Top 10 Things to Do in Scottsdale (North, South, Old Town & Central)

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Little do most people know, Scottsdale actually takes up quite a bit of space.

There’s North, Central, Old Town and South. Each has its own distinct feel, attractions, and sights to see. 

First and foremost, begin with the end in mind. If you’ll be visiting by yourself for work, you’re going to be checking out different things to do, compared to if you’re visiting with your family or friends. Start there and work your way forward. From there, you can also work backward, too. I know that sounds kinda silly, but it’s effective. If there’s something you really want to see, plan it. Otherwise, winging it is pretty easy to do here. Or, set a few destination spots and you can check out the surrounding area. Let’s do it:

#1 – Take A Tour Of…Something

First time here? Awesome, you’re going to love your experience. The people are (mostly) nice, the weather is amazing (minus the triple digit, middle of the day summer heat), and there’s a lot to do all over in this fine city of ours. Looking to be touristy? Try a tour of something. There are awesome Segway Tours of Old Town, Food Tours, and a walking Chocolate Tour.

Bonus: Would you rather get out of the city? There are many adventurous Jeep Tours that leave from here and head out into the desert. These can be great opportunities to see the desert up-close and personally, while being guided by a driver with experience. Great for solo trips of bringing the whole family.

#2 – Eat Something Yummy

Starting way up North, coming down through Central, Old Town, and even to the South, there are many, many different restaurants, lunch spots, breweries, breakfast, frozen yogurt, coffee shops, and other types of locations to stop and eat something tasty. Up north in Desert Ridge Marketplace there’s Pita Jungle, Sandbar, The Keg Steakhouse, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, and much more. Along the border of Paradise Valley there’s dozens and dozens of spots off Scottsdale Road, like California Pizza Kitchen, Pei Wei, Pomo Pizzeria, and more.

A little south there’s the whole Quarter and Kierland area, with restaurants such as Brio Tuscan Grille, P.F. Chang’s, Mastro’s Ocean Club, True Food Kitchen, Zinburger, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, and more. Seriously, the options feel endless. It’s a foodie’s paradise all over the city. If we go even farther south near Old Town, there’s another whole list of smaller, more boutique lunch places, specialty breakfast spots, sandwich grocery stores, and others.

Again, similar to finding where to go out at night, pull open Google Maps and take a look at the different areas, what’s in that area, and what interests your taste buds most. Here’s Desert Ridge, Kierland Commons & The Quarter, and Fashion Square,  That way you can plan out your day and night together, or combine two things you’d like to do, like shop and eat. Oh, speaking of shopping…

#3 – Shop Until You Drop

Something else we’re known for is our shopping. Fashion Square is the largest, upscale mall in the area, located in Old Town. With close to two million square feet of space, it’s ranked as one of the top 30 largest malls in the United States. Anchor tenants include a new Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dillard’s, a new Harkins Theaters, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. The mall includes over 200+ stores and services.

Additionally, this area also includes a newer development called the Scottsdale Waterfront, which features shops and restaurants on either side of the canal that passes through the middle of the area. Technically part of Old Town, there’s also many boutique shops, including clothing stores, kitchenware, and more. Farther into Old Town there are other smaller shops,  including ones to shop at for Arizona souvenirs, mementos and collectibles.

As mentioned above in the dining section, there’s are a bunch of other shopping and restaurant centers very close to or in Scottsdale, including Desert Ridge, Kierland Commons, The Quarter, The Promenade, The Shops at Gainey Village, and others. Suffice to say, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to shopping centers, with many restaurants and other attractions surrounding those areas.

#4 – Embrace The Nightly Chaos

Old Town is one of the biggest nightlife areas by far. There’s bars scattered throughout the city, as well as quite a few up north. However, if you’re looking to go out and party right, Old Town is where it’s at. There’s over a dozen bars and clubs all jam packed together, with many different kinds of music and entertainment. We have a whole nightlife article on the area, so make sure to check that out when planning your weekend. The bar club scene is even busy during the week. Wednesdays are great at The Mint. Thursdays, most everywhere is open and popping. Weekends get chaotic and crazy.

#5 – Stay Active By Hiking

If you’ve heard anything about Arizona, you’ve most likely heard of the natural beauty of the landscape. The desert is gorgeous, and affords us natives beautiful sunsets year-round. Hiking is huge around here, with many beautiful hikes for all skill levels. Since the city is so close to Tempe and Phoenix, they’re spread out a little bit, but the short drive is way worth it.

Starting very simple and short, Hole in Rock is an awesome, super short hike, perfect for a romantic sunset. The natural rock has been carved out and elevates high enough to give you a nice view of Phoenix. “A” Mountain in Tempe is also pretty close by, located very close to ASU. It’s another short, steep hike that’s mostly paved. It also climbs up pretty high over the city, giving you a nice, urban view.

Camelback Mountain is by far the most popular hike in the area. There are two well-known trails, Echo Canyon and Cholla. Remember that the summers get blistering hot here. We’re talking triple digits with a high UV sun rating. When planning a hike, make sure to bring plenty of water and go either early or late in the day. Don’t go on long hikes in the middle of the day during the summer. That’s a miserable idea. It’s easy to underestimate the heat.

#6 – Relax At The Spa

Tired, sore, or just plain lazy? We’ve got you covered. There are so many spas to relax at here in the Valley. Whether you’re looking to get your nails done (manicure, pedicure), a facial, hair styled, a massage, or just relax by the pool, there’s dozens of spots for you to get pampered and take a nap. The most convenient option is to stay at a higher end resort that has a spa attached or inside of it. This includes options like the Bliss Spa at the W Hotel, the Spa at the Four Seasons Resort, the Spa at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, and many options.

You’ll need to be the one to do some research and check the area you’ll be staying in. The cool part is, most hotels will do packaged deals for you, so keep that in mind when you’re booking. This may include bonuses like resort credits, seasonal deals, and more. Again, planning ahead is the key, so you can take advantage of these packages while booking. Either call, or check the resort website you’re making a reservation on.

#7 – Race Electric Go Karts

Okay, okay, this one may be a little biased (since I have a need for speed and The Pavilions At Talking Stick is really close by), but it makes for a kick butt afternoon of fun for nearly all ages. This unique, indoor-outdoor experience is called Octane Raceway, and it features a fleet of 32 electric karts imported from Europe. Reaching up to 45 mph is no joke. The 1/3 mile track is well-kept, and they run races nearly everyday.

The venue also takes booking for corporate events, social parties, and more. You’ll need to book a reservation for those. While they do accept walk-ins most days, it’s best to call and ask what the schedule is like. We’ve gone before and could only race once due to an event that was scheduled for later in the day. If you’ll be in town for only a few days, planning ahead is important. Call the week of to ensure no other events are planned.

Honorable Mention: If you’re racing on a Saturday, make sure to grab dinner and hang around until the evening. There’s a weekly car show on Saturday nights from 4-8pm at the McDonald’s across the street. Visit here for more information. It’s a show they’ve done for years, and the turn out is always excellent. Highly recommended.

#8 – Hang Out At A Coffee Shop

Being an entrepreneur and avid reader myself, I know what it’s like to crave some downtime. If you don’t need complete silence, a coffee shop is the perfect place to relax, recharge (both mentally and electronic devices), and maybe even get some work done. You can never go wrong with sipping on a tasty latte and digging into an exciting new book. That’s for sure.

You’ll see Starbucks’ everywhere, so I won’t be covering any of those. What I would like to point out are some of the nicer, more unique spots. One of my personal favorites is a place called Kaleidoscope Juice. There’s two locations near each other, here and here. While not a traditional coffee shop (per se), the vibes are awesome, and they do serve delicious coffee. In the Waterfront and Old Town area, there are a lot of restaurants that are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, affording you a tasty cup of joe in the morning, too.

However, if you’re looking for a more bold, coffee shop espresso, Cartel Coffee Lab will be the spot you’ll want to hit up. It’s in the heart of Old Town, the vibes are great, and the coffee is outstanding. What more could you ask for? This is the location you’ll want to visit for that quintessential coffee shop experience. You’ll be glad you made the effort to find it. Their beans are delicious. Don’t worry if you fall in love with the taste, they’ll ship them to your door.

#9 – Hunt Down Unique Art, Home Decor & Antiques

While this isn’t necessarily my thing, I’ve heard of many people coming to the Valley to hunt down unique antiques, collect art, and shop for interesting home decor (especially in Old Town). The Western flare, mixed with Native American styles, lends itself quite well to some very unique pieces of art and different items. However, this “hobby” isn’t for the faint of heart (ie, light of wallet). These don’t tend to be rustic, “cute” finds. They’re more like well-kept, artistic, high-end pieces, many of which are in boutique shops and stores.

Two of the more popular, but off the beaten path shops/galleries I’ve been to have been Bischoff’s At The Park and Trouve. I’d recommend calling each before making an effort to visit these two though. They often have odd hours, but are worth the interesting experience and visit nonetheless. Additionally, if you’re primarily looking to view or buy art, there are over a dozen different types of galleries in Old Town alone. Do a quick Google Maps search to find them.

#10 – Enjoy A Performance

As you can see, I’m a bit biased to the south, Old Town area. Living slightly northeast of here, I’m there exploring and checking out spots much more often than up north. However, there’s quite a bit to see all across the city. Perhaps in the future I’ll do another attractions article focusing more on Northern Scottsdale. If you have any questions or ideas, feel free to send me an email.

Anyway, back to this section. Near Civic Center Library is the Center for the Performing Arts, an intimate venue with a variety of shows to see. The calendar of events range from featured shows, Broadway, classical, dance, family, and even festivals, which take place out in the park area. Recently, I went to an Asian festival that took place outside, across the Civic Center area, near the library. There’s a bunch of room and events planned all year round.

And that’s it for this list. Phew, at nearly 2200 unique words, this article has turned into a pretty massive guide. Google is taking notice of the valuable content, as well as the links out to authority websites. This also include the links to my own related inner pages, too. Good stuff all around. I’m looking forward to discussing your campaign. I’d also like to index my Instagram, so there’s that. Oh, and my Upwork profile. Alright, talk soon.

Feel free to email me with any questions you might have (SEO or things to do) and I’d be glad to help. Until next time, let’s keep enjoying the journey!

Last Updated: 01/12/17

6855 E Camelback Rd #4019, Scottsdale, AZ 85251