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.
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
- Best Things to Do in Scottsdale
- Taliesin West
- 2. McDowell Sonoran Preserve
- 3. Musical Instrument Museum
- 4. Old Town Scottsdale
- 5. Arizona Taco Festival
- 6. Golf Courses
- 7. Scottsdale Wine Trail
- 8. Desert Botanical Garden
- 9. Scottsdale ArtWalk
- 10. Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
- 11. Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale
- 12. Octane Raceway
- 13. Odysea Mirror Maze
- 14. Pinnacle Peak Park
- 15. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
- 16. Scottsdale Fashion Square
Best Things to Do in Scottsdale
Scottsdale 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.
If you’re into architecture, you must visit Taliesin West, which is 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 season.
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. 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.
You can choose from a multitude of hiking options, depending on your fitness levels. 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 you want to make a weekend trip out of your experience.
See Related: Best Vacations in the Southwestern United States
3. Musical Instrument Museum
If your musical interests are more pronounced than singing in the shower, you will fancy a visit to 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 Lenon 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, make sure to check the calendar on the museum’s website before visiting.
4. Old Town Scottsdale
Possibly one of the most popular family-friendly things to do in Scottsdale, you should visit the Old Town on the day that you don’t have anything else planned.
It has a ton of 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 a hunt for any cigar bar 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.
5. 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 whole 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 Desert in the garden.
9. 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 the patio of Citizen Public House and enjoy their craft cocktails.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Scottsdale
10. Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
The Mexican culture is only limited to the restaurants in Scottsdale, Arizona.
If you want to learn more about the western states, head over 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, there are two floors occupied by art memorabilia and interesting displays showing western culture.
Most tourists come here to see the acclaimed cowboy movie posters and Hopi pottery.
If you’re more inclined towards sculptures, there’s an assortment of them in the central courtyard of the museum, making it one of the most fun things to do in Scottsdale indoors.
11. Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale
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 you’re munching on cake truffles or enjoying creme brulees, your tour guide will tell you all about the history of the region and the anecdotes about local sculptures.
Go on Get Your Guide to book a tour.
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12. 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.
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13. 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.
As you walk through the false passages, jungle morasses, and a Mayan Temple, you’ll go home with many interesting stories.
See Related: Best Things to do in Sedona with Kids
14. 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 you’re 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.
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15. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Scottsdale in the summer, add the railroad park to your itinerary. The main attraction in the area has to be the mini train, which actually 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 a fun time 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
16. 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 under 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.
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