Best Things to Do Scottsdale, Arizona: 50+ Activities in 2023

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Welcome to the vibrant city of Scottsdale, Arizona, where you’ll find a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and exciting nightlife.

Whether you’re looking to explore the rich history of the American West or unwind amid the stunning landscapes of the Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale has something for everyone.

In this blog post, this Scottsdale resident will guide you through the best things to do in 2023, from the charming streets of Old Town to the luxurious resorts dotted across the city’s landscape.

By the end of this post, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of what makes Scottsdale a must-visit destination.

We’ll dive into the city’s thriving art scene, adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventures, architectural wonders, family-friendly attractions, and more. So, let’s embark on this journey and discover the unforgettable experiences that await you in the best things to do in Scottsdale!

Short Summary

  • Experience Old Town Scottsdale’s vibrant art galleries, shops, restaurants & historic sites!
  • Explore the breathtaking beauty of the Sonoran Desert with outdoor adventures & hikes.
  • Indulge in culinary delights and nightlife, or relax at luxurious resorts for an unforgettable stay!

Experience Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale with art galleries, shopping and dining, and historic sites

Old Town Scottsdale, the city’s vibrant heart, is a delightful blend of:

  • Art galleries
  • Shops
  • Restaurants
  • Historic sites

Those cater to a wide array of interests. This lively neighborhood offers a taste of the city’s rich cultural heritage and is an essential stop for any visitor to Scottsdale. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a foodie, or a history buff, Old Town promises an unforgettable experience.

Stroll through the charming streets of Old Town, and you’ll encounter a treasure trove of attractions waiting to be explored. In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into the exciting art galleries and studios, shopping and dining options, and historical sites that make Old Town Scottsdale such a beloved destination.

Art Galleries and Studios

Shops and Galleries in Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale is renowned for its numerous art galleries and studios, showcasing the works of local and international artists.

Whether you’re a seasoned art collector or simply looking to appreciate creative expressions, you’ll find something to pique your interest in this bustling arts district. From contemporary pieces to Native American creations, Old Town’s art scene offers diverse artistic styles and mediums.

One of the area’s highlights is the Scottsdale ArtWalk, a weekly event on Thursday nights. This exciting event features multiple participating artists, performers, and galleries, allowing you to wander the streets and explore the various exhibits.

Another must-visit destination is Wonderspaces Arizona, located in Scottsdale Fashion Square. This interactive art installation boasts a fantastic lineup of 15 exhibits, immersing visitors in a world of creativity and inspiration.

Don’t forget to visit the Scottsdale Native Art Market, a creative space where Indigenous artists showcase and sell their incredible works.

Shopping and Dining

Old Town Scottsdale offers diverse shopping and dining options to satisfy every taste. From high-end boutiques to local artisanal stores, you’ll find the perfect souvenir or gift to commemorate your visit.

And when hunger strikes, the neighborhood boasts various restaurants and cafes, serving everything from gourmet cuisine to casual bites in Old Town and downtown Scottsdale.

One of the area’s most popular shopping destinations is the luxurious Scottsdale Fashion Square, a part of the larger Scottsdale Center. With over two million square feet of retail space, this expansive center features an impressive selection of designer stores and unique boutiques.

If you’re looking to sample some local flavors, the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market is the place. The market is a must-visit. Offering a variety of fresh produce, artisan bread, homemade jams, and more, this bustling market is a food lover’s paradise.

Historic Sites

Bell tower of historic Old Adobe Mission in Old Town Scottsdale

A visit to the historic Old Town Scottsdale is steeped in history, and exploring this charming neighborhood wouldn’t be complete without discovering its historical sites.

The Little Red Schoolhouse, now home to the Scottsdale Historical Museum, offers a glimpse into the city’s early days, while the Rusty Spur Saloon transports you back in time with its authentic Western atmosphere.

Take a tour of the Old Adobe Mission, the oldest Catholic church in Scottsdale, and marvel at its beautifully restored interiors, original confessionals, and colorful stained-glass windows.

These historic sites provide a fascinating insight into the city’s past but also serve as a reminder of the rich heritage and cultural roots that continue to shape Scottsdale today.

Outdoor Adventures in Scottsdale

Hiking trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

The natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert is one of Scottsdale’s most fantastic attractions, and there’s no better way to experience it than through outdoor adventures or a visit to the desert botanical garden.

With a variety of activities available, from hiking and horseback riding to hot air balloon rides, there’s something for everyone to enjoy amid the stunning desert landscapes.

In the following sections, we’ll guide you through some of the best outdoor adventures Scottsdale offers, showcasing the breathtaking beauty of the Sonoran Desert and providing unforgettable experiences for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike.

Hiking Trails

Scottsdale is home to some of the most picturesque hiking trails in the Southwest, offering stunning views of the surrounding Sonoran Desert landscape. From the sprawling McDowell Sonoran Preserve to the dramatic peaks of Pinnacle Peak Park and Camelback Mountain, a trail suits every skill level and preference.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve boasts over 200 miles of trails, providing a diverse range of hiking experiences. Popular trails in the preserve include the Gateway Loop, Brown’s Ranch, and Sunrise Peak, each offering its own unique challenges and rewards.

For a more leisurely hike, the Brown’s Ranch trail provides a more straightforward path with rolling terrain, allowing you to immerse yourself in the striking desert scenery fully.

Another must-visit hiking destination is Pinnacle Peak Park, featuring a 1.75-mile trail that winds through the park’s stunning desert terrain.

With breathtaking views of the McDowell Mountains, Four Peaks, and Granite Mountain, this trail offers a rewarding experience for hikers of all abilities. And for those seeking a challenging ascent, the iconic Camelback Mountain provides a thrilling climb, rewarding hikers with panoramic views of the surrounding desert landscape.

Horseback Riding

Immerse yourself in the picturesque desert terrain of Scottsdale on a guided horseback ride.

With options like MacDonald’s Ranch and Arizona Cowboy College, you can saddle up and explore the beauty of the Sonoran Desert on horseback, led by experienced guides who will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

MacDonald’s Ranch offers a variety of scenic trail rides, allowing you to get up close and personal with the towering cacti and desert wildlife that call this area home.

Alternatively, Arizona Cowboy College provides a unique opportunity to learn the skills of a true cowboy, from horseback riding and cattle herding to roping techniques. After a day of adventure, consider visiting the nearby McCormick Stillman Railroad Park for family-friendly fun.

Whether you choose, horseback riding in Scottsdale promises an unforgettable adventure amid the stunning desert landscape.

Hot Air Balloon Rides

For a truly unique perspective of the Sonoran Desert, why not take to the skies on a hot air balloon ride?

Soaring high above the desert landscape, you’ll experience breathtaking views and a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Several companies in Scottsdale, such as Hot Air Expeditions, Rainbow Ryders, and Firebird Balloons, offer hot air balloon rides, providing a safe and memorable experience for all ages.

Floating gently above the desert floor, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the sprawling Sonoran Desert, with its distinctive cacti, rugged mountains, and diverse wildlife.

A hot air balloon ride in Scottsdale is more than just a thrilling adventure – it’s a chance to gain a new appreciation for this unique natural environment’s incredible beauty and diversity.

Architectural Wonders

Bronze Horse Fountain in Old Town Scottsdale

Scottsdale is home to some remarkable architectural masterpieces, reflecting the creativity and vision of renowned architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Paolo Soleri. These structures not only showcase innovative design and construction techniques but also serve as a testament to the enduring legacy of their creators.

In the following sections, we’ll explore two of Scottsdale’s most notable architectural wonders: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West and Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti Foundation. Through guided tours and immersive experiences, you’ll have the opportunity to delve into the fascinating stories behind these iconic structures and gain a deeper appreciation for the art of architecture.

Taliesin West

Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home and studio in Scottsdale, Arizona

Taliesin West, the National Historic Landmark and former winter home of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright offers a unique glimpse into the life and work of this creative genius. Set amid the rugged beauty of the Sonoran Desert, this architectural masterpiece showcases Wright’s innovative design principles and his deep connection to the natural environment.

Visitors to the Taliesin. West can join a guided tour led by knowledgeable guides who will share insights into Wright’s life, work, and the site’s history. From the iconic drafting studio to the intimate living quarters, each space within Taliesin West reveals a fascinating story about the man, his vision, and the enduring impact of his architectural contributions.

Cosanti Foundation

Arcosanti is an architectural project of the nonprofit Cosanti Foundation just north of Scottsdale.

The Cosanti Foundation, established by visionary architect Paolo Soleri, is another must-visit destination for architecture enthusiasts in Scottsdale. This unique complex features a series of earth-casted structures, reflecting Soleri’s innovative design philosophy and his commitment to creating sustainable, compact communities.

Visitors to the Cosanti Foundation can explore the site’s striking buildings, including the iconic Soleri Windbells, handcrafted on-site and sold to support the foundation’s ongoing work. Through guided tours and hands-on experiences, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Soleri’s pioneering ideas and gain a deeper understanding of the transformative potential of architecture.

Family-Friendly Attractions

Scottsdale offers a wealth of family-friendly attractions, ensuring that visitors of all ages can enjoy a fun and memorable experience. From interactive museums and educational exhibits to thrilling amusement parks and outdoor adventures, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.

In the following sections, we’ll introduce you to some of the best family-friendly attractions in Scottsdale, including the OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, and CrackerJax Family Fun and Sports Park. Whether traveling with young children or seeking a day of adventure with friends, these destinations promise endless entertainment for all.

OdySea Aquarium

OdySea Acquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona

The OdySea Aquarium is the Southwest’s largest aquarium, offering a captivating underwater world for visitors to explore. With interactive exhibits, immersive experiences, and a diverse collection of marine life, this state-of-the-art facility provides an engaging and educational experience for all ages.

Some of the most popular attractions at OdySea Aquarium include:

  • The SeaTREK underwater diving experience
  • The Voyager stadium-seating-style theater
  • The Tide Touch Pool where visitors can interact with sea stars, sea snails, sea cucumbers, and hermit crabs.

With so much to see and do at the OdySea Aquarium, it’s sure to be a highlight of your Scottsdale visit.

Butterfly Wonderland

Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, Arizona

Butterfly Wonderland, an indoor rainforest habitat, offers a magical experience for visitors of all ages. Home to thousands of colorful butterflies from around the world, this enchanting attraction allows guests to get up close and personal with these delicate creatures as they flutter through the lush, tropical environment.

In addition to the captivating butterfly exhibit, Butterfly Wonderland also features a fascinating ant colony, a honeybee extravaganza, and a state-of-the-art 3D theater showcasing the beautiful film, Flight of the Butterflies. With so many interactive experiences and opportunities for hands-on learning, Butterfly Wonderland is a must-visit destination for families visiting Scottsdale.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Immerse yourself in a world of locomotive wonder at McCormick-Stillman Railway Park.

Here, the allure of the railroad takes center stage. Marvel at intricate model trains in the expansive 10,000-square-foot Model Railroad Building, or step back aboard the original steam engine from the early 1900s.

The park also houses a meticulously restored 1950s carousel, offering a nostalgic ride for all ages.

Explore the rich tapestry of railroad history in the Scottsdale Railroad Museum, or let the little ones unleash their imagination in the Wild West-themed playgrounds. With picnic spots aplenty, you can savor a leisurely meal at the Family Circus Pavilions.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is more than just a park; it’s a journey through time, promising a fun-filled exploration and discovery day.

Scottsdale’s Museums and Cultural Experiences

Delve into Scottsdale’s rich culture and history by visiting its museums and cultural centers.

From the fascinating world of the American West to the cutting-edge world of contemporary art, these institutions offer a captivating glimpse into the city’s diverse heritage.

In the following sections, we’ll introduce you to some of Scottsdale’s most notable museums and cultural experiences, including Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Through interactive exhibits and engaging programs, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the city’s unique character and the stories that have shaped its past and present.

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West in Scottsdale, Arizona

Explore the history and art of the American West at Western Spirit, an engaging museum that showcases the region’s rich cultural heritage. With interactive exhibits and a diverse collection of artifacts, this fascinating institution offers a captivating glimpse into the lives and experiences of those who shaped the West.

Some of the museum’s highlights include the Dazzling Array exhibit, featuring the Richard A. Gates Collection of Native American Jewelry, and the Abe Hays Family Spirit of the West Collection, which showcases an extensive array of cowboy memorabilia.

From stunning works of art to fascinating historical artifacts, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is an essential destination for anyone interested in the history and culture of the American West.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale, Arizona

Discover the captivating world of modern art at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, a dynamic institution that showcases the work of both established and emerging artists. With rotating exhibits and engaging educational programs, this museum offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the cutting-edge world of contemporary art.

Recent exhibits at the museum have included the work of New York City-based Native American artist Brad Kahlhamer and an exciting exploration of open expressionism by contemporary artist Erin Hanson.

Whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or simply curious about the latest trends in the art world, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art will have you covered. Art is an inspiring and thought-provoking destination.

Watch a Live Performance at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts in Old Town Scottsdale

At a show at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, expect an immersive experience with unparalleled artists and diverse programs.

The Center offers a wide range of performances from around the globe, including concerts from Grammy-winning musicians, contemporary dance, and comedy. Whether it’s a wildly inventive concert by Wilco or a thought-provoking exploration of surrealism, each event promises to be a transformative, artful experience.

The Center is committed to providing affordable access to these cutting-edge experiences, making it a must-visit destination for art and culture enthusiasts.

Culinary Delights and Nightlife

The adult pool at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale is a city that knows how to indulge the senses, and its culinary scene is no exception. From innovative fine dining to casual eateries, the city’s diverse range of restaurants ensures that there’s something to satisfy every palate. And when the sun goes down, Scottsdale’s vibrant nightlife scene comes alive, offering an exciting array of bars, clubs, and live music venues.

In the following sections, we’ll guide you through some of the best dining and nightlife options in Scottsdale, including:

  • Top restaurants
  • Wineries
  • Breweries
  • The city’s most popular nightlife spots

Scottsdale has you covered whether you’re in the mood for a romantic dinner or a night out on the town.

Top Restaurants

The historic Old Adobe Mission serves up Latin American Cuisiine in Old Town Scottsdale.

Sample the best of Scottsdale’s dining scene at some of the city’s top-rated restaurants. From the innovative cuisine at Citizen Public House to the mouthwatering barbecue at Bootleggers and the modern Latin fare at The Mission Old Town, these dining establishments offer a truly exceptional culinary experience.

Each restaurant offers a unique atmosphere and diverse dishes, ensuring that something suits every taste. Whether you’re in the mood for an intimate dinner for two or a lively meal with friends and family, these top restaurants in Scottsdale are sure to impress.

Wineries and Breweries

Savor the flavors of Scottsdale by embarking on a tasting journey along the Scottsdale Wine Trail or sampling craft beers at local breweries. The Wine Trail is home to four tasting rooms.

  1. Aridus Wine Company
  2. Carlson Creek
  3. LDV Winery
  4. Salvatore Vineyards

Together, they offer an excellent variety of wines for you to sample. Indulge in the region’s finest wines while learning about the winemaking process and the unique characteristics of each varietal.

For those who prefer a cold brew, popular breweries like O.H.S.O. Brewery + Other. Distillery offers a range of craft beers to suit every palate. With a lively atmosphere and an ever-changing lineup of beers on tap, these wineries and breweries provide the perfect setting for a relaxing afternoon or evening in Scottsdale.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Experience the energy and excitement of Scottsdale’s nightlife scene, with various bars, clubs, and live music venues to suit every taste. Some popular options include:

  • The Rusty Spur Saloon: Offering an authentic Western experience
  • AZ88 Bar & Restaurant: An upscale bar and restaurant.
  • Wasted Grain: A lively club with live music.

There’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.

For a more laid-back evening, consider exploring the city’s comedy clubs, karaoke bars, or live music venues, where you can enjoy a night of laughter, song, and entertainment. Scottsdale’s lively after-dark scene has you covered no matter what type of nightlife experience you’re seeking.

Where to Stay in Scottsdale

Finding the perfect accommodation for your Scottsdale getaway is easy, with options ranging from luxurious resorts to cozy vacation rentals. Whether you’re seeking a lavish retreat with all the amenities or a comfortable home base for your adventures, Scottsdale’s diverse range of accommodations ensures you’ll find the perfect place to rest your head.

In the following sections, we’ll introduce you to some of the top luxury resorts in Scottsdale and a selection of vacation rentals and hotels in popular areas like Old Town. With easy access to the city’s many attractions and a wealth of amenities at your fingertips, you’ll be well-equipped for an unforgettable stay in Scottsdale.

Luxury Resorts

Discover the ultimate luxury and comfort at some of Scottsdale’s top resorts, including The Phoenician, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, and The Scottsdale Plaza Resort. These upscale accommodations offer unparalleled service and amenities, ensuring an unforgettable stay.

From the lush golf courses and world-class spas to the exquisite dining options and breathtaking views, each resort provides a unique experience tailored to your preferences. Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a relaxing retreat, these luxury resorts in Scottsdale promise to exceed your expectations.

Vacation Rentals and Hotels

For those seeking a more intimate and personalized accommodation experience, Scottsdale offers a range of vacation rentals and hotels in popular areas like Old Town. These properties provide easy access to the city’s attractions, allowing you to make the most of your time in Scottsdale.

Popular vacation rentals and hotels in the area include Desert Rose Villas, Scottsdale Ranch, and Arcadia Luxury. With a wide variety of options, you’ll be able to find the perfect home away from home for your Scottsdale getaway.


This blog post explores the best things to do in Scottsdale, Arizona, showcasing the city’s diverse attractions and activities. From Old Town Scottsdale’s charming streets to the Sonoran Desert’s breathtaking beauty, this vibrant city offers something for everyone.

Whether you’re searching for a cultural experience, an adrenaline-pumping adventure, or simply a relaxing retreat amid stunning natural landscapes, Scottsdale is the perfect destination for your next getaway. So pack your bags, and let the unforgettable experiences of Scottsdale, Arizona, unfold before you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Scottsdale most known for?

Scottsdale is renowned as a golfing paradise, with fantastic greens and galleries drawing players and spectators from around the world. There are plenty of luxury hotels as well as a variety of restaurants and shopping opportunities.

How do I spend a day in Scottsdale, AZ?

Experience the best of Scottsdale by exploring its unique boutiques and galleries, catching an exhibition at SMoCA, horseback riding, wine or beer tasting, and indulging in the city’s famous cuisine.

End your day with a visit to one of Scottsdale’s most popular attractions, such as Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, Taliesin West, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, and Butterfly Wonderland.

What is the famous street in Old Town Scottsdale?

Old Town Scottsdale is home to the iconic 5th Avenue, known for its Arts & Crafts area and famous Bob Parks horse fountain sculpture.

Explore and capture the magic of this amazing street!

What are some must-visit art galleries in Old Town Scottsdale?

Explore and be amazed at Wonderspaces Arizona, discover local talent at Scottsdale ArtWalk, or take a wine tour to view the numerous studios and galleries in Old Town Scottsdale – your artistic adventure awaits!

Experience the vibrant art scene in Scottsdale, Arizona. From Wonderspaces Arizona to the Scottsdale ArtWalk, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the local art and culture. Take a wine tour to view the numerous studios and galleries in Old Town Scottsdale and be inspired by the creatives.

What outdoor activities can I enjoy in Scottsdale?

Experience the beauty of Scottsdale with activities like hiking in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, horseback riding at MacDonald’s Ranch, and hot air balloon rides with Hot Air Expeditions!

Explore the great outdoors and take in the stunning views of the desert landscape. Enjoy the thrill of horseback riding and the peacefulness of a hot air balloon ride. Experience the beauty of Scottsdale with activities that will create lasting memories.

About the Author
Justin Abbate

Justin Abbate is a passionate traveler and explorer, having journeyed to diverse destinations from the historic streets of Italy and Greece to the breathtaking landscapes of Australia. Born in Scottsdale, Arizona, his wanderlust has taken him to hidden gems like Nice, France, where he spent a summer, and to renowned spots in Switzerland, Germany, London, and beyond. As the Account Director at Single Origin, Justin combines his love for travel with his expertise in digital strategy. Dive into his articles as he shares captivating tales and insights from his global adventures.

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