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Plan a Visit to Scottsdale, Arizona

Imagine a place where the sun kisses the horizon, casting a golden hue over a city that seamlessly blends the vibrancy of urban life with the tranquility of nature. Welcome to Scottsdale, Arizona – a gem in the heart of the desert. As you wander through its streets, you'll be captivated by the harmonious blend of traditional Southwestern architecture and modern design, a testament to the city's rich history and its forward-thinking spirit.

Every corner of Scottsdale tells a story. From the bustling streets of Old Town, where the past meets the present, to the serene landscapes of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, there's an adventure waiting for every traveler. Dive into the city's vibrant arts scene, where galleries showcase the talents of local and international artists. Or indulge in a culinary journey, tasting your way through gourmet restaurants that offer everything from authentic Southwestern flavors to global cuisines.

For those seeking relaxation, Scottsdale's world-class resorts and spas provide the perfect escape, offering treatments inspired by ancient Native American healing traditions. And if you're in the mood for some retail therapy, the city's shopping districts boast a mix of high-end boutiques, unique local shops, and artisan markets.

But Scottsdale isn't just about leisure. It's a city that celebrates its natural beauty. Whether you're hiking through its picturesque trails, golfing on its pristine courses, or simply taking in the breathtaking desert views, you'll be reminded of the city's deep connection to the land.

So, whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, a foodie, or an adventurer, Scottsdale promises an unforgettable experience. Come and discover the magic of the desert, where every sunset is a masterpiece and every moment is a memory waiting to be made

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01 Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Old Town Scottsdale is also known as Downtown. If you are looking for a great place for a night out, this is it. Here, you will find clubs, bars, and restaurants as well as art galleries, museums, and plenty of shopping. Head to Old Town Trading for interesting southwestern-style jewelry. Take the kids to Old Town Candy & Toys for a treat. For a date night, stop by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Then, grab a drink at Dierks Whiskey Row. Or, head to Casablanca Rooftop Lounge for some live music.

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02 Pinnacle Peak Park

Pinnacle Peak Park pdpetersonphoto / Getty Images

Pinnacle Peak Park is northeast of downtown Scottsdale. It is a great place to get out and enjoy nature without having to travel too far out of the city. There is a range of diverse activities to enjoy here, too. Take a moderate hike down the Sonoran Desert trail or, for something more adventurous, go rock climbing. Take a bike ride. Or, relax and enjoy a picnic. The scenery is beautiful, so bring your camera, no matter what you choose to do.

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03 Arizona Canal

Arizona Canal Trip BCFC / Getty Images

One of the most unique things about Scottsdale is the Arizona Canal. It was built in the late 1880s to collect runoff from flood irrigation and runs through a lot of the wealthier suburbs around Phoenix. Scottsdale developed the section running through town, revitalizing the area with the Waterfront Project. It includes a pedestrian suspension bridge and a trail for walking and jogging. The canal system is about 50 miles long in all and seems to go on forever. Visitors can enjoy eateries, galleries, bars, and Scottsdale Fashion Square.

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04 Taliesin West

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home in Scottsdale is more than just a work of art. Taliesin West, which overlooks Paradise Valley from the foothills of the McDowell Range, was also a seasonal campus for his school of architecture. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is open to the public with the purchase of an informative tour. Don't forget to stop at the Frank Lloyd Wright Store for books, artwork, or home decor inspired by his work.

05 Phoenix Zoo

Phoenix Zoo Scottsdale florencemcginn / Getty Images

Just southeast of Scottsdale is the Phoenix Zoo. At 125 acres, it is the largest non-profit privately-owned zoo in the country. There are more than 1,400 animals on display here, like African lions, Andean bears, flamingos, gray wolves, ostriches, giraffes, and otters. The zoo is divided into four main sections: the Arizona Trail, Africa Trail, Tropics Trail, and Children's Trail, complete with a petting zoo. The Phoenix Zoo has been focused on conservation since it first opened in 1962 and also acts as a sanctuary for unwanted or endangered animals.

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06 Kayak the Salt River from the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch

Man kayaks down the river

For those seeking a refreshing escape from the desert heat, kayaking the scenic Lower Salt River offers an unparalleled experience. Nestled within the picturesque backdrop of the Tonto National Forest, the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch provides adventurers with the unique opportunity to paddle beneath towering cliffs and alongside the iconic saguaros of the Sonoran Desert. As you glide through the serene waters, keep an eye out for the region's diverse wildlife, including wild horses, river otters, and majestic great blue herons.

The ranch offers various kayaking trips tailored to different preferences. Whether you opt for the two-hour Salt River/Foxtail trip or the more extended Salt River/Granite Reef journey, you're guaranteed a memorable adventure. And for those who crave a different kind of water experience, the ranch now offers paddleboarding. Sit, stand, or kneel; the choice is yours as you navigate the tranquil waters surrounded by Arizona's natural beauty.

While the experience is primarily a scenic float, be prepared for sections of swift water where tipping is a possibility. Early morning trips are recommended for optimal wildlife viewing and a quieter river experience. If you have any questions or need to make a reservation, don't hesitate to contact the friendly staff at the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch at 480-984-2194.

Whether you're a seasoned kayaker or trying it out for the first time, the ranch promises an adventure that will leave you with lasting memories.

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07 Old Adobe Mission

Old Adobe Mission desertsolitaire / Getty Images

Located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, the Old Adobe Mission was built by Mexicans that settled the area in the early 1900s. It originated as Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church and was designed in a Spanish Colonial style. Each of the 14,000 adobe bricks used to construct the missions is made using clay, sand, straw, silt, dung, and water. They weigh 50 pounds each, and every single one was placed by hand. There are gorgeous 15 stained-glass windows, too. The church was named a historic site in 2001 and restored starting in 2002.

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08 Saguaro Lake

Sunset Reflection off of Saguaro Lake with a Silhouette of a Saguaro Cactus in Mesa, Arizona

Saguaro Lake is located northeast of Scottsdale in the Tonto National Forest. It was formed when the Stewart Mountain Dam was completed in 1930 and is the last reservoir on the Salt River. This lake has more than 22 miles of shoreline to enjoy. Here, you can go sailing, boating, or kayaking, try your hand a jet skiing, or relax for a weekend of camping and fishing. It is a great place for sightseeing, too. Grab a bite to eat at Lakeshore Restaurant for a breathtaking view of the lake, Bulldog Cliffs, and the Goldfield Mountains. Then, take a ride around the lake on the Desert Belle tour boat.

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09 Chocolate Tour of Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona

There are a lot of great restaurants and bars in downtown Scottsdale, but one of the best ways to experience the deliciousness this town has to offer is to take a chocolate tour. Official tours are available from various businesses, or you can visit some of the best sweet shops in the city on your own. Enjoy a latte and some fine confections at Sugar & Spro. Sample the Sonoran Desert White Chocolate at Zak's Chocolate or have a mocha or chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cake sundae at Caketini. If you have a sweet tooth, Scottsdale knows how to satisfy it.

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10 McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Lost Dog Wash Trail Paul Belliveau / Getty Images

Go for a bike ride, take your dog for a walk, or journey out on horseback at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This is 30,000 acres of permanently protected desert habitat that includes more than 120 different trails that can be accessed from various trailhead locations. There are ten in all, including Lost God Wash Trail, a shorter trail with easier terrain that is kid-friendly and the more challenging Sunrise Trail, where amazing scenic views. Mind the temperature, use plenty of sunscreen, and take a lot of water with you if you head outdoors.

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11 MacDonald's Ranch

Arizona Cowboy

MacDonald's Ranch is located in northern Scottsdale. Their guided horseback rides offer a unique way to experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert and a little bit of the old west. There are plenty of things to do at the ranch, including horse or mule-pulled hayrides, pony rides, and a petting zoo. In the fall, they host a pumpkin patch with a hay maze, train ride, and fun games for kids to enjoy. This is also a great place for private events. Guests can schedule a western barbecue set in Old West Town and can even request a stagecoach robbery re-enactment for entertainment.

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12 Papago Park

Brittlebush by the Buttes, taken at Papago Park

Papago Park is just southwest of Scottsdale and one of the most beautiful outdoor destinations this close to the city. Here you will find the largest outdoor collection of desert plants as you take a meandering walk. There is always something to do at Papago Park, including seasonal festivals and other activities throughout the year. For the best view of the colorful wildflowers, plan to visit in the spring.

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13 Tom's Thumb Trail

The peak of Tom's Thumb in the McDowell Mountain Range Scottsdale, Arizona. SmithMade / Getty Images

At about five miles round trip, the hike to Tom's Thumb is moderately challenging but returns the favor with some stunning views. The gravelly path ascends at a steady incline, gaining almost 1,400 feet in elevation to the rock formation that gives the trail its name. A shaded area near the trailhead has restrooms and informational kiosks, perfect for road trippers but, there's a good chance you won't be the only one getting a workout.

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14 McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

The McCormick Stillman Railroad Park features various exhibits, including a railway museum, four model railroads, and historic engines. Its main attraction is The Paradise & Pacific Railroad, a miniature railway that's been running since its opening in 1975. Rides on the railroad and the vintage Scottsdale Charros Carousel run every 30 minutes. If you're visiting on the weekend, catch a ride on the miniature Arboretum Railroad. This ten-minute-long loop through the park's 2-acre desert arboretum is a unique experience for the whole family.

15 Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West

Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West in Old Town celebrates the legacy of the Old West and its role in the developing culture of the New West. Scan QR codes at each exhibit for detailed information, then visit the sculpture garden. The contemporary space features rotating exhibits and desert fauna in a peaceful environment as well as a weeping wall. The water feature uses recycled water to irrigate desert landscaping throughout the museum campus.

16 OdySea Aquarium

If you need an escape from the heat, try to make it an educational and entertaining experience for the whole family. The Odysea Aquarium, one of the largest in the Southwestern United States, combines amusement park-style attractions with engaging aquatic exhibits to better connect visitors with nature. Get up close and personal with marine life at touch exhibits, then find seats at the theater or the world's only revolving aquarium.

17 Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMOCA)

Located at 7374 East Second Street in Scottsdale, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art comfortably rests among a lush city park showing off fonts and sculptures created by architect Will Bruder. Inside the minimalist structure, the Knight Rise Skyspace, an original creation of James Turrell, gives guests a peek of the shifting shades and tones of the desert skyline.

Permanent exhibits displayed in the museum combine a myriad of works, from murals by the graffiti master Dalek to works by Russel Wright, Josef Albers, and Yves Klein. Living artworks by Kara Walker and William Wegman feature prominently among the 2,000 pieces in the gallery.

18 Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden

Truly unique among public garden designs, the Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden stands on its own among public green spaces, proof that you can see more than cacti and succulents in the desert. Not following a template design, the outdoor site highlights water preservation for the desert homeowner and features plants that hardily meet the rigors of a desert environment. The park is home to 7,000 plants derived from 200 plant species. Part of Chaparral Park, the 5.5-acre demo garden seamlessly blends with the adjacent Chaparral Water Treatment Facility.

19 Scottsdale Wine Trail

Located between Goldwater Boulevard and Scottsdale and adjacent to the Fifth Avenue Shopping District, the Scottsdale Wine Trail gives you a chance to savor fine wines and engage in some retail therapy at the same time. Home to five wine tasting rooms, the path leads to featured sites, such as the LDV Wine Gallery, which displays the works of local artists, and the Aridus Wine Company on East Main Street.

Stroll farther up the walk, and you will come upon the tasting room for Carlson Creek Vineyards, located along the Scottsdale Art Walk. A few blocks from Carlson Creek, Salvatore Vineyards spans part of Fifth Street. Circle back on the trail to the Su Vino Gallery to complete your wine-tasting holiday.

20 Arizona Cowboy College

The Arizona Cowboy College gives visitors the chance to experience the cowboy way of life for the day. The site features horse boarding, horse lessons, and trail rides for travelers. Most of the guests who take the college's 90-minute trail ride are new to horseback riding.

21 Encounter T-Rex at Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs

Step back in time and come face-to-face with the titans of the prehistoric era at Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs. This immersive experience will transport you back millions of years, where you'll encounter the mighty T-Rex and other prehistoric creatures in a setting that brings the past to life.

22 Drive or hike the historic Apache Trail

For those with an adventurous spirit, the historic Apache Trail awaits. Whether you drive or hike, this former stagecoach route offers a journey through Arizona's rugged beauty. The trail, steeped in history and legend, winds through the Superstition Mountains, revealing breathtaking vistas at every turn.

23 Take on challenges at the Laser and Mirror Maze

If you're up for a challenge, the Laser and Mirror Maze will test your agility and problem-solving skills. Navigate through a labyrinth of mirrors and lasers in a thrilling race against time. It's a fun-filled, adrenaline-pumping adventure that's perfect for all ages.

24 Experience extraordinary art at Wonderspaces Arizona

Art lovers will find a unique experience at Wonderspaces Arizona. This innovative art show features immersive exhibits and interactive installations that challenge perceptions and inspire wonder. It's a feast for the senses, where art and technology collide in the most extraordinary ways.

25 Arizona Museum of Natural History

a dinosaur breaking through the walls of the Arizona Museum of Natural History

The Arizona Museum of Natural History is a treasure trove of the rich and diverse history of the Southwest. From the origins of life in the seas to the rise of the dinosaurs, and the development of ancient civilizations, the museum offers a journey through time. The exhibits are interactive and engaging, making it a perfect destination for families. The Dinosaur Mountain, which features animated dinosaurs, is a crowd favorite. The museum also houses a replica of a gold mine, showcasing Arizona's mining history.

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26 Mesa Arts Center

The Mesa Arts Center is a vibrant hub for the arts and culture in Mesa. It houses four theaters, five art galleries, and 14 art studios, offering a wide range of performances, exhibitions, and classes. The center is known for its contemporary architecture, which is a work of art in itself. Whether you're interested in visual arts, performing arts, or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, the Mesa Arts Center has something for everyone.

27 Usery Mountain Regional Park

Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The park offers over 29 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails, with routes suitable for all skill levels. The Wind Cave Trail, which leads to a cave formed by erosion, offers stunning views of the valley. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including desert tortoises and Gila monsters. Its beautiful desert landscape and diverse recreational opportunities make Usery Mountain Regional Park a must-visit.

28 i.d.e.a. Museum

The i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa is a place where children and their families can explore art, science, and technology through hands-on, interactive exhibits. The museum encourages creativity and curiosity with exhibits that change regularly to provide new experiences. From building structures in the Design Zone to creating digital art in the Tech Table, the i.d.e.a. Museum offers a fun and educational experience for kids of all ages.

29 Tempe Town Lake

Sunset over the Tempe Town Lake in Tempe, Arizona. Adrian Velez / Getty Images

Tempe Town Lake is a man-made reservoir located in the heart of Tempe. It offers a variety of recreational activities, including kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing. The lake is surrounded by parks and trails, making it a great place for a picnic or a leisurely walk. The view of the city skyline reflecting off the water is particularly stunning at sunset. Tempe Town Lake has something to offer whether you're an adventure seeker or just looking for a peaceful retreat.

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30 LEGOLAND Discovery Center Arizona

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Lukasz Sadlowski / Shutterstock.com

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Arizona is a paradise for LEGO enthusiasts of all ages. The center features a variety of interactive exhibits, including a LEGO factory tour, a 4D cinema, and several LEGO-themed rides. Visitors can also participate in a LEGO building class or explore MINILAND, a miniature city built from over 1.5 million LEGO bricks. With its combination of fun and creativity, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Arizona offers a unique and memorable experience.

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31 SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium

SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium in Tempe is an underwater world that houses thousands of aquatic creatures. The aquarium features a 360-degree ocean tunnel, providing a panoramic view of sharks, rays, and colorful fish. Interactive touch pools allow visitors to get up close with starfish and sea anemones. The aquarium is committed to conservation and offers educational talks and feeding demonstrations throughout the day. A visit to SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium is not only entertaining but also educational.

32 AZ Heritage Center at Papago Park

The AZ Heritage Center at Papago Park in Tempe is a cultural institution dedicated to preserving the history of Arizona. The center features exhibits on the state's natural environment, indigenous cultures, and modern development. Highlights include a replica of a territorial street, a hands-on mining exhibit, and a gallery dedicated to Arizona's role in World War II. The center also offers stunning views of the iconic Papago Buttes. A visit to the AZ Heritage Center provides a deeper understanding of Arizona's past, present, and future.

33 Petersen House Museum

The Petersen House Museum in Tempe is a beautifully preserved Victorian home that offers a glimpse into the life of a middle-class family in the late 19th century. The house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features the Petersen family's original furnishings and personal items. Guided tours provide insights into the Victorian era's architecture, social customs, and daily life. The Petersen House Museum is not just a house but a time capsule that takes you back to a bygone era.

34 Four Peaks Brewing Company

beer at four peaks

Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe is a popular destination for beer lovers. The brewery offers a wide range of craft beers, from their award-winning Kilt Lifter Scottish-style ale to their refreshing Peach Ale. Visitors can take a tour of the brewery to learn about the brewing process or simply relax in the taproom and enjoy a pint. The brewery also serves a menu of pub-style food, making it a great place for a casual meal.

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35 Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters

Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters in Tempe is more than just a coffee shop. It's a place where coffee and tea are treated as an art form. The shop sources high-quality beans and leaves from around the world and brews them with precision to bring out their best flavors. In addition to serving delicious beverages, Infusion also offers classes on coffee and tea brewing. Whether you're a coffee connoisseur, a tea enthusiast, or someone looking for a cozy place to relax, Infusion Coffee & Tea Crafters is worth visiting.

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