This post is all about fun and unique things to do in Scottsdale, Arizona for the ultimate vacation including where to eat, what to do, the best hikes, spas and more! Let this Scottsdale travel guide take care of all the planning.
How To Get To Scottsdale, Arizona
Fly into the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and you're basically there. Scottsdale is just 10 miles east of the airport. For my recommendations below, I suggest picking up a rental car for your trip. There are shuttles at the airport that will take you directly to the car rental agencies (more details below!).
Where To Stay In Scottsdale
Below I've recommended several spas, all of which are located at luxury hotels. Any of those would make a great place to stay, albeit a little pricey. Some additional recommendations include:
- The Scott Resort & Spa: Located less than a mile from Old Town Scottsdale, this chic hotel offers a hip vibe with a variety of rooms and suites to suit your needs. Plus, the Canal Club is a great onsite restaurant.
- Hotel Valley Ho: One of the most popular boutique hotels in Scottsdale and with the mid-century modern decor it's a total vibe. Plus, they offer a massive swimming pool area.
- Canopy by Hilton Old Town Scottsdale: If you're loyal to the Hilton brand, this is a great option that doesn't feel like a boring chain. You're right in the action in Old Town, plus have access to the hotel's rooftop bar and swimming pool. And they offer free bikes that you can borrow to explore town.
Now Onto All The Things To Do In Scottsdale For The Ultimate Trip!
Desert Botanical Garden
This must be included on any trip to Scottsdale. The Desert Botanical Garden is gorgeous and sprawling. And this is no simple, small garden - there are over 50,000 desert plants nestled throughout the 140 acres. Be sure to check if there are any special exhibits during your visit too. Expect to spend 90 minutes to two hours exploring.
Musical Instrument Museum
We spent a full afternoon here, about 2.5-3 hours and loved it. You'll learn about musical instruments across history and countries. And, what makes it really special is you get a pair of headphones to wear during your visit that play songs and instrumentals to make the entire visit incredibly immersive. Plus, there's a room that includes instruments you can actually play on. So fun!
This is an immersive, ever-evolving art show. Expect 14 or so interactive art installations during your visit along with the curated cocktail and mocktail offerings at the bar when you enter. When we visited there was also a VR exhibit that lasted about 10 minutes along with some installations that you were able to add your own creation to. A ton of fun! Expect to spend an hour to 90 minutes here. Wonderspaces Arizona is located inside Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall so you can easily grab lunch or do some shopping afterwards. They have some great luxury brand stores here too.
Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum Of The West:
Learn more about the art, history and unique stories of the 19 states that make up the American West. Coming from the east coast, I found it really enjoyable to learn more about the West during my visit. This museum is located within Old Town Scottsdale which is also on the list for things to do.
Old Town Scottsdale
Old Town Scottsdale is a pedestrian friendly neighborhood in Scottsdale chock-full of art galleries, museums, retail shops, restaurants and nightlife. It's also a great spot to visit as a solo traveler in Scottsdale - I felt very safe here. While in the area, you must visit some of the art galleries, and partake in the Art Walk if it's running. You can also grab your souvenirs from a local boutique here.
Taliesin West is a National Historic Landmark as well as an Unesco World Heritage Site. It was the winter home and desert laboratory of Frank Lloyd Wright (and his wife) from 1937 to 1959. You can take a guided tour or self-guided audio tour and explore the stunning building and grounds.
Indulge In A Spa Day
- Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia: A great option for couples.
- The Phoenician: One of the best luxury resorts that is well worth the splurge.
- JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa: Another award-winning spa.
- Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: A luxury resort with golfing and a spa, plus aerial yoga!
- Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale: Try the Pinnacle Facial which infuses the inflammatory properties of gold into the skincare experience. Luxurious!
The Best Places To Hike In Scottsdale
The Scottsdale-Phoenix area is a great destination for the casual hiker. There are many hikes within a short drive from easy to challenging and a quick stroll to several hours. Here are some of the hikes I recommend:
This is an incredibly easy "hike" near the Desert Botanical Garden. It's basically a 5 minute walk from the parking lot to this hole that gives you a fun view (especially at sunset) of the city. While it's a quick hike, I still recommend wearing your sneakers or trail runners because it can be slippery. You can make it a longer hike by enjoying the other trails around the Hole-in-the-Rock.
This is one of the most popular hikes in the area. It's a lot of fun, but do be aware there is a portion that is rather challenging where you'll be scrambling up a steep incline of rocks. You can opt for the easier trail. Here's a helpful resource on this popular hike.
Do NOT park on Cholla Lane unless you want to get towed. Don’t even let someone drop you off there either. There are signs all over showing the appropriate drop-off area, so try to be respectful to the residents in the area. If you’re driving, park on Invergordon Road for free. You’ll see signs for Cholla Trail and once you get to the intersection of Invergordon and Cholla Lane, you’re on the right path.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Pinnacle Peak Trail
Piestewa Peak Summit Trail
Crossbody or Belt Bag
This crossbody bag is the perfect dupe for the iconic Lululemon bag that's always out-of-stock and just a fraction of the cost with 100% of the same usefulness! At this price you can grab it in 2 colors and pack up your must-haves for the hike, like snacks & sunscreen.
The best dang hiking boot
These are my go-to hiking boots and they come in a wide variety of colors. They break in quickly, are comfortable, and most importantly, keep your ankles safe during hikes! Plus, at under $100 they're a great deal. Order them now to break in before hikes.
I love a sunscreen stick for hikes and Supergoop is one of the best brands out there for all skin types. With the stick it's easy to reapply so keep it handy and apply regularly to the spots that are most exposed like your shoulders, nose and tops of your ears.
Other Unique Outdoor Activities In Scottsdale
Hot Air Balloon
Hot Air Expeditions has the best reviews in the area.
Check out Macdonald's Ranch for options for horseback riding and other entertainment. Or Arizona-Horses for horseback riding at South Mountain.
Kayaking Or Tubing On Salt River
You may even spot some wild horses. Dreamy!
Catch The Sunset At South Mountain
You can drive up to one of the overlooks to enjoy the view or hike up one of the several trails to break a sweat before catching the sunset.
Restaurants To Try In Scottsdale
First of all, being in Arizona, expect to find some great Mexican and Tex-Mex food in Scottsdale. They also have great farm-to-table options. Here are a few must-haves for your visit.
This is my favorite restaurant in Scottsdale and you can find several locations throughout the city. The bruschetta is a must! Split several of the dishes with your dining companion and pair them with a bottle of wine from their well-curated selection.
Snooze AM Eatery
You can find a few Snooze locations throughout Phoenix and Scottsdale as well as in Denver. It's a great go-to brunch spot with loads of pancake options and all the omelettes.
You can find The Mission in Old Town as well as in the Kierland neighborhood serving modern Latin cuisine. The guacamole made table-side is a must-have along with any of the margaritas.
This fine-dining restaurant considers itself "destination dining" as the location is stunning and overlooks Camelback Mountain.
Another great lunch or brunch spot with a massive Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar. Plus a DJ on weekends for a really fun vibe.
This spot offers a playful and modern twist on traditional Mexican dishes including the must-have Brussels Sprouts Nachos.
Other FAQs about Scottsdale
What is the best month to visit Scottsdale?
Expect Scottsdale to be extremely warm during the summer months. You may find cheaper accommodations during that time, however, it will be challenging to enjoy your time outdoors. So I would avoid visiting during the summer months.
I recommend visiting Scottsdale between March - May, and late September through November. Basically early Spring and late Fall. You'll be able to enjoy ideal weather for outdoor activities without overheating with temperatures in the 70s-80s degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
However, if you're located somewhere that gets really cold in the winter, visiting during December - February isn't a bad idea either because it's certainly going to be warmer than where you're from.
Do I need a car to visit Scottsdale?
I say yes, you should get a car rental when visiting Scottsdale. You could Uber/Lyft, but those prices will add up, and it's really easy to get around with your own car rental to see the sights, go hiking and dining at all the great restaurants. Getting to the car rental agency is super easy from the airport via shuttles. I suggest renting in advance and then heading straight to your car for pickup to skip the lines at the rental agency.
Best things to do in Scottsdale for couples?
Scottsdale is a great destination for couples. You can get some outdoorsy activities in and then indulge in the great spa culture in Scottsdale. Top it off with any of the amazing restaurants and maybe some shopping for a great couples getaway.
How many days do you need for Scottsdale?
A long weekend or 3 days is the perfect length for a trip to Scottsdale. You'll have time for some fun sightseeing and relaxing. But, if you have the time, you could easily extend to 4 or 5 days in the Scottsdale-Phoenix area.
What about an Arizona road trip?
Scottsdale is a great kicking off point for an Arizona road trip to Sedona and even the Grand Canyon.
This post was all about fun and unique things to do in Scottsdale. I hope this quick Scottsdale travel guide helps you plan the best trip!
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Casey is the founder of Casey La Vie & has been running this travel and lifestyle blog since 2016. She’s on a mission to balance her career as a social media manager with exploring her home of New York City and seeing more of the world.