How to Get From Scottsdale to Phoenix by Bus, Light Rail, and Car

Phoenix freeways

 Getty Images / Morey Milbradt

Most visitors to the Valley of the Sun spend their time in Scottsdale and Phoenix. Although only 14 miles separate the two downtown areas, the neighboring cities span a combined 700 square miles, making traveling between them not as straightforward as you’d think. Renting a car (or relying on rideshare options) are usually the best bet in the Valley, but determined travelers who don’t mind some walking can rely on public transportation, too. 

How to Get From Downtown Scottsdale to Downtown Phoenix
  Time Cost Best For
Bus 1 hour, 15 minutes $4 Traveling on a budget
Light Rail (plus bus) 1 hour, 15 minutes $4 Minimal walking between stations
Car 20 minutes 14 miles Making the most of your time
Rideshare 20 minutes, plus wait time $20 Getting around without renting a car

What is the Cheapest Way to Get From Scottsdale to Phoenix?

Public transportation is by far the cheapest way to travel between the two cities’ downtown areas. Because the Valley Metro Light Rail does not extend into downtown Scottsdale, you will have to transfer from light rail to Bus 50 at Camelback Road and 3rd Avenue. However, you would also need to transfer if you were to stick just to buses. Either way, you’ll want to purchase a one-day pass ($4) for unlimited rides.

That $4 pass can get you from anywhere in Scottsdale to anywhere in Phoenix. Depending on where you are and where you want to go, one option (the light rail or the bus) might be a better choice. Visit the Valley Metro website and enter your endpoints for the best travel options. Read our guide to public transportation in Phoenix to learn more.

What is the Fastest Way to Get From Scottsdale to Phoenix?

Traveling by car is the fastest way to get from Scottsdale to Phoenix, though the drive time depends on when you visit and where you are driving to. With light traffic, it takes roughly 20 minutes to get from downtown Scottsdale to downtown Phoenix and vice versa. The drive from the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale to Ahwatukee in the southernmost part of Phoenix, however, requires nearly an hour.

If you visit in January when several major events take place (including the Waste Management Phoenix Open), or in March when the Valley hosts Cactus League Spring Training, allow for extra drive time. On most weekdays, expect freeways and major roads to be congested from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Keep in mind that renting a car can be very expensive, especially if you pick up your rental at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Rates tend to be substantially lower June through August and peak January through March. For those who don't want to rent a car, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are popular in Scottsdale and Phoenix.

How Do You Get From Phoenix Sky Harbor to Scottsdale?

Unless you are taking a corporate jet to Scottsdale Airport, you will landing in Phoenix at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Most visitors rent a car at the airport for the duration of their stay in the Valley.

As an alternative to renting a car, contact your resort or hotel; many offer shuttle service to and from the airport. If that's not an option, you can take an Uber or Lyft from the airport to your hotel. (Note: Phoenix Sky Harbor requires rideshare services to charge an additional $4 fee for pick up or drop off at the airport.) While public transportation is available from the airport, it usually isn’t practical for those traveling to Scottsdale; this is especially the case for those staying at a resort, which may be set back significantly off the main road (and far from any bus stops).

What is There to Do in Phoenix?

On a visit to Heritage Square and Science Park, you can visit the Arizona Science Center and Children’s Museum of Phoenix, then order a pie at Pizzeria Bianco. From there, you can take the light rail north on Central Avenue to the Phoenix Art Museum or neighboring Heard Museum.

For after-hours fun, consider an indie concert at The Crescent Ballroom or The Van Buren. Nearby Comerica Theatre brings well-known musicians and comics to its stage. Before or after the show, sip a beer at one of the many downtown breweries or a cocktail at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour or Little Rituals, both of which have both been nationally recognized for their bar programs. Other popular downtown bars include Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails, Melinda’s Alley, and Cobra Arcade

Beyond downtown, Phoenix has several top attractions. The Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Garden, and Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting are all located within a few minutes’ drive of each other near Papago Park. In north Phoenix, just off the Loop 101 at North Tatum Boulevard, you’ll find one of the most extensive collection of musical instruments from around the world at the Musical Instrument Museum.

What is There to Do in Scottsdale?

You could spend an entire day exploring Old Town with its boutique stores and top-notch restaurants. Drop by Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West to see western art and artifacts or Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art for more modern pieces.

Just north of Old Town, across Camelback Road, look for luxury and popular brands at Scottsdale Fashion Square. Or, experience the area’s original premium shopping destination, Biltmore Fashion Park, a few miles away. Meanwhile, Kierland Commons features poplar stores such as Tesla, Eileen Fisher, Crate & Barrel, Coach, and Michael Kors.

If you visit one attraction in Scottsdale, make it Taliesin West. The winter home and architecture school of Frank Lloyd Wright when he lived in the Valley is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to its standard 60-minute, guided tour, Taliesin West now offers a self-guided option. Afterwards, quench your thirst with a craft beer from one of several local breweries or a cocktail from Blue Clover Distillery.