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I’ve been to Scottsdale multiple times, and on each visit, I find something new to love about the city. Just 20 minutes from Phoenix, this Arizona destination puts stunning natural beauty, pristine resorts, a thriving arts scene, history, and exciting dining options all within reach.

Well-known as a bucket-list golf destination and hub for bachelorette parties, Scottsdale has so much variety in things to do. From hiking in the Sonoran Desert to exploring architecture at Taliesin West, it strikes the perfect balance of culture and adventure. And not only is it a great U.S. city break for a weekend or more, but it’s a perfect place for a family trip, too. Need proof? Check out this Scottsdale family travel guide.

Below is my list of the top things to do in Scottsdale, AZ!

Planning a Trip to Scottsdale? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels in Scottsdale:

  1. Hotel Valley Ho, for a mid-century modern Old Town stay
  2. The Scott Resort & Spa, for a relaxing downtown stay
  3. The Bespoke Inn, for a luxurious B&B stay
  4. Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows, for the best family-friendly stay

To dive deeper into Scottsdale, don’t miss my roundup of the best boutique hotels and best restaurants. I also have a long weekend guide that’s perfect for shorter trips.

The Best Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona


1. Go Hiking in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale is a nearly unmatched destination for hiking. While there are endless areas to choose from, I love visiting the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and going back time and again. With more than 225 miles of hiking trails through protected desert habitat, you’ll get your fill of exercise, beautiful views, and local flora and fauna.

2. Take a Tour of Taliesin West

Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

Taliesin West, the winter home and desert laboratory of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is on my list of must-do activities when in Scottsdale. Tucked away in the foothills, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers self-guided audio tours that take you through the history and architectural details of the property. I recommend booking in advance for ticketed times.

3. Spend a Morning at Desert Botanical Garden

Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

Desert Botanical Garden is not your typical botanical garden. Here, you’ll see the plant life that thrives in some of the world’s hottest and driest locales. The garden features various themed trails, such as the Desert Wildflower Trail and the Sonoran Desert Nature Trail, where visitors can learn more about specific plant types—all backed by stunning mountain views.

4. See the James Turrell Exhibit in Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)

We loved visiting SMoCA on a family trip to Scottsdale, and seeing Skyspace by Arizona artist James Turrell was the highlight. This open-air space, known as Knight Rise, is one of just a handful around the world that are open to the public, making the opportunity to visit special. Walking through this architectural space, with its portal to the sky, is a truly unique experience, and our daughter, a toddler at the time, loved running around it, too.

5. See the Art at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

Western Spirit dedicates 43,000 square feet to showcasing the art, culture, and history of the American West, Western Canada, and Mexico. Its exhibitions range from Native American jewelry to paintings of Western landscapes and aim to inspire and educate. The museum also hosts programming and events, inviting authors, local creatives, historians, and more.

6. Dine Local in Scottsdale

Scottsdale’s dining scene is an impressive one, and between the restaurants dotting Old Town and those tucked away in upscale resorts, it has something for every palate and budget. While the cuisine at many restaurants feels elevated, you’ll still find a laid-back vibe at most of the places you dine. My favorite spots of mine include Fat Ox, The Mission, and Pizzeria Virtù. For my full list of favorites, don’t miss my guide to the best restaurants in Scottsdale!

7. Stroll through Downtown Scottsdale

There’s so much to see in downtown Scottsdale, more commonly known as Old Town Scottsdale. It’s an extremely walkable area brimming with shops, fine art galleries, and restaurants, as well as a historic district that has that “Old West” feeling. I loved browsing the lovely selection of Native American art and pottery at Bischoff’s at the Park, as well as grabbing coffee at Cartel.

8. Enjoy Spring Training at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick

Arizona is well-known for hosting Major League Baseball spring training, and the Salt River Fields facility is a great place to catch a game if you’re visiting in March. Home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, the park is surrounded by gorgeous mountain views and features a diverse array of food vendors. 

9. Play a Round of Golf at Troon North Golf Club

Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale is world-renowned as a golfing destination, with more than 200 courses in the city and surrounding area. For those who want to tee up, Troon North boasts two 18-hole courses against a stunning natural backdrop of giant granite boulders and desert mountain scenery. Its manicured fairways and top-notch customer service make it a bucket-list golfing destination.

10. Go Shopping in Scottsdale Fashion Square

Fashion Square is the hub for luxury shopping in Scottsdale, featuring a lineup of high-end stores like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Apple. With a huge directory of shops, there’s also something for every budget. The mall also has several dining options, including outposts of well-known restaurants such as Nobu and Toca Madera.

11. Hit the Trails at Pinnacle Peak Park

Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

Hike along 150 acres of Sonoran Desert at Pinnacle Peak Park, which features an out-and-back trail clocking in at about 4 miles round-trip. It’s a moderately challenging route, with an elevation gain of about 1,300 feet. It’s very popular thanks to its amazing views and abundant wildlife sightings, so expect to share the trail with others.

12. Get Tickets for Wonderspaces

Prebooking tickets to Wonderspaces makes for a great time for the entire family. It’s an immersive, interactive contemporary art gallery designed for the senses and gives children and adults alike opportunities to interact with the spaces. Adults can stop by the bar before visiting the 13 art installations and browse them with a cocktail in hand.

13. Join a Tour at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

This non-profit organization rescues native Arizona wildlife that has been injured and displaced. At the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, they go through rehabilitation and are then either returned to the wild if able or given sanctuary. Appointment-only tours offer the opportunity to see animals ranging from black bears to owls and tortoises to foxes.

14. Take Your Kids to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

The 30-acre McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is unique. It offers the opportunity to ride a vintage train and carousel from the 1950s. It’s a perfect place for littles to explore: In addition to the train rides, the park has playgrounds, a Western-themed play structure, and a 10,000-square-foot model railroad building. Cap off the trip with ice cream from Hartley’s General Store.

15. See the Butterflies at Butterfly Wonderland

Butterfly Wonderland is the largest butterfly conservatory in the country, and visiting is a magical experience. The rainforest conservatory is home to thousands of butterflies from all over the world, including more than 60 species. Butterfly Wonderland is also home to a handful of other animals, including several koi fish, tropical finches, and a pair of chickens.


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15 Best Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


Xx,
Jessica

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