Venturing through Arizona? Pad your itinerary with some of the best things to do in Scottsdale, Arizona. Located just east of the state capital of Phoenix, Scottsdale is a fantastic spot to dig into all of Arizona’s historic and natural charms.
Known for its gorgeous spas, outstanding hikes, and architectural heritage, Scottsdale has a wealth of tourist attractions to delight travelers of all ages and interests. Whether you’re traveling with the family and want to learn more about marine life at the OdySea Aquarium, or are a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and want to get inspired by Taliesin West, Scottsdale is brimming with opportunities for travelers.
Not sure what to do on your Scottsdale visit? Don’t worry: We’ve got you covered with our guide to the best places to visit in Scottsdale, Arizona!
Got more travel plans on the horizon? Check out all our other attractions guides and our Arizona Travel Guide for more ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do!
Must-see places to visit in Scottsdale, AZ
Looking to learn more about the wonderful world under the sea? Round up your kiddos and journey to OdySea Aquarium, the Southwest’s largest aquarium.
Home to over 30,000 animals, OdySea Aquarium lets you discover new favorites, learn more about the animals you love, or be entertained by interactive 3D shows and experiences. Suitable for all ages and interests, the OdySea Aquarium is a family-friendly Scottsdale favorite that you’re not going to want to miss.
The OdySea Aquarium is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. It takes an absolute minimum of two hours to go through, but three to four hours is advised to enjoy everything that there is to see here.
Love to take in the beautiful symmetry of nature? Get your fill at Butterfly Wonderland, a one-of-a-kind immersive experience in the heart of Scottsdale, Arizona.
With the park’s 70 different species of butterfly, you’ll be surrounded by a kaleidoscope of vibrant color and movement. Interact with these beautiful creatures, learn more about their origins and lifecycle, or sit back and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
As Butterfly Wonderland receives shipments of approximately 1,500 Chrysalises every single week, there’s always something new and exciting to see here. Want to see new butterflies hatching from their cocoon? With so many new specimens, you can witness this natural phenomenon any time of the year.
If you’re an architecture aficionado, grab your sketchbook and check out Taliesin West, the former studio of the legendary architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
As Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West is full of interesting details and artifacts from the architect’s life and career. Wander around and appreciate the use of natural light. Join a tour to learn about the home’s history, or take a class at the architecture school that’s now attached to the property.
The building itself is a work of art and needs to be seen to be believed. Even if you’re not an architecture fan, Taliesin West might make an architecture buff out of you!
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
Obsessed with all things locomotive? Well, you’re in for a treat with a visit to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.
Designed to keep the whole family entertained, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park spans over 10,000 square feet and is home to jungle gyms, model railroads, and a miniature train. Play, explore and learn more about how the railroad system works, and the vibrant history behind it.
With entry for adults costing just $2 and free entry for kids 12 and under, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is an ideal place to spend a couple of hours in the great outdoors while learning something new!
Pinnacle Peak Park
Looking to build up a sweat on your Arizona trip? Fill up your water bottle, grab your hiking boots, and hit the trails of Pinnacle Peak Park, one of the top-rated day trips from Scottsdale, AZ.
Located in the jaw-droppingly beautiful Sonoran Desert, Pinnacle Peak Park is home to some of the best out-and-back hiking trails in the area. The park’s namesake, Pinnacle Peak, rises up 996m out of the desert floor, providing a decent challenge for anyone looking for an intense workout on leg day.
The shortest path on the west side takes around 40 minutes each way. The longer eastern side takes around an hour. As it’s a hike and a climb, it requires a little more skill.
Desert Botanical Garden
Want to learn more about the native flora and fauna of the Scottsdale area? Bring your green fingers along to the Desert Botanical Garden to find out more!
Dedicated to showcasing the plant life of the surrounding desert landscape, Desert Botanical Garden covers 140 acres with over 50,000 plants on display. This popular garden specializes in cacti and other arid landscape plant life. It offers a new spin on traditional garden attractions.
With a gorgeous restaurant, gift shop, and an intriguing library, the Desert Botanical Garden can easily take up a full day of your Scottsdale itinerary. Make sure you allocate enough time and bring plenty of water: This is the desert after all!
Interested in immersive art experiences, or just curious about what an immersive art experience entails? Discover your creative side at Wonderspaces Arizona.
Located in Scottsdale’s Fashion Square, Wonderspaces Arizona takes you on a multi-sensory artistic journey, lasting just over an hour. Sit and embrace the wonder that’s going on around you. Themes and shows vary throughout the year, providing something new every time you visit.
Make sure you book your tickets to Wonderspaces Arizona in advance. You’ll be given a designated time slot that you’ll have to turn up 15 minutes prior to; keep this in mind if you’re strapped for time.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Looking to get your fill of modern art and culture? Learn something new at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Located in the Old Town District of Scottsdale, this art museum displays awe-inspiring works of modern art in a variety of mediums. From architecture to fine art to design and even a sculpture garden, you could easily lose hours here.
With an intriguing blend of permanent collections and rotating exhibits—such as the current one by New York City-based Native American artist Brad Kahlhamer—the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art offers something new with each and every visit.
In search of a simpler time where everyone had their own piece of paradise? Mosey on down to MacDonald’s Ranch and enjoy the good life.
If you’re looking to explore the landscape around Scottsdale in a new way, saddle up and roam around MacDonald’s Ranch on one of its famous horseback rides. Get yourself a true Western experience as you ride and survey the natural beauty all around you.
Depending on when you visit MacDonald’s Ranch, treat the family to a wander around the pumpkin patch, a seasonal ride around the ranch atop hay bales, or a visit to the always cute petting zoo.
Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
Want to learn more about the region’s history, art, and culture? Gather up your family and friends and journey to Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.
Located in the old Loloma Transit Station, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West spans a huge 43,000 sq. ft. and encompasses two floors. Within the space, you’ll learn about the history of the American West, Mexico, and the Canadian West.
Wander the halls, explore the many prominent artifacts, take a tour, and learn more from the knowledgeable guides. Looking for something more interactive? Settle in at the museum’s informative theater for a show.
Scottsdale Fashion Square
In desperate need of some serious retail therapy? There’s no better place in the city than Scottsdale Fashion Square.
Filled with over 200 high-quality and well-known stores, Scottsdale Fashion Square allows you to shop until you drop. Need a break from browsing or need to refuel? Grab a bite to eat at one of Scottsdale Fashion Square’s many restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Looking for somewhere to hide out for a few hours while your friends or family keep shopping? Buy a big bag of popcorn and retire to the complex’s giant movie theater.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Need to stretch your legs and build up a sweat? Grab your hiking boots and water bottle and trek over to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
Spanning over 30,500 acres of protected land, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a popular spot among locals and tourists alike who are looking to hit the hiking trails. The most popular summit is Sunrise Peak. It can be accessed from a few different trailheads depending on length and convenience.
As a bonus, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is always free to enter; you can visit as many times as you like during your Scottsdale trip!
Looking for a wide-open expanse that’s also dog-friendly? Look no further than the beautiful and historic Papago Park, located just outside the state capital, Phoenix.
Home to plenty of amazing hiking trails and picnic areas, Papago Park is the ideal spot to get some exercise or recoup and enjoy a meal with some friends. Want to complete an iconic Arizonan hike? Choose from Big Butte Loop, Little Butte Loop, Hole in the Rock, or Hunt’s Tomb.
RELATED: What to Do in Phoenix, AZ
If you’re traveling with Fido in tow, bring them along to Papago Park. Just keep in mind that you have to keep them leashed and on the trails.
Desert Rock Winery & Distillery
Traveling to Scottsdale in an adults-only travel group? Let your hair down and enjoy a local tipple at the Desert Rock Winery & Distillery.
Whether you’re into wine, hard cider, alcoholic seltzers, or are more of a spirits person, Desert Rock Winery & Distillery encompasses them all. Pick your poison and spend the day tasting and enjoying Scottsdale’s finest drinks.
With a full tasting room, store, and distillery on-site to explore, take a tour of Desert Rock Winery & Distillery to learn about the process from top to bottom before buying a souvenir to take home with you.
O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery
Are craft beers more your kind of scene? Don’t worry: We’ve got you covered, too! Pull up a stool at O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery, a microbrewery located in the heart of Scottsdale, AZ.
Opt for a beer-tasting flight, or commit to a pint from one of O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery’s many taps. Sit inside with the eclectic industrial; design, or enjoy the Arizona sunshine on their expansive patio. Looking to inject some more fun? O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery has plenty of lawn games available out on their patio.
All this beer and competition got you hungry? O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery serves up great burgers, wings, and tacos. Spend a couple of hours here in the afternoon or enjoy a great night out with friends, new and old!
Cartel Roasting Co.
Need a morning pick-me-up to start your day in Scottsdale off right? Local java experts know that there’s no better spot to get your morning cup of Joe than Cartel Roasting Co.
Located in the heart of Scottsdale’s Old Town, Cartel Roasting Co. is the perfect spot to sit and chill out. Work from the coffee shop, relax, and people watch or stock up on caffeine before exploring the city. With plenty of comfy seating, chilled bohemian vibes, and friendly staff, it’s a must-visit when you’re in Scottsdale.
Don’t forget to pick up a bag or two of their delicious coffee before you leave. Enjoy a taste of Scottsdale even when you’re back at home!
Looking for a delicious dinner spot with a Scottsdale Old West twist? One of the most popular things to do in Scottsdale, AZ, is to make a reservation at Roaring Fork.
Enjoy the smoky, old-school flavor of wood-fire style cooking, all while sitting in a contemporary restaurant with stylish design features. Focusing on local meat and rotisserie-style Old West cooking, the Roaring Fork charms palates with its distinctly Southwestern menu.
Want something delicious to wash it all down with? Treat yourself to one or two of the exciting and fresh-tasting cocktails off Roaring Fork’s drinks menu.
Bonus tip: get yourself down to Roaring Fork between 4 pm and 6 pm to enjoy Happy Hour over in their bar area!
Recommended places to stay in Scottsdale for sightseeing
For most travelers, the most popular places to stay in Scottsdale, AZ, fall in & around Old Town. The neighborhood is home to many of the city’s top accommodation options, including hotels and vacation rentals.
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Scottsdale – Old Town, an IHG Hotel
With comfortable rooms & suites offering excellent value, this budget-friendly hotel is a fantastic pick for families embarking on an Arizona family vacation. Guests will enjoy a slate of amenities, including an outdoor pool to cool down in after a day of sightseeing. Book an executive room for a full self-catering experience.
Bespoke Inn Scottsdale
Located in the Old Town Arts District, this stylish boutique hotel offers elegant guest rooms and an array of luxurious amenities to take your vacation to the next level. Bring your partner to the beautiful courtyard for a romantic evening under the stars or cool off in the large infinity pool.
Canopy By Hilton Scottsdale Old Town
Situated in the heart of Old Town, this hotel gem delivers contemporary rooms with sophisticated furnishings that are perfect for a quick jaunt in this desert city. Start your day with an in-room Nespresso and end it with a cocktail by the outdoor pool on the rooftop terrace.