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The Mild, Wild West

Arizona is a US state famous for its National Parks and the Grand Canyon, but after a visit, I'd also add that it's somewhere to immerse yourself in Native American culture.

Arizona is a US state famous for its National Parks and the Grand Canyon, but after a visit, I’d also add that it’s somewhere to immerse yourself in American Indian culture.

An Oasis In The Desert

Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass offers so much more than the often-generic hotel experience. Located 18km from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport on the Gila River Indian Community, this unique resort features culturally-themed guest rooms reflecting the traditions of the Pima and Maricopa people. The unique artwork and décor throughout the hotel pay homage to the local American Indian people.

Interior of the lobby at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass with decorative ceiling
The unique artwork and décor of the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass immerses you in local history and culture.

Wandering around the resort is a delight, with wildlife in abundance. Hummingbirds dance on the spot as they extract nectar from flowers, chipmunks play hide and seek and colourful lizards bask in the warmth of the Arizona sunshine.

For guests looking to rejuvenate, a visit to the Aji Spa for a Native-inspired treatment is a must. After the spa, let the relaxation continue with a cocktail or light lunch by the pool. A pool hoist is provided for guests with access needs.

Starting the morning with a walk or wheel along The Wild Horse Pass Interpretive Trail is popular with hotel guests. Winding its way throughout the unique Arizona fauna, this level trail is dotted with interpretive signage which gives an insight into the lives of the Pima and Maricopa people. The pathway is a mixture of concrete and compacted gravel.

Stylish and spacious accessible rooms are well-equipped for guests with a mobility restriction, with large bathrooms that include a shower bench and hand-held shower. The comfy beds, with room underneath for a hoist, ensure a good night’s sleep, and plenty of space on either side of the bed makes transferring from a wheelchair easy.

During my stay at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, I didn’t spy the wild horses that still roam free, but I did saddle up for a ride with the nearby Koli Equestrian Center. Watching the sun set from horseback was the perfect finale to my time at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass. Koli Equestrian Center also offers family-friendly hay wagon rides, if that’s more your style.

A photo taken from horseback, with two other riders in front, along a compacted gravel trail in the desert
Horsback is the best vantage point for beautiful Arizona sunsets.

Desert Roaming

Old Town Scottsdale is a 15-minute drive from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. It’s a town filled with vibrant restaurants, bars, boutique shopping, and galleries. But still, the charm of the precinct’s Old West vibe makes it feel entirely possible that someone may gallop down the main street on a horse and hitch it up out the front of a store.

Booking a JoyRidesAZ Scottsdale Tour was an ideal way to learn about the history of the town, while getting local insights from my guide, Monica. There is a tour to suit every taste, from the Native American Culture and Art Tour to the Instagram and Murals Tour. For visitors short on time, or with a mobility restriction, the electric vehicle tour is an efficient way to see many of the town’s highlights.

A group of people in an electric buggy touring Old Town Scottsdale
An electric vehicle tour is the perfect way to experience Old Town Scottsdale for people with limited mobility.

Within easy walking or wheeling distance of Old Town Scottsdale is Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West – located in Scottsdale’s arts district. The museum houses an impressive collection of art, culture and history, and unique stories about the American West. Exhibitions throughout provide an in-depth look at Native Indian history of the 19 states of the American West, Western Canada, and Mexico. The museum is accessible, with lift access provided throughout.

Desert Dining & Shopping

When you’re ready for a bite to eat, slide into a pink booth and take a step back in time at Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant. The popular diner is a pink beacon in Old Town Scottsdale, popular for its retro milkshakes, old fashioned sundaes, and 1960s sense of place. I opted for the finger sandwiches (which, for the record, come in triangles) and a strawberry milkshake. I felt like Sandy from the movie Grease, waiting for the Pink Ladies to arrive.

Exterior of the Sugar Bowl, a bright pink building with bunting
Fuel up for more Arizonan adventures at the Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant.

There’s no better store to visit than the Native Art Market in Old Town Scottsdale if you need souvenirs and gifts to take home. The market is Indigenous owned and operated, and supports Native Indian artists. Being a keen shopper who likes to support businesses established for good, this was where I spent my tourist dollars. I came away with many beautiful and unique gifts for my family – and a few for myself, too.

The Phoenix Premium Outlets are temptingly close to Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass (five minutes in an Uber), and I took full advantage of the incredible savings on items from the various stores and major brands. The outlet mall is level, and offers good accessibility throughout.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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