Scottsdale's Can't-Miss Area Attractions

These Scottsdale-area destinations are perfect for all members of the family. Browse photos and get tips for exploring the hot spots in town.

Photo By: Dayvid LeMmon

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: John Schlia Photography

Photo By: Steve Larese

Photo By: Scottsdale

Photo By: Scottsdale

Downtown Scottsdale

Scottsdale’s downtown is an eclectic mix of Southwest sensibility and upscale chic filled with diverse restaurants, bars and shops. 5th Avenue, the Arts District, Old Town and the Waterfront comprise the four major areas of downtown. Old Town was Scottsdale’s first settlement, and harkens back to the Old West with bars such as the Rusty Spur and shops such as the American Leather Company. The Arts District sees fine-art galleries and the Museum of the West. The Waterfront parallels the Arizona Canal is a popular gathering spot with the striking Soleri Bridge. Boutiques line 5th Avenue, which together with Fashion Square makes Scottsdale a unique shopping destination.

Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West

Opened in 2015, the Smithsonian affiliate Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West features artifacts such as firearms and saddles from the Old West, and interactive displays such as rope tying detail Western life in the 1800s. Fine art by such masters as Thomas Moran and Fredric Remington is part of the museum’s permanent collection, and rotating exhibits cycle through regularly.

The Heard Museum

Located in nearby Phoenix, the Heard Museum of American Indian Art & History is one of the United States’ premiere museums of Native American art. It’s 11 galleries housed in a historic building rotate more than 40,000 objects in its permanent collection such as historic Hopi katsina dolls and Pueblo pottery. Special events take place throughout the year, such as February’s World Championship Hoop Dance Contest. The on-site bookstore, art gallery and café are worth a visit by themselves.

Musical Instrument Museum

The 200,000-square-foot Musical Instrument Museum features 16,000 instruments from around the world, grouped into country of origin. Bagpipes (which aren’t just found in Scotland), Rwandan drums, Italian brass, Indian sitars and other exotic instruments from more than 50 countries are explained. Exhibits feature clothing and instruments owned by Elvis, John Lennon, Alice Cooper and other famous musicians. Special exhibits such as the art of guitar inlay work cycle throughout the year, and concerts are held regularly in the performance hall.

Taliesin West: Frank Lloyd Wright's Winter Home

Tour famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West, that he built in the Scottsdale desert in the 1930s and wintered in until his death in 1959. Considered one of Wright’s masterpieces and a National Historic Landmark, Taliesin was built to blend into the environment using boulders and sand found on the property. Guests visit his drawing, meeting and living rooms filled with original furnishing and art.

Arizona Science Center

Kids of all ages enjoy the 350 hands-on exhibits at the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix. Everything from how cells work to how stars form are explored through fun, interactive displays throughout the museum’s four floors. Staff-led science demonstrations teach electricity and physics, and special adult-only nights add a cash bar to science demos.

OdySea Aquarium

OdySea Aquarium brings the ocean to the desert with its 2-million-gallon aquarium that’s home to 30,000 animals. Learn how water travels from streams to seas through a variety of life zones. Along the way, visitors learn about and see all manner of fish, turtles and even penguins. A rotating theater takes guests on an undersea adventure where they meet seals, sea turtles and sharks.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

This 30-acre park is the perfect destination for families and train lovers. Take a ride on the Arboretum Train through the desert garden, admire the narrow gauge Paradise & Pacific engines and cars, and enjoy a spin on the historic Scottsdale Charros Carousel. Learn about the importance of railroads to the West in the museum and the extensive model railroad exhibits, then blow off steam on the playgrounds or enjoy shopping in a variety of stores with the park.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art showcases traveling exhibits of some of the finest contemporary art and installations in the nation within a striking building that’s a work of art itelf.

Phoenix Zoo

The country’s largest private, non-profit zoo, the Phoenix Zoo was founded in 1962 by Robert Maytag and is home to more than 1,400 animals on 125 acres. The zoo is divided into four sections: The Arizona Trail, Africa Trail, Tropics Trail and the Children’s Trail that features a petting zoo. The Phoenix Zoo is heavily involved in conservation, and played a critical role in preserving the Arabian Oryx and releasing it back into the wild.

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