24 Best Things To Do In Scottsdale, Arizona - Updated 2021

things to do in scottsdale arizona

Just east of Phoenix, you can find Scottsdale, a desert city in Arizona that is famous for its spa resorts and golf courses. In Scottsdale, you will find plenty of family fun, especially outdoors. Whenever you want to take a break from exploring the outdoors, there’s a lively dining and shopping scene waiting to be explored. From sampling the Southwest cuisine or exploring the desert in the Sonoran preserve, here are the best things to do in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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1. OdySea Aquarium

Talking Stick Resort / Odysea Aquarium, Scottsdale AZ
Source: Photo by Flickr user Raquel Baranow used under CC BY 2.0

Children and adults alike will love exploring the OdySea Aquarium, one of the newest and most unique aquariums in the United States. It might seem odd to have an aquarium in such close proximity to the Sonoran Desert but don’t let that fool you. Once you step inside, you’re bound to be amazed!

The aquarium spreads over 200,000 square feet (18,580 square meters) with highlights like the Penguin Point, where you can get up close and personal with actual penguins. There’s also the Deep Ocean Escalator that will plunge you deep underwater where you can spot sharks and different fish species.

OdySea Aquarium

Address: 9500 East Vía de Ventura A-100, Scottsdale, AZ 85256

Website: OdySea Aquarium

2. Butterfly Wonderland

This is one of Scottsdale’s most impressive and unique facilities - an indoor rain forest that supports a butterfly pavilion, which is the largest in the United States. Get ready to see thousands of butterflies from around the world as you explore the tropical rain forest.

Highlights of Butterfly Wonderworld also include a live ant colony and a honey bee exhibit. Children will definitely love this unique experience, but so will adults!

Butterfly Wonderland

Address: 9500 East Vía de Ventura, Scottsdale, AZ 85256

Website: Butterfly Wonderland

3. Downtown Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale 01
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Bernard Gagnon used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Take a walk in Old Town Scottsdale to get a grasp of what the city used to look like in the bygone years. Many of the buildings in the area date back to the 1920s, giving you an idea of how the city looked almost a hundred years ago.

The downtown area is filled with chic boutiques, cafes and souvenir shops, so there will be plenty to explore for all budgets. You can also check out the Scottsdale Historical Museum if you’re tired of shopping and want to learn some of Scottsdale’s history.

Downtown Scottsdale

Website: Downtown Scottsdale

4. McDowell Sonoran Preserve

McDowell Sonoran Preserve from Gateway Entrance
Source: Photo by Flickr user Dru Bloomfield used under CC BY 2.0

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve marks another record for Scottsdale. This is the largest preserve of its kind in the US and definitely a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Here you will find over 200 miles (321 kilometers) of biking, hiking, and horseback riding trails in over 74,000 acres (30,000 hectares) of pristine desert.

Access and parking are free all day long, so take your time relaxing and exploring. Bajada Nature Trail is a must. Don’t forget to stick around for sunset, either, as it looks amazing from here.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Address: 18333 N Thompson Peak Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

Website: McDowell Sonoran Preserve

5. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Posted by McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park on Thursday, 10 November 2016

Right in the heart of Scottsdale, the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park has train and carousel rides for all ages. The many green spaces in the park are perfect for a picnic with the family, while the history behind the train and railroad artifacts will fascinate any train lover.

The park is also home to various events around the year, so make sure you check in advance. Even if you don’t catch an event, there will still be plenty to see and explore at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Address: 7301 E Indian Bend Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

Website: McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

6. Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

things to do in scottsdale arizona | southwest wildlife conservation center

Different from any zoo or animal park you’ve seen before, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center is a wild animal rescue center that teaches children valuable lessons on animal rescue. The animals that make a full recovery after rescue are later set free into the wild, but there are also animals that remain in the shelter on a permanent basis. The staff at the center are always friendly and ready to share a story or two about their work and the animals here.

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Address: 27026 N 156th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85262

Website: Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

7. Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

Hashknife Pony Express Arrival and Celebration; Feb. 10, 2017 at Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West. Photo Courtesy the City of Scottsdale.

Posted by Western Spirit Scottsdale's Museum of the West on Tuesday, 14 February 2017

There’s no better place to feel the Western spirit than at the Scottsdale Museum of the West. Incredible artifacts such as John Wayne’s signed business card or blankets that once belonged to Navajo Chiefs will paint a vivid picture of the past - as will the museum’s Western art. The story continues outside, where visitors get to wander through a courtyard with a sculpture garden and an outdoor amphitheater.

Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

Address: 3830 N Marshall Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Website: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

8. Penske Racing Museum

Source: Photo by user Dan Wildhirt used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Penske Racing Museum is a definite must-see for race car aficionados. With over 9,000 square feet (836 square meters) of amazing race cars, trophies, and memorabilia on display, this two story museum is open to the public and free of charge. Spot the stock car that Rusty Wallace raced to his final victory in 2004 as you enter the museum!

Penske Racing Museum

Address: 7125 E Chauncey Ln, Phoenix, AZ 85054

Facebook: Penske Racing Museum

9. FnB Restaurant

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

After all the outdoor exploring, you will definitely be hungry and in search of a great place to eat. FnB Restaurant is located in downtown Scottsdale and the first thing that will impress you will be the charming decor and setting.

Once you take a seat and open up the menu, you’ll have plenty of choices. Whether it’s local or globally inspired dishes that interest you, everything here is made from locally-sourced ingredients of the best quality. Previous guests recommend the butterscotch pudding as a must-try for dessert and the halibut or rib-eye as great dinner choices.

FnB Restaurant

Address: 7125 E 5th Ave #31, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Website: FnB Restaurant

10. Octane Raceway

Octane Raceway is an indoor/outdoor go-karting venue for all ages that features a third-mile (.5 kilometer) track. The track is a lot of fun for all skill levels and will take you through both indoor and outdoor sections.

The entertainment doesn’t stop here, however, as the venue has plenty more to offer, such as a bowling alley, a pit crew challenge, and arcade games. This is definitely the right place for a few fun hours with friends or family.

Octane Raceway

Address: 9119 E Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

Website: Octane Raceway

11. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Take a walk down history lane to discover an era long gone. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament offers a unique experience featuring horsemanship and falconry, as well as a medieval-style four-course dining experience without any utensils, in a castle-like setting. The shows paint a very vivid and accurate picture of medieval battles. You’ll see clashes between costumed warriors on horses, an impressive flight of the majestic royal falcon, and an unparalleled equine spectacle.

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament

Address: 9051 East Vía de Ventura, Scottsdale, AZ 85258

Website: Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament

12. Taliesin West

Taliesin West
Source: Pixabay

Currently the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s headquarters, Taliesin West was previously the winter home and school of Frank Lloyd Wright, up until he died in 1959. Today, the location is open for guided tours. Visitors can learn more about the American architect, his life, and design style, and take a peek inside what used to be his private quarters. Since the house and its surroundings are spectacular, many private events are held here, so make sure you check the schedule in advance.

Taliesin West

Address: 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259

Website: Taliesin West

Opening hours: Thu, Sun: 10am - 3pm; Fri - Sat: 10am - 7pm (closed from Mon - Wed)

Price: 40 USD

13. Arizona Boardwalk

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Family-friendly, entertainment-packed Arizona Boardwalk is Scottsdale’s fun hotspot, where there’s always something going on. The entertainment destination was created with both tourists and locals in mind in the hope of offering everyone a place to unwind, relax, and always find something to do or explore. Today, Arizona Boardwalk is home to Odysea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Laser & Mirror Maze, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, but also dining and shopping options galore.

Arizona Boardwalk

Address: 9500 East Vía de Ventura, Scottsdale, AZ 85256

Website: Arizona Boardwalk

Opening hours: 9am - 7pm (daily)

14. Pinnacle Peak Park

Pinnacle Peak
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user SolYoun used under CC BY 2.0

A hiking and rock climbing paradise, Pinnacle Peak Park spreads on 150 acres (60 hectares) of land and is one of Scottsdale’s best outdoor spots. You can follow the trail that will take you to Pinnacle Peak’s top and stop along the way to take in the spectacular views. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife too: roadrunners, jackrabbits, mule deer, and even coyotes or mountain lions might be seen roaming around. Although the peak itself looks so steep and imposing, the Pinnacle Peak Park trail has moderate difficulty and is suitable for all hiking abilities.

Pinnacle Peak Park

Address: 26802 N 102nd Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85262

Opening hours: 7am - 6pm (daily)

15. Talking Stick Entertainment District

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Views 🤩

Posted by Talking Stick Entertainment District on Tuesday, January 5, 2021

A day is never enough to enjoy and experience everything Talking Stick Resort has to offer. From family-friendly activities to nightlife entertainment, you’ll find anything you want here. There’s a casino on-site, where visitors can play poker, slots, keno, and table games. Meanwhile, those looking for a more relaxing alternative can head over to the spa for a full-body treatment. Dining opportunities are plentiful, whether you’re looking for fine dining with a view, authentic Creole cuisine, or Southwestern hearty food.

Talking Stick Entertainment District

Address: 9120 E Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

Website: Talking Stick Entertainment District

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

16. Arizona Rafting by Wilderness Aware

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Wilderness Aware Rafting on Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Explore Arizona’s wild side and go on a rafting adventure with Arizona Rafting by Wilderness Aware. Tackle Upper Salt River’s challenging rapids to reach calmer water, where you’ll get to marvel at the stunning surrounding landscape. Depending on your skill level and how adventurous you feel you are, they offer various rafting trips, from a quick half-day to longer options that will give you plenty of time to practice your skills on the water.

Arizona Rafting by Wilderness Aware

Website: Arizona Rafting by Wilderness Aware

Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)

Price: From 125 USD

17. Fiesta Bowl Museum

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Whether you’re a football fan or not, Fiesta Bowl Museum is an interesting spot to explore. The college football museum features all kinds of football equipment, trophies, memorabilia, as well as an impressive collection of 130 helmets. Besides being a museum, the space also hosts various business and social events, where guests get to participate in teambuilding activities or attend a festive dinner or a cocktail party.

Fiesta Bowl Museum

Address: 7135 E Camelback Rd #190, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Website: Fiesta Bowl Museum

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 8:30am - 5pm (closed on Sat & Sun)

Price: Free

18. Jack Knife - Ed Mell Sculpture

Scottsdale AZ Arts District
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Bobak Ha'Eri used under CC BY 3.0

Nestled on Main Street in Scottsdale’s Arts District, Jack Knife is one of the city’s popular sculptures, inspired by the city’s official seal. The bronze sculpture was created by Ed Mell, a well-known local artist, and it’s actually his first large-scale sculpture in Scottsdale. Although the ranger and horse have their origin in the Old West, the way they’ve been created brings a modern twist to this traditional theme.

Jack Knife - Ed Mell Sculpture

Address: 7038 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

19. Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl Exterior
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Joel Kramer used under CC BY 2.0

Sugar Bowl is your go-to place for dessert in Scottsdale. The restaurant is located in Downtown Scottsdale, making it easily accessible when you take a break from sightseeing and want to calm your sweet tooth, or you’re looking for a place to enjoy a delicious lunch. As soon as you step foot inside the restaurant, you’ll instantly be transported back to the late ‘50s, as Sugar Bowl hasn’t changed much since 1958 when they first opened their doors. The menu includes a wide selection of sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, salads, and meats. Still, they’re really famous for desserts. Don’t leave before you try their Turkish Coffee or Chocolate Chip ice creams. Other popular items on the menu include the Creamed Walnut Fudge Sundae and the sugar bowl parfaits. The restaurant is kid-friendly and vegetarian-friendly.

Sugar Bowl

Address: 4005 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11am - 10pm; Fri - Sat: 11am - 11pm

20. Orange Sky

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Dine in style at Orange Sky, the staple rooftop restaurant at Talking Stick Resort. The only thing that can top the exquisite fine-dining dishes is the sun setting over Scottsdale, as seen from the restaurant terrace. The restaurant is located on the 15th floor and boasts floor-to-ceiling windows for the most breathtaking vistas. Their menu features starters such as wild arugula and fennel salad, or pumpkin seed-crusted spicy shrimp, as well as shared plates, beef, and various meat dishes, all perfectly paired with the finest wine; ask the waiter.

Orange Sky

Address: 9800 East, Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85256

Website: Orange Sky

Nearby things to do

21. Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden Phoenix Arizona 51
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Simeon87 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Part of Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona, Desert Botanical Garden is a spectacular 140-acre (56-hectare) garden boasting unique plants from different corners of the world. Follow the paved trails and immerse yourself in a natural oasis like no other. Marvel at endless cactus plants, listen to hummingbirds sing and smell the blooming wildflowers. The Desert Botanical Garden also hosts various events, and it features educational programs for the little ones.

Desert Botanical Garden

Address: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Website: Desert Botanical Garden

Opening hours: 8am - 8pm (daily)

Price: 15 USD

22. Phoenix Zoo

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jedijoe82 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Located in Phoenix, the Phoenix Zoo is a non-profit organization that is more than just a zoo and is actively involved in the conservation of plant and animal species. Explore the many zoo trails to discover the wide variety of species it hosts. Keep your eyes peeled for mighty lions, giraffes, and gazelles on the Africa Trail, gaze at plants native to the Sonoran Desert on the Arizona Trail, and observe Komodo dragons and Asian elephants on the Tropic Trail.

Phoenix Zoo

Address: 455 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Website: Phoenix Zoo

Opening hours: 9am - 3pm (daily)

Price: 25 USD

23. South Mountain Park and Preserve

South Mountain Park Entrance
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ciphers used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Whether you’re into outdoor sports or are looking to take a scenic drive and enjoy nature’s spectacle, check out South Mountain Park and Preserve in Phoenix, Arizona. The largest municipal park in the United States features a plethora of hiking and biking trails. Make it a day to remember and stay for a picnic; there are plenty of covered picnic and barbecue spots throughout the park. The park is a year-round attraction, but it can get boiling in the summer months.

South Mountain Park and Preserve

Address: 10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042

Website: South Mountain Park and Preserve

Opening hours: 5am - 7pm (daily)

24. Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Children's Museum of Phoenix on Friday, October 16, 2020

Take the little ones to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and let them explore and get creative. The museum is recognized as a great place for fun, creativity, and imagination. Here, kids are allowed (and encouraged even) to touch absolutely everything, as part of a sensorial experience meant to teach them and stir their imagination and cognitive development. The museum hosts over 300 play experiences and organizes various educational programs. Hence, there is plenty to choose from with your little one.

Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Address: 215 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

Website: Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Opening hours: Fri - Sun: 9am - 4pm (closed from Mon - Thu)

Price: 15 USD

25. Pueblo Grande Museum

Pueblo Grande Museum
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Visitor7 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

History in and around Phoenix, Arizona, dates back to prehistoric times, so whether you’re a history buff or not, make time to visit Pueblo Grande Museum, along with its archaeological sites and ruins. The museum hosts multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits, including a Children’s Gallery and an Outdoor Trail that will take you to see pit houses and an agricultural garden that once belonged to the prehistoric Hohokam people.

Pueblo Grande Museum

Address: 4619 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

Website: Pueblo Grande Museum

Opening hours: Tue - Sat: 9am - 4:45pm (closed on Sun & Mon)

Explore Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale, Arizona is one of those cities that has something new to offer around every corner. From desert trails and chic downtown art galleries to a butterfly sanctuary and a fun encounter with penguins at the new OdySea Aquarium, Scottsdale is a city for all ages. So get ready to be amazed!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Karina is a content creator based in Bucharest, Romania. A world traveler, obsessed over F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and a coffee addict, she dreams of one day calling Colorado home. Some of her favorite...Read more

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