The sleek, 21st-century wood-and-steel building is an early indication that Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is not a campy cowboy attraction. Its premiere seasonal exhibit traces the Lewis & Clark Expedition through an extensive series of dramatic, deeply researched oil paintings by Charles Fritz. Galleries farther within contain collections of American Western art depicting people and places; glass cases of chaps, watch fobs, spurs and cuffs; portraits of American Indians, explorers, horses and bison; and instruments of trailblazing and conflict resolution.
SMoW does offer a few kitschy touches—paid admission is indicated by a sheriff-badge sticker, and suspended wagon wheels lead the way to the first gallery. But if what you’re really looking for is a village full of actors in dusters and spurs starting gunfights, head to:
•Rawhide Wild West Town in Chandler
•Goldfield Ghost Town in Apache Junction
•The infamous city of Tombstone southeast of Tucson
Break out the bolo tie for an elegant “tamed West” dinner, or come as you are—in jeans, a rumpled shirt, whatever—to grab grub at a checkered-tablecloth establishment.
On the upscale side:
•Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House pairs proteins with chiles, braised leeks and roasted corn in a genteel setting on the northern edge of Phoenix civilization.
•The Stockyards celebrates Phoenix’s cattle-raising history by dressing steaks with a bold whiskey-peppercorn sauce and displaying framed, sepia-toned photos of bygone herds.
Casual and family-friendly:
•Rustler’s Rooste, on the side South Mountain has city views, a real bullpen (population: 1), a tin slide as an option to reach the dining room, and a decent children’s menu.
•Rawhide Steakhouse straps on the ol’ feedbag while providing live banjo and fiddle music; dancing is not just tolerated, it’s encouraged.
•Pinnacle Peak Patio is a lone bastion of cowpoke charisma in North Scottsdale; legendary neighbors Reata Pass and Greasewood Flat have memorably shuttered in the name of valuable land development.
The romance of broad skies and open spaces can be lassoed into one’s living room by consulting key art galleries and furniture salons.
•The Legacy Gallery represents mountain men, cowboy-booted characters and rowdy horses in paintings by William Ahrendt, Nelson Boren, C. Michael Dudash and others.
•Trailside Galleries exhibits equine statuary by Bill Nebeker and Fred Fellows and barn portraits by Jeremy Browne and George Strickland.
•Amery Bohling Fine Art showcases photorealistic paintings of the Grand Canyon and its various four-legged tourguides.
•Look to Valerie’s Furniture & Accents for stitched and fringed pillows, Indian-motif textiles, and substantial tables and chairs of iron, copper, and weathered or woven wood.
•For leather seating of guaranteed-Western provenance, buy from Buffalo Collection, which sources upholstery from a specific buffalo ranch in Hotchkiss, Colo.
•Poke around inside Big Bronco for smooth wood or suede furniture—or perfectly rusted farm tools and pantry relics.
The Root of it All: Cowboy Boots
To walk the walk of a cowboy, follow the trail of dust to ... boots that can handle anything. You could go to a local Sheplers (headquarters: Wichita) or Cowtown (headquarters: El Paso) store for a serviceable pair of working or dancing boots. But for lower-leg accessories with express Arizona heritage, check out:
•Ornamental, fashion-forward boots at JGilbert Modern Cowboy, whose Tucson-dwelling namesake is an experienced designer (and a fan of Tres Outlaws and Lucchese).
•The expansive selection at Saba’s, a business that launched in Arizona in 1927 and has eight locations statewide.