Fabulously Free

By local contributor
JoAnne Zeterberg

Vacations are made for splurging, but why not save a little cash when you can? Here are 12 fabulous things you can enjoy for free in the Scottsdale area:


Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Admission to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is free all day every Thursday, as well as the second Saturday of the month. SMoCA showcases the contemporary art, architecture and design of our time by creative thinkers from around the world. And no matter what day you visit, viewing James Turrell’s magical “Knight Rise” installation is always free!


Sonoran Desert Hiking

Scottsdale offers more than 400 miles of hiking trails, most of which you can access for free. Two local favorites are Pinnacle Peak Park, which features a wide switchback trail and scenic summit views, and Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which boasts more than 215 miles of shared-use trails in the McDowell Mountain foothills.


Desert Botanical Garden

Explore one of the world’s finest collections of arid-land plants for free on the second Tuesday of every month at the Desert Botanical Garden! Stroll the Garden’s five thematic trails, including the “Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop” and the “Desert Wildflower Loop,” browse the Garden shop and enjoy the seasonal Butterfly Exhibits.


Native American Cultural Presentations

You can enjoy free Native American dance performances at 5 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa. Led by seven-time World Hoop Dance Champion Derrick Suwaima Davis, the Living Traditions Dance Troupe introduces you to several of Arizona’s Native American tribes through music, dance and storytelling. (Friday evenings, September thru May).


Scottsdale ArtWalk

The galleries of the Scottsdale Arts District stay open late every Thursday evening from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for ArtWalk, a Scottsdale tradition for more than 40 years. Special exhibits, artist receptions and live entertainment create a festive atmosphere for exploring art in a variety of genres by national and international artists.


Old Town Farmers' Market

Cooking demonstrations, gardening tips and locally made treats are just a few of the treasures you’ll find at the Old Town Farmers’ Market (Saturday mornings, October thru May).


Public Art & Historic Walking Tours

Download the Public Art and Historic Scottsdale walking tour maps and experience Old Town’s highlights at your own pace. Be sure to allow time for all the dining and shopping options you’ll find along the way.



The melodious bronze wind bells of late Italian architect Paolo Soleri are still being crafted at his Scottsdale home and studio, Cosanti. Call ahead for bronze pour times to experience the creative process in action.


Summer Concerts

Live music adds a certain sparkle to Scottsdale summer evenings! You’ll find free concerts by popular local bands at a variety of venues, including Desert Ridge Marketplace and Mccormick-Stillman Railroad Park.


Scottsdale Trolley

Park once and explore all of Old Town for free on the Scottsdale Trolley. The route runs from Scottsdale Fashion Square in the north to the Arts District and Historic Old Town to the south. It’s a fun and easy way to get around!


Fiesta Bowl Museum

Located at the Scottsdale Waterfront, this museum commemorates some of the greatest moments in Fiesta Bowl history. Highlights include a collection of all 128 FBS team helmets and some of college football’s most prestigious awards, including the Heisman Trophy.

Old Town Art & Cultural Trolley Tour

On the second Saturday of the month, join the experts from Ultimate Art & Cultural tours for a two-hour narrated trolley tour through Old Town. Highlights include the iconic Hotel Valley Ho, historic Arts District and the Scottsdale Waterfront.


Heard Museum

Discover Native American cultures of the Southwest and beyond at this world-renowned museum. Admission is free on the first Friday of the month (except March) from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.