10 Best Attractions and Activities in Scottsdale

Visitors to Scottsdale come for some of the Southwest’s best shopping, dining, art galleries, architecture, and of course, adventurous excursions into the vast Sonoran Desert. 

Whether you come to take a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert studio at Taliesin West, or want to live out your cowboy dreams with an early morning horseback ride, Scottsdale beckons visitors with great weather, luxurious amenities, and the natural beauty of the surrounding desert.

A good introduction to the city is a stroll through Old Town Scottsdale, a hub of shops, boutiques, cafes, and galleries. This pedestrian-friendly area features a free local trolley that makes it easy for visitors to navigate downtown.

Art lovers will want to visit the dozens of galleries located in the Marshall Way Arts District. This section of downtown hosts a popular art walk every Thursday night, one of the oldest in the country.

Art lovers should also make time for a visit to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, one of the Southwest's premier destination for modern art.

For history buffs, the Museum of the West offers a great introduction into the history and culture of the American West. The museum's historical artifacts and storytelling events help bring the West to life. 

Northeast of downtown, Butterfly Wonderland is a popular family attraction with a collection of thousands of butterflies from around the world.

Check out our list for more recommendations on what to see and do during your Scottsdale stay. 

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve protects more than 30,000 acres of pristine desert in north Scottsdale. This is a hiker's paradise, with more than 115 miles of trails, including more than 60 miles of shared-use trails. Trailhead gates are open...  Read More

OdySea Aquarium is one of the newest aquariums in the United States, and it happens to be in an unlikely place: the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Don't let the desert location fool you, though: this is the...  Read More

Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale is an unique facility featuring an indoor rain forest environment that is home to the largest butterfly pavilion in America. The museum features a 3D theater, butterfly emergence gallery, conservatory, a live...  Read More

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a train-lover's haven located in the heart of Scottsdale, Arizona. The park offers train and carousel rides for all ages, open green space for family picnics, historic Arizona railroad artifacts, model...  Read More

Five galleries and a sculpture garden make up the nucleus of this facility. Additional exhibits of interest include displays of international art, architecture and design, with a predominant focus on hometown attributes. The focus of the SMoCA...  Read More

Located in Papago Park, this garden features the world's largest outdoor desert plant collection. A vast array of colorful wildflowers has been strategically placed to create a spectacular display and delight visitors in the springtime, and...  Read More

Scottsdale's new Museum of the West celebrates the spirit, history and culture of the American West. The museum calls itself a "study in the west," featuring Western art, storytelling, and historical artifacts that help convey the story and...  Read More

Marshall Way Arts District

Scottsdale may be associated with cowboy art and an Old West aesthetic, but this district nestled in the heart of downtown possesses a thriving contemporary arts scene. Intimate galleries showcase a broad spectrum of art media, including...  Read More

Taliesin West

Located in northeast Scottsdale on the beautiful foothills of the McDowell Mountains, Taliesin West is Frank Lloyd Wright's desert masterpiece. This was the architectural master's personal winter home, studio, and architectural campus. Public...  Read More

Old Town Scottsdale is the heart of the city, boasting sparkling fountains, green lawns, and outdoor sculptures celebrating the city's Old West heritage. Art galleries, museums, boutiques, and cafes line the streets of Old Town, offering both...  Read More


Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats.

She received her MFA in Creative...  More About Patricia