Scottsdale is one of the best cities to travel to in Arizona, coming from someone who has traveled to 80% of the state already. Nicknamed as “The Beverly Hills of the Desert” and the “West’s Most Western Town”, Scottsdale is known for having high-end boutiques, homes, luxurious resorts, brands, and even good work opportunities. But don’t let that defer you from wanting to explore it because it is also doable to explore from a budget.
It also displays the western vibes of the desert as you roam around its nature. I personally think Scottsdale has some of the best nature to hike in too and I find myself returning to visit Scottsdale often.
With a population of 265,000+ people and at least 9 million US tourists who visit the city each year, it is easy to see why Scottsdale is one of the best Arizona cities to visit and explore. I have listed 10 places and things to do that I recommend you check out if you’re planning a trip here sometime!
1. The Frank Lloyd Wright House on Taliesin West
This has to be the first thing I’ll mention because it’s simply one of my most favorite things I got to do in Scottsdale. My oldest sister actually suggested this place while she was visiting during the holidays once. If you love architecture then you’ll surely love to visit this place!
Frank Lloyd Wright is an architect and interior designer who has designed more than 1,000 structures and boy, was he way ahead of his time. In his home at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, you can just evidentially find how well designed and beautiful his work is. His home was built in 1937, albeit it looked like it belonged more in the 1970s. It served as his winter home (winter in AZ is amazing!). He did have a strong connection to the desert, especially in Arizona. Once a National Historic Landmark, it recently became a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
It has many shapes and patterns that it takes on and he incorporates 4 shades of red colors that you can see often used. From the looks of it, Wright was influenced by Asian culture and his original-crafted furniture, organization, structures, and some decor he used reflected to that. I’m incredibly impressed by his use of pops of colors with nudes and desert rocks, which is what the walls of the house use. Actually, I’m incredibly impressed by it all.
Through the rooms, he wanted natural light to be elemental and what perfect place than Arizona to provide that? Taliesin West is where the headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Foundation takes place, as well as the School of Architecture at Taliesin, where it offers an accredited master degree for architecture. There are a few tours that you can do when you make a visit over here.
2. Sugar Bowl
Do you love desserts? Do you love ice cream specifically? Sugar Bowl is the cutest place to go to but not just for its aesthetic appeal, but also because their dessert and food is actually good too! Opened the day before Christmas in 1958, Sugar Bowl is this famous cute diner-like restaurant and it is embellished with a pink theme from its booths and chairs to the walls (even outside so it’s not hard to spot!), and almost all of the little accents are pink. Funny enough that the first time I visited Sugar Bowl was around Christmas time too!
Aside from their famously recognized sundaes and array of desserts (parfaits, shakes, and pies), Sugar Bowl also has sandwiches, salads, and other lighter foods. I really loved the Tuna Melt when I visited it the second time around with sourdough bread!
3. Old Town Scottsdale
A 2-minute walk from Sugar Bowl is this place called Old Town Scottsdale. Old Town Scottsdale gives off the “ghost town” appearance, but I assure you that it is the complete opposite of being a ghost town. This is a lively area in Scottsdale that is lined with stores, art galleries, breweries, bars, restaurants, and if you’re looking for the best Native American-inspired pieces for your home or for a fashion accessory, their stores have the best items for that.
There are a good amount of restaurants here to fill your cravings. If you’re looking to try a brightly colored and super delicious prickly pear frozen margarita (this is when I used to drink), you will fall in love with the ones at Cien Agaves Tacos and Tequila and pair them up with their tacos.
Want to get around Old Town Scottsdale? Try taking a trolley that frequents every 15 minutes and the awesome thing about it too is it’s free! It has also taken us to Scottsdale Fashion Square once.
4. Soleri Bridge and Plaza
This art installation is located at a really cool spot in Scottsdale. The Soleri Bridge was the work of Paolo Soleri, who is an artist and architect (and also a philosopher!) that also designed Arcosanti, an experimental town in Arizona, which I highly recommend to check out too if you have more time. Another fun fact is that Paolo Soleri was a student under Frank Lloyd Wright (mentioned in #1).
This impressive art installation bridge symbolizes solar events as he believes in connecting humans through the concept of time. This bridge is anchored by 2 foot 64-foot pylons and is located right above the Arizona Canal, also designed to help people cross the canal. If you keep walking down the canal, you will come across a plaza area with restaurants and stores – so you can really spend time here. During the holiday season, you might find lights displayed around the bridge and canal.
If you want to see more of Paolo Soleri’s inspired art, there is a store in Scottsdale called Cosanti that sells his signature wind bell chimes and other fun accessories.
5. Hike Pinnacle Peak Park
This granite summit can easily be spotted as you turn into the park. Pinnacle Peak, rising at 3,169 feet high, does indeed get its own park because it’s that wild of a formation that people enjoy hiking. Although looking at the peak looks intimidating, the hike actually skirts around it and does not reach to the very tip-top. It only reaches 2,889 feet high. The trail however can get crowded, especially on weekends, so I would not come here to hike if you’re looking for more of a peaceful nature escape, but I would recommend it if you want a nice workout in Scottsdale.
6. Do A Hike on McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Now, if you’re looking for more of a peaceful nature hike, then you should venture to McDowell Sonoran Preserve. I have to say this is one of my favorite places to hike in Arizona (aside from the Superstition Mountains) because it is just so breathtaking all around. It is also the first place I ever went to do my first solo hikes when I first moved here in Arizona so it’s kind of special to me.
You will see what I mean when you see all the mountains in the distance (including a view of Four Peaks across) and this recreation park has a lot of granite boulders everywhere and even when you are heading to drive over here, you’ll be welcomed by them. In the springtime when wildflowers bloom, the variety of colorful flowers start popping up everywhere here and it is just so green.
My favorite hikes on McDowell Sonoran Preserve:
- Tom’s Thumb Trail – This 4 mile trail is known for the boulder formation that looks like a thumb. It is my favorite hike in this park because it is gorgeous from the top and its switchbacks are scenic too. It is an out & back route type and the elevation gain is 1,236 feet.
- Marcus Landslide – This 4.1 trail will take you on a geological ride back to history and because of that, I love it! The Marcus Landslide is the second largest landslide in the state of Arizona and it occurred about 500,000+ years ago. It has a chaotic view of granite rocks and panoramic views. It is an out & back route with an elevation gain of 518 feet. In the springtime, the wildflowers are stunning.
- Sunrise Peak via Sunrise Trail – This 3.6 mile is a really pretty trail that will give you views over the city of Scottsdale and the top with an elevation gain of 1,112 feet will reward you, especially if you’re doing this in sunrise or sunset.
Watch me hike Marcus Landslide!
7. We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort
Located on Fort McDowell Rd in Scottsdale, I came here to stay for my mom’s birthday from this January 2021. If you’re looking for a resort to stay in for yourself, I highly recommend this casino resort. It is just the nicest escape into the desert. It is affordable, the food’s great here, the pools are ultra relaxing here, and the views are splendid. I made a whole blog post review on this casino resort here.
8. Visit A Museum
Visiting a museum in Scottsdale is almost a must! There are a lot of good ones that the city has. If you’re looking for an interactive art museum (that is also Insta-worthy), then you should check out Wonderspaces. If you want to see more contemporary art that is easy access, check out Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. If you want to learn more about the Western history that west coast state Arizona is known for and you want to take a look at some western-inspired fine art and other exhibit collections, check out Western Spirit. For Scottsdale’s history, you can check out the Scottsdale Historical Museum.
9. Scottsdale Fashion Square
I’ve mentioned this mall slightly above, but this mall is one of the best I’ve seen so far in Arizona! There are more than 240 specialty stores in this mall, which gives you the picture that indeed, it is a huge mall. If you’re looking for brand name stores and even some good food, come here.
10. Butterfly Wonderland
Butterflies, ahhh… you can find them almost everywhere when you hike out in the desert especially after the monsoon season and when the temperatures have dropped a bit. If you aren’t able to see them out in nature, you can opt to go visit Butterfly Wonderland. In here, you can experience a one-of-a-kind forest experience where it houses thousands of butterflies as this place serves as a conservatory, as well as some tropical birds and other smaller animals.