From Southwestern boutiques and saloons to art galleries with a Southwestern flair, here are the best things to do in Old Town Scottsdale.
Old Town Scottsdale is a charming cluster of quirky boutiques, award-winning restaurants, galleries and historic sites that will transport you to the old West.
Take a leisurely stroll through this lively and walkable district with a history dating back to some 150 years. An afternoon browsing the Old Town is definitely one of the best things to do in Scottsdale.
Shop for some cowboy boots, turquoise Native American jewelry, Mexican blankets and prickly pear jam at the slew of boutiques lining this Old West-themed district.
Old Town Scottsdale is incredible for authentic souvenirs and quirky keepsakes with an Arizona flavor.
I grew up in Scottsdale and the old town is one of my favorite things to do on weekends. Whether it’s lunch with family or a night out with friends, Old Town Scottsdale has something for everyone.
Here’s my ultimate list of the highlights of this vibrant district.
From must-see art galleries to the best restaurants and specialty shops, here are the best things to do in Old Town Scottsdale.
1. Art galleries
Old Town Scottsdale boasts an eclectic lineup of fine art galleries with gorgeous paintings, sculptures and photography from a wide array of artists.
You’ll find lots of Southwestern-themed artwork like desert landscapes, scarlet sunset photos and portraits of Native Americans. But there’s plenty of modern and experimental art too from brilliant abstracts to funky glass sculptures.
The galleries are located primarily along Main Street and Marshall Way, where you’ll find rows of galleries all next to each other. Head to this part of Old Town Scottsdale for the best browsing. You can easily visit a dozen very different galleries by strolling from door to door.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Paul Scott Gallery (pictured above) has paintings in a traditional and impressionist style that include still lives and landscapes by classically-trained artists with a real mastery of the craft. The gallery specializes in fine art from Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe. Expect brilliant winter landscapes, illuminated cities in the rain and striking portraits. Address: 7103 East Main Street.
- On The Edge Gallery features more than 40 local Arizona artists with lots of unique pieces that make great home decor – and small artworks that pack well in your luggage. Head here for Southwestern decor, unique jewelry, mosaics, ceramics and stunning desert landscapes in oil. Address: 7077 East Main Street.
- Altamira Fine Art specializes in contemporary Western art – on traditional Southwestern themes with a modern twist. Head here for surreal paintings of desert neon signs, landscapes of Chryslers rolling past Saguaros and Warhol-style paintings of cowboys. Address: 7038 East Main Street.
- The Legacy Gallery has a great selection of glorious desert landscapes that feature the local Sonoran desert. You’ll find paintings of Grand Canyon sunsets, cacti against cloudy skies and Monument Valley done in brilliant oils. Address: 7178 Main Street.
2. Scottsdale ArtWalk
(photos courtesy Scottsdale ArtWalk)
Scottsdale ArtWalk is a lively event held every Thursday evening where galleries throw open their doors for an open house. It features art demos, special exhibits and openings, live music and refreshments.
The galleries roll out the red carpet every Thursday from 7pm to 9pm for this special event.
Stroll at your own pace through more than 30 different participating galleries along Main Street And Marshall Way. Chat to the artists and enjoy special entertainment at this decades-long Scottsdale tradition.
And don’t miss the Gold Patette ArtWalks held throughout the year. These walks focus on different themes like Western Week and Native Spirit. They feature extended gallery hours and unique events and experiences (like complimentary wine tasting and live music) that compliment the theme of each event.
3. Cavalliere’s Blacksmith Shop
This Old Town Scottsdale icon dates back to 1909 when it opened as a blacksmiths that repaired farm equipment and sharpened plowshares.
And although it’s now closed, the adobe-style building, wagons and iron tools up front are some of the few remaining structures of Scottsdale’s original old town.
The shop on Brown Avenue and Second Street once repaired plows, wagon wheels and farm tractors. It was opened by blacksmith George Cavalliere, who worked on the Arizona Canal and later settled in Scottsdale. Back then, it was considered on the outskirts of town.
Later on, as cars replaced horse wagons, the blacksmith shop did more ornamental work, and even crafted some metal pieces for architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
4. Historic walking tours
Take a walking tour of historic Old Town Scottsdale for an in-depth look at the history of the area and its most iconic landmarks.
The tours are lead by an expert and include either a 90-minute guided walking tour or a self-guided walking tour you can do with a downloadable map.
Stops include various points of interest – including the curiosities and public art scattered around this historic district.
The tours are free and organized by the City of Scottsdale. And they make a great intro to Old Town Scottsdale for history buffs.
5. Old Adobe Mission
The Old Adobe Mission is the oldest standing church in Scottsdale – and it’s a historical gem that highlights the city’s Hispanic heritage.
The mission was built in 1933 by Mexicans who first settled in Scottsdale. And today it’s one of the few remaining adobe structures in downtown.
The cool and quiet church on Brown Avenue is a serene oasis in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. Built in the striking Spanish Colonial Revival style, the mission features beautiful archways and stained glass windows.
The church has been lovingly restored and forms the hub of the local Latino and Catholic community. It also holds Christmas events, Day of the Dead festivities and other holidays.
Don’t miss the stations of the cross and the historic photos that line the walls. Volunteers are often on hand to answer questions and add some local history.
The church is open to the public daily from 11am to 4pm, and private tours are available with an appointment on their website.
6. Mexican Imports
This small gift shop is a feast of brights colors and a treasure trove packed with colorful Mexican and Southwestern souvenirs.
Mexican Imports is lined with bright Day of the Dead ceramic skulls, colorful Frida Kahlo totes and boxes of vibrant Spanish tiles. There are also red chile ristras, curiosities, knick knacks and quirky Arizona souvenirs.
Insider’s tip: There are lots of colorful Day of the Dead miniature figurines that make great gifts.
Stock up on colorful Mexican blankets, ponchos and sombreros to keep you warm. And don’t miss the novelty items including lollipops made with real scorpions and flavored with prickly pear.
The selection is incredible for such a small space. And you’ll find plenty of treasures to decorate your home and remember your Arizona trip.
7. Bischoff’s Gallery
Bischoff’s Gallery has an incredible selection of Native American and Southwestern art – and a beautiful courtyard that’s a pleasure to browse.
The shop features Native American jewelry, paintings, Hopi Kachina dolls, Navajo rugs and Native American art and ceramics. The pieces are all made by artisans from across various Southwestern tribes.
Don’t miss the outdoor space filled with bronze sculptures, shady benches and native potted plants. Inside, the intricate artworks are a pleasure to browse – and a top destination for authentic and handmade crafts.
Bischoff’s Gallery opened in 1999 at the corner of Brown Avenue and Main Street. And today it’s an old town mainstay with its eclectic collection of Native and Western art.
Bischoff’s has one-of-a-kind masterpieces that are made to be treasured. Whether it’s geometric Pueblo pottery done in 1,500-year-old techniques or vast landscape paintings of the American West.
Arizona native Anslem Bischoff was inspired to open this Scottsdale icon after watching his grandfather trade with the Native Americans at his trading post in Canyon de Chelly.
8. Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
Scottsdale’s Museum of the West boasts artworks, sculptures and artifacts that chronicle the Wild West heritage of the American Southwest and its indigenous people.
This 43,000-square-foot museum covers 19 Western states, including Arizona and Texas, and the history and culture of Western Canada and Mexico. It features a series of changing exhibits on themes like women of the West and masterworks of Hopi pottery.
The museum chronicles the art of Indigenous Peoples, Spanish and Mexican settlers and Western pioneers in rotating exhibits, interactive displays and events.
Don’t miss the beautiful outdoor sculpture courtyard filled with bronze pieces by renowned Western artists. The artwork is set amid ponderosa pines and local plants.
And the building is worth noting in itself. Built to conserve resources, it features natural materials and textures. For example: a weeping wall in the courtyard collects rainwater and recycles it for the air conditioning system.
There’s also a great museum store filled with unique items like pottery, jewelry and children’s toys all with a Southwestern flair.
Scottsdale’s Museum of the West is near Old Town Scottsdale and the Civic Center. It makes a great stop along an artsy tour of the historic district.
9. Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
(photos by Sean Deckert (top) and Charles Darr)
The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) has an incredible collection of daring modern art, architecture and design – with many pieces on a Southwestern theme.
SMoCA’s permanent collection includes modern art icons like the abstract sculptures of Jean Arp and Barbara Hepworth and a colorful lithograph by Roy Lichtenstein. Select pieces from the permanent collection are shown every few years – so check the museum’s website for info on current displays.
And there’s an intriguing smaller collection of architecture and design. It includes a miniature rainbow-colored kaleidoscope house and handspun Navajo rugs and Hopi baskets.
It’s a cutting-edge museum that showcases thought-provoking pieces on subjects like immigration, global warming and homosexuality in the military.
Insider’s tip: Check the museum’s website for an array of classes, workshops and lectures for a deeper dive into creativity. And check out Scottsdale Public Art for cultural events and workshops around the city.
The museum features a stunning collection of local and regional artists from across the Southwest, including Native American and Latino creators.
There’s a constant rotation of temporary exhibits which means you’ll see something new with every visit. From a Tucson-born artist’s survey of Southwestern swap meets to pastel, abstract murals set amid regional plant life, SMoCA is always a must-see.
10. Scottsdale Civic Center
Please note: Scottsdale Civic Center is currently closed for renovations. It’s set to open in early 2023.
Scottsdale Civic Center has rolling lawns lined with fountains, sculptures, olive trees and flowers that often hosts live cultural events.
It’s a perfect spot for a shady stroll, an artsy afternoon and a quiet upscale lunch. An oasis in the hot city, the Civic Center has great eateries, paths for walking and benches set amid perennial flowers.
Don’t miss the ducks and swans swimming around the fountains, and the rose bushes just outside the Scottsdale Public Library. And head inside for a cafe and a cozy used bookstore with out of print treasures for 25 cents.
There’s a golden floating pen sculpture at the library entrance. And there’s plenty of grassy hills to picnic and get lost in your book.
Scottsdale Civic Center is a great (and less crowded) spot to relax after a day of wandering Old Town Scottsdale, which is about a 10-minute walk away.
Insider’s tip: Visit on Sunday for live events and check the local papers for festivals, concerts and fairs going on.
Don’t miss Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture, a vibrant 12-foot aluminium sculpture in red and blue down the road from the library.
A vibrant backdrop for wedding photos, the sculpture stands 12 feet tall. It was originally created in 1970 and called for peace amid the social unrest of the time.
Stop by AZ88 for cocktails and dinner in the spacious patio under red arch sculptures and sweeping park views.
Stop by the adjoining Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for great art exhibits in its galleries and a fun gift shop full of artsy Arizona souvenirs. It’s also a great venue to catch some incredible shows ranging from classical music to flamenco guitar.
11. The Sugar Bowl
This old-fashioned ice cream parlor first opened in 1958 – and it’s a joint straight out of Grease with its bold pink facade, authentic 1950s soda fountain and a nearly unchanged menu.
Dig into some American favorites like meat loaf, tuna melts and grilled cheese sandwiches. And indulge your sweet tooth with an ice cream treat – there are lots of sundaes, splits, parfaits, floats, shakes, malts and sherbets on the menu.
This retro eatery on Scottsdale Road serves up plenty of 1950s nostalgia with pink vinyl booths that are an Instagrammer’s dream.
And the unchanged decor have earned The Sugar Bowl a place on Scottsdale’s Historic Preservation Register.
It’s also a family-friendly respite from your Old Town Scottsdale sightseeing – especially for ice cream on a hot Arizona day.
Insider’s tip: Don’t miss the gift shop with artwork by Bil Keane, creator of the Family Circus which often featured the Sugar Bowl in his daily comic strips.
The family-owned eatery is a favorite stop for stars like Steven Spielberg and Emma Stone, who both grew up in the area and stop by when they’re in town.
12. Salty Senorita
Salty Senorita serves up Mexican classics – and some great margaritas – in a colorful setting with a large, lively patio.
With some of the best tacos in downtown, this vibrant restaurant on Scottsdale Road is always buzzing with music, sports events and plenty of airy outdoor tables perfect for people-watching over a leisurely lunch.
Insider’s tip: Don’t miss special deals like Margarita Mondays for half-price margaritas and Taco Tuesdays.
The 4,000-square-foot patio has fire pits, palm trees and an outdoor bar to keep you comfortable whatever the weather.
And the beach-inspired menu has all the Tex Mex favorites along with iron skillet fajitas, beach house nachos and grilled shrimp bowls.
Pick your poison from 50 different kinds of tequila and 70 types of margaritas on the menu. They’re all served in quirky fish bowls, shells and mermaid pitchers.
13. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria
This legendary pizzeria has a cozy Old Town Scottsdale location with charming outdoor patios, a full bar and a main dining room where you can watch the chefs toss the dough.
Grimaldi’s is a family-friendly and upscale spot for a casual lunch amid Old Town sightseeing.
Famous for their coal brick-oven pizzas, Grimaldi’s uses the same pizza-making traditions since they originated in Brooklyn more than a century ago.
Dig into some authentic New York style pizza in the airy outdoor patio beside a sparkling fountain. Frank Sinatra and other Big Apple crooners often play in the background.
On the menu are classics like the margherita and traditional pizza. And there are plenty of Grimaldi specials like the White with Garlic Pizza and the incredible Garden Pesto Pizza with artichokes, red onions and ricotta cheese drizzled with pesto.
There’s also a good selection of wines and classic Italian desserts like cannoli and tiramisu.
14. Old Town Tavern
(photos courtesy Old Town Tavern)
Old Town Tavern is a small – and always packed – bar with lots of live music, ice-cold beer and a lively outdoor patio that’s a great refresher on your Scottsdale itinerary.
Known as the “biggest little stage in Old Town Scottsdale,” this tavern always has great bands and local artists. They take the tiny stage every night and afternoons and nights on weekends. And that means you’ll always catch a great act whenever you visit.
Voted as the best venue for live music in Scottsdale, Old Town Tavern is a great spot to catch some local acts in a laid-back atmosphere.
It’s also nestled right at the entrance to the Scottsdale Civic Center. So it’s a great resting point between sightseeing around the Old Town and browsing the museums.
15. Cafe Monarch
(photos courtesy Cafe Monarch)
This elegant restaurant in the heart of Old Town has been named the best restaurant in Scottsdale. And it’s one of the best fine dining experiences in the nation.
With a menu of contemporary American cuisine, a gorgeous leafy courtyard and a candle-lit romantic ambiance, Cafe Monarch is a must-visit for any serious foodie.
This family-operated gem serves innovative five-star cuisine made with local and seasonal ingredients. That means sophisticated and imaginative dishes that you’ll long remember.
Cafe Monarch also has an incredible wine list, a vegetarian menu and some very creative specialty cocktails. The service is outstanding with expert knowledge of the menu.
Cafe Monarch is an ideal spot to celebrate anniversaries and special occasions. It’s also an unforgettable elegant evening to cap off your Scottsdale vacation.