Free or Cheap Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

Attractions and Activities That Won't Bite Into Your Wallet

Scottsdale Trolley. © Judy Hedding

Not everything in Scottsdale, Arizona is accessible to only the wealthy! While Scottsdale might have a reputation for being where the rich and famous live and play, you might be surprised that you can plan entire itineraries around free and cheap activities here.

Fun on a Budget

Scottsdale Trolley
Loved by locals and visitors alike, the Scottsdale Downtown Trolley travels to every notable spot in downtown Scottsdale, including Old Town, the Main Street Arts District, the Marshall Way Arts District, Fifth Avenue Shops, Scottsdale Fashion Square, Waterfront, and SouthBridge. The trolley is a convenient way to get around and runs every 15-20 minutes, 7 days per week (except major holidays). It operates from  6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, including on Thursdays for the Scottsdale Art Walk (see below).

It is free to ride! Call for information 480-312-7250.

Downtown Scottsdale Art & Cultural Trolley Tour
Take a short guided tour of Downtown/Oldtown Scottsdale for a bit of history, some architectural tidbits and hints about where to eat and where to shop.

Farmer's Market in Old Town Scottsdale
This market features local growers and vendors providing a variety of organic vegetables and fruits, flowers, herbs, and an assortment of handmade items including pastries, jams, and baked goods. There is ample parking, live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, and a variety of displays that highlight community resources. Admission is free, and you may bring your well-mannered pet. Hours vary throughout the year.

Native Trails
Each year representatives of tribal nations of Arizona and the United States come together to present musical performances and dances as well as share stories and cultural information at Native Trails. It is an outdoor event, free admission, usually mid-January through mid-April.

Sunday A'Fair
Outdoor concerts, tours of the museum and tours of the public art at Scottsdale's Civic Center Park. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket and relax! Usually mid-January through mid-April.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA)
Designed by famed local architect Will Bruder, SMoCA is a stylish space devoted to the art, architecture, and design of our time. There are five galleries for showcasing changing exhibitions and works from the Museum's growing permanent collection as well as an outdoor sculpture garden housing James Turrell's public skyspace.

Admission is free...

  • ...every day for people under 15 years old
  • ...on Thursdays, all day, all year long
  • ...after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays

Scottsdale ArtWalk
A tradition that has taken place for more than 30 years, Scottsdale ArtWalk is the perfect opportunity for Scottsdale visitors to explore the downtown area and a diverse collection of art galleries. Every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. galleries open their doors to the public and show off the works of some of the Southwest’s most extraordinary artists. Travelers can view special exhibits with artists’ receptions and demonstrations at their leisure. The event is free. Take the Scottsdale Trolley!

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
Located in the heart of Scottsdale, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a unique park of its kind in the country. Take a ride on the Paradise and Pacific Railroad and antique carousel or enjoy the museum, one of the playgrounds, or just relax in the grass. Enjoy live music from area bands every Sunday evening in May and June. In the fall, Railfair is where train enthusiasts gather to show off their model trains. At Christmastime, the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a winter wonderland of lights and holiday entertainment.

Visit the 10,000 square foot model railroad building that houses four model railroad clubs. Admission is free, there is a small charge for rides.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve opened to the public in 2009. Visitors can experience the magnificent Sonoran Desert by entering the largest and most significant entry point to the Preserve, which will encompass 36,400 acres of desert once it is complete. Enjoy the desert’s flora and fauna from the colorful wildflowers and Saguaro cacti to quail and desert critters, free shade ramadas, a dog comfort station, an equestrian staging area, and more. The Gateway Access Area is located east of Thompson Peak Parkway, one-half mile north of Bell Road.

Pick up a trail map at the parking area.

Fiesta Bowl Museum
The Fiesta Bowl is played in Glendale, Arizona, but football fans can visit this museum near the Scottsdale Waterfront. See helmets, trophies and bowl game memorabilia.

More to Do in Scottsdale
While not everything you can do in Scottsdale is free, some attractions and activities that have a fee are worth considering.

Looking for a Place to Stay in Scottsdale?
Not all the hotels and resorts in Scottsdale charge exorbitant rates. These downtown Scottsdale hotels are close to most of the activities on this list. If you are spending time in Scottsdale over the summer months, you might find a great deal at a wonderful Scottsdale resort where many activities are included.

Every week there are free and cheap activities all over town. Some are fun, some are educational, some are artsy, some are for kids, some are for adults. ​Check the calendar for more "Things To Do" ideas.

All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.