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Best Free Things to do in Scottsdale

Best Free Things to do in Scottsdale

Welcome to the sunny side of life – Scottsdale, Arizona! In a city that sparkles like the sun on its best day, we’re on a mission to uncover the coolest, quirkiest, and cheapest ways to bask in its glory.

Forget the piggy bank; we’ve got your guide to all the free things to do in Scottsdale that won’t just fill your day with fun but keep your wallet smiling too. Let’s embark on a budget-friendly adventure that proves you can have your cactus and hug it too!

1. Uncover Wild West heritage at Scottsdale Rodeo Museum

Address: 3806 N Brown Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251


Contact Details: +1 602-616-6901, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 11 AM–4 PM

Entry Fee: Free

The Scottsdale Rodeo Museum is a must-visit for those eager to explore the rich history of the Wild West and experience the exciting world of rodeo. It has a curated collection of memorabilia, artifacts, and exhibits showcasing the evolution of rodeo in Arizona.

In this museum, you’ll find artifacts dating back to the first Parada del Sol rodeos in 1953, like bull ropes and saddles. While entrance is free, donations are greatly appreciated, making it an accessible and enriching experience for all.

Pro tip: 
Before visiting, grab a hat and some sunscreen. Scottsdale sun can be intense, and you’ll want to enjoy the outdoor exhibits comfortably.

2. Visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Address: 7374 E 2nd St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251


Contact Details: +1 480-874-4666, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Wednesday-Friday: 11 AM–5 PM

Entry Fee:

  • Non-members – $10 online, $12 walk-up
  • Students, seniors (65+), veterans, active duty-military, and teachers – $7 online, $9 walk-up
  • 18 years old and younger – Free

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is designed by award-winning architect Will Bruder. It’s a minimalist masterpiece that showcases thought-provoking exhibits and a unique “skyspace” by acclaimed artist James Turrell.

A visit to this museum is a visual journey through global creativity and the vibrant world of contemporary art. Here, you can delve into immersive art experiences, from innovative installations to captivating visual displays.

Pro tip:
If you have little ones, explore the family-friendly programs and interactive exhibits tailored for young minds to foster their appreciation for art.

3. Explore Old Town Scottsdale’s ArtWalk

Location: Old Town Scottsdale Arts District


Operating Hours: Thursday: 7 PM-9 PM

Scottsdale’s ArtWalk offers a leisurely exploration of renowned art galleries. As you meander through the vibrant area, you’ll notice that it’s adorned with dramatic statues, bubbling fountains, and tree-covered courtyards.

You can opt for horse-drawn carriage rides, golf carts, or trolley rides which are easily accessible from ample free parking areas nearby. This experience fosters connections with local artists and lets you discover the cultural tapestry of Scottsdale.

Pro tip:
Some smaller galleries might not accept cards, so have a bit of cash handy for any irresistible art finds.

4. Catch a show at Civic Center Mall

Address: 7380 E Second St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251


Contact Details: [email protected]

The Civic Center Mall is a cultural and civic haven that hosts a medley of performances, concerts, and exhibitions throughout the year. This 21-acre expanse venue offers open spaces for leisurely strolls, idyllic picnics, and community gatherings.

Architect Edward L. Varney’s artistry is evident in the serene lagoon that adds a tranquil charm to the surroundings. Whether you’re drawn to theaters or crave a dose of community spirit, its diverse and free offerings promise a delightful experience.

Pro tip:
The early bird gets the best spot! Arriving a bit ahead of showtime ensures you snag a comfortable seat with a great view.

5. Take a hike at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Location: Saguaro Loop Trail, Scottsdale, AZ 85255


Contact Details: (480) 998-7971, [email protected]

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a haven for nature enthusiasts and avid hikers. This sprawling 30,000-acre desert expanse has free trails that offer breathtaking views of rugged mountains and iconic desert flora.

From the accessible Gateway Loop to the challenging Tom’s Thumb Trail, there’s a trail suited for every adventurer. You’ll discover the allure of the Sonoran Desert as you traverse these trails on foot.

Pro tip:
Arizona’s sun can be relentless, so bring a sturdy water bottle and consider a hydration pack for longer hikes. You don’t want to underestimate the desert thirst!

6. Enjoy a Leisurely Stroll at Scottsdale Greenbelt

Media: JoinListenUp

Location: from Shea Boulevard in central Scottsdale to Tempe Town Lake


The Scottsdale Greenbelt is a meticulously planned 12-mile oasis spanning from Shea Boulevard to Tempe Town Lake. It seamlessly integrates public parks, golf courses, and pools, all connected by well-maintained walking and biking trails.

Ideal for leisurely activities like strolling, biking, jogging, or a family picnic, it’s ideal for those seeking simplicity amid the urban buzz. As you stroll along, you may encounter diverse birdlife that adds a touch of nature’s charm to this expansive green oasis.

Pro tip: 
You can pack a light picnic basket with snacks and refreshments. There are lovely spots along the way perfect for a snack break.

7. Discover the charm of Old Adobe Mission

Media: Experience Scottsdale

Address: 3817 N Brown Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 8525


Contact Details: (480) 947-4331, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 11 AM-4 PM

The Old Adobe Mission is a timeless testament to the city’s traditional and cultural roots. Constructed in the late 1930s, this landmark is one of Scottsdale’s oldest structures, offering a glimpse into the city’s heritage.

It’s not only the oldest Catholic church in the city but also a captivating destination renowned for its architecture and historical significance. Partaking in the Old Adobe Mission Tour is a must-do when in Scottsdale, offering an unforgettable experience.

Pro tip:
For a serene experience, visit the Old Adobe Mission in the morning. The soft sunlight filtering through the historical structure adds a unique charm.

8. Wander through Desert Botanical Garden

Address: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008


Contact Details: +1 480-941-1225, [email protected]

Operating Hours:

  • Monday:       8 AM–8 PM
  • Tuesday:      8 AM–4 PM, 5:30–9:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 8 AM–4 PM, 5:30–9:30 PM
  • Thursday:     8 AM–4 PM, 5:30–9:30 PM
  • Friday:          8 AM–4 PM, 5:30–9:30 PM
  • Saturday:     8 AM–4 PM, 5:30–9:30 PM
  • Sunday:       8 AM–8 PM

Entry Fee: Admission is free every second Tuesday of the month

The Desert Botanical Garden showcases a diverse array of desert plants, adding a touch of nature’s beauty to the Sonoran Desert. With over 50,000 plants from around the world, it’s a delightful destination for nature enthusiasts.

While it’s technically located in Phoenix, it’s not far from Scottsdale and offers a captivating desert oasis experience. Here, you can explore its scenic paths and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the desert landscape.

Pro tip:
The garden spans 140 acres, and you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny without worrying about sore feet. So, wear comfortable walking shoes.

9. Visit the Fiesta Bowl Museum

Media: Fiesta Bowl Merchandise

Address: 7135 E Camelback Rd #190, Scottsdale, AZ 85251


Contact Details: +1 480-350-0900

Operating Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:30 AM–5 PM

Entry Fee: Free

Situated at the Scottsdale Waterfront, the Fiesta Bowl Museum is a testament to the pinnacle moments in Fiesta Bowl history. It has a captivating collection, including all 130 FBS team helmets and prestigious awards like the Heisman Trophy.

The exhibits feature highlights such as the Fiesta Bowl Parade and the Fiesta Bowl Festival of College Football. Whether a football fanatic or a curious history buff, this museum offers an engaging dive into gridiron greatness.

Pro tip:
Weekdays tend to be less crowded, offering a more relaxed experience to soak in the exhibits without the hustle and bustle.

10. Discover McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Address: 7301 E Indian Bend Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85250


Contact Details: +1 480-312-2312, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9 AM–5 PM

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park offers a perfect outing for families and train enthusiasts alike. At this spot, you’ll embrace the timeless allure of the Scottsdale Charros Carousel, a nostalgic ride that’s been spinning for nearly 50 years.

Beyond the carousel, the park boasts a captivating 10,000-square-foot model railroad exhibit, historic train displays, picnic areas, and a playground. This allows you to immerse yourself in the charm of locomotives and outdoor fun at the same time.

Pro tip:
Sundays often feature live music in the park. You can check the schedule and plan your visit on a Sunday for some added entertainment.

11. Experience Native American presentations at Hyatt Regency

Address: 7500 E Doubletree Ranch Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85258


Contact Details: +1 480-444-1234, [email protected]

Entry Fee: Free admission at 5 PM every Friday evenings, from September-May

You can immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of Arizona’s indigenous cultures with free Native American dance performances at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa. It offers an opportunity to appreciate the diverse cultural landscape of Arizona.

The captivating presentations are led by the renowned seven-time World Hoop Dance Champion, Derrick Suwaima Davis, and the talented Living Traditions Dance Troupe. You’ll witness native traditions through music, dance performances, and storytelling.

Pro tip:
After the show, take a moment to interact with the performers. They often appreciate the audience’s enthusiasm, and you might get to learn more about their craft and culture.

12. Enjoy fresh finds at Old Town Scottsdale Market

Address: 3806 N Brown Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251


Contact Details: +1 623-848-1234

Operating Hours: Saturday: 8 AM–1 PM, October-May

The Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market is a bustling hub of local life every Saturday morning from October to May. With over 100 vendors, this market is a treasure trove of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and beautiful flowers.

Beyond the basics, you can also explore unique handmade finds, from artisanal hot sauces to local honey and fresh-brewed coffee. It’s not just a market; it’s a vibrant community experience where locals gather to share and discover the best of the region.

Pro tip:
Help the environment and make your shopping experience easier by bringing your own reusable bags. Vendors appreciate it too!

13. Explore Scottsdale Quarter & Kierland Commons

Address: 15279 N Scottsdale Rd Ste 260, Scottsdale, AZ 85254


Contact Details: +1 480-270-8123

Operating Hours: Monday: 10 AM–6 PM, Tuesday-Saturday: 10 AM–9 PM, Sunday: 12–6 PM

At Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons, a myriad of stores awaits, ranging from luxury retailers to unique boutiques. While the shopping experience itself may not be free, these open-air centers offer more than just a place to browse.

Parents can watch their kids delight in the splash pad, providing a refreshing break for little ones. Meanwhile, adults can leisurely stroll, indulging in some window shopping or perhaps finding that perfect item.

Pro tip:
If you’re a pet owner, both Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons are pet-friendly. You can bring your furry friend along for a stroll, and maybe even find a pet-friendly store or two.

14. Unearth artistic marvels at Cosanti

Address: 6433 E Doubletree Ranch Rd, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253


Contact Details: +1 480-948-6145, [email protected]

Operating Hours: Monday-Saturday: 9 AM-5 PM, Sunday: 11 AM-5 PM

Entry Fee: Free

Just a stone’s throw from Scottsdale, Cosanti offers a unique and free artistic experience. This is the former home and studio of the late Italian architect Paolo Soleri, renowned for his innovative architecture and the creation of bronze wind bells.

While exploring the grounds, visitors can witness the bronze pour process at scheduled times, gaining insight into the craftsmanship behind Soleri’s iconic wind bells. The site, known as Cosanti Originals, also features an art gallery.

Pro tip:
While the visit is free, if you’re inclined, consider purchasing a small bronze wind bell as a unique and meaningful souvenir.

15. Ride, walk, or run at the Arizona Canal Trail

Media: Your Arizona Bucket List

Length: 5.8 km

Elevation Gain: 8 m

The Arizona Canal Trail is an expansive route cutting through the heart of Scottsdale. This pathway offers a unique perspective of the city’s vibrant energy as it meanders alongside the picturesque Arizona Canal.

Whether you prefer a casual walk, bike, or an invigorating run, the trail provides a serene escape, surrounded by the natural beauty of the desert landscape. It’s a go-to destination for those seeking free and refreshing outdoor activities in Scottsdale.

Pro tip:
The Arizona Canal Trail is a shared space for cyclists, runners, and walkers. To foster a positive trail environment and ensure safety, stay on the right side and be mindful of others.
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