Things to do in Scottsdale

Things to do in  Scottsdale

Let the dust settle

A modern oasis on the edge of the Sonoran Desert, sunny Scottsdale perfectly pairs western-style adventures with rest and relaxation. After a day exploring rustic mountain and desert trails on foot, by bike, or in an ATV, travelers can enjoy a spot of pampering at dozens of day spas. Scottsdale also boasts a world-class dining scene, with more than 800 restaurants to choose from, although hitting the links at high-end golf clubs or exploring Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy at Talieson West—the famed architect’s home and studio—also top the list of things to do in Scottsdale.

Top 7 attractions in Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale ranks among the Southwest’s top retail destinations, particularly for shoppers looking for Southwestern and Native American art and jewelry. The area is also home to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of the West, and the Scottsdale Historical Museum.More

Apache Trail

Originally built as a copper trade route, the Apache Trail now guides travelers past steep desert mountains, cliff dwellings, lake shores, eroded canyons, and old mining towns. This scenic road winds 120 miles (193 kilometers) through Arizona’s Superstition Mountains, from the outskirts of Phoenix to the vast Theodore Roosevelt Lake.More

Scottsdale Fashion Square

Featuring some of the area’s top boutiques and shops, Scottsdale Fashion Square is Arizona’s largest shopping destination with miles of more than 250 stores, 40 of which cannot can be found elsewhere in the state. A range of different retailers can be found, including luxury brands such as Tiffany & Co., Prada, Neiman Marcus, Jimmy Choo, Burberry and Nordstrom.The three-story mall features unique architecture, a food court, wine bar, several restaurants, and movie theater. There is also a free playground area for toddlers. The experience is highly stylized and mostly indoors, with an abundance of large windows letting in natural light. An onsite concierge can help with amenities, services, and transportation options, including a free trolley that runs throughout. There are also seasonal events held inside at the Scottsdale Fashion Square. It is one of the thirty largest shopping malls in the country.More

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

If there’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts near Phoenix, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve might be it. Just beyond the city limits to the northeast, the preserve comprises more than 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) of protected Sonoran Desert habitat around the McDowell Mountains, with trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.More

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)

This iconic contemporary art museum is located on 21-acres of local park in the heart of Scottsdale and showcases between nine and 12 exhibitions each year. Visitors who venture to this popular attraction will find some of the best examples of art, design and architecture in the Southwest.Travelers agree the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is an ideal place to escape the city’s heat while taking in some fabulous pieces. But since the museum is relatively small, it’s good to check ahead to be sure it’s not between exhibits.More

Lost Dutchman State Park

Named after the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine from Old West lore, Lost Dutchman State Park is a scenic public park in the Sonoran Desert about 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of Phoenix. Situated on the Apache Trail—a former stagecoach route officially known as Arizona State Route 99—the park is popular for hiking, mountain biking, camping, and periodic ranger-led moonlight hikes.More

Canyon Lake

With red-rock cliffs in all directions, Canyon Lake is quite the watery jewel—and it’s just 45 minutes east of Phoenix, in Tonto National Forest. Ten miles (16 kilometers) long with 28 miles of shoreline, this little oasis in the desert attracts water skiers, boaters, swimmers, anglers, hikers, and those simply looking for an accessible slice of Mother Nature.More

Top activities in Scottsdale

2-Hour Arizona Desert Guided E-Bike Tour
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Old Town Scottsdale Food Tour
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Old Town Scottsdale Food Tour

Pedal Bar Crawl of Old Town Scottsdale
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2 Hour Scottsdale Segway Tours - Ultimate Old Town Exploration
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2 Hour Scottsdale Segway Tours - Ultimate Old Town Exploration

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Hole in the Rock & Tempe Lake E-Bike Tour: 2 Hours
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Scottsdale Waterfront Food Tour
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Private Grand Canyon Tour

Private Grand Canyon Tour

2 Hour Segway Tour - Sunsets, Segways & City Lights
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2 Hour Segway Tour - Sunsets, Segways & City Lights

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All about Scottsdale

When to visit

Desert-sun seekers flock to Scottsdale from October through May for events such as the Phoenix Open, Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction, Scottsdale Culinary Festival, and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. Plus, Major League Baseball teams make an appearance for spring training in late February. Visit in early spring and late fall for weather that’s warm enough for an outdoor pool dip and cool enough so you can get outside and explore.

Getting around

Many of Scottsdale’s sights, including the Old Town, can be accessed by foot or public transportation. A free daily trolley runs through the downtown area, which is an easy 20-minute drive from the airport. To head further afield, including into the surrounding Sonoran Desert, you’ll need to either join a tour or rent a car. Drivers benefit from plenty of free parking in town.

Traveler tips

The Sonoran Desert stretches for 100,000 square miles (260,000 square kilometers) and is the hottest desert in the United States and Mexico. Many locations are vistable by basic vehicles. But to go deep into the wilderness, consider joining a private or group tour in a 4WD vehicle. Other options include utility terrain vehicles and all-terrain vehicles for off-road rides. Some day tours also offer canyoneering excursions.

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People Also Ask

What is Scottsdale known for?

Scottsdale is a picturesque Arizona city located in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, known for its old-timey, boutique-filled downtown and 1920s-era buildings. Its surrounding hiking trails take you through canyons and cactus-covered drylands. You’ll find a wealth of high-end infrastructure, from deluxe golf courses to ultra-luxurious resorts and spas.

How do I spend a day in Scottsdale?

Get your camera ready and start the day by roaming through the rustic Old Town, which practically screams “Wild West.” If temperatures permit (i.e. it’s not peak summer), wind down with a sunset 3.5-hour loop hike through the Pinnacle Peak Summit Trail, located within Pinnacle Peak Park.

What activities are popular in Scottsdale?

Scottsdale is perhaps best known for its golf courses, but that luxury-minded reputation is only part of the story. You’ll find golf and spas, plus a first-rate fine dining scene. But also in the mix is a walkable downtown and cactus-filled hiking trails in the surrounding Sonoran Desert.

What is the number 1 attraction in Arizona?

Arizona is most famous for the Grand Canyon, a world-renowned natural attraction. This is no mere hole in the ground, but a mile-deep gorge surrounded on both sides by a kaleidoscope of weather-whipped rock. It’s reachable from Scottsdale by road and takes 3.5 hours each way.

When is the best time to visit Scottsdale?

Scottsdale is a year-round destination, with weather that stays sunny and mild throughout winter. If you’re itching to hit some hiking trails, then you’ll want to avoid the scorching-hot summers, when resorts are kept AC-cool but temperatures outside often climb well above 100°F (38°C).

Is Scottsdale worth visiting?

Yes, Scottsdale is visually arresting, from the Wild West vibes of its old town to the fringe of McDowell Mountains surrounding the city. It’s the perfect mix of town and countryside, from melting pot food joints and funky boutiques to a sweep of canyon-filled desert hiking and trekking trails.

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