Fun is my favorite three letter word.
And when it comes to fun, there is a ton of things to do in Phoenix and Scottsdale. And yes – besides golf.
Scottsdale is one of those places that has it all.
Adventure, culture and R&R. All in a stunning setting, unique from any other place in the world, with some of the best weather in the world. I’m talking sunshine, clear blue skies, and temps that make you want to lock up that hotel room and live the dream outside.
So, here is where I lay out the best, active things to do in Phoenix and Scottsdale. They’ll get you in touch with the stunning landscape, make your heart pound a little bit. They might even make you sweat.
I also include a few ideas for those who are looking for romantic things to do with their honey. As well as ideas for family things to do in Scottsdale (scroll towards the bottom of the page).
Side Note: When the day is calling for something more relaxing, these are the lazy day activities in Phoenix or Scottsdale us locals turn to.
Otherwise, for all you adventurous people after my own heart, let’s begin.
Active Things to Do In Phoenix and Scottsdale
Ready to take on the day and get the blood pumpin’ a little bit? Here are a few of my favorite ways to be active, while taking in some scenery.
Cruisin’ and Climbin’: Physical Stuff
Hit the Trail
Many people are surprised to learn there are excellent city hikes in Scottsdale. In fact, there are several of them. I love them because they’re convenient and a great way to see our beautiful Sonoran Desert up-close-and-personal.
These “city hikes” are relatively short, averaging a few miles or less, in length. So they make a great option when you have a few hours to kill. Or, you can make it a half-day experience like my friends and I do…
Usually on weekends, we’ll meet at Camelback Mountain (our favorite spot to hike). We’ll spend an hour or two getting our workout on, then recharge at our favorite brunch spot.
Hiking Camelback Mountain is no small feat. It’s challenging, but reaching the summit is extremely rewarding. There are two trails gorgeous trails to choose from, which you can read about here.
I also share a few important tips to help you show up prepared, because you’ll want to be.
*Update: Echo Canyon Trail is temporarily closed. Info as to why, and when it will re-open can be found here.
If hiking sounds good, but you’d prefer something less strenuous, then Pinnacle Peak Park may be right up your alley.
Located in a pristine area of North Scottsdale, Pinnacle Peak Park is a moderate hiking trail appropriate for all fitness levels. It’s peaceful, well-groomed and very beautiful thanks to the phenomenal views.
Since it’s so close, I’ve made it a tradition to swing by Greasewood Flats after my hike. The old stagecoach stop is great for grabbing a brewski and enjoying the fabulous sunshine.
I will be writing more about other excellent hiking in Phoenix very soon.
Grab A Bike, Get Into Gear
Some of my friends say there is only one way to explore our beautiful desert… and that is on two wheels.
According to these mountain-biking aficionados, there are excellent world-class trailslocated right here in Scottsdale. They appeal to adventurers who don’t mind a little dust, sweat and stunning scenery.
Don’t have a bike? No problem. Don’t know where to go? No problem.
I have just the place that will set you up with your mountain-climbing machine and everything else you’ll need for a day on the trails. They’ll even take you on a guided mountain-biking tour if you’d like. (More on this great company, coming soon.)
If you’d still like the wind in your hair, but don’t want to work so hard, a beach cruiser is a good alternative.
They’re the preferred mode of travel for my friends and I. We use them to cruise around Old Town on our “bars & bikes” days. Actually, you’ll see a lot of locals on them quite a bit. That’s because there are many places for a nice laid-back bike ride in Scottsdale, like the canal or the grassy, lake-filled greenbelt.
I will be writing more on where to find Scottsdale bike rentals soon.
Semi-Active Things to Do in Phoenix and Scottsdale
Here are some ways to have heart-pounding adventure, without as much physical effort.
Take it Off-Road, Baby
When I want to get things firing on all cylinders, I love to take it off-road. Fortunately, there are many off-road trails around Scottsdale and the greater Phoenix valley to do this.
For those who don’t have their own off-road vehicle, there are two ways to take on the desert full-throttle.
Off-Road ATV Tours
Want to put the power in your own hands? Feel a thundering motor beneath you? Make others eat your dust? An off-road ATV tour can get you where you want to go.
Scottsdale has several excellent (and safe) off-road companies that are a one-stop shop. So you won’t have to worry about transportation, towing or finding the best places to ride.They do it all for you by providing the equipment and the guides. All you have to think about is having fun.
I know just the right place to call for such an adventure. Details coming soon.
If you’d still like to take things off-road, but don’t want to bother with driving, then a jeep tour may be the way to go. They’re extremely popular in Scottsdale and for good reason.
For one thing, you get to explore gorgeous places in the valley many people do not normally see. For another, a jeep tour combines the best of both worlds: adventure andhistory.
So while you’re climbing over rocky faces, you’re also learning about Scottsdale’s unique geology and fascinating Wild West history. All thanks to your very own, very knowledgeable guide.
I will make a recommendation for the best jeep tours Phoenix has to offer, soon.
I’m Your Huckleberry
When those words were uttered by Doc Holiday in the movie Tombstone, I think it struck a chord with the cowboy and cowgirl in all of us.
Something about the idea of riding through isolated country on horseback, the smell of leather and dust in the air. It takes your mind to a place so often depicted in the movies, the Wild Wild West.
Fortunately, the spirit of the Wild West is still very much alive in Scottsdale. In fact, it’s whispered through the streets of Old Town to this day.
(Hint: You’ll find it especially at the Rusty Spur Saloon, Scottsdale’s last real cowboy saloon.)
So for all you city slickers who want to harness the spirit of the Wild West, here are my favorite ways to have a little fun, cowboy and cowgirl style.
Jump on a Horse and Ride
They say a cowboy is a man with guts and a horse. If you bring the guts, I know a few places around town that will bring the horse.
Me enjoying a sunset ride. One of my favorite things to do in Phoenix.
When it comes to horseback riding in Scottsdale, the ultimate question is, Do you want to go at it fast and hard… or slooow and gentle-like?
Fortunately, I know where you can find both.
You see, for those of us that have some riding experience, we want something a bit more fast-paced. Something a bit more adventurous.
But if you’ve never been on a horse in your life, not to worry. I’ve got ya covered.
Read on for my personal recommendations for excellent Scottsdale horseback riding.
So what if you want to get your hands dirty? I mean…really live the life of a cowboy and cowgirl, if only for a day?
Then I’d suggest saddlin’ up and goin for a cattle drive. For things to do in Phoenix, a cattle drive is about as West as you can get. And Fort McDowell Adventures is a great place to do it. Cattle drives, cowboy cookouts and camping… they have it all. More on Fort McDowell Adventures, coming soon.
Tempe Town Lake
Fun on land is one thing. But sometimes it’s nice to get out onto the water. To feel gentle rocking under the prow of a boat, the wind in your hair. If you’re up for a little drive, a place worthy of checking out is Tempe Town Lake. It’s about a 15 minute trip from Old Town Scottsdale, located right near Arizona State University (go Sun Devils!).
It’s a great place for lazy stroll – after all, Tempe Beach Park is right there too – an easy-breezy bike ride, or my favorite… A trip around the lake on a paddleboard.
If you’re in town during the month of March, you’ll notice quite a crowd headed towards Scottsdale Stadium. Every year, Scottsdale hosts the Cactus League Spring Trainingas well as the Arizona Fall League. Baseball fans dig the laid-back pre-season vibe, the perfect weather and the up-close-and-personal seating.
I will be writing more about Scottsdale Stadium and Spring Training games soon.
Family Things to Do in Phoenix and Scottsdale
Here are some suggestions for things to do in Phoenix that will keep you and
your kids entertained.
Did I hear someone say, “Fouuuuurrr!!”? If you were at the Crackerjax driving range, you might have. Or perhaps it was me on the miniature golf course.
If your kids need a little help getting the wiggles out, Crackerjax can help with that. Besides golf, kids (and grown-up kids) can enjoy bumper boats, batting cages, go-kart racing, sand volleyball and of course…the arcade.
Put a few ride tickets and a putter in their hands and they’ll be happy as a clam.
Dave & Buster’s
For some there are just arcades. And for others, there are….“arrcaaaaaades”. For family oriented things to do in Phoenix, Dave and Buster’s is another place worth checking out because of their mega-arcade.
Castles and Coasters
You’ve heard about it, but is it worth it? Okay, so here’s where I cut to the chase. Not all things to do in Phoenix are worth the time or money in my opinion. While Castles and Coasters is one of the larger theme parks in Phoenix, to me it’s lackluster.
I will write more on why I feel this way, soon.
Grass Stains and Sandy Feet
As a kid, my grandparents used to always take me to feed the ducks. It’s such a fond memory I have, that whenever I see the ducks at Chaparral Park, I think of them.
Whether you have children or not, Chaparral Park is a nice place to hang out when you feel like just chillin’. There’s a lake you can fish in, a nice path to walk around, a sandy playground, soccer fields and of course…plenty of grass.
I will be writing more about other excellent Scottsdale parks soon.
When people think of things to do in Phoenix, they think heat. Then they think…Water park.
On a day when you feel like you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, rather than stay inside, throw on a bathing suit and head to one of our Phoenix water parks.
Romantic Things to Do in Phoenix and Scottsdale
One of the many ways I know that couples rev up the romance in Scottsdale, is by taking flight. Soaring through the skies while gazing at the colorful valley below, brings a whole new appreciation for the beautiful world we live in.
Follow up the day of flight, with alfresco dining at sunset, and you have yourself an unforgettable Scottsdale day.
Here are a few ways to reach towards those brilliant blue skies.
A ride in an engine-less glider is a serene, awe-inspiring experience. Especially when soaring quietly over the dramatic desert landscape.
There are a few places around Scottsdale that offer glider rides, however I recommend Turf Soaring School. They’re located near Lake Pleasant, which I consider the better launch area. And their prices are better, comparatively.
Hot Air Balloon
A hot air balloon ride is definitely one of the more romantic ways to explore Phoenix. I have a few friends who’ve given this as an anniversary gift to their lover. It was a gift that was very well received.
Unicorn Balloon is a company that has been operating in Phoenix and Scottsdale for over 36 years. So they have earned the reputation as being the best. However, depending upon where you want to launch, will determine if they are the right choice for you. Location is a factor.
I will be writing more about Unicorn Balloon Company and other hot air balloon Phoenix operators soon.
Want to explore Sedona, Lake Powell or the Grand Canyon but don’t feel like making the drive from Scottsdale? Then consider an air tour to these fabulous destinations.
Westwind Air Tours not only offers scenic tours to these locations, but many other destinations as well. If your trip has a more romantic purpose, I recommend Westwind Air Tours specifically for their Sunset and City Lights Tour of Phoenix.
There’s nothing like a full day of active, adventurous things to do in Phoenix and Scottsdale. It’s exhilarating.
And it’s good for the mind and soul.
Finish it off with a delicious meal at one of the beautiful patio restaurants in Scottsdale, and you have yourself a recipe for a darn good day.
When the time is right, check out these ideas for relaxing things to do in Phoenix and Scottsdale.