Scottsdale is home to some impressive public art, a large deal of it near the Civic Center and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. An early-evening self-guided tour is the perfect way to get to know your date (like whether she's ever been inside a museum).
Start with Knight Rise, one of only three sky spaces by the famed artist James Turrell open to the public in the United States. The space is breathtaking at sunset, when you can sit inside the sky chamber and watch the light change through the skylight at the top. It's quiet and a good place to actually get to know the person you're with.
After that, where you move to depends on your taste. There are more than 20 works of art throughout the Civic Center area to look for. We're partial to Robert Indiana's famous Love sculpture and the Hummingbird Sanctuary Garden a few blocks south.
Scottsdale's public art Web site gives a detailed description of each piece available along the tour so you can choose to plan your route, or just wander around and see what you find.
Afterwards, there are plenty of places nearby to feed your date. We like AZ88 and Orange Table, both located just a short hand-holding walk from the museum.
This is not to say that there are no creature comforts. The winter home of the Oakland Athletics has everything a true baseball nut requires: warm sun, cold beer, a perfectly groomed field, and cozy environs with not a bad seat in the house. If you like the real thing, go Muni.
Finally, with the Fiesta Bowl's departure to Glendale's new University of Phoenix Stadium in early '07, the Insight got a real home of its own. And, man, did it make the most of it. In its first year at Sun Devil, the Insight hosted the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Minnesota Golden Gophers in what looked to be a just-okay matchup. Uh, nuh uh. The Gophers led 38-7 in the third quarter when the boys from West Texas kicked it into overdrive and cranked out the biggest comeback in NCAA Division-I postseason history with a 44-41 win.
As delightful as the game was, we old-schoolers took even more satisfaction knowing that the Fiesta's now ensconced in Bill Bidwill's $200 zillion pinball machine and the Insight's in an honest-to-gosh open-air college-football stadium, with all the tradition and rah-rah (and ready access to Mill Avenue's bars) that entails.
Here's a guy who runs about 40 miles a night on the basketball court as he enters his mid-30s, all the while shucking and jiving with the ball, passing to this teammate and that. Making the art of basketball assists look like child's play. Never has anybody who looked so un-athletic been so, well, athletic! Experts say boxers are the greatest athletes, but the way Steve Nash handles the basketball, the way he cuts through defenders is truly phenomenal.
The Suns didn't win the championship last year, but it wasn't because of Nash. He did everything in his power to push his team ahead, even getting pushed gang-style by the Spurs' Robert Horry into the scorer's table in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. That turned out to be the cheap shot heard around the world. Two Suns, Amaré Stoudemire and Boris Diaw, were suspended for the next game which would have been a momentum contest under normal circumstances and the Suns ended up losing the series. See, Stat and Three-D made a move toward the melee, which warrants an automatic one-game suspension under NBA rules. But we digress. Little Stevie jumped up from the floor after Horry's cowardly push and tried to go after the 6-foot-11 thug.
Thing is, Nash's so athletic that we'd like to see him in the boxing ring someday, and we're pretty sure that if the referee hadn't gotten in the way, and Stoudemire and Diaw hadn't made their advances, our hero would've leapt into the air and landed one on Big Shot Rob's sneering kisser. With his foot! Did we mention that Nash's even better at soccer than hoops?