Things to do in Scottsdale, AZ

Get Your Bearings in Scottsdale

By Patricia Escarcega
Scottsdale Expert

Stay
Eat
See & Do
Party
Shop

Where to Stay

Scottsdale is home to some of Arizona's best luxury resorts, many of which are clustered around scenic Camelback Mountain. For more moderately priced options, Scottsdale Road offers numerous hotels and smaller resorts. Most of the city's highest rated golf resorts are located in the lush open desert of North Scottsdale, about a twenty-minute drive from the downtown district.

Hot Tips:

You'll find some of the best boutique hotels in the Greater Phoenix area in Scottsdale.

What to Eat

Scottsdale's busiest and most popular restaurant district is Old Town Scottsdale, home to most of the best restaurants in town. Here you'll find cafes, restaurants, gastropubs and wine bars packed into a handful of pedestrian-friendly city blocks. For fine dining, the city's top-notch luxury resorts host some of Scottsdale's most elegant and highly rated dining rooms.

Caution:

Scottsdale Road and downtown restaurants are challenging in the evening and on weekends.

Be Sure to Sample:

Local hand-crafted brews.

Things to See

Scottsdale's thriving art scene supports numerous highly rated museums. Explore the galleries along Marshall Way Arts District, home to a popular and long-running weekly downtown gallery art walk. Gorgeous weather and beautiful desert scenery draw hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts to the city's extensive parks and trails system. Scottsdale is also home to some of the best golf in the country, with dozens of public and private championship courses throughout the city.

Hot Tips:

Check out the South Bridge area along the canal, just west of Scottsdale Road.

Places to Party

Scottsdale nightlife has been compared to Miami's trendy and youth-oriented South Beach club scene. Indeed, the Camelback Road corridor near downtown is home to dozens of dance clubs. For a slightly more sedate and eclectic nightlife experience, hang out downtown at one of the city's top bars, where you'll find everything from historic cowboy saloons to trendy wine bars.

Caution:

Expect heavy traffic on the weekends.

Where to Shop

Scottsdale is a shopper's paradise, with an eclectic mix of boutiques, malls and shopping centers. For Southwest curios and novelties, stick to the sundry and souvenir shops around Old Town Scottsdale. Also in downtown, explore Scottsdale Fashion Square, featuring high-end retailers. For a sumptuous shopping expedition, venture into North Scottsdale to The Borgata, a Mediterranean-inspired oasis of fountains, meandering stone paths, and specialty boutiques.

Best Local Souvenir:

Authentic Native American jewelry or a jar of prickly pear cactus jelly.

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Things to do in Scottsdale


Scottsdale is known for...

Five of Scottsdale's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Art:

More than 100 galleries line the streets of downtown Scottsdale, so it’s not an exaggeration to say that Scottsdale rivals Santa Fe as the Southwest’s premier art Mecca. Every Thursday night, the city plays host to one of the nation’s oldest Art Walks, drawing artists, professional dealers, and art aficionados to downtown Scottsdale (for more than 30 years). Bob Park’s famous bronze horse fountain, one of the most photographed spots around town, reigns over the Marshall Arts District, where tree-covered courtyards and bubbling fountains provide a relaxing backdrop for exploring Scottsdale’s thriving gallery scene. Although traditional Western Art still holds sway over Scottsdale galleries, the city also has a flourishing contemporary art scene. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) champions innovation and vitality in the visual arts with ongoing exhibits of contemporary and modern art.

2. Resorts:

Luxurious desert resorts are Scottsdale’s premier calling card, drawing celebrities, winter visitors, families, and couples seeking a private escape into the desert. The Hyatt, Four Seasons, Waldorf-Astoria, and Hilton all offer their own sumptuous versions of a desert paradise, replete with sprawling desert gardens, private poolside cabanas, world-class spas and dining, championship-level golf, and guided excursions into the desert wilderness. Outdoor living is elevated to high art at these Scottsdale resorts, where open fire pits, outdoor lounge seating, poolside dining, and private decks and balconies are standard amenities—all perfect for watching desert night skies erupt with stars. 

3. Food:

Few cities in the Southwest offer the range, diversity, and innovation of the Scottsdale culinary scene. Scottsdale is home to over 600 restaurants, as well as the award-winning Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute. Award winning chefs, along with a large population of young kitchen apprentices, means that there’s no shortage of raw talent in this foodies’ paradise. You’ll find some of Arizona’s most upscale restaurants in Scottsdale, as well as the Southwest’s most adventurous techniques and creative use of indigenous ingredients. Traditional Southwestern flavors provide a basis for bold culinary experiments that fuse traditional Continental, California, and Latin American cooking with Scottsdale’s own unique take on regional and global cuisine. 

4. Shopping:

If the phrase “retail therapy” means anything to you, watch out. Scottsdale is home to Scottsdale Fashion Square, the largest shopping center in the Southwest. This upscale fashion park is where couture comes to live: Barney’s, Macy’s, Carolyn Herrera, Louis Vuitton, and Armani are just some of the famous names gracing the mall directory. Downtown, the Fifth Avenue Shops feature a collection of eclectic, cowgirl-chic boutiques, jewelry design, apparel, and unique Southwestern gifts. 

5. The Desert:

Scottsdale would not be a first-class destination without the natural splendor of the Sonoran Desert. Although hot desert temperatures keep things slow around town during the summer, the natural beauty of the city’s desert vegetation and geography, including Saguaro-studded hillsides and scenic foothills, draw thousands of visitors every year. Scottsdale offers nearly 100 miles of hiking, horseback-riding trails, and biking. Popular spots include Pinnacle Peak Park, Camelback Mountain, and the expansive McDowell Sonoran Preserve, which offers almost 20,000 acres of pristine desert readymade for your next outdoor adventure.