"The West's Most Western Town," Scottsdale, Arizona, has a population of over 200,000 and boasts more than 300 days of annual sunshine. Over seven million people visit Scottsdale each year, as it has a reputation for being a posh resort town where the rich and famous come to play and shop. But there is plenty to do in this city besides lounging at exquisite resorts and eating at fine restaurants, some with great views. In fact, Scottsdale is loaded with museums and attractions that are both easily accessible and free, suiting the budget traveler's itinerary and wallet.
The Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction entertains serious car collectors. Held each year in both Scottsdale and Palm Springs, this eight-day show puts over one thousand cars on the auction block and conducts special exhibits and seminars for the public to attend. Here you will find some of the most exclusive vehicles—and those formerly owned by celebrities—available to purchase.
Walk into the Butterfly Wonderland at OdySea and be graced by thousands of butterflies in one of the largest atriums in the country. But first, attend the 3D movie "Flight of the Butterflies" (which is perfect for children) to get an up-close look at the lives of these magnificent creatures. You can also check out the Butterfly Emergence Gallery to see butterfly metamorphosis in action.
Scottsdale is also home to Dolphinaris Arizona where you can meet and greet bottlenose dolphins up close. A variety of packages are available, some that even put you in the water with these remarkable sea mammals. Or, book a land option if you don't want to get wet. Either way, you'll learn about dolphins, their ecosystem, and the measures we can take to protect and preserve them in the wild.
Located in the corporate offices of the Fiesta Bowl in central Scottsdale is the Fiesta Bowl Museum. Stop in during a weekday to see college football trophies and exhibits relaying the history of the Fiesta Bowl organization, its volunteers, and the games. The museum is free to all football lovers and a great place to go to view all the teams' helmets in one place.
Scottsdale is a golfer's paradise. With about 50 golf courses in the vicinity and championship courses like TPC Scottsdale that hosts Waste Management's Phoenix Open, you can you can have your pick of challenging terrain. And you don't have to play at a top-notch golf resort to have fun. Many budget golfing options are available in the region, as well.
And if it's just too hot to play outside, join the locals at Topgolf Scottsdale. This indoor target golf facility utilizes state-of-the-art technology, allowing you to really play indoors (it's not just a simulation).
This beautiful greenbelt—complete with 11 miles of biking and walking paths, lakes, and golf courses—actually connects four parks: Vista Del Camino, Eldorado, Indian School, and Chaparral. It's an urban greenspace and popular place for all recreationists, including inline skaters, joggers, and dog walkers. But cycling families can have an especially good time here, as the paths are separated from the road and the crossings are clearly marked for an added level of safety.
Part of Arizona State University, the Kerr Cultural Center was originally built as a hall for chamber music. And while chamber performances are still held at this venue, it also hosts jazz, Celtic, and classical concerts, as well. This small theater makes for intimate presentations and offers a great way to support the college's fine art programs.
The McCormick Stillman Railroad Park hosts unique park amenities for kids, including a lovely carousel. And it's located right in the heart of Scottsdale. Peruse their railroad-inspired museum exhibits or lounge in the grass while your children romp around on one-of-a-kind playground facilities. You can also hop aboard a ten-minute train ride that takes you on a tour through the park's arboretum.
Old Town Scottsdale's winding streets and unique shops and galleries will keep you occupied on any vacation evening. This vibrant downtown area, sometimes referred to as the "Fifth Avenue Shops" is bursting with culture. Depending on the time of year, you can browse modern art, hang out at the farmer's market, sample fine wines and craft beer, all the while walking or riding your bike to and from.
Professional cowboys from all over the country converge on north Scottsdale for the Parada del Sol Rodeo. The rodeo—a culmination of events sponsored by the Scottsdale Jaycees—includes the Parada del Sol Parade and the Coors Hoedown. This event takes place in early March and with several showings. Buy tickets in advance to view the whole rodeo event or bull riding only.
Two art shows come to Scottsdale each winter and stay for about six weeks. The Arizona Fine Art Expo and the Celebration of Fine Art are popular attractions for both serious art lovers and casual browsers. And they're held during the perfect time of year to flee the snow in northern latitudes and gather in Arizona. Attend demonstrations and workshops on oil, glass, stone, metal, and ceramic mediums or browse the booths to pick up a new item for your home decor.
Every Thursday night of the year (except for Thanksgiving) Scottsdale's art gallery scene comes alive after dinner with open doors and special showings. Stroll the streets of downtown to enjoy artists' receptions, openings of shows, and demonstrations. And it's free—unless you fall in love with a piece and decide to take it home.
It's not just fine art that takes center stage in Scottdale. Each April, the city hosts a multi-day festival of food, music, and entertainment. Foodies will enjoy the burger battle, chocolate and wine pairings, cocktail demonstrations, and the signature event of a five-course wine-paired dinner. Proceeds for this popular outing fund art education programs for students in the Valley of the Sun.
Hop a two-hour free guided tour on the Scottsdale trolley, where you'll learn about the city's different districts, including Old Town Scottsdale, Craftsman Court, the Civic Center area, the Scottsdale Arts District. During the tour, the city's history and architecture come alive, as well as the town's important historical people. Ask questions of your tour guide who's there to help you figure out where to eat, where to buy souvenirs, and maybe even where to take a nearby afternoon hike.
During the entire month of March, the valley comes alive for baseball fans with the Major League's spring training. Catch a glimpse of the professional teams and players of the Cactus League for a reasonable price. The San Francisco Giants call Scottsdale Stadium home during spring training. And Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (just north of downtown Scottsdale) hosts the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.
Nestled in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains and surrounded by the Sonoran Desert lays a 600-acre historical landmark designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright and his students. Wright's original winter residence resides on the grounds which now houses the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Take a guided tour of the setting and buildings that blend landscape architecture through the use of massive walls, thoughtful structures, and hand-built furniture.
In the downtown Scottsdale Arts District, right at Scottsdale Road and Main Street, lies one of the newest additions to many wonderful Scottsdale destinations. The Museum of the West allows visitors to view the transition of the once Old West to its now modern-day version. Through paintings, sculptures, film, lectures, and community events, this museum captures the western spirit from several different points of view.