Scottsdale has been crowned the West’s Most Western Town, but is the west best? That’s for you to find out, but I’m here to help with these unique things to do in Scottsdale, AZ!
The city’s perfect year-round weather makes it easy to find things to do around Scottsdale, no matter the season. But what are the best activities and attractions to do while here?
This handy guide will point out everything you need to know about the city, sometimes nicknamed the “Beverly Hills of the Desert.” I lived in Scottsdale for about two years, so I’ll be pulling from my local experience to help you have the best trip!
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Best Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona
If you’re looking for fun things to do, Scottsdale in Arizona ought to be high on your list.
The city is excellent for explorers, foodies, and adventure seekers— which is exactly why I love it so much!
#1 Taste the City Through Old Town
Old Town is at the heart of the city and one of the best places to introduce you to the area.
One of the fun things to do in Scottsdale’s Old Town is to take a walking foodie tour of all restaurants, bars, and the best coffee shops.
The local farmer’s market is open from October to May and is a great place to pick up seasonal and artisanal foods, flowers, and ciders.
FnB Restaurant is a favorite among locals and tourists simply because of its great southwestern seasonal menu.
It is full of fresh produce with dishes for worldwide palates, which you can pair with Arizona’s finest wines.
Then end your day with a Scottsdale happy hour before ending the night.
The city ensures you get the best deals, with some starting as early as 3 pm with $5 drinks. Let’s cheers to that!
#2 Hike in Pinnacle Peak Park
There are few better ways to stretch the legs than with a hike in the mountains, and boy does Scottsdale not disappoint.
You can hike to see the Arizonian mountains in a few places in the city, but Pinnacle Peak takes the cake for many.
This 1.75-mile hike takes you up an out-and-back path through the Sonoran Desert. You’ll have to hike to the top of a boulder-filled peak that overlooks the city.
At the start of the trail, you’ll find a visitor’s center, picnic tables, and a washroom.
Why not make a day of it and pack a basket full of treats before going up at sunset? c’est magnifique!
It is a pretty popular trail, so come early as the parking spaces fill up fast and expect to see quite a few people on the path.
#3 Visit Butterfly Wonderland
Did you know there is an indoor tropical rainforest filled with thousands of butterflies in Scottsdale? Yep.
Butterfly Wonderland is one of America’s largest butterfly conservatories, and you can have a chance to see these fluttering wings up close.
The conservatory has many more animals and insects from the rainforest, like reptiles, fish, and even chickens, to say hi to.
There is a 3D theater where you can see a short film about a butterfly’s life.
Then move into the Butterfly Emergence Gallery, where you can see this life cycle in action.
And, if you’re feeling brave, stop by the vending machine at the edible insects’ section to pick up a fun treat (or souvenir).
If you’re not ready for the animal fun to end, the OdySea Aquarium is just a short walk away.
P.S. You’d also love my guide on the Best Day Trips from Scottsdale, AZ!
#4 Do a Pub Crawl
O Captain! My Captain! Take me to the next bar.
Okay, so there might not be as much “crawling” because this bar-hopping tour is actually on a bike. But don’t worry.
Your captain (or driver) will safely steer you from bar to bar as the giggle juice kicks in.
In a span of two hours, you’ll not only get a tour through Scottsdale’s Old Town but you’ll also get introduced to some of its best watering holes.
Your ticket includes drink specials, ice, and cups, so all you have to worry about is keeping your balance.
#5 Take a Desert Jeep Tour
There is no doubt that the Sonoran Desert is beautiful, but it is enormous.
So, why not rent a jeep for the day to really explore the Arizona outback?
This sunset Sonoran Desert jeep tour offers a bumpy yet exciting ride through the desert landscape.
On your ride, you can see natural landmarks like the Pinnacle Peak, Reata Pass, and Tonto National Forest.
Try to spot some of the local wildlife and the Saguaro Cactus, which is native to the region.
And to top off this wild ride, you’ll get front-row seats to a spectacular sunset.
#6 Get the Best Instagram Shots at Taliesin West
This beautiful structure was once the home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Today, it is a well-loved UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Historic Landmark, and one of the most instagrammable places in Scottsdale.
You’re sure to get incredible snaps no matter where you turn here.
Take a group or self-guided audio tour around the property as you scour the best backdrops for that perfect shot.
For a select few months out of the year, the foundation offers their Sunset & Sips happy hour, where you can mingle with a drink in hand while catching incredible cotton-candy sky views.
You’ll never get bored here as the foundation is filled to the brim with amazing events, from yoga to film night and book club.
The ever-rotating exhibition hall also focuses on architecture and Mr. Wright’s works.
#7 Get a Bird’s Eye View on a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Get ready to tick off another activity from your bucket list in good ol’ Scottsdale — a hot air balloon ride.
Allow yourself to be swept away in an enchanting hot air balloon ride across the Sonoran Desert at sunrise.
Now, depending on what time of the year you visit, sunrise can be quite early in the morning (especially for the night owls), but it is so worth it.
And, once you’re up there and experience the hour of serene beauty as you float above the landscape at golden hour, you’ll totally agree.
If this still doesn’t sound enticing enough for you to become an early riser, no worries.
There are always afternoon or sunset rides too.
Depending on the company, you’ll also get a certification of completion and a celebratory toast to commemorate this awesome experience.
#8 Fill Up Your Cup on a Scottsdale Wine Trail
While Scottsdale may not be the first place you think of when you hear wine (hello, Napa Valley?), it still has a few fantastic wineries you should check out.
The Scottsdale Wine Trail takes you to about seven wineries, all within a short distance from each other in Old Town.
On the trail, you’ll get to sample award-winning wines from knowledgeable sommeliers and even get a chance to buy a few bottles for yourself.
The best part?
You’re right in the bustling Old Town, so you’ll have more than enough restaurants to choose from to grab a bite afterward.
Wanderer Tip: Buy a wine trail passport for $5 and get $2 off each tasting you do on the trail.
#9 Visit Scottsdale Fashion Square and Wonderspaces
This is a two-for-one as Wonderspaces is in Scottsdale Fashion Square, a luxury shopping complex.
If you’re looking for all of the high-end brands like Gucci, Neiman Marcus, and Louis Vuitton, Scottsdale Fashion Square is your best friend.
The shopping complex will be your new go-to for all your fashion needs.
There are also a few restaurants and bars to refuel after your extensive exercise going from fitting room to fitting room.
Wonderspaces is an immersive and interactive art space with 14 showrooms that incorporate almost all art mediums.
Head to the light exhibitions to see some groovy displays of light and sound that are ever-changing.
A few cool installations also help you become part of the artwork as a collaborator.
Both places are a great way to spend a few hours in the city.
#10 Go Horseback Riding at MacDonald’s Ranch
Just in case you’ve forgotten that you’re in the Wild West, MacDonald’s Ranch is sure to remind you.
This family-friendly ranch is open Wednesday to Monday and offers the best dadburnit horse riding in the west.
Like a real western movie, you’ll be able to click-clack your way past desert cacti and wildlife with your expert guide leading the pack.
You can book a group or private ride through the plains, but for a unique experience, opt for the moonlight rides.
On these rides, your guide and the moon are your compasses as the sun sets and the moon appears.
However, don’t forget to pack something light to keep you warm as you trot along underneath the night sky.
Note: Moonlight rides are only available for four days before the full moon and require a reservation beforehand.
#11 See Artworks at the Scottsdale Museum Of Contemporary Art
Art enthusiasts will love this space filled with four galleries and artworks in all forms.
The Scottsdale Museum Of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) was once an old movie theater, but thanks to a few dedicated artists hoping to keep modern art going, it has found new life.
Besides its regular exhibitions, the museum also hosts events regularly.
Here, you can expect movies, trivia nights, and talks all surrounding design, art, and architecture.
You can download Scottsdale’s Public Art Walking Tour map for a self-guided audio tour to see them.
Note: There are also a few artworks scattered around the city.
#12 Tour the Desert Botanical Garden
You’ll find this desert beauty in Phoenix just a short drive from Scottsdale.
The garden has over 50,000 desert plants, rocks, and artworks scattered all around.
But the park doesn’t only have cacti and red rocks scattered around.
There is actually a healthy mix of vibrant colors added to the park by the wildflowers and butterflies.
Besides these beauties, you can also spot a few woodpeckers and hummingbirds happily floating about.
There are events all year round with shows like the Luminarias and the Electric Desert, where the whole park is lit up with glowing lights.
Besides these events, there are also regular culinary and live music events and showcases too.
#13 Soak Up the Outdoors at McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Yes, the city is amazing. But, sometimes, you just want to unplug and reconnect with nature.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers you over 30,000 acres of untouched land.
It is excellent for hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, and just about anything else you enjoy doing in nature.
Tom’s Thumb Trailhead is a great trail to take if you’re a bit more experienced hiker and lover of geological wonders.
However, if you’re a beginner, you might like the Gateway Trailhead more.
If you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), you might see the local wildlife come say hi.
The area is known for a few Mexican wolves and bighorn sheep sightings.
Wanderer Tip: Come during sunset for the best pictures!
#14 Have a Spa Day
Scottsdale is home to world class spas that are sure to please!
You can have a spa day or even rent out a poolside cabana at one of the local resorts.
I personally love and recommend The Scott Resort and Spa!
It’s a Cuban inspired hotel with an amazing aesthetic and vibe.
Head to the Canal Club for some great cocktails before you get a massage at the spa.
#15 Walk the Scottsdale Waterfront
The Waterfront is a well-known area in Old Town Scottsdale that runs along the city’s canal.
You can head to different restaurants, shop, or take a leisurely stroll.
Another popular thing to do is rent bikes and ride up and down the canal!
Wanderer Tip: Bring your camera gear for some pictures.
List of Things to Do in Scottsdale, AZ
- Taste the City through Old Town
- Hike in Pinnacle Peak Park
- Visit Butterfly Wonderland
- Do a Pub Crawl
- Take a Desert Jeep Tour
- Get the Best Instagram Shots at Taliesin West
- Get a Bird’s Eye View on a Hot Air Balloon Ride
- Fill Up Your Cup on a Scottsdale Wine Trail
- Visit Scottsdale Fashion Square and Wonderspaces
- Go Horseback Riding at MacDonald’s Ranch
- See Artworks at the Scottsdale Museum Of Contemporary Art
- Tour the Desert Botanical Garden
- Soak Up the Outdoors at McDowell Sonoran Preserve
- Have a Spa Day
- Walk the Scottsdale Waterfront
Where to Stay in Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale has some of the best boutique hotels.
But if you’re looking for something a little more mid-range, these amazing hotels are the bee’s knees too.
The Scott Resort and Spa ($$$) — A cuban inspired resort that has an indoor-outdoor feel. Staying here is like a vacation in a vacation! Plus it’s in an ideal location for exploring Scottsdale, AZ.
The Scottsdale Plaza Resort & Villas ($$) — The resort of Scottsdale Plaza offers deluxe accommodations with four on-site restaurants, a wellness center, and five pools. Perfect for an even better relaxation vacation in the west.
Best Western Plus Sundial ($$) — The Best Western Plus Sundial is at the fingertips of the best attractions in Scottsdale’s Old Town. This pet-friendly hotel has spacious rooms, a fitness center, and plenty of pool space.
Are Your Bags Packed for the Best Things to Do in Scottsdale This Weekend?
As you can see, fun attractions and Scottsdale go hand in hand. There are just so many things to do whether you consider yourself a foodie, an adrenaline junkie, or a budding photographer.
These fun things to do in Scottsdale, Arizona, will defs keep you on your toes and coming back for more once you’ve left. This list is a great way to curate your Scottsdale itinerary for a trip to the best of the west. Which activity are you most excited to do while here?