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Out of Office: Five Great Cultural Experiences In & Around Scottsdale


Lori Smith, Editor, Meetings + Incentive Travel MagazineOne of the pleasures of participating in this spring’s Scottsdale Sunsational FAM (see article in M+IT June 2014) was my discovery of the rich cultural offerings the Arizona city offers visitors, be they leisure travelers or conference attendees. There’s a lot more to Scottsdale than sun, cowboys and golf.

During my visit to Scottsdale, both during the FAM and in the extra days I spent in the town post-FAM, I visited a number of great venues that delivered unique cultural experiences as well as wonderful event spaces. Here are five of my favourites.

1. Architectural tour of Hotel Valley Ho with Ace Bailey, president of Ultimate Art and Cultural Tours: Lifelong Scottsdale resident Ace Bailey was my guide for a unique tour of the Hotel Valley Ho, one of the best preserved mid-century modern hotels in the United States. Ace shared her views on the culture and history of Scottsdale (She is not a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, for example) as we walked through the building, which was designed by Edward L. Varney. Opened in 1956, it served as a hideaway for Hollywood stars like Bing Crosby, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood. Today, it’s just as cool and happening as it was in ’57.  (Events: boardrooms, meeting rooms and a great rooftop space.)

2. Musical Instrument Museum (MIM): The world’s only musical instrument museum has more than 360 exhibits featuring instruments from every country and territory in the world. State-of-the-art technology including wireless headsets and high definition video monitors incorporated into the exhibits lets visitors have a unique musical experience. Taking off my headset after touring the exhibit halls, I caught the last few minutes of an impromptu performance by a young musician playing the baby grand piano in the lobby. Magic. (Event space: 40,000 square feet, interior and exterior.)

3. Butterfly Wonderland: Opened in 2013, Butterfly Wonderland is one of Scottsdale’s newest attractions. Located at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, is has the largest butterfly pavilion in the United States. A visit starts with a viewing of the 3-D feature film, “Flight of the Butterflies.”  Next, you step into the Butterfly Emergence Gallery, where you see emergence from the chrysalis. Then you enter the lush rainforest atrium where thousands of butterflies flutter around you, landing softly on flowering plants and visitors. (Available for group tours, private and corporate events.)

4. Heard Museum, Phoenix: This internationally-acclaimed museum explains and explores the many cultures and art of Native Americans in the Southwest. It has 10 exhibit galleries and outdoor courtyards featuring traditional and contemporary Native American art. (Event space: meeting rooms as well as outdoor event spaces are available.)

5. Taliesin West: Whether you love or loath Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, his home-workshop-school in the foothills of Scottsdale is unique. Wright started building the property in 1937 having purchased the land for $12.50 an acre. He added a building each winter until his death in 1957. Featuring compression/expansion design he was famous for, the property also showcases his fascination with Asian Art. It is now the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The property is available for private events.

Lori Smith is editor of Meetings + Incentive Travel magazine and She has the great fortune of being able turn on her out of office, visit some remarkable places and call it work. Contact her at

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