There were few buildings in downtown Scottsdale, Arizona, when the Little Red Schoolhouse was built in 1909. By the 1930s, a blacksmith shop, bank, and a pool hall that doubled as silent movie theater were among the buildings that had sprung up as the city that served the agricultural community experienced a boom. Today many of the old buildings still stand in Old Town Scottsdale but now serve tourists.
Shops, museums, eateries and an old mission church fill the area that still bears an Old West atmosphere. The Old Town Scottsdale walking tour is a fun way to learn the history of the area and at the same time, shop check out southwestern art, and enjoy a drink or an ice cream treat.
Where to begin the Old Town Scottsdale Walking Tour
The tour begins at the Little Red Schoolhouse, which is now the Scottsdale Historical Museum. Admission is free, and it doesn’t take long to go through it. Through dioramas, photographs and other exhibits you get a sense of the city’s history.
You can also ring the old school bell.
Be sure to pick up an Old Town Scottsdale Walking Tour guide from the museum.
I’m usually a stickler for doing things in order, but I wanted to jump from the history museum (#1 on the tour) to the Mission Church (#8 0n the tour) since it would be closing in a little while. The adobe church, built in 1933, was the first church in Scottsdale. The parish built a larger church in the mid-1950s, and the original church was used for other activities. The Mission Church was renovated in 2005, including new handmade adobe bricks, because of its historical value.
Whether you’re looking for inexpensive souvenirs or upscale art, Old Town Scottsdale is the place to look for it. The shops that you’ll fine on the walking tour guide are in historically significant buildings. The Mexican Import Shop was the pool hall that opened in 1923. Six years later it became a Chinese restaurant.
The blacksmith shop is still a blacksmith shop by the original family. Today they still offer conventional blacksmith functions, but they also make ornamental wrought iron items.
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Bischoff’s Shades of the West is housed in what was the first business in downtown Scottsdale, a general store and post office. It became the first arts and crafts center in the Valley in 1940. It is still a Southwest art shop, selling everything from dinnerware and lamps to sculptures and whimsical objects.
The first regular post office after the one in the corner of the general store is home today to a jewelry and gift shop.
You’ll also find several clothing stores in Old Town Scottsdale, some of which are part the walking tour.
Food and Beverages
There are lots of restaurant and pub options in Old Town Scottsdale, including some on the walking tour. The Rusty Spur Saloon, in the building that was originally the Farmer’s State Bank, is a fun western-themed bar.
The Sugar Bowl, still owned by the family that started it in 1958, is a popular ice cream shop and café that serves diner type food.
Without having the walking tour guide in hand, you wouldn’t know that the trees down the center of Second Street are olive trees planted by Scottsdale’s founder, Chaplain Winfield Scott, in 1896.
Street art isn’t part of the walking tour, but it adds to the experience.
Founders of Scottsdale
If you take the Old Town Scottsdale walking tour
There are 15 stops on the Old Town Scottsdale walking tour. Some are museums, including the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. If you plan to visit the museums, check their hours and adjust your walking tour itinerary accordingly.
The Little Red Schoolhouse, the start of the tour, is located at 7333 E. Scottsdale Mall. Check the website for hours. Besides picking up a guide at the schoolhouse, you can print one here.
Accommodations in Scottsdale: Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.
Disclosure: This article contains an affiliate link, which means that if you book a room through this link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
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