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With everything there is to see and do in Scottsdale, your most difficult decision may be where to start. Not to worry! The following are some suggestions for experiencing the best of Scottsdale, whether you have one day, two days or three days to explore. And, if you have little travelers in your group, click here for activities that are great for the whole family.
The Sonoran Desert surrounding Scottsdale is the richest, most biologically diverse desert in the Americas. If you have only one day in Scottsdale, it is encouraged that you to spend part of it exploring this beautiful land of towering saguaros, unusual plants and curious creatures. Your options are as varied as the landscape itself: Hop into a Jeep or Hummer for a thrill-a-minute off-road tour. For a taste of the Old West, cowboy-up for an early-morning trail ride followed by a hearty campfire breakfast. For the most expansive views of the desert’s stunning landscape, try a hot air balloon ride. Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and river rafting also are popular ways to enjoy Scottsdale’s Sonoran Desert. Looking for something less adventurous? Head to the Desert Botanical Garden, which features five unique trails and other exhibits that will help you learn about the desert’s flora and fauna.
After you’ve explored the desert and savored lunch at one of Scottsdale’s outstanding restaurants, it’s time to relax. Golfers, for you this means enjoying 18 of the best holes of golf you’ve ever played. The Scottsdale area offers more than 200 outstanding courses to choose from, including both traditional and desert designs. No matter what your skill level, you’re sure to find the perfect challenge in Scottsdale!
If golf’s not your game, plan to pamper yourself at one of Scottsdale’s luxurious resort spas, where luscious treatments like a Desert Nectar Honey Wrap, Kachina Aromatherapy or soothing hot rock massage are sure to renew your body and spirit!
If you have two days, be sure to enjoy the Sonoran Desert adventures and golf or spa activities described in the “One Day” itinerary, then let’s add some new things!
No Scottsdale vacation is complete without experiencing the area’s Native American heritage. Start your day at the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park , featuring a prehistoric Hohokam ruin encircled by a 2/3-mile interpretive trail. Inside, changing gallery exhibits explore Hohokam archaeology, Southwestern cultures and contemporary American Indian arts.
Your next stop, the Heard Museum, is world-renowned for its collection of Native American art and artifacts. HOME: Native People of the Southwest is the museum’s newest exhibit, which reflects on the importance of family, community, land and languages – commonalities that play an important role in the lives of all Native people. Frequent artist demonstrations offer you the opportunity to talk with the artists as they create their masterpieces. The Museum Shop and Bookstore offers an unparalleled collection of Native American jewelry, art, books and gifts. While you’re there, enjoy a delightful lunch at the Heard Café.
In the afternoon, discover Scottsdale’s vibrant arts scene. Begin with a guided tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Taliesin West . Set on 600 acres of beautiful Sonoran Desert in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, this magnificent complex was built as Wright’s personal home and architectural school. Today, Taliesin West still serves as a living, working educational facility.
Round out your day of arts and culture in the Downtown Scottsdale Arts & Shopping Districts. Here, more than 125 galleries offer art in all styles and mediums for serious collectors and casual admirers alike. If you’re here on a Thursday evening, be sure take in the Scottsdale ArtWalk, a 31-year tradition in which downtown galleries stay open from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and offer artist receptions, special exhibits and live entertainment. After ArtWalk (or any evening!), unwind with a glass of wine at Kazimierz world wine bar or enjoy your favorite adult libation at any one of downtown’s more than 50 nightclubs, wine bars and lounges.
If you have three days – lucky you! Enjoy the one- and two-day itineraries, then continue your exploration of the arts with a visit to Cosanti, Italian architect Paolo Soleri’s home and studio. Here, you can browse the studios where Soleri’s world-famous bronze windbells are made and sold.
Next, it’s on to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art ; be sure to call it SMoCA, like the locals do. Located on downtown’s lush Civic Center Mall, SMoCA features cutting-edge contemporary art by some of the nation’s finest creative minds. Next door, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts offers changing gallery exhibits and a fabulous Museum Store in addition to a year-round performing arts season (if you’re not too tired after all your Scottsdale adventures, come back in the evening and enjoy a musical, dance or theatrical performance). While you’re in the area, be sure to explore the fine exhibits of public art on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, including Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” sculpture and George-Ann Tognoni’s “The Yearlings.”
After lunch at one of the fine restaurants on Scottsdale’s Civic Center Mall, it’s the moment all you shoppers have been waiting for! Scottsdale offers more than 2,500 boutiques, shops and malls for shop-’til-you-drop excitement. Scottsdale Fashion Square covers 1.8 million square feet and offers more than 225 stores, restaurants and theaters in a high-tech mall setting. For more upscale shopping, visit The Shops at Gainey Village . You also can travel to renaissance Italy at The Borgata of Scottsdale or to old Morocco at Boulders el Pedregal Festival Marketplace . Both centers feature one-of-a-kind boutiques, galleries, fine dining and colorful ambience in sunny, outdoor settings. And the Downtown Scottsdale Arts & Shopping Districts are sure to offer something for everyone, from Native American jewelry and art to Western wear and unique souvenirs.
Taking the whole family on vacation? If so, you’ll be glad you chose Scottsdale. Just look at all the fun and exciting activities for kids of all ages!
Check out the kid-friendly amenities and programs at your resort. From dive-in movies and kids’ camps to hands-on learning activities, cool pools and slippery water slides, there’s sure to be something for the wee ones to enjoy just outside your guestroom door!
Take the whole family on a Sonoran Desert adventure . Jeep and Hummer tours, guided hikes, river-rafting excursions, horseback rides and hot air balloon flights are all exciting ways for families to explore the desert.
Learn about Native American culture at the Heard Museum, Pueblo Grande Museum & Archaeological Park , Hoo-Hoogam Ki Tribal Museum, or the Native American Learning Center at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. Fun hands-on activities and interactive exhibits allow children to learn about the area’s native cultures and history.
All aboard! Kids will love the train and carousel rides at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park . The park also features historic exhibits, picnic areas, a playground and seasonal Sunday-evening concerts.
Enjoy a day of fun and games at CrackerJax Family Fun & Sports Park . CrackerJax features an automated driving range, miniature golf, go-karts, batting cages, volleyball, an arcade and a restaurant.
Get your motor running! Kids 10 and older can get behind the wheel at Octane Raceway . F1 offers everything from high-speed European kart racing to rock climbing, billiards and a wide selection of video games.
Visit one of the world’s tallest fountains in nearby Fountain Hills. From the center of a 28-acre man-made lake, this magnificent fountain sends a snow-white jet stream of water 560 feet into the blue desert sky. The lake is surrounded by a lush grassy park that includes a children’s play area. Bring a picnic lunch (or visit one of the fabulous local restaurants) and enjoy beautiful Fountain Hills!
Step back in time to the Wild West at Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse or Pinnacle Peak Patio. The 1880s come alive at Rawhide as cowboys and desperados stage gunfights on the town’s main street. Your little cowboys and cowgirls also will enjoy the petting ranch, gold panning and stagecoach rides. The Old West also is the backdrop for Pinnacle Peak Patio. Be sure to have Dad wear his ugliest necktie – the steakhouse’s scissor-wielding waitresses would love to cut it off and add it to the million other ugly ties hanging from the walls and rafters.
Ever wonder how fast (or slow) a saguaro grows, or what makes the desert smell so good after it rains? Find out at the Desert Botanical Garden. At the Garden’s Discovery Stations, little hands can touch and investigate desert plants from cactus fruits to yucca baskets. Kids also can become Desert Detectives by searching for clues about desert plants and animals with a free game sheet.
Meet a marsupial or talk with a tortoise at the Phoenix Zoo. You’ll also find lions and tigers and bears at this home for more than 1,300 animals, including 200 endangered or threatened birds, mammals and reptiles from around the world.
Learn about Scottsdale’s early days at the 1909 Little Red School House, now home to the Scottsdale Historical Museum . The Museum chronicles the city’s history with photographs, artifacts and changing displays.
Click here for more Scottsdale attractions and adventures!