Scottsdale, Arizona is a great destination for people who love to be immersed in the great outdoors. The city has several points of attractions that celebrate its Old West past, with opportunities to learn about local history, as well as native plants and animals. When you stay at one of many incredible Scottsdale vacation rentals, you’ll be within proximity to the area’s most prominent attractions. You can easily visit the Sonoran Desert and Tonto National Forest on horseback, an ATV, or even via an air tour. When vacationers need to cool off a little, the city’s lake and river offer opportunities for dips in the water, and relaxing boat or kayak rides. Start off your trip right by adding these top 15 things to do to your Scottsdale itinerary.

estancia golf course scottsdale
Source: Flickr/Heather Tawes Nelson

1. View Thousands of Butterflies

One of the most incredible attractions in Scottsdale is Butterfly Wonderland, where you can watch butterflies from around the world flitter around. The facility has a tropical rainforest, a theater, and several galleries full of interactive exhibits. There is a cafe if you want to grab a quick bite, and a gift shop so you can bring home a memento of your Arizona vacation.

2. Tour a Frank Lloyd Wright Home

Taliesin West is not only a Frank Lloyd Wright design; it once served as his home. Visitors take tours to view both his living spaces and his studio, and to study incredible architectural features that make it seem as if the home is rising from Mesa itself.

3. Tour the City On an Electric Bike

Scottsdale is spread over a large area, so many visitors find it easier to discover all it has to offer on two wheels from Pedego Electric Bikes. The shop offers instructions on how to operate the bikes, and it provides maps to help you get around town.

4. Explore Western Railroad History

Take a trip back in time at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park and its 10,000-square foot Model Railroad Building. This is a great place for families who enjoy a playground, picnic areas, and an antique carousel. The museum at this park has several interactive displays to intrigue young and old minds alike.

5. Head to the Races

If your family loves race karts, they won’t be disappointed at Octane Raceway. The track at the raceway winds between indoors and outdoors, and the electric karts reach speeds of up to 45 mph. The bowling alley, arcade, and billiards room make this raceway a fun way for the whole family to enjoy an afternoon in Scottsdale.

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6. Take a Flight Over the Desert

To really get a sense of the vastness of the Arizona desert landscape, book a tour with Desert Splash Adventures. The company offers flights around the Scottsdale area in amphibious seaplanes, starting from near the airport and landing in either Roosevelt Lake or Lake Powell.

7. Go Horseback Riding

If you want things to do in Scottsdale that harken back to the Old West, head over to McDonald’s Ranch for a trail ride on horseback. The western-themed ranch accommodates riders of all skill levels, and its guides provide information about the area during your ride. The ranch also has a hay bale maze and a petting zoo to add to the fun.

8. Head Out On an ATV

To get a close-up view of the beauty of the Scottsdale area and its wildlife, book with Desert Monsters Tours and head into the Sonoran Desert and Tonto National Forest on an ATV or UTV. The company supplies helmets and goggles so you can hop right on and ride into areas that are difficult to reach by foot.

9. View the Area By Jeep

Wild West Jeep Tours picks you up right at your vacation rental door for tours of the Sonoran Desert and Tonto National Forest. You’ll get a close-up view of the various species of cacti in the Scottsdale area, and you may spot snakes, lizards, and other local wildlife.

10. Cool Off at Bartlett Lake

Vacationers can swim in Bartlett Lake or hike along its extensive trail system to view the fantastic mountain backdrops. The marina at the lake rents boats and jet skis so you can head further out, and there is a bait shop if you want to get in a little fishing.

11. Celebrate Wildlife

One of the most impressive attractions in Scottsdale is the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. The center rescues animals no longer able to live in the wild, and offers tours and educational programs. On a given visit you may see bears, mountain lions, and other animals local to the area.

12. Tour the Road Less Traveled

If you really want to see the more remote parts of the desert, take a trip with Desert Storm Hummer Tours. The ride is a little bumpy, and sometimes airborne if you request it, but the views can’t be beat. Take the night tour for a stunning view of the stars in the big Arizona sky.

13. Learn Scottsdale History

The Scottsdale Historical Museum is housed in the 1909 Little Red School House, and features exhibits full of artifacts and photographs from the area. The One Room Schoolhouse is a permanent exhibit that shows what school was like for kids in the area in the 1800s. Your family can walk through or join one of the guided tours at the museum.

14. Learn About Local Plants

The Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden at Chaparral Park has a 5.5-acre garden filled with over 7,000 plants. There is an interactive plant guide that provides facts about the plants and trees, and it offers tips you can follow when you get home to care for your succulents.

15. Travel Down the Salt River

When you’re looking for things to do to cool off a little, rent a kayak from Fort McDowell Adventures. While you’re paddling or just floating down the Salt River, you get great views of wild horses and the local scenery.

 
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