Things To Do Near Scottsdale
Scottsdale offers entertainment, attractions, culture and many nature attractions, so all visitors will find something to enjoy. We also recommend you visit Scottsdale in combination with other cities and towns around it. There is still more natural beauty, culture, and art to discover past Scottsdales city limits. If you dont plan to rent a car, you can ride the ValleyMetro buses, which also runs services to and from Scottsdale. Tempe , Mesa , Chandler and Glendale are about 15-30 minutes from Scottsdale and can be visited on day trips.
In Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, there is so much to see, starting with the famous car show at Penske Racing Museum, the original Musical Instrument Museum, the art and science museums, the inside of the StateCapitol, the Romanesque St. Marys Basilica, the historic Heritage Square, the zoo, and the botanical gardens. Basketball fans can enjoy watching the Phoenix Suns play in the NBA championship.
Go Stargazing In The Desert
Because of the deserts remoteness and dry air, you can catch some pretty amazing starry sky views on a clear day.
Take a short drive into the preserve away from the city and youll soon find dark, secluded skies.
If you come from a big city like me, you can never see more than a handful of stars out at a time. It was absolutely breathtaking to catch sight of a million twinkly points of light in the sky.
On an especially dark and clear day, you may even be able to see the Milky Way with your naked eye!
Glide Through The Sky On A Hot Air Balloon Ride
Take to the skies and enjoy a birds-eye view of Arizona as you float silently on the morning thermals.
Your experienced hot air balloon pilot will show you the best views and take photos so you can be the envy of your friends.
From this lofty height, you can appreciate the vastness of the Sonoran Desert, where the enormous cacti now look like miniature sentinels keeping watch over the plains.
Most flights take off in the early morning so you can catch the sunrise behind the mountains the bleary-eyed start is well worth it!
Sunset rides are also available for a romantic end to the evening.
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Days In Scottsdale For The Adventurer
Where are my nature and adventure lovers at? Even though Scottsdale is known for its spa culture, food, and art, the city is perfectly located for lots of outdoor activities, too. Scottsdale is in the desert, but also close to mountains, rivers, and plenty of adventurous things to do.
Highlights of this adventure itinerary:
- Hot air ballooning at sunrise
- Places to hike near Scottsdale
- Adventurous outdoor activities to try
- Cool places to eat in Scottsdale
Go Rock Climbing On The Giant Sonoran Rock Formations
Before climbing in Scottsdale, Id only ever climbed outdoors onceand it was kind of a traumatic experience.
Needless to say, I was apprehensive about giving outdoor climbing a second shot. However, Rico, my climbing guide was kind, patient, and trustworthy, instantly putting me at ease. He walked me through the ropes , got me set up with equipment, and brought me out to one of Scottsdales iconic rock formations to climb one of its faces.
It wasnt a tough grade, but it was a challenging climb! Instead of clearly marked holds, I had to search for where to put my hands and feet something new for me. However, Rico was there to cheer me on and keep me safe, belaying me all the way to the top as I admired the amazing views of the desert around me.
He mentioned that he works with beginner to advanced climbers, and that hes happy to help people climb who have never done it before.
360 Adventures also offers half- and full-day guided outdoor rock climbing tours, perfect for those wanting a certified guide to show them some of the most amazing rock climbing routes in the area.
No matter whether you are a seasoned climber or totally new at it, you can give it a try in the Scottsdale area.
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Tuck Into Tasty Treats On A Farmers Market Food Tour
You can discover a lot about a new destination through its cuisine, and food here in Scottsdale is a big part of the local culture.
Join an expert foodie and sample some of the regions finest delicacies at different venues across town.
Youll be popping into restaurants, cafés, and food stores to try delights such as chimichangas and the popular Sonoran hot dog.
Dont miss Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market where local growers and specialty producers tempt you with their goods.
Devour artisan bread, homemade jams, and delectable mellow cheese, then quench your thirst with some cloudy apple cider.
Montezuma Castle And Tuzigoot
These two glorious national monuments are located nearby one another a little drive north of Phoenix.
Both sites are of significance to Native American history and are in close proximity to villages long since abandoned, studded among the clifftops.
Youll certainly be impressed at the houses which are literally dug into the hillside its one of the best-preserved examples of this type of dwelling in the country.
The Sinagua people are thought to have lived there for around 150 years, from 1250 to some time in the 1400s.
Its also a stunning site of natural beauty make sure to spend some time exploring further afield, hiking along the ridges.
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Where To Stay In Scottsdale Arizona
Scottsdale makes for a great weekend escape. Fresh air, beautiful scenery and shopping. I recommend staying in Scottsdale and even treating yourself with a resort with a spa pool to relax at night.
- There are lots of fantastic Airbnbs in Scottsdale, AZ. There are many beautiful places to stay and this list gives plenty of options for all budgets.
- I stayed at the Scottsdale Camelback Resort. This is one of the best Hotels and it has amazing amenities and is close to everything.
If you are taking a road trip remember to reserve a car in advance using Discover Cars .
Mcdowell Sonoran Preserve Scottsdale Arizona
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the gateway to the Sonoran Desert and features one of the most diverse environments on earth. Spanning over 30,000 acres and unfurling along the eastern edge of the city, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve has more than 100 miles of trails and no less than six trailheads to explore and enjoy.
Visitors to the Preserve can enjoy an array of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, wildlife and bird watching, and guided rock climbing and off-roading tours. Each of the six trailheads provides expansive views of Pinnacle Peak and the Valley, and the Bajada Nature Trail offers a variety of games and activities en route for children of all ages.
18333 N. Thompson Peak Rd, Scottsdale, Arizona, Phone: 480-998-7971
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Wine Tasting In Sedona
If you can fit in a 2.5 hour drive, Sedonas vineyards and wineries await. Known for its otherworldly Red Rocks and buzzing downtown, Sedona offers rich local wineries lining the areas Oak Creek.
Each vineyard is locally owned and operated, meaning your glass of red or white is handcrafted from the roots up. A vineyard tour or tasting can further introduce you to the varieties that thrive in Northern Arizona.
The desert can be full of surprises, and wines that rival the flavors of Napa are just one of them. Consider visiting The Secret Garden Cafe at Tlaquepaque, Winery 1912 and Page Springs Cellars.
And if you dont feel like heading out of town, youre in luck! Scottsdale itself is home to seven Arizona wine tasting rooms right in Old Town no traveling required.
Days In Scottsdale For The Art Lover
Scottsdale is an extremely artsy city. It has multiple art museums and galleries, has been home to some brilliant architectural minds, and has more than 100 pieces of public art scattered throughout the city.
Highlights of this artsy itinerary:
- Scottsdale’s public art
- Several of the city’s museums and interactive spaces
- Some famous architects and designers
- The Scottsdale Wine Trail
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Downtown: Hotel Valley Ho
This historic hotel has seen many a few celebrities over the years, and they still flock to the desert to escape the paparazzi due to its relatively remote area and the fact that the current guest list is never released. Keep your eye out for celebrities, you never know who youre going to see.
Look closely and youll see all the personal touches from this privately-owned family business. Upon walking in, you feel like youre in your living room by the fire waiting for a friend to join. The attention to detail is impeccable, with pops of color and OHs featured throughout . Definitely no boring beige here! Although the hotel looks ultimately modern in nature, there are tons of vintage elements subliminal magic at its finest.
With no resort fees, bikes for rent, and designated rooms for pets, you cant get much better than this in downtown Scottsdale.
Splurge for the Tower Two-Bedroom Suite if youre staying with friends I promise you every inch of the suite is impeccable. One look of our room and we never wanted to leave. It comes equipped with high gloss kitchen cabinets , a 30-inch cooktop, and a full size refrigerator and freezer .
And cmon, just look at that pool it was hard to resist even in 65 degree weather.
Further Expansion And Development 1970s1980s
The 1960s and ’70s continued to see the city’s growth, the population reaching almost 68,000 by 1970. Most of the unused property within the city limits was to the north, so that was the direction in which the city expanded. The city, which in 1959 had spanned 5 sq mi , expanded its borders to encompass 62 sq mi . Large ranch tracts covered huge areas in the northern part of the city. One of the largest of these was the McCormick ranch, a 4,236-acre ranch serving much of the eastern boundary of Scottsdale owned by Fowler and Anne McCormick. Fowler’s paternal grandfather was Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the grain reaper, and his maternal grandfather was John D. Rockefeller. When Anne died in 1970, the property was sold to Kaiser-Aetna for $12.1 million. This started a series of large-scale, master-planned communities within Scottsdale’s borders, including Scottsdale Ranch , Gainey Ranch , McDowell Mountain Ranch , Desert Mountain , and DC Ranch .
In 1975, the city annexed the “east Shea” section, bordering Fountain Hills, expanding its area from 62.2 to 88.6 sq mi . This was followed by a four-year period from 1981 to 1984 during which the city annexed an additional 80 sq mi .
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Day : Museums Museums Museums
Today, focus on some of Scottsdale’s best museums.
Start out at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art , which is a small but very thoughtful contemporary art museum in Old Town Scottsdale. Exhibits change a couple times per year, so check out their website to see what’s currently on.
While at SMoCA, don’t miss the Knight Rise skyspace and Environ exhibits, which are ongoing and partially outside along the front side of the building.
Next, you can walk to Western Spirit: Scottsdaleâs Museum of the West . This museum focuses on the art, culture, and history of the American West. There’s a nice mix of art, sculpture, and historical items on display, so be sure to allow at least 1-2 hours here to see everything.
For lunch today, head to Diego Pops for delicious Mexican food. My favorites include the braised pineapple pork taco and the Brussels sprout nachos.
After lunch, head up to Scottsdale’s Fashion Square. Fashion Square is a massive upscale shopping complex â but no, I’m not telling you to go shopping!
Housed inside Fashion Square is the first permanent installation of Wonderspaces, an immersive and interactive art space with revolving exhibits by artists from around the globe. Wonderspaces is SUCH a cool concept, and might be my favorite way to experience contemporary art.
We spent nearly 2 hours here, going slowly through every exhibit. There’s also a bar inside Wonderspaces, so you can sip on a cocktail or beer as you make your way through the different spaces.
Cowboys Meet Comfort In The Wests Most Western Town
Scottsdales entire raison detrefor the last several decades, at leasthas been the art of rest and relaxation. Just down the road from Phoenix, this is Arizonas own Palm Springs: Much like the Californian escape, it initially gained popularity as a lowkey getaway for the Hollywood crowd, who figured no one would come looking for them in the far reaches of the Sonoran. Its equal parts arts, culture, glam, and classic desert quirks, with giant, almost cartoonish saguaro cacti sprouting up from the ground where Joshua trees might be in the Golden State.
Though the citys long called itself The Wests Most Western Town, your first few hours may convince you otherwise: youll quickly run into upscale resorts, luxury shops, and bachelorette parties romping their way through Old Townall a far cry from the rootin tootin days of yore. But go a little deeper, and youll see exactly what theyre talking about.
Friendly, laid-back locals outnumber Kardashian-esque tourists bars arent afraid to get a little rowdy and no one will judge you for licking the plate after a good, hearty meal. Youll see cacti towering over you, then craggy mountain expanses above those, and then the vibrant hues of the desert sky over all that. Spend enough time here, and you may find yourself sporting a Stetson hat: Scottsdale is also home to the one and only Cowboy College, where you can learn to wrangle and ride alongside the best of em.
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Things To Do In Scottsdale Az: Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market
The Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market is a vibrant local market situated on Brown Avenue that features a variety of locally grown produce and specialty foods. The market offers a broad range of farm produce from organic and pesticide-free vegetables, fruit, and herbs to natural beef, pork, chicken, and free-range eggs, milk, and local cheeses.
Freshly baked bread and other goods are available, including Amish friendship bread, artisan bread, and homemade muffins, cakes, and pies, as well as handmade jams, piccalillis, and tamales. The family-friendly market also offers fun-filled, food-related events throughout the season, including the Edible Education Series where cooks and chefs share their tips, tricks, and techniques for inspired cooking.
3806 N. Brown Ave, Scottsdale, AZ, Phone: 623-848-1234
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Stroll Around The Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden
Nestled away in Chaparral Park, the Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden is designed to highlight the benefits of saving water.
This intriguing educational project encourages community participation to reduce outdoor water use in the desert landscape and preserve resources for future generations.
As well as being a center for learning and sustainable landscaping, the garden is a wildlife haven too.
There are over 7,000 plants to admire, and an interactive plant guide helps you identify your favorites.
This is one for green-fingered visitors, but anyone with an appreciation for nature will enjoy a wander here.
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Ride A Mountain Bike Through The Desert Trails
Scottsdale is a mountain bikers playground.
Thrill seekers will love the hundreds of miles of rocky downhill slopes and sandy winding trails located just a half hour away from the city. Although I didnt get a chance to go biking, I saw tons of people on the trails riding through the gorgeous desert wilderness.
Most of the popular trails are near the McDowell Mountain regional park and McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
While you can simply rent a bike and hit the trails on your own, Id recommend taking a guided biking tour to see the best that the Sonoran Desert has to offer.
This guided half-day bike tour is the perfect way to explore the Scottsdale bike trails with an expert local guide, and includes all of the gear youll need.
Fill Your Afternoons With Arts And Culture
Between Scottsdale and nearby Phoenixwhich, despite how homogeneous they may look on a map, are separate cities whose itineraries just so happen to bleed into one another oftenthere are nearly as many museums, galleries, and art spaces as there are resorts.
For starters, anchor yourself in Old Town, where you can hit two of Scottsdales greatest artistic hits in the space of a few hours. Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the Westconsidered one of the best Wild West museums in the countryis home to hundreds of pieces of century-old paraphernalia, Native American pottery, and rotating exhibits. As of 2022, visit to see hundreds of photos of more than 80 Native American tribes spanning from present-day Arizona all the way to Alaska, the only collection of its kind. Afterward, walk five minutes down the road to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, home to dozens of fun modern pieces as well as one of James Turrells bewildering Skyspaces, one of just a handful in existence.
Another famous institution is Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wrights former winter residence and architectural masterpiece, where you can take a guided tour of the grounds and learn, room by room, how the late designer and his colleagues brought the home to life. Its also worth making your way over to Wonderspaces in Fashion Square, home to some of the most impressive tech-based and immersive digital art this writer has ever seen.
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