lagers). If you’re there on a Friday or Saturday, get out of the main tap room, walk down the stairs and sample the barrel-aged rarities in the GoldMine; be sure to ask about the history of the building if you want an interesting story.
If you fly into Sky Harbor International Airport, you’ll notice a sizeable swath of desert dotted by sandstone formations. That’s Papago Park, which connects Scottsdale and the neighboring cities of Phoenix and Tempe. I’ve past countless hours mountain biking there, and it’s a nice place for a quick hike or trail run. Papago Park is also a choice spot for photo shoots. You might also see wildlife like coyotes, chuckwallas and roadrunners.
Scottsdale also has an extensive canal system that’s perfect for runner and cyclists. The entire Phoenix area has more miles of canals than Venice or Amsterdam, but city leaders are just realizing that we can use them as recreational assets. I expect more amenities to sprout along the canals in the coming years.
How to Get Around
No car? No problem! If you stay in South Scottsdale, you can rely on a handy trolley system to help you get around. The city is also full of bicycle and scooter share options. It’s nearly impossible to track the number of different companies out there. But at this point, it’s impossible to walk a few minutes without finding a bike or electric scooter waiting for you. Just download the app of whichever you find and get started. Of course, there are also standard rideshare options.
Overlooked Day Trips
If you’re all Scottsdaled out and want to see what else is around, I recommend a visit to Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Ordinarily, I don’t care about looking at plants. But the high desert scenery is spectacular. It’s worth driving about 60 miles from the metro Phoenix to check it out.
And here’s a tip that’s way under the radar: SP Crater near Flagstaff. This is a serious adventure that includes some offroad driving. Your reward will be the chance to hike up an extinct cinder cone and peer into its crater. You’ll also get views of a 5-mile-long lava flow, the Painted Desert and the towering San Francisco Peaks.
Random and Awesome
Scottsdale isn’t quite as off-beat as some cities. But it’s possible to find oddball interests if you know where to look.
Exhibit A: The Phoenix area is home to one of the biggest curling clubs in the US. That’s right — curling, that weird sport everyone watches in the Olympics every four years. The Coyotes Curling Club has leagues for everyone, in addition to its own on-site bar (a must, if you ask any longtime curler). The club also has Learn to Curl sessions that are worth a visit, even though the club is in Tempe, which is right next to Scottsdale. Good news: The balance, flexibility and body awareness you learn in yoga translates well into curling.
Exhibit B is lightsaber dueling. The big news in Star Wars fandom is that France has recognized lightsaber fighting as a legitimate sport. Well, you don’t have to go overseas to try it: Scottsdale is also home to Syndicate Saber United — a group of Star Wars fans that trains with LED-powered sabers. They duel and they perform choreographed shows. Everyone is welcome at their Wednesday, Friday and Saturday training sessions at El Dorado Park.