If you only read about the “top 10 things to do” when visiting a destination, this can lead to overcrowding, overspending, and wasted time. None of that sounds good for a vacation. We have a better idea in mind. Check out the hidden gems, secret spots, and little-known local favorites that make Scottsdale a fantastic spot for people from all over the country to visit. We’ve created an insider’s guide to Scottsdale, AZ to help you out!

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Free Things to Do in Scottsdale That All Locals Love

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you need to spend money daily. Sometimes, finding free things to do is best because you can focus on spending quality time with your loved ones, enjoying one another’s company, and soaking in the beautiful sights, incredible nature, and simpler things in life.

First, we love going to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to check out the latest exhibits, meander through the galleries on a hot summer day, and check out their annual and weekly events. The art museum currently features the ‘Oleaje’ installations, ‘Color Mirage’ featuring incredible paintings, and ‘Roelof Knol: the space in between’ exhibits, offering unique looks at the digital world.

Next, there is nothing better than hiking in the early summer morning to burn a few calories, watch the sunrise, and start your day on a healthy note. We love visiting the Sonoran Desert to check out the red rocks, cacti, wildlife, and far-reaching views of the plains. Scottsdale has more than 400 miles of trails with varying difficulties, featuring easy walks with kids and tough peak climbs.

The best hiking in the Sonoran Desert includes Pinnacle Peak Park, which offers incredible views over the desert and a tough, quad-burning ascent, and the Sonoran Preserve, with over 200 miles of trails winding through the vast landscape.

Another fun, free thing to do with your friends or family is to go to the Desert Botanical Garden. We recommend coming here on the second Tuesday of every month to attend the free day, walk through the Desert Wildflower Loop, pick up souvenirs in the shop, and take your kids through the different thematic trails.

Another local favorite that really gets you immersed in the local culture is going to the Scottsdale Artwalk every Thursday after 7 pm. After an early dinner out on the town, head to ArtWalk, a local tradition that features world-renowned and local artists that showcase incredible talent, food vendors, local shop owners, and much more.

Instead of going to the big grocery store to pick up local produce and fresh vegetables for your healthy packed lunch, head to the farmer’s market and act like a local! This infamous farmer’s market has more than 100 nearby growers that produce fresh fruit, vegetables, plants, seafood, and everything in between.

Do you want to explore other unique activities in Scottsdale that you typically wouldn’t find? We recommend checking out the Old Town Scottsdale Sol Rodeo Museum, which gives an insight into the cowboy culture that dates back to the mid-20th century. Plus, if you have to go to Scottsdale this spring, attend the local Parada del Sol Rodeo with all of the locals!

A local favorite that is often considered a hidden gem among some of the more touristy shops in Scottsdale is the beautiful space called Cosanti. It is an incredible architectural building that offers unique handmade items, cool decorations, and a great vibe. Make sure you call ahead so you can head here when you see the beautiful crafts made using the bronze pouring technique.

Golf with the Locals

There are tons of golf courses and spots where you can hit a few holes with your friends, try your luck on the putting greens, and meander along the fairway. We recommend heading to some of the best courses in the area, like the Camelback Golf Club, Boulders Club, Troon North Golf Club, and TPC Scottsdale.

The Camelback Golf Club is one of the local favorites. It offers incredible viewpoints over the nearby Camelback Mountains and 36 holes in two courses. You can even head here twice to test your luck on the Ambiente Course and Padre Course to see which one suits your fancy! After spending an entire day on the course, admire the foothill views, native plants, and green grasses in the foreground.

Another local favorite is the Boulders Club, which provides not only a fantastic golfing experience overlooking Nithya Hills but also tennis courts, spa services to relax after a long day, and dining options to refuel after an active day. There are numerous spa services, like yoga classes, workout equipment, fitness options, dry saunas, steam rooms, treatment rooms, and relaxation baths.

Finish your day on the golf course by heading to the Discovery Bar at the Boulders Club, listening to live music on weekends, and ordering one of their specialty cocktails. We highly recommend the Grand Ole Fashioned with Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Kentucky, straight with whisky, finest call simple syrup, angostura bitters, and black cherries. Yum!

Lastly, the Troon North Golf Club provides breathtaking views of Pinnacle Peak and is less crowded than other tourist-filled clubs. Troon North Golf Club is one of the top options for avid golfers who really want a challenge with their mates. The incredible course has been highly rated year after year in Golfweek magazine, ranking as one of the top 10 courses in the entire state.

Listen to Live Music with the Locals

Live music is part of the way of life in Scottsdale. Not only can you visit raucous music venues and attend yearly concerts, but there are weekly live music events at local bars and pubs that bring out people from all over the town and surrounding suburbs.

We recommend going to Wasted Grain to listen to live music, dance the night away, and sip on some drinks from one of the three bars. This combination of music bar and nightclub offers the best of the best in terms of ambiance and high-energy performances, bringing in names like Rock Lobster, The Chadwicks, Penny Billionaires, and Hot Mike and the Feedback to bring the electric buzz.

Another great spot to check out during your time in Scottsdale is the Old Town Tavern, which is often voted the number one musical venue in the city since they have live music every night for the week! Check out their website to see the lineup for the week. This week offers local favorites like Will Heisler, Chris Hiatt, Daylon Greer, and Honey Girl. Take your pick and come for the fun!

Not sure where else to go for rip-roaring live music and good vibes? The Handlebar J Restaurant and Saloon is one of the top spots for blues music, jazz tunes, rock n’ roll, sing-along songs, and much more. We love coming here late in the day, ordering a burger and a beer, and staying all night long. You might even get up out of your seat to go line dancing with a few locals!

For those who want incredible singers, an Italian and Euro-centric vibe, and an intimate setting, Marcellino’s is the hot spot to be. Head to the Scottsdale Waterfront to rub shoulders with locals and listen to old-school and contemporary classics on weekend nights, featuring Italian wine, amazingly trained vocalists, and astounding musical lineups.

Are you in the mood to dance, do the honkytonk, and sing along to upbeat songs? Head to the oldest cowboy bar in Scottdale every day for lunch to get a filling meal and a pint or come by in the evenings to coz yup on the dance floor and meander with other locals at the Rusty Spur Saloon.

Lastly, La Fogata at the Scottsdale Spa is a fantastic spot to head after a long day in the sunshine. Here, you can sip on ice-cold cocktails, listen to live music in the cocktail lounge, and enjoy $5 craft beer pours during happy hour.

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More Hidden Gems to Discover in Scottsdale

There are tons of hidden gems and secret hideaways in Scottsdale that only locals know about—and honestly, we like to keep it that way! But if you want to check out somewhere unique and fun to relax, chill out, and avoid the tourist traps in the city, make sure you visit these cool places on this list.

First, head to Bespoke Inn Scottsdale. This cute and cozy outdoor romantic venue offers private patios, soaking tubs, healthy dinner options, and chandelier lighting, making it a fun spot for happy hour or date night.

Furthermore, if you’re in Scottsdale with your kids, going to the Butterfly Wonderland is truly an amazing place that will have your kids entertained and excited to be on vacation. You can take photos, learn more about the science behind these incredible creatures, and wander around the exhibits.

Make sure you take a few hours to explore the Yoga in the Rainforest event to de-stress and stretch, the Butterfly Brushstrokes painting class to bring out your inner artist and creative side, and the Waking Up with Butterflies photo opportunities that let you capture the unforgettable memories.

Another fun thing to do that is often overlooked in Scottsdale is visiting MacDonald’s Ranch. This outdoor-centric area features breathtaking views over the red rock desert, arid landscape, and cacti wildlife. It also provides stagecoach rides through the desert, horseback rides for kids, and pony rides for younger toddlers who want to join in on the fun.

Suppose you are looking to bring home souvenirs for your friend back home. In that case, we firmly believe the Store @ SCPA is the premier shopping destination for cool trinkets, handmade items, unique decorations, and souvenirs for your mates. This cool shop offers global items, stylish accessories, and other tax-free items that won’t break the bank.

Another cool thing to do for scotch and whisky lovers is to visit the Scotch library to learn more about the history of scotch from a man or woman dressed in a traditional Scottish kilt! What more could you want for a fun vacation? We love the authenticity of this place. And, of course, if you love scotch, this experience offers various tastings ranging from 10-year-old sips to 50-year-old delicacies.

If you want to cook lunch or dinner for your friends or family to avoid overspending on meals out and to use your modern and sleek kitchen, go to the Sphinx Date Co. Palm and Pantry is a great way to shop locally, find high-end produce items, purchase cool spreads for appetizers, and feel good about helping independently owned stores.

Finally, if you need a new outfit or want to dress cool for your upcoming date night, head to Fashion by Robert Black to find incredible vintage clothes, cool accessories, Oscar-worthy dress-up pieces, and boutique offerings that are the best of the best.

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Stay with Us at Scottsdale Rentals

As you can see, there is so much for you to do in Scottsdale—and it’s not always the biggest tourist traps and most well-known activities that can make your vacation truly unforgettable. Often, it is the secret spots, little hideaways, and local gems that make your holiday a unique and exciting experience.

We love how ample local favorites bring in people from all over the state and country, providing a chance to escape the heat, get away from the crowds, and experience the typical local’s life in Scottsdale, AZ. Ranging from shopping options to cool cafes to outdoor events, Scottsdale has something for everyone.

And when you stay with us at Scottsdale Rentals, you can head home after a long day of exploring a cozy, cute, and comfortable home. We know that traveling can be stressful and taxing, so we ensure that all of our properties make you feel right at home. Whether you need a large mansion for family reunion, or a small condo for a couple’s getaway, we have it all.

Browse our website today to find the perfect home for your holiday. You can search based on the number of bedrooms, location, amenity, or price range. Some of our properties feature six bedrooms, which is great for corporate retreats or large-scale family reunions. In contrast, other homes are one-bedroom cozy abodes that provide intimacy for a romantic weekend getaway.

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