Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Scottsdale, AZ

  • Published 2022/12/10

If you’re looking for the perfect vacation destination, Scottsdale in Maricopa County, Arizona, is the place for you!

Scottsdale has the makings of a spectacular holiday, with the stunning beauty of its beautiful Sonoran Desert, its fancy hotels, gourmet restaurants, and engaging activities and attractions.

Not only is it recognized as “The World’s Finest Golf Destination,” but its fantastic golf courses, natural beauty, and galleries are also popular among players and visitors.

With so many things to do in the city, try these 15 free things in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Wander around the Old Town Scottsdale

Water fountain at Old Town Scottsdale

Cre8 design /

The best place to wander around in Scottsdale is Old Town Scottsdale.

Old Town Scottsdale is a vibrant community in the heart of Scottsdale.

With its convenient location and wide variety of shops, galleries, and restaurants, Old Town Scottsdale is a popular destination for locals and visitors.

There are many bars and clubs if you want active nightlife.

Buildings along Old Town Scottsdale

Paul McKinnon /

The farmers market features fresh produce, local honey, and handmade arts and crafts every week.

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is located in Old Town Scottsdale and features a modern and contemporary art collection.

With its rich history and vibrant culture, Old Town Scottsdale is a truly unique community worth exploring.

Welcome sign of Old Town Scottsdale

Paul McKinnon /

See the Amazing Exhibits at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Exterior of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

jejim /

Located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is one of Arizona’s premier art museums.

The museum features a wide variety of contemporary art, from paintings and sculptures to installations and video art.

The museum’s rotating exhibitions showcase work by established and emerging artists, making it a great place to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in the art world.

If you’re interested in architecture or design, the museum’s education programs offer something for everyone, from hands-on workshops to lectures and tours.

Building sign of Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Isabel Eve /

Whether you’re a die-hard art lover or simply looking for a fun day out, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is worth a visit.

Schedule your trip every Thursday and the second Saturday of the month to get in for free.

Free tickets should also be reserved in advance, so make sure to get the dates right when planning your trip!

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Pinnacle Peak Park

Scenic view of Pinnacle Peak Park

Phyllis Peterson /

Pinnacle Peak Park on 102nd Way is Scottsdale’s true desert oasis that you should visit.

The park features 375 acres of hiking, running, and biking trails and a variety of scenic picnic areas.

Pinnacle Peak is a popular destination for climbers, offering breathtaking views of White River Valley and Mount Reinier.

Trail at Pinnacle Peak Park

Phyllis Peterson /

The park is also home to various wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and mountain lions.

Visitors can get an up-close look at these animals by participating in one of the park’s many ranger-led programs.

Pinnacle Peak Park is the perfect place to challenge yourself and explore Scottsdale’s natural beauty.

A hiker at Pinnacle Peak Park

Ray Redstone /

Visit the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Cacti scattered along McDowell Sonoran Preserve

DCA88 /

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a must-visit desert preserve in Thompson Peak Parkway.

It’s the largest urban preserve in the nation, encompassing more than 30,500 acres of unbothered land, but that’s not the only reason it’s highly recommended for outdoor enthusiasts.

Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, and horseback riding on the many trails through the preserve.

The preserve is also home to various plant and animal life, including cacti, reptiles, and birds.

People touring around McDowell Sonoran Preserve

86Eric_Anthony_Mischke 86 /

The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, which takes care of the preserve, offers different enjoyable activities for its visitors.

Taking part in one of the free guided hikes or informative programs of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy allows you to get the most out of your trip to the preserve.

Visitors Center of McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Noah Sauve /

See the Sun’s Shadow at the Pylons of Soleri Bridge and Plaza

Pathway of Soleri Bridge and Plaza

DCA88 /

Have you ever wondered what the large towers along the Arizona Canal, right off Scottsdale Road and south of Camelback, are for?

They’re more than just decorative poles!

The stunning Soleri Bridge and Plaza is supported by two 64-foot poles and spans 27 feet on the south side before dropping to its north side by 18 feet.

The bridge is designed to highlight solar occurrences caused by the sun’s shadow.

Signage of Soleri Bridge and Plaza

Rosemarie Mosteller /

It’s designed by the famous artist, architect, and philosopher Paolo Soleri and serves as a pedestrian walkway, solar calendar, and gathering spot along the Scottsdale Waterfront.

Old Town Scottsdale’s public area caters to a wide range of people, from simple waterfront tourists and locals to students, travelers, architects, and art lovers.

The Soleri Bridge and Plaza connect the past and present by recognizing solar events.

The waterway’s location, rich in historical connotations, mingles with current civilizations seeking harmony between humans and nature.

Tall poles of Soleri Bridge and Plaza

tishomir /

Relive Your Memories as a Fan of Fish Bowl Games at Fiesta Bowl Museum

This place in Scottsdale will excite you as a football fan!

The Fiesta Bowl Museum on Camelback Road is dedicated to preserving the history of college football’s Fiesta Bowl.

The museum offers various exhibits and displays, including memorabilia from past Fiesta Bowl games and interactive displays about the game’s history.

There’s also a theater where visitors can watch highlights from some of the most memorable moments in Fiesta Bowl history.

The museum also offers a variety of educational programs, such as lectures and workshops, that are designed to teach visitors about the game of football and its importance in American culture.

If you’re a fan of the Fiesta Bowl, or even if you’re not, the Fiesta Bowl Museum is worth checking out to learn more about this significant aspect of American history!

Tour around the Scottsdale Art District

Sculpture in the middle of Scottsdale Art District

ShutterDivision /

The Scottsdale Art District is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scottsdale that you must not miss.

The area is home to a vibrant community of artists, galleries, and studios where local artists in Scottsdale showcase their talents.

You can explore the district on foot or by bike, and there are plenty of public art displays to enjoy.

The district also hosts many events throughout the year, including ArtWalk and the Scottsdale Jazz Festival.

See incredible sights of fantastic local artworks all around the Scottsdale Art District!

Go Hiking at Tom’s Thumb Trailhead

Rock formation of Tom’s Thumb

Ray Redstone /

It’s difficult to pick just one of the many attractions in Scottsdale, but if you’re seeking a quick escape from the city, Tom’s Thumb Trailhead is the obvious choice.

It offers astonishing views of the Arizona desert and is an ideal destination whether you’re an experienced hiker or a family on a vacation excursion.

This is the Conservancy’s initial trailhead on the McDowell Mountains’ north side which is made up of loose gravel ground with quite steep climbs, stunning rock formations, and a 1,200-foot elevation rise.

A hiker along Tom’s Thumb Trailhead

Isabel Eve /

The distinctive hill that raises like a fingertip to the sky can help you identify it, and the trail’s surface here is smooth, so you may focus on the scenery instead of where to go next.

The Arizona Mountaineering Club gave it its moniker approximately 45 years ago and was named after Tom Kreuser, the first club member to scale it.

Since then, the moniker Tom’s Thumb has remained and is still widely used.

You can go ahead and hike your way to this trail and enjoy the views it offers.

Hikers at Tom’s Thumb Trailhead

Isabel Eve /

Stop by the Bronze Horse Fountain by Bob Parks

Daytime view of the Bronze Horse Fountain by Bob Parks


The Bronze Horse Fountain by Bob Parks is a stunning piece of public art that can be found in Scottsdale.

The fountain features a beautiful bronze horse statue that stands atop a granite pedestal surrounding a water fountain in the center.

The five prize Arabian horses springing from the fountain are based on the award-winning Arabians of horse breeder Tom Chauncey.

The names of the horses are carved into the bottom of the sculpture.

Carved horses of the Bronze Horse Fountain by Bob Parks

kenelamb photographics /

The fountain has become one of Scottsdale’s most photographed monuments, providing a cooling and welcoming view during the hotter months.

Check out the Bronze Horse Fountain if you’re ever in the area.

Aerial view of the Bronze Horse Fountain by Bob Parks

John Couture /

Enjoy a Fun Day Out with the Kids at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Steam locomotive at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Kit Leong /

The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park on Indian Bend Road is a unique and popular attraction that offers visitors a chance to experience a bit of American railroad history.

The McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, maintained by Scottsdale City’s Parks & Recreation Department, is the most unique in the country, occupying 30 acres of property in the center of Scottsdale.

The park features a working model railroad and a variety of other interactive exhibits you and your family can enjoy.

Train terminal at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Kit Leong /

Visitors, especially kids, can explore the replica of an old western town or learn about the transcontinental railroad’s construction.

The park also hosts various special events throughout the year, making it an excellent destination for families and groups.

Whether you’re a train enthusiast or just looking for a fun day out, the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park won’t disappoint.

A carousel at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Kit Leong /

View Fantastic Artwork at Cattle Track Arts Compound

Art lovers will love the Cattle Track Arts Compound.

This unique community of artists and artisans in Scottsdale serves as an art gallery, artist studios, and living quarters for artist residents and guests.

This art compound on Cattletrack Road is full of painters, sculptors, jewelers, photographers, and ceramists who are all cultivating their talents.

The compound also hosts various events throughout the year, including exhibitions, open studios, and workshops.

The community is open to the public, and visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and meet the artists.

The Cattle Track Arts Compound is a unique destination for artists and art lovers.

Other Things to Do Nearby

You can do many activities in Scottsdale, but other attractions in the nearby areas also await you.

Here are some of the things you can do nearby:

Enjoy a Cozy Night at Arizona Falls

Daytime view of Arizona Falls

Isabel Eve /

Who would have thought that an artificial waterfall would be a great destination to relax in the city?

Located in Phoenix, Arizona Falls is a 20-foot drop between 56th and 58th streets on the Arizona Canal that serves as both a local attraction and a hydroelectric facility.

Arizona Falls has become a local recreation and learning center for decades and is just seven minutes away from Scottsdale.

Pathway above the Arizona Falls

Thomas Trompeter /

The waterfall is lit at night, making it a popular spot for evening walks or picnics.

Visitors can also enjoy views of the surrounding desert landscape.

Arizona Falls is an excellent spot for a peaceful afternoon escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Cascades of the Arizona Falls

Isabel Eve /

Marvel at the Architectural Design of Cosanti Originals

Interior of Cosanti Originals

Kit Leong /

Cosanti Originals is a unique destination in Phoenix, just 21 minutes away from Scottsdale.

Founded in the 1950s by Paolo Soleri, Cosanti is best known as a home to various artists who create beautiful works of art using traditional techniques.

Visitors can watch the artists at work, explore the on-site gallery, and look at the pieces of Soleri-inspired art.

Cosanti is also an important architectural site with several structures designed by Soleri.

Exterior of Cosanti Originals

Kit Leong /

The designs at Cosanti are explorations in passive solar heating and cooling, efficiency, reusing, and cleverly designed structures according to the sun’s position in the sky to warm the quasi areas in the cooler weather and the warmer months.

These ancient principles inspired Soleri’s ideas about how people can construct a built world that is in harmony with nature and was dubbed “arcology,” a combination of “architecture” and “ecology.”

Cosanti Originals is well worth a visit with its stunning landscape and fascinating history.

Crafts at Cosanti Originals

Kit Leong /

Enjoy a Magical Stroll Experience at Desert Botanical Garden

Cacti at Desert Botanical Garden


The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, just 12 minutes from Scottsdale, is a must-see for any nature lover.

The garden spans 140 acres and features more than 21,000 plants, including many rare and endangered species.

The paths feature rare and magnificent flora that grow in some of the world’s hottest and driest regions.

If you walk one or more of these Sonoran Desert nature and hiking trails in Phoenix, you’ll understand why this garden is dedicated to desert plants.

You can also trek to the top of this trail for a spectacular view of the mountains surrounding the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix.

Colorful sculptures at Desert Botanical Garden

Raeann Davies /

Indulge yourself in the hues and aromas of this path, which exhibits concepts and tactics for working with nature in a dry climate that’s effective, sustainable, and harmonious.

Stroll along the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Desert Terrace Garden to reach the garden’s core.

Make sure to plan your visit every second Tuesday of the month to roam this wonderful garden for free!

This garden is like a magical place from a fairytale book and is an excellent destination for a day trip or weekend getaway.

Flora at Desert Botanical Garden

Mary Elise Photography /

Play Sports at G.R. Herberger Park

Signage of G.R. Herberger Park

Thomas Trompeter /

Looking for a fun and active way to spend your day?

Head down to G.R. Herberger Park in Phoenix, just six minutes away from Scottsdale, and play some sports!

Playing sports is a great way to get moving and have fun with your kids or loved ones.

The park has four pickleball and tennis courts open to the public, so you can grab a friend or family member and play.

You can also play tennis and sand volleyball while your kids are having fun on the playing field for kids.

Final Thoughts

You won’t get bored in Scottsdale with its numerous attractions.

From taking a peaceful stroll at Old Town Scottsdale, Art District, and Arizona Falls to exploring Cosanti Originals to experience the city’s fantastic art and architectural designs, there are plenty of options for visitors looking for something to do in this area.

For those who prefer a more adventurous activity, visit the preserves and trails!

Include these places on your vacation list and try these free things to do in Scottsdale, Arizona.

© All rights reserved.