What to do in Scottsdale if you only have a weekend

Published Date: January 6, 2023

Views from Desert Haven in Scottsdale, AZ
While it’s sometimes thought of as a Phoenix suburb, the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, has a feel all its own. This desert town is one part Old West, one part resort town, and all fun. Even if you only have a weekend to explore, there’s plenty to discover. Here are our top 10 must-sees on a weekend in Scottsdale. And if you can’t get to all of them, you’ll just have to plan another trip! 

1. Wander through Old Town Scottsdale 

With Western-themed buildings, covered sidewalks and charming shops, Old Town Scottsdale is a great place to spend an afternoon. Shop for art, antiques, Old West-inspired gifts and more. If you find yourself in Old Town on a Thursday evening, be sure to check out the Weekly Art Walk. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, Old Town has a wide range of restaurants and watering holes. 

2. Visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West 

Architecture buffs won’t want to miss the chance to tour Taliesin West, once the winter home of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Today, it’s the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, offering guided and self-guided tours, special events and arts appreciation nights. 

3. Check out the Penske Racing Museum

Do you have a need for speed? Visit the free Penske Racing Museum, which details the lauded career of the Penske Racing dynasty. This two-story museum boasts an incredible collection of cars, trophies and racing memorabilia, including cars that won the Indianapolis 500. 

4. Visit Butterfly Wonderland 

Scottsdale’s Butterfly Wonderland is an opportunity to explore rainforest habitats while walking through the largest butterfly conservatory in the country. It’s home to 70 colorful species from all over the world, and you might even get to see some of them emerge from a chrysalis. There’s also a rainforest reptile exhibit, honey bee exhibit and edible insects – snack time! 

5. Hike Pinnacle Peak 

Stretch your legs as you hike Pinnacle Peak Trail. This 4-mile out-and-back trail takes you to the top of a boulder-strewn, cone-shaped peak with awesome views of the Scottsdale area. Even if you don’t head all the way to the top, the trail is a great way to experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. 

6. Golf, golf and more golf 

Scottsdale is a famous destination for golfers, who flock to Scottsdale in the winter months to hit the links under the desert sun. There are over 50 golf courses in Scottsdale proper, with dozens more in the surrounding area. Perhaps the best known course in Scottsdale is TPC Scottsdale, host to the annual WM Open. Both award-winning courses on the property are open to the public, so pack your clubs. 

7. Explore the Desert Botanical Garden 

A popular destination for nature lovers, the Desert Botanical Garden has an incredible 50,000+ plant displays spread over 140 acres. Choose from multiple walking paths that wind throughout the grounds, keeping an eye out for woodpeckers, hummingbirds and famous saguaro cacti. The garden also serves as a natural backdrop for an ever-changing array of art installations.  

8. Take the family to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park 

A favorite of families with small children, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park features an open-air mini train that kids can ride around the park. There’s also a vintage carousel, 10,000-square-foot model railway and an on-site museum. 

9. Channel your inner cowboy at MacDonald’s Ranch 

Have an authentic Southwest experience with a horseback riding excursion. MacDonald’s Ranch offers guided trail rides through the Sonoran Desert, both in private and group settings. Back at the ranch, there’s a petting zoo, picnic tables and pony rides for the younger set. And check out the Cowboy Cookout, which pairs either a horseback ride or hayride with a sunset dinner, bonfire and entertainment. 

10. Have a spa day 

Relax and enjoy a day of pampering at one of Scottsdale’s 50+ resort and day spas. Area spas offer a myriad of treatments, with therapies that make the most of botanicals from the surrounding desert. Pair your treatment with a yoga or meditation class and emerge rejuvenated. 

Make the Arizona desert your second home

There’s something magical about Scottsdale, and there’s no way to experience it all in just a weekend. With a luxury second home in Scottsdale, you’ll have ample time to explore and year-round sunshine to encourage exploration. Find your Pacaso today! 

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Jen Lyons

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