Skip Content

25 Best Things to do in Scottsdale in 2020

Crazy about bola ties, cacti and all things turquoise? Then Arizona is the state for you! Home to the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, the area is famous for its collection of natural wonders. Of course, there's also a lot of industry to explore. Scottsdale nets upwards of 9 million visitors every year. The neighboring city of Phoenix gets even more traffic, with an average of 44 million annual visitors. So why not join the ranks and take a trip out west? The Grand Canyon state awaits! We've decided to put together some must-see spots to help you navigate the journey. Check out the list below for more on the best things to do in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Quick View: 25 Things to do in Scottsdale

  1. Great Wolf Lodge
  2. McDowell Sonoran Preserve
  3. Taliesin West
  4. Global Musical Instrument Museum
  5. Scottsdale Center For The Performing Arts
  6. Desert Botanical Garden
  7. Old Town Scottsdale
  8. The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
  9. Odysea Mirror Maze
  10. Rusty Spur Saloon
  11. Velocity VR
  12. Wonderspaces
  13. Troon North
  14. Scottsdale Ale Trail
  15. Penske Racing Museum
  16. Arizona Cowboy College
  17. Desert Splash Adventures
  18. Arizona Outdoor Fun
  19. Sweet Republic
  20. Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale
  21. Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center
  22. MacDonald's Ranch
  23. Scottsdale Fashion Square
  24. Octane Raceway
  25. Talking Stick Golf Course

1. Great Wolf Lodge

Swimming is one of the most popular outdoor activities around. But throw in that hot Arizona sun, encounters with bugs and the packing required for a full day's adventure, and that local swimming spot starts to look a little less enticing. Fortunately, an easy alternative exists and it comes in the form of an indoor water park. Our facility is maintained at a comfortable 84-degrees, year round. Our collection of water slides and pools are designed to accommodate all families, from those traveling with toddlers, big kids or anywhere in between! We also have a ropes course, arcade and tons of restaurants sprinkled throughout the property! You can even spend the night in one of our Northwoods-themed suites. If you've already got lodging sorted out, stop by for a more abbreviated visit. Day passes to the water park are always available! 

Source: Great Wolf Lodge

2. McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Sprawling over 30,500 acres of land, there's certainly a lot to explore at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The desert area contains over 200 miles of trails. Visitors can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, jogging or even horseback riding their way around the preserve. If you're looking for an easy and accessible path, head over to the Bajada Nature Trail. Young kids, older folks and individuals with physical challenges can navigate this low-intensity trail. The park also has a Conservancy Kids program designed to help teach kids about the value, significance and wonder of the Sonoran Desert through a series of outdoor activities. The whole family can participate in this educational and engaging experience!

bikers at the Mcdowell sonoran preserve

Source: McDowell Sonoran Twitter

3. Taliesin West

Ever wonder what it would be like to go through a musician's playlist? Or tear apart a fashion designer's closet? How about exploring the inside of an architect's house? Well, you can do exactly that at Taliesin West! The 83-year-old building was built by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and served as his winter home. Today, the structure has been made into a National Historic Landmark and operates as the School of Architecture in Taliesin. Visitors are invited to tour the home, located in the foothills of Scottsdale's McDowell Mountain. Make sure to check out the details listed on the official site before your visit- some tours are not open to small children. 

interior archiecture of taliesin west

Source: Taliesin West Twitter

4. Global Musical Instrument Museum

Located in the neighboring city of Scottsdale, the Global Musical Instrument Museum was opened back in 2010. The founders were introduced to the idea after attending a similar museum in Brussels, Belgium. Today, the location has amassed a collection of over 13,600 instruments from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. The collections focus on five major global regions: Africa, and the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latina America and the Caribbean and the United States and Canada. The museum also has a series of hands-on kids' programs designed to teach your little ones about the wonders of music! 

Father and son play at the Global Museum Instrument Museum

Source: Musical Instrument Museum Twitter

5. Scottsdale Center For The Performing Arts

The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts shines a spotlight on contemporary art, architecture and design. Audiences can enjoy cutting -edge performances from around the globe. The museum also offers interactive displays, sensory exhibits, hands-on activities and more. If you head into the outdoor sculpture courtyard, you'll find one James Turrell's famous "Skyspaces," Knight Rise, on display. The exhibit invites visitors to observe the sky through an elliptical opening in the ceiling. The effect is said to appear most dramatic at sunrise and sunset. Make sure to check out the event calendar on the official site for new exhibit openings! 

museum exhibit at the scottsdale center for the performing arts

Source: Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Twitter

6. Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden in Scottsdale contains 140 acres of plant displays, hiking trails, educational programs and more. You can spend the whole day exploring the property! When it's time to grab a bite, head over to the garden's onsite eatery, Gertrude's. The restaurant is known for its seasonally inspired menus and is named after Mrs. Gertrude Divine Webster, an environmentalist and founder of the Desert Botanical Garden. Lunch and dinner options are available!

 desert plants at public garden is scottsdale

Source: Desert Botanical Garden Twitter

7. Old Town Scottsdale

With around 300 days of annual sunshine, Scottsdale is a pretty nice place to walk around. Think about taking a walking tour through its historic Old Town. The self-guided excursion will introduce you to some of Scottsdale’s history, starting with its oldest buildings, from the Little Red Schoolhouse built back in 1909 to the Blacksmith Shop opened in 1910. There's also Sugar Bowl, a popular diner built back in the 50's and a trail of old Olive Trees planted back in the late 1800's to check out. If you need to get off your feet, hop on the Scottsdale trolley and take in the town while on the road!

 frog statue in oldtown scottsdale

Source: J Klein Gallery Twitter

8. The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

The 30-acre McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park contains a 1950's vintage Allan Herschell carousel, a reproduction of the Colorado narrow gauge railroad, playground areas and an entire museum to explore. Get ready to take in all things railroad! 

old railroad in scottsdale

Source: City of Scottsdale Twitter

9. Odysea Mirror Maze

Ready for an adventure? Head over to the Odysea Mirror Maze. Walk into a different world and try to find your way out. Perhaps you'll stumble into the Central American rainforest, or even an ancient Mayan Temples! The Odysea Mirror Maze is located on the Arizona boardwalk alongside the Butterfly Wonderland, Odysea Aquarium, Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs and tons of other attractions!

mirror maze at Odysea

Source: Odysea Twitter

10. Rusty Spur Saloon

It might be best to leave the kids at home during a visit to this Arizona staple. Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston have all stopped by this special Scottsdale destination for a taste of the west. Expect to find traditional swinging doors, old country decor and tons of live country music!

rusty spur saloon

Source: Rusty Spur Saloon Facebook

11. Velocity VR

Ready for something that has nothing to do with the desert? Head over to Velocity VR, Scottsdale's premiere destination for virtual reality gaming. Strap on the gear and select your experience. Each session lasts around 30 minutes. You can dive into another round, check out some of the other attractions (hello, Go-Karts), or grab a bite at their Brickyard Grill and Bar!

VR gamer

 

Source: Velocity VR Facebook

12. Wonderspaces

If you have a soft spot for experimental art, you'll definitely want to check out this next stop. Wonderspaces refers to a series of traveling art shows stationed in San Diego, Philadelphia, and, of course, Scottsdale, Arizona. The goal is to create shared experiences that lend themselves to a "new" kind of audience. At Wonderspaces, you can expect to encounter immersive, interactive and community-driven exhibitions.

art exhibition at wonderspaces scottsdale

Source: Wonderspaces Twitter

13. Troon North

Welcome to one of Scottsdale's most popular golf clubs! This place features two 18-hole courses, both nestled in the foothills of Pinnacle Peak. Enjoy views of natural ravines, giant granite boulders and soak up some of the best of that desert landscape!

golfer at troon north golf course

Source: Troon North Twitter

14. Scottsdale Ale Trail

Time for a parent's night out! Get a taste of the local nightlife at some of the most popular spots in town! The self-guided tour includes stops at Craft 64, known for its rotating selection of over 30 regional beers, Sip Coffee and Beer House, famous for it's live music scene, Goldwater Brewing and Bad Water Brewing.

 beer from scottsdale beer copany

Source: Scottsdale Beer Company Twitter

15. Penske Racing Museum

Car aficionados will love this next stop! The Penske Racing Museum boasts an amazing collection of cars, trophies and racing memorabilia. Check out some of the cars that helped the organization accomplish over 400 major wins, including a replica of the 1963 Pontiac Catalina which helped Roger Penske win the 1963 Riverside 250 and the 2009 Dallara Honda which Helio Castroneves drove to win the 2009 Indy 500.

racing car at penske museum

Source: Penske Museum Twitter

16. Arizona Cowboy College

Want to live like a cowboy? Now's your chance! Learn how to ride a horse, sharpen your roping skills, haul cattle and more from real working ranch cowboys! You can schedule private and group lessons online. They also offer a kids camp during the summer months so plan your visit accordingly!

cowboy shadow

Source: Arizona Cowboy College Facebook

17. Desert Splash Adventures

See Scottsdale from the sky! With Desert Splash Adventures, you and your family can see some of Scottsdale's most celebrated landmarks from above. The seaplane takes you over the picturesque rock formations of the Sonoran and Salome wilderness before making a splash landing on either Roosevelt Lake or Lake Powell! 

view of mountains and water at desert splash

Source: Desert Splash Twitter


18. Arizona Outdoor Fun

Prefer to explore Arizona on land? No problem! Head over to Arizona Outdoor Fun for an ATV tour of the Sonoran Desert. Guided and Unguided tours are both available. Get ready for an unforgettable experience in the Bradshaw Mountains.

view of Arizona mountains

Source: Outdoor Fun Twitter

19. Sweet Republic

Dive into some of the best sweets in town! Sweet Republic is known for its award-winning, handcrafted ice cream. They rely on local ingredients to put together their extensive menu, which includes flavors like sweet cream pie, honey lavender, chicory coffee and tons of other unique blends!

ice cream cone

Source: Sweet Republic Twitter

20. Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale

Look for a different kind of dessert? The Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale is a great way to experience the city's downtown and waterfront zones! You'll visit some of the best chocolatiers and pastry chefs in Scottsdale. Just make sure to wear some comfortable shoes - the outdoor walking tour spans just over two miles!

chocolates in box

Source: Chocolate Tours Twitter

21. Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center rescues animals that have been lost, injured, orphaned or abandoned. Visitors can tour the facility and introduce themselves to some of the residents. There are bears, bobcats, mountain lions, wolves, jaguars, tortoises and more to see!

lion paws

Source: Southwest Wildlife Twitter

22. MacDonald's Ranch

MacDonald's Ranch offers guided horseback rides, stagecoach rides, a petting zoo, pony rides for small kids, hayrides, cowboy cookouts and more! You can also spend the day exploring the annual pumpkin patch!

Horse and cactus at MacDonald's Ranch in Scottsdale

Source: MacDonald’s Ranch Facebook

23. Scottsdale Fashion Square

Need to do a little shopping? Look no further than the Scottsdale Fashion Square. As Arizona's largest collection of exclusive brands and stores, you can find almost anything you need! There are also tons of dining options on-site for when you need to take a break and refuel.

Fashion Square in Scottsdale

Source: Scottsdale Fashion Square Facebook

24. Octane Raceway

The 1/3-mile track serves as the only full time Indoor/Outdoor track in the entire United States. Begin the Go-Karting experience indoors, wind your way through the outdoor track and land back inside! We'll note that you have to be at least 16 to ride, so you might want to leave the little kids at home for this one.

go karting at octane raceway

Source: Octane Raceway Facebook

25. Talking Stick Golf Course

Arizona is known for its golf courses, and the one at Talking Stick certainly lives up to expectations. The destination contains two 18-hole courses, both named for the area's Native American heritage. There's also a 17,000 square foot driving range, making it the largest public practice facility in the valley. The best part? Kids play for free!

talking stick golf course

Source: Talking Stick Golf Twitter

Looking for more to do in Scottsdale? Check out Experience Scottsdale for other ideas. If you're looking for a place to stay during your visit, think about making Great Wolf Lodge home base. Our Scottsdale location stretches across 18 acres and has 350 rooms for guests to enjoy. We're located next to the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Don't forget to sign up for our email list to learn about our best deals!