Top 12 Attractions in Scottsdale

With its perfect weather year-round, vibrant arts scene, and access to stunning desert landscapes, Scottsdale offers visitors plenty of fantastic attractions and activities.

Art galleries, museums, outdoor adventures, landmark architecture, and indulgent spas compose just some of Scottsdale’s offerings. For top things to see and do during your time in Scottsdale, Arizona, here are 12 attractions and experiences not to miss.

Old Town Scottsdale

At the heart of Scottsdale lies Old Town, a pedestrian-friendly district packed with restaurants, shops, art galleries and historical buildings. Old Town has maintained its Wild West charm through restored architecture along streets like Main Street and Marshall Way.

Highlights include the Rusty Spur Saloon, the former schoolhouse and the Museum of the West. With events like First Friday art walks and a lively dining scene, Old Town Scottsdale provides plenty to see, eat and explore.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)

As its name implies, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) spotlights innovative works by contemporary artists from around the world. Exhibits rotate through providing always-fresh experiences for repeat visitors.

SMoCA also offers film screenings, concerts, lectures, and other events to connect the public with contemporary art. Don’t miss the META projects spaced throughout Old Town featuring sculptures, murals and architecture interventions to discover. For contemporary art in this Southwestern setting, SMoCA is a must-visit.

Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden provides a stunning outdoor showcase of desert flora, ecology and preservation. Trails wind through distinct habitats filled with cacti, wildflowers, and trees perfectly adapted to the arid climate.

Exhibits like the Desert Wildflower Loop and Herb Garden let you experience different facets of the Sonoran Desert environment up close. Outdoor art installations, seasonal events and classes further connect visitors with the desert and its natural splendor at this unique garden.

Taliesin West

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright established Taliesin West as his winter home and architecture school starting in 1937. Today this National Historic Landmark opens its doors for guided tours taking you inside Wright’s iconic desert complex.

Walkways connect the buildings which incorporate natural rocks and materials into their striking designs. Getting an inside look at Wright’s architecture and the surrounding Sonoran Desert that inspired him is a special experience for architecture buffs.

Cosanti Originals Gallery

While in the Valley, you also can visit another iconic architectural site in Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti. This experimental community was built to test Soleri’s urban planning concepts that blended architecture with the natural landscape.

The Cosanti Originals Gallery features bronze and ceramic windbells crafted onsite for purchase. Guided tours provide a closer look at the philosophical foundations behind Cosanti’s experimental architecture and community. For a uniquely artistic-inspired complex, schedule a stop at Cosanti.

Scottsdale Arts District

Downtown Scottsdale’s arts district packs in more than 100 art galleries, studios, museums and performing arts venues within walking distance. Standout institutions include the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts.

But just wandering the district provides exposure to local and regional artists through street art, sculptures, boutique galleries and much more. Every Thursday evening the district hosts ArtWalk with extended hours, local artists and food vendors. For arts immersion, Scottsdale’s district delivers.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

All aboard for family fun at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park! This park is centered around an expansive model railroad depicting Arizona topography through miniature scale.

Beyond the railroad, the park offers a carousel, playground, garden railroad, and seasonal train rides on their full-size Roald Amundsen Pullman car. Picnic areas dot the pretty green lawns. Young and old alike will find railroad-themed entertainment at this top Scottsdale park.

OdySea Aquarium

The OdySea Aquarium immerses visitors in the aquatic wonders and ecosystems of the world – no diving required. See massive sharks, sea lions, penguins, and more through the large sea-through acrylic windows.

Other exhibits showcase tide pools, coral reefs, the Gulf of California, and even rivers to reveal diverse aquatic life. Beyond the animals, OdySea hosts an IMAX theater, butterfly garden, interactive exhibits, and restaurants as well making it easy to spend a whole day exploring.

Pinnacle Peak Park

For outdoor adventures in Scottsdale, head to Pinnacle Peak Park situated amidst the McDowell Mountains. The park’s namesake summit reaches over 3,000 feet offering panoramic views after a moderate 1.75 mile hike.

Apart from summit hikes, the park has multi-use trails through its rugged desert landscape perfect for horseback riding, biking and walking. Picnic ramadas dot the grounds providing spots to refuel and relax. For an outdoorsy escape with beautiful views right in Scottsdale city limits, Pinnacle Peak delivers.

Butterfly Wonderland

Butterfly Wonderland provides a true immersion experience into a tropical world filled with thousands of butterflies. The glass atrium encloses a rainforest environment with waterfalls, tropical plants, birds, and hundreds of butterfly species from around the world.

Outside the atrium you’ll find exhibits for reptiles, the honeybee hive, artworks, and more relating to conservation. The 3D theater features short films on these topics as well. For a beautiful educational experience, add Butterfly Wonderland to your Scottsdale itinerary.

Scottsdale Fashion Square

No visit to Scottsdale is complete without indulging in some retail therapy. The premier place to shop is Scottsdale Fashion Square, Arizona’s largest shopping mall. Its over 200 stores include luxury brands, premium department stores, and more mainstream chains.

Besides browsing the latest styles and scoring deals, visitors can dine at restaurants, enjoy public art, or relax by the fountain. For an air-conditioned afternoon activity or souvenir shopping, Scottsdale Fashion Square is a top local mall.

Old Town Trolley Tours

To see key Scottsdale sights while learning about the destination’s history, Old Town Trolley Tours make exploring efficient and entertaining. These hop-on, hop-off trolleys make a 1.5 loop stopping at 15+ attractions around Scottsdale and Phoenix.

Knowledgeable guides provide commentary and you can re-board all day to visit different areas. Old Town Trolley Tours allow you to cover a lot of ground and give context on this Southwest hub. It’s a great activity for your first or only full day.


Art galleries, epic hiking, quintessential cowboy culture – Scottsdale truly offers some of Arizona’s top attractions. Excellent museums and sightseeing provide indoor enrichment while outdoor activities embrace the region’s beautiful desert landscape.

The top experiences highlighted in this guide provide the perfect blend of culture, history, shopping, dining and adventure. Whether planning a quick trip or longer itinerary, be sure to incorporate Scottsdale’s many gems into your Arizona travels.

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