Scottsdale: Free Things To Do
While Scottsdale vacations are a time to relax and rejuvenate, deriving great value on your getaway will stretch your wallet. What some tourists may not realize is that Scottsdale, Arizona, in addition to being a major world-class vacation destination with luxury amenities and accommodations, Scottsdale AZ also features a wide variety of free and inexpensive activities that are easy on the pocket but are still great ways for you and your family to enjoy the experience.
Bang For Your Buck in Downtown
Jump on the the Free Scottsdale Trolley and travel to almost every notable spot in the downtown, old town and the water- front district. the trolley is completely free and runs every 15 minutes, Monday through Sunday. See the Trolley Schedule and Map of Standard Routes and Stops. Another way to travel through downtown is on the free horse-drawn carriage rides that run every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from November through March.
Downtown Scottsdale. A 786-acre pedestrian playground full of entertainment opportunities. The area includes Scottsdale Fashion Square, Southbridge, Scottsdale Waterfront, 5th Avenue Shops, the Scottsdale Arts District, Scottsdale Old Town, the Entertainment District, and the Business District.
Love people watching? Downtown is the place. Window shop, visit the art galleries, the Scottsdale Historical Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art or the events at the Center of the Arts. Have lunch or dinner, inside or outside on a patio. See our list of the Best Downtown Scottsdale Restaurants. When the sun sets head to the energetic Scottsdale nightlife.
Find your fair share of culture in downtown. The area is like an outdoor, walking museum where you can take in more than 20 eye-catching public art pieces like George-Ann Tognoni's trio of "Galloping Horses", Donald Lipski's "The Doors" and Herb Mignery's 'Passing the Legacy', which is situated at the Scottsdale Waterfront and symbolic of the melding of Scottsdale's historic and modern western appeal.
The spirit of the evolving downtown and canal banks is captured by the statue as a vintage 1860s horse rider passes a mail bag to a modern-day rider. All of these pieces are possible thanks to the Scottsdale Public Art Program which, since its inception in 1985, has created a diverse collection encompassing a wide range of artistic expressions from bronze to contemporary.
The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Scottsdale's popular Old Town district features modern and contemporary art, architecture, and design from around the globe. Designed by award-winning architect Will Bruder, SMoCA's minimalist includes a public "skyspace" by the acclaimed artist James Turrell where visitors can experience the ever-changing light of the desert sky. The cost is just $7 for adults (subject to change) and kids under 15 are free. On Thursdays, though, everyone can enjoy the modern displays at no cost at all.
On Thursdays catch the Scottsdale ArtWalk, a tradition that has taken place for more than 30 years where you can explore downtown and its diverse collection of art galleries. From 7 to 9 PM, galleries open their doors to the public and show off the works of some of the Southwest's most extraordinary artists.
Check out Native Trails. This series of free festivals showcasing the vivid first nations of Arizona and North Americais presented by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and produced by the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Representatives from various Native American tribes take the stage most Thursdays and Saturdays from January through April and inspire attendees with their memorable musical performances and traditional dances. Staged at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, the event celebrates Native American society while focusing on the individual cultures of tribes who reside throughout the Southwest.
If you're into creativity of the culinary kind, check out the Farmers Market in Old Town Scottsdale October through August. Featuring the best local growers in the Valley, more than 40 vendors provide a variety of organic vegetables and fruits, flowers, herbs, coffee and an assortment of handmade items including pastries, jams, and baked goods. This feast for the eyes and stomach has live entertainment and cooking demonstrations as well.
Downtown Scottsdale Map
Other Free or Low-Cost Things To Do
These other things to do are not in downtown Scottsdale, but are close-by. For the kids, try the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park They can ride on the Paradise and Pacific Railroad and antique carousel or enjoy the museum, one of the playgrounds, or just relax in the grass. The park also offers a free summer concert series where you can kick back with a picnic and enjoy live music from local bands every Sunday evening May through June. Admission to the park is free, and tickets to ride the train and carousel are $1 each.
Another way to get your cultural kicks for a deal is by visiting the Heard Museum North Scottsdale. Admission is only $5 for adults (subject to change) and children six years of age and younger are free. Experience two exhibition galleries including the permanent installation, Choices and Change: American Indian Artists in the Southwest. You'll get an up-close look at Native American culture and how the people have adapted to modern day America. The Scottsdale location is a satellite of downtown Phoenix's Heard Museum, which hosts several special events throughout the year that won't break your bank, including The World Championship Hoop Dance Contest in February and the annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market a month later.
Hike, walk, boat or climb. The most popular urban mountain climb in America is Camelback Mountain where hikers are rewarded with incredible views across The Valley of the Sun. Piestawa Peak is another popular climb and is less strenuous than Camelback Mountain. Consider strolling the meandering trail around Tempe Town Lake where you can also fish, or rent a paddle boat. Tempe, Arizona on located on the southern border of Scottsdale AZ.