12 Absolute Must-Do Experiences of Scottsdale

From an evening stroll along the Arizona Canal through popular districts—Scottsdale Waterfront and Southbridge—to jumping straight into the saddle on a one or three day adventure at the Arizona Cowboy College, Scottsdale lassos you in with its western charm. This scorching and captivating city founded back in the late 1800’s was once home to the Hohokam Indians. Here are 12 must-do experiences in the city that is building a reputation for luxurious spas, desert architecture & outdoor sports.

12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259, USA
The city’s most famous snowbird, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, spent winters at his home and architecture school in the Sonoran Desert. Taliesin West brings the horizontal lines and organic materials of Prairie School design to the desert landscape in low, skylighted buildings. Behind-the-scenes tours visit the pop-up structures that students have designed as living spaces amid the barrel cactus and paloverde trees.
7125 E. 5th Ave. Suite 31, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA
The owners of FnB—James Beard Award semifinalist chef Charleen Badman and front-of-house manager Pavle Milic—were early champions of Arizona wine and produce, curating a wine list that includes lots of Grand Canyon State vintages to accompany their locally sourced dishes. They still highlight the state’s great bounty, and Milic even produces his own wine label, Los Milics, which is available in small batches at the restaurant. Badman’s seasonal menu showcases Arizona’s flavor with an imaginative, very veggie-forward lineup. (Don’t worry, meat and seafood are on the menu, too.) The cozy eight-seat bar is the perfect spot to sample FnB’s wine offerings, showcasing a different region every four weeks.
7111 E 5th Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA
A contemporary take on a traditional pub, Citizen Public House is known for its craft beers, classic and modern cocktails, and interesting pub grub. Snacks include bacon-fat popcorn and a beer fondue made with the local Kilt Lifter brew. Main courses like short ribs with a coffee rub and pan-seared scallops with grits are hearty and delicious. The spot is beautiful, too, with mahogany furniture, oversize leather booths, and a large stainless steel–topped center bar. Speaking of the bar—Citizen Public House is a good spot to tip one back with the locals. Because the bar supports Arizona brewers and wineries, you’ll find Four Peaks Hop Knot IPA and Pillsbury Wild Child white blend on the list, along with wines from Caduceus Cellars and Dos Cabezas.
Old Town Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ, USA
Who says nothing grows in the desert? Local flavor is fresh and on display Saturday mornings during cooler weather at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market, where Arizona-grown oranges and peppers are sold alongside homemade tamales and mozzarella. There are food trucks, artisanal ice cream, and cooking demonstrations from local chefs. Head to the Singh Farms stand to view the harvest of organic peaches, tomatoes, figs, peppers, and more, along with fresh-baked bread, herb butter, honey, and eggs. Most weeks, a local chef dishes out breakfast from the outdoor café on-site.
18333 N Thompson Peak Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85255, USA
In 1995, Scottsdale residents voted to set aside a large parcel of undeveloped city land as protected open space. Today, the roughly 30,000-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve provides an opportunity for adventure. Hike, bike, and rock climb, or take to the trails with local guides from Arizona Outback Adventures and learn all about the desert along the way. Because most of the creatures that live in this desert habitat are more active at night, the best time to view animals is on early morning or evening hikes.
4420 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA
Long before the West was even wild, between the years 600 and 1450, an ancient group of peoples known as the Hohokam brought life to the Arizona desert with an intricate canal system. Parts of it are still in use today and, in addition to providing water for crops and sustenance, they serve as recreational spots. In downtown Scottsdale, the Arizona Canal runs through two of the area’s most popular districts—Scottsdale Waterfront and SouthBridge. Shop for fashion finds at Amy Inc. or sweet and sassy children’s threads from the Garage. Brunch at the Herb Box is a local favorite (red velvet pancakes!) and, around the corner, Culinary Dropout draws a trendy crowd with its gastro-pub fare and cocktail list. Art lovers should roam the Arizona Canal to take in the city’s free public installations, especially the Soleri Bridge and Plaza. A first from Italian architect Paolo Soleri, the structure marks annual solar events and evokes his fascination for planetary movement.
Cattle Track Arts Compound, 6105 N Cattletrack Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85250, USA
Cattle Track is one of Scottsdale’s best-kept secrets. This clutch of 1930s adobe structures may be located in a typical residential neighborhood, but Cattle Track’s story as an artist colony is extraordinary. Fritz Scholder, an influential Native American painter, lived and worked here. So did sculptor Louise Nevelson. Philip C. Curtis, Cattle Track’s most famous artist-in-residence, went on to found the Phoenix Art Museum and was regarded as the dean of arts in Arizona. Today, artists of all types—painters, dancers, photographers, and even blacksmiths—set up working studios that can be toured for free Monday through Saturday.

30208 North 152nd Street
There are a lot of reasons to travel to Scottsdale, but let’s not lose sight of one of the best – the wild, Wild West. A working cattle ranch, Arizona Cowboy College is everything you’d want from a western adventure. Their one- and three-day sessions teach you all about horsemanship and ranching. You’ll eat meals in the main house and sleep in the bunkhouse, and can even sign up for a week-long course where you’ll hit the trails for a real cattle drive and sleep under the stars.
7245 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA
Rusty Spur Saloon was a bank in the 1920s but today it’s one of the best places for dancing with live country music 364 days of the year (they’re closed on Christmas). Tiny and historic, it’s a come-as-you-are bar where everyone from John Wayne to Vince Vaughn has knocked back a few.
9500 Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85256, USA
Topgolf in Scottsdale is a place where professionals and beginners alike come together for a little recreation and a lot of fun. With three floors and more than 100 bays, this state-of-the-art facility is the perfect place to hang out, swing a few clubs, and enjoy a little friendly competition. Visitors rent their own bay by the hour and challenge friends to point-scoring games suited for all skill levels. Topgolf also offers a menu of snacks and bites, as well as an extensive rotating beer list.
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