Are you staying at Scottsdale for a day or two, and wondering what to do while you are here? If yes, this list will cover all things to do in Scottsdale during your short or long stay.
Measuring only 11 miles wide and 31 miles long, Scottsdale is a small town described by the New York Times as the ‘desert version of Miami’s South Beach.’
Although tiny, the town is home to a ton of tourist attractions, shopping malls, and parks.
While Arizona is commonly associated with warm weather, it shouldn’t be limited to summer activities only. From visiting breweries to enjoying your time at award-winning spas, there are many things to do in Scottsdale AZ.
In this guide, you’ll find all the best things to do in Scottsdale, whether you’re in town for just a day or a longer stay.
Table of Contents
- Fun Things to Do in Scottsdale
- 1. Taliesin West
- 2. Musical Instrument Museum
- 3. Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
- 4. Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale
- 5. Octane Raceway
- 6. OdySea Mirror Maze
- 7. OdySea Aquarium
- 8. Scottsdale Historical Museum
- 9. Butterfly Wonderland
- 10. Golf Courses
- 11. McCormick Stillman Railroad Park
- 12. Desert Splash Adventures
- 13. Penske Racing Museum
- 14. CrackerJax Family Fun and Sports Park
- 15. Arizona Cowboy College
- Old Town Scottsdale Things to Do Nearby
- 16. Rusty Spur Saloon
- 17. Scottsdale Wine Trail
- 18. Arizona Taco Festival
- 19. Historic Old Town Walking Tour
- 20. Public Art Walking Tour
- 21. Scottsdale Fashion Square
- 22. Old Town Farmers Market
- Free Things to Do in Scottsdale
- 23. Desert Botanical Garden
- 24. Scottsdale ArtWalk
- 25. Pinnacle Peak Park
- 26. McDowell Sonoran Preserve
- 27. Camelback Mountain
- 28. Arizona Boardwalk (Free Events)
- Fun Things to Do in Scottsdale at Night
- 29. Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor
- 30. The Sonoran Desert in the Moonlight
- 31. Watch a Live Performance at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
- 32. Wonderspaces Arizona
- Where to Stay While Visiting Scottsdale
Fun Things to Do in Scottsdale
Scottsdale AZ has a lot to do for everyone, from the tourists who like to be pampered in cozy hotels and luxury eateries to backpackers who’re all for hiking trails and nature parks.
Here are some of the best things to do in Scottsdale.
1. Taliesin West
If you’re into architecture, you must visit Taliesin West, where the famous architect Frank Lloyd stayed during winters. Today, it serves as the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s headquarters.
For decades, the students here have transitioned from north in summers to south in winters. You can learn a lot about the architect’s genius insight from the campus as the buildings have been restored to keep the former feel and appearance.
If you want to see the house, it’s mandatory to take the tour. However, you wouldn’t regret spending an afternoon on this since the tour guides are extremely passionate about providing interesting details.
Since it’s the winter campus for students, you’ll see many architecture students on their drafting tables during the winter.
Students are required to create a dwelling for themselves in the desert for the winter semester, and that’s an interesting sight in itself.
2. Musical Instrument Museum
If your musical interests are more pronounced than singing in the shower, you will fancy visiting the Musical Instrument Museum. It’s the largest musical museum in the world, with a collection of nearly 13,500 items.
That’s an insane number of musical items to see, and you’ll likely be exhausted at the end of the visit. So, make sure to get a deal on your hotel stays for the night on Kayak.
The museum is fascinating, to say the least, and your music-loving heart will explode with joy at the sight of some things, like the piano used by John Lennon to compose ‘Imagine’ or features of Elvis Presley, Taylor Swift, and other musicians.
The instruments and music styles in the museum are divided by country, making it easier for you to browse through the display. Plus, you can go to the Experience Gallery and get a hands-on demonstration.
Meanwhile, the Artist Gallery showcases all your favorite musicians. To refuel, walk to the Allegro Cafe and sit on the patio to enjoy lunch exclusively containing ingredients grown in Arizona.
The museum also holds concerts and other events. If you want to catch them, check the calendar on the museum’s website before visiting.
3. Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
The Mexican culture is not only limited to the restaurants in Scottsdale, Arizona. If you want to learn more about the western states, head to the Scottsdale Museum of the West.
The museum contains informational exhibits of 19 states in the west, some Mexican states, and a couple of Canadian provinces. On the inside, two floors are occupied by art memorabilia and interesting displays showing western culture.
Most tourists visit the acclaimed cowboy movie posters and Hopi pottery.
If you’re more inclined towards sculptures, there’s an assortment of them in the museum’s central courtyard, making it one of the most fun things to do indoors in Scottsdale.
4. Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale
While you may not find a Priority Pass or City Pass for Scottsdale, the local tours are as amazing as it gets. If you’re a sweet tooth, you’d love the two-hour Chocolate Tour, taking you through the best cake shops and chocolatiers in town.
It’s hands down one of the best things to do in old Scottsdale since it’s an informational cum appetizing tour. While munching on cake truffles or enjoying creme brulees, your tour guide will tell you all about the region’s history and the anecdotes about local sculptures.
Go on Get Your Guide to book a tour.
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5. Octane Raceway
If you’re a bit of an adventurous soul, you will have a grand time at North America’s only outdoor and indoor racing track that’s operational full time. The raceway has a ⅓ mile where you can experience the thrill of racing in 45+ mph karts.
The karts can be adjusted to different body types, so there’s a fun opportunity for everyone.
If you’re planning to go to dry bar Scottsdale, don’t keep your appointment on the same day as the Raceway because your blow-dry will be lost on the track.
See Related: Skiplagged Review
6. OdySea Mirror Maze
It’s hard to find free things to do in Scottsdale at night other than walking around the Old Town, but if you’re willing to spend a little and let your imagination be explored, the Mirror Maze is the place to be.
Featuring a mirror maze and a rickety bridge resembling the Central American rainforest, you’ll be surrounded by several paths. Your goal is to find the path that helps you escape the maze.
You’ll go home with many interesting stories as you walk through the false passages, jungle morasses, and a Mayan Temple.
See Related: Best Things to do in Sedona With Kids
7. OdySea Aquarium
OdySea Aquarium is considered one of the biggest aquariums in the southwest United States. It holds more than 2,000,000 gallons of water and spans over 200,000 square feet. It is located just off the 101 in Scottsdale Arizona.
The aquarium houses over 30,000 animals and is open 7 days a week. When visiting OdySea Aquarium, you will want to set aside at least two hours to explore.
8. Scottsdale Historical Museum
The Scottsdale Historical Museum is housed in the Little Red Schoolhouse. Unfortunately, the Little Red Schoolhouse is closed until further notice. Additionally, the Scottsdale Historical Museum is also on limited availability and is closed in June, July, and August.
When the Scottsdale Historical Museum is open, however, you can enjoy learning about the area’s rich history through photos and exhibits.
9. Butterfly Wonderland
If you want a more one-of-a-kind experience, then Butterfly Wonderland is exactly what you want. It is an indoor, interactive rainforest habitat that houses thousands of butterflies.
It takes about 1.5 hours to make your way through the Butterfly Wonderland. They receive new butterfly Chrysalises from Asia, Africa, and South America every week, which hatch over time. You even get to witness this before you go in to see the butterflies.
10. Golf Courses
Golf courses are the most common attractions in Scottsdale, with some tourists specifically coming to the town for golfing in the winter months.
You’ll find a number of golf courses in the area suitable for your budget and skill level.
Among them, TPC Scottsdale and Troon North are considered the best. Troon North is a Tom Weiskopf design and has two golf courses. Featuring rolling hills, ravines, and granite boulders, the golf courses are a sight for any golf lover’s sore eyes.
Book the Four Seasons Resort through Booking since the hotel offers free shuttles for Troon North. Plus, you’ll get special rates for the golf course if you book a room at the resort.
On the other hand, TPC Scottsdale is a dream come true for golfers since it’s the very place where many professionals have competed. It also has two golf courses: The Champions and The Stadium.
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11. McCormick Stillman Railroad Park
Add the railroad park to your itinerary if you’re looking for fun things to do in Scottsdale in the summer. The main attraction in the area must be the mini train, which goes on a track around the park.
Moreover, the Allan Herschell-built carousel from the 1950s is another highlight of the park. It also plays music from the era, so you’ll have fun listening to classics surrounded by trains.
However, the most eye-catching part of the park is the model railway building, which is 10,000 square feet in size. You can even make the trains move by pressing buttons.
Plus, the steam engines and displays give you an insight into the railway innovations from the past. Apart from the exhibitions, there are several picnic tables and grassy areas to sit and catch a bite.
Although the entry is free, you’ll have to pay a modest fee to get on the train carousel.
Check your Awardwallet to see if you have enough points for it.
See Related: Best Vacations in the Southwestern United States
12. Desert Splash Adventures
Ready to see Arizona’s only Amphibious Cessna Caravan (seaplane) experience? You will find it at Desert Splash Adventures. You can choose charters to Roosevelt Lake, Lake Powell, Sedona, Flagstaff, or the Grand Canyon. You will find unparalleled access to amazing views and rock formations in the Sonoran Desert and Tonto Basin.
Each charter includes Desert Splash Adventures signature water landing. When planning your experience, you can also choose a private hangar gathering, standup paddling, canyoneering, or even an island-side private wine tasting. Or you can choose to build your own custom charter from scratch.
13. Penske Racing Museum
Suppose you want to see a large collection of cars, trophies, and racing memorabilia. In that case, the Penske Racing Museum is a location you want to include on your itinerary when visiting Scottsdale.
Penske has over 50 years of racing experience and has won over 500 races. In the Penske Racing Museum, you will find a replica of the 1963 Pontiac Catalina and a number of Indianapolis-500-mile race winners.
14. CrackerJax Family Fun and Sports Park
For a good variety of attractions, food, and sports suitable for the entire family, you will want to visit the CrackerJax Family Fun and Sports Park in Scottsdale. Here you will find a 28-acre park with go-karts, a driving range, bumper boats, an arcade, and much more.
The driving range has five target greens. There is also an 18-hole putting course and two miniature golf courses. You will also have the chance to play laser tag, practice in the batting cages, and visit the snack bar for a treat.
15. Arizona Cowboy College
Arizona Cowboy College is family owned and operated and is world-famous. It gives you the unique opportunity to experience life as an American cowboy, learn Western or English horsemanship, and learn more about different ranching techniques.
NBC’s Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning, and ABC’s Good Morning America all agree that Arizona Cowboy College is the only school of its kind in the world.
Old Town Scottsdale Things to Do Nearby
Possibly one of the most popular family-friendly things to do in Scottsdale, you should visit Old Town on the day you don’t have anything else planned. It has many interesting shops where you can buy Native American art, trinkets, and Mexican clothing.
Moreover, you can satisfy your love for art at the high-end galleries in the Old Town area.
Sure enough, all this walking is bound to work up your appetite. Fortunately, every Old Town Scottsdale restaurant is worth praising, and most of them also have cozy patios to enjoy the street views.
Although the Mexican restaurants in Old Town Scottsdale will keep you occupied for a while, you shouldn’t miss out on other attractions in the area. You’ll find the Civic Center Mall on North Scottsdale Road for shopping. Meanwhile, the public square holds many interesting sights, such as the Love Sculpture and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Also, if you’re on the hunt for a cigar bar in Scottsdale, this is the place to be. If you visit on Thursdays, you can catch the Scottsdale Artwalk, with the galleries hosting open houses.
Look for activities on Viator to do in Old Town since there’s always some sort of event happening in this area.
Here are a few more things you can explore in Old Town and around the Marshall Way Arts District.
16. Rusty Spur Saloon
Rusty Spur Saloon in Scottsdale is a historic saloon that offers live country music. You will find peanut shells underfoot and a delicious Tex-Mex American menu. It is the perfect place to take a break from shopping and sightseeing in Old Town.
17. Scottsdale Wine Trail
The Wine Trail is one of the best fun things to do in Scottsdale in the summer since it contains four wine tasting rooms. Arizona is known for having over a hundred wineries, producing award-winning wines.
If you’re staying near Old Town, follow the trail all the way from the Carlson Creek Wine Bar Scottsdale, LDV Winery, and Salvatore Vineyards to the Aridus Wine Company. Here’s a tip: get an SWT passport when you stop at the first tasting room.
Get the passport stamped at every wine tasting to win prizes at the end. Even if only for this reason, it’s among the best things to do in Old Scottsdale. Drinking wine and winning prizes for doing it? Count me in.
What about booking a wine tour from Scottsdale to the Verde Valley Vineyards and Sedona? You can discover wine country on a private tour from Scottsdale.
18. Arizona Taco Festival
The Mexican restaurants in Old Scottsdale aren’t the only places for you to find Mexican cuisine. In fact, the city hosts a grand festival dedicated to tacos and only tacos.
It began in 2010 and had the honor of being the first festival of its kind in the world. Today, the festival attracts more than 40,000 attendees every year. It’s a two-day festival where you can enjoy tacos from nearly 60 restaurants hoping to take the top taco award home.
Apart from the food, you can enjoy live bands, a Margarita competition, and a Tequila Expo with more than 100 tequila samples.
19. Historic Old Town Walking Tour
When touring Old Town, you can choose to do so on your own or have a local expert lead the way. During a Historic Old Town Walking Tour, you can see Frank Lloyd Wright’s private living quarters and then explore the city’s newest restaurants to discover all the flavors of Scottsdale.
20. Public Art Walking Tour
Another way to experience Old Town is by taking a self-guided Public Art Walking Tour. When doing so, you will discover ten of the city’s most celebrated artworks. The tour can be completed in just 60 minutes if you maintain a comfortable pace. This gives you plenty of time to enjoy everything else Old Town has to offer.
21. Scottsdale Fashion Square
Scottsdale also has an attraction for shopaholics – the Fashion Square. The luxury shopping center houses top-notch fashion brands, including Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus.
Don’t forget to redeem your Miles App points at your favorite retail stores.
It’s listed among the top 30 largest malls in the USA and is Arizona’s largest mall. Make sure you bring your credit card along and put on your comfy shoes because you’ll surely want to splurge with all the luxury items attracting you through the shop displays.
While you’re at it, stay at Marriott to add another luxury factor to your experience.
Want another exciting day adventure idea? Book a full-day tour with a Grand Canyon and Sedona Day Adventure from Scottsdale or Phoenix. Book early, though, because this tour tends to sell out quickly.
22. Old Town Farmers Market
Old Town Farmers Market in Scottsdale is all about food and farming. It features more than 100 local growers along with specialty food producers. You will find organic produce, flowers, natural pork, free-range eggs, cheese, freshly baked artisan breads, and so much more. The Old Town Farmers Market is a family-friendly locale that welcomes well-mannered pets.
Free Things to Do in Scottsdale
To experience Scottsdale, you don’t have to break the bank. Here are a few free things to do in Scottsdale so you can save your money for shopping and yummy eats later on your trip.
23. Desert Botanical Garden
Visiting the Botanical Garden is among the best family-friendly things to do in Scottsdale, especially if you’re a nature-loving bunch. Catch breakfast at any Old Town Scottsdale restaurant and drive to the nearby Desert Botanical Garden to be mesmerized.
The garden houses hummingbirds, woodpeckers, butterflies, and all sorts of birds. While the birds whizz past, you can enjoy the representations of different deserts, including the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and Southwestern Deserts, in the garden.
24. Scottsdale ArtWalk
While most people only limit Scottsdale’s attractions to golf courses and the desert, there’s a lot of human-made art to be seen in the town. The Artwalk is a celebration of the town’s historic art district.
On Thursdays, the art galleries host events showcasing certain exhibits. Plus, you can enjoy the performances of cultural performers and live musicians. Chat with a local gallery owner about the art scene in the area or take pictures with a Japanese lantern display.
Meanwhile, Main Street has some of the best bars in Scottsdale Arizona where you can sip on a drink while being surrounded by live music and art.
Although there are many remarkable restaurants in Scottsdale, most tourists prefer sitting on Citizen Public House’s patio and enjoying their craft cocktails.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Scottsdale
25. Pinnacle Peak Park
The Pinnacle Peak, shaped like a cone, is a popular hiking spot in Scottsdale, going on for 1.7 miles. Up at 1300 feet, you’ll be amazed at the beautiful views below, including the Troon North Golf Club’s green fields.
If you’re not in the mood for going all the way up, stop at one-third of the trail. The trail base has a visitors center with picnic tables, washrooms, a helpful staff, and ramadas.
While on the hike, you’ll learn aplenty about the region’s flora and fauna since there are informational plaques all over the trail. Make sure to go there early in the morning if you want to find a parking space in the tiny 90-space lot.
As for dwellings, there are a couple of cute Airbnbs nearby.
See Related: Best Road Trips in the USA
26. McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the perfect place for families that love to hike. While the wildlife mesmerizes you, the overall atmosphere will make you feel closer to nature.
Depending on your fitness levels, you can choose from many hiking options. If you choose the Gateway Loop trail, be sure to bring your poles and hiking boots along because it’s one hell of a rocky ride.
On the other hand, if you go on the Brown’s Ranch trail, you’ll find it much easier. Plus, you’ll come across scenic desert views that are just as majestic as they look on National Geographic.
Some other trails include Wingate, Sunrise, and the Bell Pass.
Book a hotel off Kayak if you’re tired after the hike or want to make a weekend trip out of your experience.
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27. Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain has an elevation of 2,704 feet and gives you the best opportunity for a hike or climb while visiting Arizona. This hike will take you about two to three hours round trip. It starts with a steep but well-marked trail and then leads you to the railroad ties.
For a more manageable climb for beginners, consider the Cholla Trail up Camelback Mountain. This trail offers a much more gradual climb without so many large rock formations getting in the way.
28. Arizona Boardwalk (Free Events)
The Arizona Boardwalk is home to eight different attractions, including some that made it on our list. It is Scottsdale’s premier entertainment destination for things to do, free events, amazing shopping, delicious food, and indoor family fun. Parking is free, and there is no admission price to get onto the Arizona Boardwalk.
Fun Things to Do in Scottsdale at Night
Scottsdale is known for its great weather and amazing attractions but also offers a variety of things to do if you prefer the nightlife. You can visit downtown Scottsdale hot spots like Bar Smith and Bumblebee Coffeehouse or try a few of what we have listed below.
29. Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor
The Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor is a great way to end any day trip. This retro Arizona ice cream parlor offers shakes, malts, and floats and serves sandwiches and salads. They have been in operation since 1958.
30. The Sonoran Desert in the Moonlight
The Sonoran Desert under moonlight showcases a beautiful and quiet landscape. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may also be able to see lizards, toads, and other nocturnal creatures in the desert.
You can opt for a privately arranged expedition or take a sunrise or sunset trip on a hot air balloon. For a more thrilling Scottsdale experience at night, book an ATV tour or Jeep ride through the desert at night.
31. Watch a Live Performance at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Reserve your seats today to see a live performance at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Here you will find the best Broadway, classical, and dance artists. Plan your unforgettable night today.
32. Wonderspaces Arizona
After a day of exploring and shopping, you can visit Wonderspaces. It is located inside Scottsdale Fashion Square. They have a lineup of 15 art installations and offer signature cocktails for you to enjoy with friends and family. The exhibits constantly evolve, so you will never see the same thing twice when visiting.
For more nighttime fun, book a Sunsets & City Lights Scottsdale Segway Tour to discover the historic charm of Old Town.
Where to Stay While Visiting Scottsdale
Want accommodations even more exciting? Book at the Talking Stick Resort and Casino. You can experience the best Arizona casinos offer while visiting another top destination in Scottsdale.
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