Few joys in life compare to the laid-back charm of Scottsdale, Arizona.
As the sun paints our skies with hues of orange and pink each evening, it's hard not to fall in love with this desert paradise.
Yet, amidst the sprawling golf courses and high-end shopping experiences, some of the best treasures this city has to offer are, quite incredibly, absolutely free.
So, tighten up those budget belts, grab sunscreen, and get ready to discover a new side of Scottsdale that won't cost you a penny.
Welcome to my guide to the free things to do in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Go Hiking at McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is my sanctuary right in the heart of the Arizona desert, where I find peace and rejuvenation.
For instance, the trail to Windgate Pass is my favorite, though its steady upward climb can be a bit of a challenge.
The rocky steps can get you a bit winded, but the beauty is that you don't ascend straight up.
Likewise, the trail has been thoughtfully designed to let you take a breather after short climbs, then it levels out for a bit, and then you climb again.
So it's more like a rhythm, a dance with nature, if you will.
The Inspiration Viewpoint is rightly named so, for you are greeted with a panoramic view of the stunning preserve that will leave you inspired and humbled.
So, if you are a fellow resident or a visitor in our beautiful desert city, put the Windgate Pass trail on your must-do list.
It's an experience that will get your heart pumping and leave you with a sense of accomplishment and awe at the beauty of our natural world.
Unearth Football History at the Fiesta Bowl Museum
I've always been fascinated by the history and excitement of college football, and there's no better place to delve into this passion than the Fiesta Bowl Museum in my hometown.
One thing I love the most about this place is that it brings every college football fan face-to-face with the exhilarating heritage of the Fiesta Bowl.
Walking into the museum is like stepping into a Fiesta Bowl memorabilia treasure trove.
The walls are adorned with trophies that our favorite teams have battled for, making each visit a new opportunity to relive those thrilling moments.
But what steals the show for me are the helmets of all 120 subdivision teams.
It's awe-inspiring to see every team represented, each helmet, a story of their journey and connection with the Fiesta Bowl.
Another great perk is that they often host meetings and events, adding excitement to the usual humdrum proceedings.
I was lucky enough to attend one such occasion, and the experience was quite surreal.
There I was, amid the rich history of the Fiesta Bowl, discussing work matters.
It was a day I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
The Fiesta Bowl Museum is also conveniently located near a parking garage, which offers free parking for up to three hours, and is close to a mall.
So, if you're in the area, why not take a detour and dive headfirst into the world of college football?
Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
Go Hiking at Pinnacle Peak Park
Every morning, I lace up my hiking boots, grab a water bottle, and set out for a refreshing hike at Pinnacle Peak Park, just moments from my doorstep.
As I step onto the well-maintained trail, I am instantly greeted by the beautiful desert terrain of Scottsdale, Arizona.
The trail is just under four miles out and back, an easy to moderate trek perfect for both experienced and beginners.
As I navigate the path, I admire the iconic saguaro cacti and other desert vegetation that dot the landscape.
If lucky, I might spot some mule deer grazing in the distance.
Occasionally, I take a break and sit at one of the many resting spots along the trail.
From there, I can watch other outdoor enthusiasts climb to the peak.
Rock climbing is also an option for those with a bit more experience and adventure.
One of the highlights of my hike is reaching the top of Pinnacle Peak.
The view from there is nothing short of spectacular, with the desert landscape stretching as far as the eye can see.
As the day heats up, the trail becomes a bustle of activity.
Families, friends, and solo hikers go up and down the path.
Distance signs every quarter mile inform us of how far we've hiked, a simple but thoughtful touch.
When the cacti are in bloom, the park becomes even more stunning.
Vibrant colors contrast the desert's natural hues, and if you're observant, you might spot hidden lizards and other wildlife, adding to the scenery's charm.
Whether you are looking for a challenging workout or a peaceful stroll in nature, Pinnacle Peak Park is an essential stop in Scottsdale.
So, lace up those hiking boots and explore with us!
Discover the Cattle Track Arts Compound
Sometimes, you find the most fascinating places where you least expect them.
The Cattle Track Arts Compound is one such example, a treasure hidden in plain sight.
From the outside, Cattle Track looks like a deserted ghost town with seemingly abandoned buildings, windows, and doors covered with blinds.
A first-time visitor might even doubt if they are at the right place.
But, like a geode, its true beauty is concealed within.
One day, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to delve deeper into this mysterious location.
I spotted someone stepping out from a building, a fortunate encounter that led me to a guided tour of the entire compound.
There, I learned that the artists here are passionate and dedicated, masters of their craft.
The compound is a cornucopia of creativity, with spaces for pottery, woodworking, painting, and colored pencil art.
There's even an old blacksmith shop!
Adding to its charm is a lively dance hall and a theatre where they host shows and musical events.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover such a vibrant artistic community thriving in what appeared to be a deserted location.
I've also enjoyed some memorable musical evenings at Cattle Track. The outdoor venue is perfect for laid-back, intimate concerts.
I still remember the night spent under the open sky, listening to the Dusty Ramblers Project.
The compound also holds concerts by Trio Rio, who regale the audience with their country standards and captivating stories of musical adventures.
Visiting the Cattle Track Arts Compound became a ritual for me.
I've heard whispers about a restaurant opening soon in the main building.
I can't wait to explore this new addition and continue my journey of discovery at this hidden gem in our city.
Spend the Day at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
The first thing you notice is the sheer size of the place. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a sprawling expanse with plenty to do.
Whether you're a train enthusiast or not, it's a beautiful place to spend a day.
Check out the 10,000-square-foot model railroad display if you're interested in trains.
It's fascinating to see the miniatures in action, and it is something to behold. I can't even begin counting the number of scales they display there.
One thing I love about the park is the abundance of picnic areas.
It's easy to find a great spot with a grill and a table, perfect for a family day out - pack a picnic, and you're good to go.
Not to mention, the park is super clean. Even the restrooms are spotless.
For the little ones, the old west play area is a hit. Sure, some play structures are run down, but that doesn't stop the kids from having a blast.
Just be cautious if you're planning to visit during a special event.
They hosted a Halloween event in 2022, billed as "spooky fun," but it was too intense for the younger children.
Let's not forget, of course, the main attraction: the train ride. W
hile it wasn't open on a couple of my visits, when it is, it's a delight for both kids and adults.
If you want a fun day in the area, visit McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.
You might become one, even if you're not a train enthusiast. Or, at the very least, you'll enjoy the open space, the play areas, and the quality picnic spots.
Visit El Dorado Park
Now and then, I crave a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Fortunately, my haven, El Dorado Park, is just a stone's throw away.
Located in Scottsdale, Arizona, this outdoor sanctuary offers a little something for everyone.
Stepping into the park feels like breathing a sigh of relief.
The lush green grass, the sparkling lakes, and the rustling of leaves instantly calm my mind.
For those like me who enjoy solitude, the park's shaded trails offer that much-needed reprieve, accompanied by the gentle gurgle of a water spring.
I've often found myself lost in the beauty and tranquility sans the distraction of my phone.
For fitness enthusiasts or those simply looking for a stroll, the park has well-maintained walking and biking trails that connect with other parks in the Indian Bend Wash.
It's not uncommon to see fellow residents engaging in a morning jog, cycling, or indulging in a friendly game of softball or soccer on the fields.
Families, too, have found a haven here.
Children can let their imagination run wild at the well-kept playgrounds, while parents can unwind by the picnic tables or whip up a delicious barbecue at the grills.
I often see families enjoying a serene walk around the lake, the little ones chasing ducks, while parents snap photos of the breathtaking surroundings.
El Dorado Park is a community hub, a sanctuary, and a breath of fresh air in the heart of Scottsdale.
Whether you're a fan of recreational activities, wildlife, or a quiet picnic, you will find your slice of paradise here.
Cross Soleri Bridge
There's something utterly magical about the Soleri Bridge during the holiday season.
The entire area transforms into a festive wonderland, with the bridge decked out in twinkling lights, creating an enchanting spectacle that's a sight to behold.
You have to see it to believe it.
Strolling along the bridge, it's almost impossible to resist the temptation to stop and snap a few photos against the stunning backdrop.
The bridge is a major attraction in itself, but it's also the gateway to a world of exciting possibilities.
It connects to a bustling hive of activity with many shops and restaurants.
Dining around here is an experience, with the restaurants offering a delightful mix of cuisines.
Navigating through the area is easy. If you're driving, park a street before the bridge and walk up.
If stairs aren't your thing, don't worry - there's an accessible entrance near the splash pad, perfect for those with mobility issues.
One thing's for sure - the Soleri Bridge is a place where you can make memories that will last a lifetime.
Explore Vista Del Camino Park
Vista Del Camino Park is my oasis in Scottsdale, my sanctuary when I need to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
I'm telling you, the feeling of tranquility that washes over me as I take my daily ambles through the park is indescribable.
The spaciousness of the park is a privilege.
Moreover, the park is not just a stretch of green but an impressive 71-acre city park, packed with amenities like sports fields, playgrounds, and social services.
It's meticulously maintained, spotless, and a delightful sight to behold.
One of the park's unique features is its beautiful lake and narrow waterways with charming little bridges.
Fishing there is a leisurely pursuit I indulge in occasionally.
It's so peaceful, you could hear a pin drop!
And then, there's the disc golf. It’s an absolute blast, and the course is fantastic!
Though I've noticed not many take advantage of this hidden gem, it offers a fun and challenging game for those willing to try it.
Moreover, the park is also a treat for our four-legged friends.
I've noticed that even the dogs seem unusually calm and relaxed here.
And as for the locals, they are as friendly and courteous as they come.
Finding shade is never an issue here, with plenty of beautiful trees dispersed across the park.
After my walks, I often find myself unwinding under the shade of a tree, taking in the breathtaking view, or having a nice, quiet picnic.
To sum it up, Vista Del Camino Park has become my little piece of paradise in the city.
Its calming effect is my antidote to a hectic week.
If you're looking for a haven in Scottsdale, this park is worth checking out!
Check Out the Bronze Horse Fountain
There's no place quite like Scottsdale, especially when it comes to the Bronze Horse Fountain by Bob Parks.
It's a part of my daily routine, whether early in the morning with a coffee in hand or late in the afternoon to catch the sunset.
Seeing the horses frolicking in bronze amidst the water features brings a certain level of tranquility to the city's bustling streets.
After I've had my fill of the fountain's beauty, I often find myself heading to the trails of Camelback Mountain.
As I conquer the trails and reach the peak, the view is always rewarding, like a grand applause for a well-performed act.
The whole city sprawls beneath you, and it's hard not to feel a sense of pride for being part of such a vibrant community.
Post-hike, downtown Scottsdale is my next stop.
It's a place where community spirit thrives with a unique mix of modern and old-world charm.
The boutique shops have many stories, each run by proud locals selling everything from handmade crafts to high fashion.
It's hard not to get lost in the charm of the old town.
However, the day wouldn't be complete without a visit to the canal that runs through the city.
It's a peaceful place to wind down, with the gentle lapping of water as the perfect background sound to the hum of the city.
Walking along the canal, I often find myself back at the Bronze Horse Fountain, a testament to the city's love for art and culture.
The Bronze Horse Fountain by Bob Parks paints a beautiful picture of what life in Scottsdale is all about.
Enjoy the Day at Chesnutt Park
One morning, I laced up my sneakers and took a short stroll to Chesnutt Park. This tranquil spot, nestled in Scottsdale, is truly a hidden gem.
The park is spread over a neat 5-acre area and is the perfect place to unwind.
I often start my day with a round or two on the tennis courts.
There are two of them, and they're usually free in the early morning.
After a good game, I stroll along the paved path that encircles the park.
The playground has two play structures, both offering a variety of slides and climbing opportunities for the little ones.
One of the structures is fully covered, providing much-needed shade during the hot summer months.
Apart from this, there are two sets of swings, and let me tell you, the joy on the faces of the children swinging away is an absolute treat to watch.
There are covered picnic areas for those who prefer a more relaxed time.
I've spent many a lazy afternoon here with a good book, occasionally glancing up to watch the kids and dogs running around in the large grassy area.
The park also has a small splash pad, which, while a bit dated, still provides a fun escape from the heat for the kiddos during the warmer months.
Moreover, this place has a restful, safe vibe, and plenty of other locals are enjoying their time here.
It's well-maintained and clean, with restrooms and benches conveniently located along the path.
So, if you're in the area and looking for a great place to spend your day, Chesnutt Park is a must-visit. See you there!
Explore Chaparral Park
Ever find yourself in Scottsdale, Arizona, yearning for a breath of fresh air and a splash of outdoor fun? Look no further than Chaparral Park.
It's right here in our picturesque city, spread over a glorious 100 acres, and it offers everything from a quiet place to relax to active fun for the whole family.
I find myself drawn to this park again and again. Its sprawling greenery and two shimmering lakes greatly escape the usual urban hustle.
The early morning is charming as the sun peeks over the horizon and reflects off the lakes, illuminating the park in a warm, golden glow.
They say the best things in life are free, and this view is undoubtedly one of them!
Being a fitness enthusiast, I especially love the 3.1-mile loop trail that wraps around the park like a ribbon.
It's perfect for a jog, a cycle, or a simple leisurely walk.
The path is well-maintained and flat, making it easy for people of all fitness levels to enjoy.
As I run, I often see families fishing along the larger lake, children laughing on the playground, and friends challenging each other on the sand volleyball courts.
The park has an excellent setup for those interested in fishing.
Likewise, the lake is teeming with various fish, and plenty of shaded spots exist to relax and wait for a bite.
If you're new to this, don't worry. The park regularly holds fishing clinics for beginners.
And if you’re a dog lover like me, you’ll be delighted to know that Chaparral Park is home to a beautiful dog park.
Watching our furry friends romping around, making new friends, and getting their much-needed exercise is always a joy.
So whether you're into running, fishing, picnicking, or just after a leisurely day out, remember to check out Chaparral Park.
It’s our local gem that caters to all ages and interests.
Start a Daily Workout at Osborn Park
You know, nothing is more refreshing than a good workout amidst the beauty of nature.
And as someone who lives in Scottsdale, I have found that perfect combination at Osborn Park.
Every morning, as the sun peeks over the horizon, I am ready to start my day with a challenging workout.
The park has a variety of exercise equipment that fits my fitness needs.
I’ve tried my hand at the pull-up stations, and let me tell you, they demand quite a bit of strength.
But every muscle pulled and bead of sweat shed is worth it.
Then there are the sit-up areas, which I find pretty manageable.
However, the monkey bars require you to be at your best.
Every day is a new challenge, and I love it!
What I love about Osborn Park is that it isn't just about the workout.
On days when I feel like taking it easy, I put on my walking shoes and traverse the considerable distance of the sidewalks, taking in the beautiful scenery.
Sometimes, I sit on the footbridge that crosses Osborn, resting my tired legs and taking in the calmness of the surroundings.
The park also has a small playground that is always in excellent condition.
I don't have kids, but seeing the joy on the children's faces as they play is genuinely heartwarming.
All these make Osborn Park more than just a place for a workout. It's my little haven in the middle of the city.
So, if you're in the area, I highly recommend you drop by.
And who knows, you might find your new favorite workout spot!
Visit Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
A day spent wandering the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art's multi-gallery spaces is well spent.
This little gem of modern art and architecture never fails to astonish me, even as someone who frequents the place regularly.
The rotating exhibits keep things fresh and exciting; there's always something new to stimulate the senses and provoke thought.
These little nuggets of information can turn a simple visit into a profound learning experience.
One of the things I love about the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is that it's more than just an indoor experience.
The surrounding desert garden is a visual treat and a perfect backdrop for contemplation.
Moreover, its stunning views, like a canvas of light, color, and local flora, are a testament to the beauty of Arizona's natural landscape.
An hour or so of exploration usually does it for me.
Afterward, browsing the small souvenir shop at the entrance is excellent for a keepsake or two.
And if you want to top off your museum visit, grab a cocktail at AZ88.
It's a local favorite and the perfect punctuation to a day well spent at the museum.
Check Out Papago Rotary Park
Whenever I need a breather from the city's perpetual hum, I know just the place to go – Papago Rotary Park.
Over the years, it's become my little sanctuary, a spot of greenery amidst the concrete.
The park, surprisingly, is often devoid of a crowd.
I've found it an excellent spot for solitude while providing the amenities for a casual gathering.
The new playground equipment is a recent upgrade that's been put to good use, and the shade canopy proves to be a blessing during sun-kissed afternoons.
My friends and I have had countless picnics at Papago Rotary Park.
Its picnic tables are always clean and well-maintained, making them ideal for a quick lunch or an evening snack.
The mature trees offer a peaceful refuge if you’re looking for a spot to enjoy an undisturbed read or a tranquil meditation.
You can't miss the volleyball net, although it lacks sand or a perimeter, giving it a unique look.
Even though there's no restroom in the park, you'll find a couple of water fountains around for quick hydration.
Indeed, the Papago Rotary Park is unique because of its tranquility in our bustling community.
The park's almost always empty, on a quiet street with minimal residential traffic.
It's like our best-kept secret, a small serenity we locals cherish.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Feel the Serenity at Arizona Falls
Every so often, when the city bustle gets too overwhelming, I escape to my oasis, the Arizona Falls.
Nestled in the heart of Phoenix, the falls offer a unique, tranquil experience that you wouldn't expect in the middle of the desert.
Bookended by a restored hydroelectric plant and a comfortable footbridge, the falls serve as a peaceful gathering place and a testament to our city's sustainable energy efforts.
The waterfalls, while artificial, echo a natural aura that calms the soul.
The shaded viewing room provides a serene place to sit and marvel at the cascading waters.
Unlike other popular tourist spots, it's rare to find a crowd here, making it ideal for solitude or quiet reflection.
A unique feature of the falls is their temperature.
In contrast to the typical desert heat, the space between the falls is considerably cooler, making it a popular spot to beat the heat during our hot summers.
If you're in luck, you might come across a flock of cliff swallows nesting under the bridges, adding to the natural charm of the place.
Adjacent to the Arizona Falls is a park frequented by locals for leisurely walks, runs, or cycling along the canal.
The falls are a part of the Salt River Project (SRP) canal, a significant source of Phoenix's water supply.
As you stroll along, you can't help but appreciate this ingenious blend of functionality and aesthetics.
While it may not rival the grandeur of Niagara Falls, Arizona Falls holds its own with its unique blend of history, energy generation, and tranquil beauty.
Whether planning a family outing, a solitary retreat, or a peaceful run, it's a charming spot to spend a few hours away from the city's hustle and bustle.
Discover Art & Architecture at Cosanti Originals
You wouldn't believe the artistic oasis tucked away in Phoenix, known as Cosanti Originals.
A step into this place is like stepping into a unique world of creativity and craftsmanship.
It's a gallery that showcases the exceptional talent of architect, sculptor, and wind-chime designer Paolo Soleri.
Every visit to Cosanti's is an enlightening experience.
The architecture at Cosanti Originals is another highlight. It's unconventional and awe-inspiring, which further complements the artistic vibe of the place.
One could easily spend hours admiring the skill and thought behind every curve and corner.
When it comes to their products, Cosanti offers an extensive range of beautifully crafted bells, wind chimes, clay tiles, and even jewelry.
The prices are reasonable, especially considering the effort and creativity poured into each piece.
It's also a great place to find unique gifts for loved ones.
One of the most memorable experiences at Cosanti Originals was witnessing the process of pouring hot bronze into sand molds to make the bells.
It's an unforgettable spectacle that adds to the charm of this exceptional place.
So, if you're ever in Phoenix and have a thing for art architecture or are just curious about the craft of bell-making, Cosanti Originals is a place you wouldn't want to miss.
Explore the Desert Botanical Garden
The 40-acre garden is home to a staggering 50,000 plants, each more beautiful and unique than the last.
I began my journey with a warm cup of coffee from the Garden's cafe, letting the subtle aroma guide me through the various trails.
The garden's paths meander through various landscapes, each carefully crafted and meticulously maintained.
On this particular day, I was drawn to the butterfly exhibit.
Usually, I am not one to linger at such spots, but today was different - it was as if I was seeing it for the first time.
The fluttering wings, the vibrant colors, and the serene environment captivated me.
Walking along the trails, I spotted a family of ground squirrels scampering around, their furry bodies contrasting against the spiky desert plants.
Rabbits hopped around while roadrunners darted in and out of the vegetation.
Seeing quail flitting about is not uncommon, but it still makes me smile every time.
The Arizona heat can be stifling, but the Garden is well-prepared.
Free water bottle refill stations dot the paths, providing ice-cold relief for parched throats.
I always appreciate the thoughtful attention to visitors' comfort, even in such harsh conditions.
The gift shop is a haven of air-conditioned comfort for those needing a break from the heat.
I often find myself lingering over the eclectic selection of gifts and souvenirs.
Once, I picked up a beautifully crafted desert rose ornament, a memento of my regular visits.
The Desert Botanical Garden is a sanctuary, a place of learning, and a window to the beauty of the desert.
Each visit is a unique experience, and I eagerly look forward to my next walk in this beautiful oasis.
Visit G.R. Herberger Park
It's a breath of freshness, a retreat from the city hustle.
The trickling sound of water and the calmness permeating the entire park is a little oasis in the city's heart.
One of the highlights of my day is packing a picnic and heading to this park conveniently connected to the historic Arizona Falls.
Finding a parking spot towards the west of the park is never a chore, and it opens up a world of recreational facilities.
Volleyball courts, tennis courts, ramadas - just a lot of green space waiting to be explored and enjoyed.
Some days, I want a peaceful stroll along the canal's banks, taking in the view or indulging in the history of Arizona canals. It's a great place for everyone, with wheelchair accessibility, making it a truly inclusive site.
G.R. Herberger Park is a part of our community and our refuge.
I'm continually amazed by the wealth of free activities Scottsdale, Arizona, offers.
Whether you're new in town or a long-time resident like me, these free attractions promise a fantastic experience.
After all, the best things in life, or at least in Scottsdale, are free.