Top 10 Things to See & Do in Scottsdale

By local contributor
Scott McGinty

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or seasoned regular, here are 10 uniquely Scottsdale experiences you won’t want to miss.

 


Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve


Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve

This expansive urban preserve, the largest of its kind in the nation, boasts nearly 200 miles of scenic shared-use trails in the McDowell Mountain foothills that are great for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The Gateway trailhead offers access to numerous paths, ranging from the ADA accessible Bajada Nature Trail to the challenging Windgate Pass Trail.

 


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West


Best Places to Catch a Sunset Taliesin

Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright was so captivated by the Sonoran Desert’s natural beauty and sunny climate that he chose Scottsdale as the location for his winter home and architectural school, Taliesin West. Daily tours offer guests an insider’s look into Wright’s ingenious designs and his ability to seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor spaces.

 


Musical Instrument Museum


MIM Sunset Scottsdale

Discover unique instruments and music from around the world at MIM. High-tech headphones and multi-media displays immerse you in global musical traditions, while the hands-on Experience Gallery lets aspiring musicians of all ages try their hand at instruments like guitars, gongs and gamelans.

 


Downtown Scottsdale


Scottsdale Downtown Old Town Waterfront

Downtown’s nine walkable neighborhoods offer you a variety of experiences by day and night. Discover historic Scottsdale in Old Town, browse the galleries of the Arts District, shop along Fifth Avenue or discover the energy of Scottsdale after dark in the Entertainment District.

 


Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West


Museum of the West

This downtown gem celebrates the pioneer spirit of the American West through changing exhibitions of fine art, rare historic artifacts and cultural treasures. Be sure to check out the museum’s event calendar for live music, speakers and Western film screenings.

 


Odysea in the Desert


Odysea Scottsdale

This one-of-a-kind dining, shopping and entertainment center features three of Scottsdale’s newest attractions – OdySea Aquarium, Dolphinaris and Butterfly Wonderland. Explore the rivers and oceans of the world, swim with dolphins, and walk among thousands of butterflies – it’s all at OdySea in the Desert!

 


Desert Botanical Garden


Desert Botanical Garden

The Garden’s five paved thematic trails introduce you to thousands of arid-land plants from around the world. Must-see events at the Garden include Las Noches de las Luminarias, the Music in the Garden concert series, and summer Flashlight Tours.

 


TPC Scottsdale


TPC Scottsdale

TPC Scottsdale may be best known as the home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but it’s also one of Scottsdale’s finest public, desert-style golf courses. Play where the pros play with a round on TPC’s Stadium Course – you can almost hear the crowds cheering on the infamous 16th hole.

 


Scottsdale Wine Trail


Scottsdale Wine Trail

Downtown Scottsdale is a hub for tasting rooms from some of the state’s most acclaimed vineyards, including LDV Winery, Aridus Wine Company, Carlson Creek Vineyards and Salvatore Vineyards/Passion Cellars. Spend an afternoon sampling the fruits of their labor along the walkable Scottsdale Wine Trail.

 


Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art


SMoCA

SMoCA celebrates the modern art, architecture and design of our time through thought-provoking, changing exhibitions. The museum, an ingenious renovation of an old movie theater by architect Will Bruder, also is home to “Knight Rise,” a James Turrell skyspace that allows you to track the sun’s colorful path across the desert sky.

  •  
    Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve

    This expansive urban preserve, the largest of its kind in the nation, boasts approximately 200 miles of scenic shared-use trails in the McDowell Mountain foothills that are great for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The Gateway trailhead offers access to numerous paths, ranging from the ADA accessible Bajada Nature Trail to the challenging Windgate Pass Trail.

  •  
    Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West

    Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright was so captivated by the Sonoran Desert’s natural beauty and sunny climate that he chose Scottsdale as the location for his winter home and architectural school, Taliesin West. Daily tours offer guests an insider’s look into Wright’s ingenious designs and his ability to seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor spaces.

  •  
    Musical Instrument Museum

    Discover unique instruments and music from around the world at MIM! High-tech headphones and multi-media displays immerse you in global musical traditions, while the hands-on Experience Gallery lets aspiring musicians of all ages try their hand at instruments like guitars, gongs and gamelans.

  •  
    Downtown Scottsdale

    Downtown’s nine walkable neighborhoods offer you a variety of experiences by day and night. Discover historic Scottsdale in Old Town, browse the galleries of the arts district, shop along Fifth Avenue or discover the energy of Scottsdale after dark in the Entertainment District.

  •  
    Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West

    This downtown gem celebrates the pioneer spirit of the American West through changing exhibitions of fine art, rare historic artifacts and cultural treasures. Be sure to check out the museum’s event calendar for live music, speakers and Western film screenings.

  •  
    A Taste of Old Town Scottsdale Tours

    Arizona Food Tours offers both lunch and progressive dinner tours that will give you the inside scoop on downtown Scottsdale’s dining scene. Each tour stops at approximately five restaurants, where you’ll be treated to gourmet samplings and, in many cases, hear directly from the chefs about their cuisine.

  •  
    Desert Botanical Garden

    The Garden’s five paved thematic trails introduce you to thousands of arid-land plants from around the world. Must-see events at the Garden include Las Noches de las Luminarias, the Music in the Garden concert series, and summer Flashlight Tours.

  •  
    Heard Museum

    The Heard’s award-winning collections explore the Native American cultures of the Southwest. Frequent art and cultural demonstrations, as well as annual events like the World Hoop Dance Championship (Feb.) and Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market (March), give you the opportunity to meet and talk with Native artists from various tribes.

  •  
    Desert Belle Tour Boat

    For a relaxing desert experience, join the Desert Belle for a 90-minute cruise on Saguaro Lake. This 143-passenger, two-level boat gives you a close look at the region’s native flora and fauna while navigating one of the Valley’s most pristine Sonoran Desert canyons.

  •  
    Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

    SMoCA celebrates the modern art, architecture and design of our time through thought-provoking, changing exhibitions. The museum, an ingenious renovation of an old movie theater by architect Will Bruder, also is home to “Knight Rise,” a James Turrell skyspace that allows you to track the sun’s colorful path across the desert sky.