Planning a visit to the slice of desert paradise that is Scottsdale, Arizona? There’s a lot more to discover than spas and golf courses, so we’ve compiled this list of interesting, inspiring things to do in Scottsdale that are a bit beyond the normal tourist route but still close to your Scottsdale vacation rental. Make your Arizona getaway extra special with exciting Scottsdale activities for every interest, and perhaps even time your visit to coincide with bucket list-worthy Scottsdale events for a trip of a lifetime. Whether you’re looking for wacky and weird things to do in Scottsdale or some fabulous local restaurants, we’ve got you covered with our seven unique things to do in this gem of a city.
Feel inspired by Scottsdale’s beautiful scenery
Topping nearly every list of things to do in Scottsdale is the spectacular McDowell Mountain Regional Park, which contains hiking trails and stunning views of the desert landscape. Take a hike on the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trail or Tom's Thumb Trailhead, where you can find trails suitable for first-time hikers as well as experts. For more outdoor adventure, head over to Echo Canyon Recreation Area, Camelback Mountain, or Phoenix Mountains Preserve - and be sure to watch out for spiky cacti!
The majestic desert views are sure to get your creative juices flowing, so why not wrap your day of adventure at The Brush Bar, an art-studio-meets-bar where you can hone your painting skills at one of their evening classes. It’s one of our favorite fun things to do in Scottsdale at night because you can take your masterpiece home as a special Scottsdale souvenir.
Get some retail therapy at Scottsdale Fashion Square
Check some things off your shopping list at Scottsdale’s most famous mall - and you’ll probably end up with some things that weren’t on your list too. If you’re looking for things to do in Scottsdale, Fashion Square is an absolute must for savvy shoppers. This massive mall is anchored by swanky stores like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Macy’s, and other retail highlights include an Apple Store, Lululemon, Louis Vuitton, and Zara. Need a break from trying on clothes? Grab a burger at Shake Shack or ponder electric car ownership at the Tesla boutique.
Dine out in Old Town Scottsdale
Whether you spend the day hiking or shopping, you’re bound to work up an appetite doing some fun Scottsdale activities, and a favorite dining destination of locals and visitors is definitely Old Town. To avoid getting hangry, it’s helpful to have a list of the yummiest Old Town Scottsdale restaurants at your fingertips, so you can quickly decide between the California-inspired fare at Olive & Ivy and the scrumptious pizza at CRAFT 64. Or maybe you’re eager to try the seasonal specials at FnB Restaurant or splurge on a steak at Mastro's City Hall. And if you’re looking for a quick bite for breakfast or lunch, don’t miss charming Schmooze Breakfast.
But Scottsdale’s restaurant scene isn’t only for adults. If you’re looking for things to do in Old Town Scottsdale with kids, why not treat them to a delicious, kid-approved meal at Simon's Hot Dogs or Breakfast Club. End on a sweet note with a frozen treat from The Gelato Spot, which is the ideal way to beat the heat.
Stay cool in an air-conditioned museum
We love Scottsdale for its always-sunny weather, but, sometimes, it’s just too darn hot to be outside. Take advantage of the air conditioning at one of the many things to do inside in Scottsdale, like a fascinating museum. There’s a museum here for just about every interest, from modern paintings and sculpture at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to race cars at the Penske Racing Museum. Other air-conditioned highlights include the Scottsdale Museum of the West, the eclectic Musical Instrument Museum, and the Arizona Museum of Natural History.
Explore Scottsdale’s nightlife beyond Old Town
Old Town might be the most famous nightlife destination in Scottsdale, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only place for a fun night out. Searching for Scottsdale nightlife with some Wild West flair? Head south of Old Town to T T Roadhouse, an old-school tavern complete with cold beer, a jukebox, and pool table. You’ll want to wear your cowboy boots for this one! Also on the southern edge of town, but with a more modern spin, is Bitters Cocktail Bar & Food, where you can find craft cocktails and mouth-watering tacos. In the mood for wine? Catch a ride just north of Old Town and sip vintages from around the world at the classy Terroir Wine Pub.
Take a ride on the rails at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
When traveling with little ones, spending a few hours at a park is always a good idea. But Scottsdale’s McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park takes a day in the park to a new level. This outdoor attraction is one of the best free things to do with kids in Scottsdale, especially if the kids are into trains. And it’s only one of the top things to do in Scottsdale; this park is the proud holder of the “best park in America” title. In addition to standard park attractions like big swaths of grass and playground equipment, it has a historic merry-go-round, a 10,000-square-foot model railroad exhibition, and a scaled-down version of a vintage steam engine train that offers rides (for a fee) around the park.
Make your visit extra special with these Scottsdale events
Are your travel plans flexible? Rather than booking your stay on any random date, consider aligning your visit with a festival, party, or conference that the city is known for. During the winter holiday season, the weeks-long Scottsdazzle celebration contains several smaller events, like Christmas tree lighting and pub crawls. And during the annual Western Week, in early February, Scottsdale celebrates its heritage with events like the Parada del Sol Parade and the Arizona Indian Festival.
Even if you don’t visit at a specific time of year, you can likely still participate in one of our favorite Old Town Scottsdale events: Art Walk. During this weekly event, Old Town art galleries stay open a little later, local retailers host open houses, and bars and restaurants even offer specials. It’s a lovely way to engage with the community and discover the eclectic Old Town Scottsdale shops. Art Walk runs every Thursday from approximately 7pm onwards.
With a nickname like The West’s Most Western Town, you can be sure that your trip to Scottsdale will be one-of-a-kind. Enjoy all the only-in-Arizona character that the city has to offer while you try these 7 unique Scottsdale activities.