Scottsdale has earned the title of one of Arizona’s ultimate travel destinations. It has something for every kind of traveler, from adventurers seeking captivating mountain trails to art enthusiasts looking to explore the city’s renowned architectural elements like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.
It’s packed with golf courses, stunning panoramic views of the Sonoran Desert, exclusive boutiques, and world-class spas to compliment your getaway at a luxe vacation home rental.
Additionally, Scottsdale is known for its vibrant food scene, from top-tier fine-dining restaurants to exciting hidden gastropubs. The city provides unrivaled shopping experiences for travelers looking to shop with various upscale stores and boutiques. With its unparalleled culture and no shortage of activities, Scottsdale promises visitors an unforgettable experience that makes it a top-tier destination.
With so much to see and explore in Scottsdale, this desert city should be found at the top of your list when it comes to travel destinations. These are the top 22 ways to experience Scottsdale!
Stroll Down Old Town Scottsdale
Scottsdale’s historic Old Town features western-themed stores alongside locally curated art galleries, decadent restaurants, and a rich nightlife. As the beating heart of Scottsdale, it is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Old Town Scottsdale is perfect if you’re looking for locally-made gifts and souvenirs. Much of the art in the old town is handmade by local artists, many of whom feature unique indigenous artwork. There’s also a never-ending number of restaurants, from authentic Mexican food to upscale bars and bistros.
Depending on when you visit, you may be able to enjoy one of Old Town Scottsdale’s numerous events and festivals, including art walks, parades, and outdoor concerts. The holidays are particularly lively, with special events like the Live Nativity at the Old Adobe Mission and themed weekends at the Old Town Farmers Market.
Tee Off at one of Scottsdale’s Many Golf Courses
Scottsdale is home to some of the most world-renowned golf courses, each of which ranges in difficulty and offers unique glimpses of Arizona’s natural landscape. Popular courses include Troon North Golf Club, TPC Scottsdale, and Grayhawk Golf Club, to name just a few.
Many of Scottsdale’s golf courses are open to the public and feature expertly designed course layouts. Expect to find everything from desert landscapes to manicured greens, along with exceptional clubhouses and amenities.
Visit the McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a vast natural area that covers over 30,000 acres of protected desert land, making it one of the largest urban preserves in the United States.
The preserve is home to 225 miles of hiking and biking routes, which range in difficulty from easy going nature walks to rugged terrain. Whether you enjoy the preserve solo or embark on a guided tour with one of the many guides available, this is definitely a must-stop spot to enjoy native Arizona wildlife.
In addition, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is also adjacent to the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, which offers additional outdoor recreational opportunities, including camping, horseback riding, and scenic hiking trails.
Architecture Appreciation at Taliesin West
Taliesin West is a historic home and UNESCO World Heritage site belonging to the world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. As Wright’s winter home from 1937 until his death in 1959, it is considered an intimate homage to the master architect and has remained a Scottsdale icon.
Today, Taliesin West is managed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. They offer guided tours of the home, allowing visitors to take in the unique quirks and beauties of the property. The masterful use of natural light, the integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, and the focus on sustainability are just a few of the unique and enchanting things you can expect to find during your tour.
Get Cultured at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Located in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale, the SMoCA features an eclectic collection of artwork, including paintings, sculptures, photography, and video installations. The museum focuses on sharing work from established and up-and-coming artists, so you’re guaranteed to see something new every time you visit.
The SMoCA emphasizes art that challenges social and cultural norms. Permanent exhibits include a sculpture garden and an outdoor plaza that serves as a public gathering space.
Beyond the exhibits, the SMoCA also offers educational and public programs such as art walks, film screenings, lectures, and workshops. This is a great stop if you’re doing some downtown shopping and looking to take a break from the summer heat.
Get in Your Zen Zone for a Spa Day
Scottsdale knows how to do a good spa day, so treat yourself to a spa session. Whether you’re in the mood for a facial or a massage or just want to relax in the sauna, Scottsdale has countless options for booking the perfect spa day.
The Sanctuary Spa at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain is a favorite for many, not the least, because of its scenic location. The spa specializes in Asian techniques and includes a Meditation Garden to relax in after your treatment.
Get in the Western Spirit at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
The Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West embodies Scottsdale’s iconic art, history, and culture as the heart of the historical American West.
Located in Downtown Scottsdale, the museum features a wide collection of Western-themed art, artifacts, and memorabilia. Exhibits include well-known Western artists such as Frederic Remington and Georgia O’Keeffe and interactive exhibits that include replicas of an Old West Town and cowboy camp.
This is a must-stop museum if you’re interested in learning about the history of local Native Americans, the arrival of European explorers and settlers, and the growth and development of the American West.
Take in the Native Flora at the Desert Botanical Garden
Scottsdale’s Desert Botanical Garden is a 140-acre botanical garden located in Papago Park, just outside of downtown Scottsdale, Arizona. The garden is dedicated to the preservation of native desert plants, with an emphasis on the desert flora of the Sonoran Desert.
With everything from native cacti, succulents, trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, visitors young and old will find themselves strolling through the garden for much longer than planned. The garden features five thematic trails that lead visitors through different desert habitats, highlighting the unique plants and wildlife of each area.
Catch a Show at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Located next door to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is a major cultural destination in Scottsdale. It offers a diverse collection of theater, dance, music, and comedy performances.
The center features both a small and a large theater, both of which are equipped with excellent lighting and comfortable seating. It features a wide range of local, national, and international performers and groups, with a focus on presenting creative and inspirational works for its audiences.
Visit their calendar for upcoming dates featuring Author Talks, comedy, music, and dance performances.
Visit Butterfly Wonderland
Butterfly Wonderland is a unique indoor attraction that features a wide variety of live butterflies from around the world. The facility is designed to recreate a rainforest environment that only adds to the tranquility and natural beauty of the space. It’s actually the largest indoor butterfly pavilion in the United States.
When you visit the Butterfly Conservatory, you’ll be able to observe over 50 species of butterflies up close as they kiss and dance along the flours and fauna. Beyond the Conservatory, there’s an interactive and creative educational exhibit.
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a public park that features a wide variety of train-related exhibits and attractions. Admission is free, though you’ll definitely want to pay the small fee to ride in the main attraction. The Paradise & Pacific Railroad features a miniature train that takes visitors on a scenic route through the park’s attractions via steam locomotive.
In addition to the train ride, the park also features exhibits and attractions, including a museum that houses a collection of antique trains and railroad artifacts, along with a model train display.
For the kiddos, the park also has a variety of fun and interactive activities, such as a playground, carousel, and a miniature golf course. Be sure to check out the gift shop and get some cool train souvenirs!
Hike the Scenic Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain is a hallmark of Scottsdale’s epic desert landscape. Named for its shape, it’s a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. There are two main trails that lead to the summit, the Echo Canyon Trail and the Cholla Trail.
The Echo Canyon Trail is the more rugged of the two, with steep inclines, narrow passages, and rock scrambling required. The Cholla Trail is less steep and technical, though it still requires a moderate level of physical fitness and takes longer to reach the summit.
It’s important to note hiking Camelback Mountain can be dangerous if you’re unprepared. Remember to wear appropriate clothing and bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Also, be prepared to encounter wildlife such as snakes and scorpions.
If the hike is not for you, then fear not! There are plenty of excellent viewpoints of the mountain. The Echo Canyon Summit Trailhead and the Camelback Overlook are both accessible by car or on foot.
Take a Nature Walk Through Pinnacle Peak Park
Pinnacle Peak Park is a scenic natural park with a distinctive granite peak that rises 1,300 feet above the surrounding desert landscape, providing stunning views of the surrounding area.
To summit Pinnacle Peak, there is a 3.5-mile roundtrip trail that’s rated as moderate and does include some steep and rocky sections. As you explore, don’t forget to stop and take in the sights of the epic Sonoran desert and the McDowell Mountains. The park also features a playground for the kiddos.
Explore the OdySea Aquarium
The OdySea Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the Southwest and is home to over 30,000 animals from more than 500 species. Through numerous exhibits, visitors of all ages can get up close and personal with a wide range of aquatic creatures.
Some highlights of the aquarium include a 3D theater, a shark exhibit with a 3.5 million gallon tank, and an interactive “touch pool” where you can touch and feed rays and other marine life. There’s also a sea turtle exhibit, a penguin exhibit, and a “living reef” exhibit that showcases a variety of colorful coral and fish species.
Fly Over the Grand Canyon
As fun as road-tripping to the Grand Canyon can be, why not visit it in a quick helicopter ride? 360 Adventures is an adventure tour group that offers a variety of outdoor excursions, one of which is a private helicopter ride from Scottsdale to the Grand Canyon.
Plan on needing 3.5 to 6.5 hours to fully embrace this unique glimpse into one of America’s most epic national parks. And don’t forget your camera!
Scottsdale Fashion Square
If designer brands and luxury shopping is your thing, then get ready to have a field day at Scottsdale’s Fashion Square. It’s one of the largest and most popular shopping destinations in the Southwest and features a wide range of high-end retailers, department stores, and other upscale shops and boutiques.
Expect to find the usual luxury shops like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Burberry, along with the anchor stores Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Dillard’s. You’ll also find all the popular fashion brands like Zara, H&M, and Free People, along with jewelry and makeup stores.
Beyond the shopping, Scottsdale’s Fashion Square also has various dining options like the tropical Kona Grill and sports bar the Yard House.
Not to mention you’ll be in downtown Scottsdale, so you’ll have easy access to various art galleries, museums, bars, and restaurants.
View Arizona from Above on a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Fewer things are more beautiful than the Arizona sunset, except perhaps, the Arizona sunset viewed from a hot air balloon. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as you’ll get to enjoy a wholly unique view of the Sonoran Desert with your loved ones.
Rainbow Ryders offers 3.5 to 4.5-hour trips over the desert at sunrise and sunset.
Catch Spring Training at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is a state-of-the-art baseball facility that functions as the spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.
When it’s not spring training season, the space is a popular venue for concerts, festivals, and other events year-round. Beyond the field, the stadium also offers a variety of food and drink options and a family-friendly playground.
Check for tickets for upcoming events on their website!
Visit the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center
The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife across the Southwest. The center provides medical care, housing, and rehabilitation services for various wild animals, including black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, and many more animals.
The center’s goal is to rehabilitate and release the animals back into the wild. It’s open to the public for scheduled tours and is a perfect place to learn more about Arizona’s amazing native wildlife.
Take a Guided
Whether you’re new to or a connoisseur of off-roading and ATVs, the Scottsdale ATV scene will knock your socks off. This is a great way to get up close and personal with the areas local flora and fauna, all narrated by an expert guide.
Scottsdale has several ATV tour groups that share the unique Arizona desert landscape via off-roading vehicles. Many of these tours are suitable for visitors of all ages and offer an endless amount of fun. Try Stellar Adventures for ATV tours that feature beer and wine tasting!
Go Wine Tasting
Scottsdale is home to many tasting rooms that feature locally-made wine produced across Arizona. These tasting rooms are laced throughout downtown Scottsdale and offer a unique glimpse into the exciting up-and-coming Arizona wine country.
Wineries not to miss include LDV Winery, Carlson Creek Vineyard, Merkin Vineyards, and Arizona Stronghold Vineyard. Many offer tasting rooms and tours for a full day of vino fun around Scottsdale.
Go Horseback Riding at MacDonald’s Ranch
MacDonald’s Ranch is a guest ranch that offers a ton of outdoor activities for adults and kids alike. This is the perfect destination for families and large groups, with a never-ending list of exciting and fun activities.
Of course, the most popular activity is horseback riding, which is open to riders of all skill levels, from first-timers to the more experienced rider.
Beyond horseback riding, you’ll also be able to enjoy more activities like hayrides, stagecoach rides, cowboy games, and guided desert tours. If you’re interested, you can also visit the Ranch’s Western town, which features historic buildings and unique artifacts.
Book Your Scottsdale Getaway Today
Whether you’re looking to cross some items off your bucket list or you just want to relax and nothing more, there is an exploration speed for everyone in Scottsdale.
For ultimate comfort, book a picture-perfect luxury vacation rental in Scottsdale to call your home away from home in Arizona.
Featured Image Credit: antsdrone