Scottsdale Civic Center Park: An Urban Desert Oasis

Wander With Wonder – Discovering Wow Moments Around the World or Across the Street

Situated in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, AZ, Scottsdale Civic Center is an urban park surrounded by galleries and shops. Discover what to do in Scottsdale Civic Center Park on your next trip to Arizona. 

At the heart of Scottsdale sits a fabulous place to see a concert, attend a festival, or enjoy a picnic. Nestled among restaurants, art galleries, shops, and residences, Scottsdale Civic Center is an urban park oasis with trees, plants, lawns, fountains, and sculptures. Walkways, benches, and bistro tables beckon visitors to hang out and enjoy the beautiful Arizona weather. Many festivals and concerts are free and open to the public, while some charge an admission fee.

The Scottsdale Civic Center Park

A $33 million renovation, begun in November 2021 and wrapped up in May 2023, completely altered the space to accommodate events better and improve accessibility. The central part features a 360-degree stage with an airy curving oval structure soaring overhead. The West Bowl slopes gently upward, providing the perfect grassy space for blankets and lawn chairs. The Great Lawn spreads out on the other side of the stage to allow children to run around and play ball while their parents enjoy the music.

West Bowl

West Bowl of Scottsdale Civic Center during a concert at the 360-degree stage. Photo by Judy Karnia

Running alongside these lawns, the Marshall Gardens and Botanical Garden achieve a balance of desert plantings and burbling fountains. The sidewalk continues as a wide path connecting to Main Street and the tourist-favorite Old Town area. The Scottsdale Historical Museum, The Yearlings statue, a couple of restaurants, and many tables and chairs occupy this stretch.

Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden with desert plants in the Scottsdale Civic Center. Photo by Judy Karnia

At the east end of the Civic Center, the East Bowl consists of a large grassy hill overlooking a long stage. A swooping roof holds the lights and frames the edge of the park. North of this area, the Scottsdale Memorial for the Fallen, dedicated in 2023, honors Scottsdale residents who served in WWI through the conflict in Afghanistan.

East Bowl

Concert stage at East Bowl of Scottsdale Civic Center. Photo by Judy Karnia

History of the Scottsdale Civic Center

In 1952, the Civic Coordinating Council was formed to create a center for this small community of farmers and ranchers. The members raised money to purchase three adjacent properties to provide a recreational area. In 1964, three years after Scottsdale was incorporated as a city, the Scottsdale Town Enrichment Program began planning how to develop the city. They hired local architect Bennie Gonzalez to design a civic center complex a year later. During the 1970s, the various portions of the Civic Center were opened for the public to enjoy. The city made gradual improvements over the years to enhance the usability of the space, and the voters approved a bond to completely renovate the center in 2019.


Playground at Scottsdale Civic Center with Civic Center Library in the background. Photo by Judy Karnia

Public Art in Scottsdale

Scottsdale Civic Center serves as an outdoor art gallery for several impressive sculptures. On entering the western side off Brown Avenue and Main Street, The Yearlings frolic and welcome you to the park. This bronze sculpture by George-Ann Tognoni was created in 1985 and reminds us of the small western town from which modern Scottsdale grew. Tognoni also sculpted the Winfield Scott Memorial, portraying the founder of Scottsdale with his wife, Helen.

Windows to the West rests where the walkway from Main Street opens to the West Bowl. Louise Nevelson’s first large-scale work in the Southwest arranges geometric figures in multiple windows. The steel sculpture has improved with patina since its dedication in 1973.

Windows to the West

Windows to the West sculpture in the Scottsdale Civic Center. Photo by Judy Karnia

The bright red and blue of Robert Indiana’s 12-foot-tall Love draws you across the lawn. The iconic pop sculpture forms the background for many wedding and family photos.

Scottsdale Public Art - LOVE sculpture

The LOVE sculpture is popular for selfies. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

My daughter climbed onto Mayor Herbert “Herb” Drinkwater and His Dog Sadie for many of my favorite photos from her youth. This larger-than-life sculpture by Clyde “Ross” Morgan honored the popular leader who helped Scottsdale earn its “America’s Most Livable City” title in 1993.

Mayor Drinkwater

Mayor Herbert “Herb” Drinkwater and his dog Sadie in front of Scottsdale City Hall. Photo by Judy Karnia

Cultural Buildings Surrounding the Scottsdale Civic Center

Many interesting cultural sights surround the Civic Center.

Little Red Schoolhouse

The Little Red Schoolhouse was built in 1909 when Scottsdale only contained about 700 residents. The first civic building served as a two-room school and a place for community events. The Scottsdale Historical Museum occupies the first floor and thoroughly examines Scottsdale from a small agricultural town to the modern city of almost a quarter of a million people today.

Scottsdale Historical Museum

Scottsdale Historical Museum in the Little Red Schoolhouse. Photo by Judy Karnia

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts anchors one end of the Civic Center. It contains the 853-seat Virginia G. Piper Theater, with outstanding acoustics, not a bad seat in the house, and the intimate 137-seat Stage 2. Dance performances, plays and musicals, comedy shows, and concerts featuring various types of music can be enjoyed here. The building was designed in 1975 by Arizona architect Bennie Gonzalez and renovated in 2009 by Scottsdale architect John Douglas.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Architect Will Bruder reconfigured a movie theater to become the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The minimalist space with concrete floors and exposed ceiling joints provides a stunning backdrop for rotating exhibits. The art varies between paintings, sculptures, fabrics, and digital and interactive works. SMOCA has led to a new-found appreciation of contemporary art for me with its intriguing choices. The four-gallery museum offers a perfect foray into global and local art without being overwhelming. SMOCA is located just past the Center for the Arts.

Scottsdale Civic Center Library

The Scottsdale Civic Center Library also borders the Civic Center. A small art gallery, educational exhibit, and plenty of spaces to sit and read await. Residents can check out a book and lounge in the park reading. Visitors can check their email or search the internet for more fun things to do on their vacation or relax indoors while perusing a magazine or book. A fun children’s section offers book readings and other gatherings.

Restaurants Near the Scottsdale Civic Center

The AZ88 patio overlooks the West Bowl and is one of my favorite places to bring out-of-town visitors on a gorgeous day. For warmer days, a sleek contemporary indoor dining space provides a cool experience in both meanings of the word. The location is ideal for dinner before a performance at the Center for Performing Arts.

AZ88 Restaurant

AZ88 Restaurant overlooking the West Bowl of the Scottsdale Civic Center. Photo by Judy Karnia

Cool Gelato Italiano offers an excellent dessert or treat option when attending a concert or festival. It sits just off the West Bowl, near the arts center.

Old Town Tavern is small in size but large in atmosphere. It has occupied this edge of the Civic Center since 2006 and offers a friendly, lively time. You can enjoy live music there every day of the week.

Civic Center Restaurants

Civic Center path with The Yearlings sculpture, Old Town Tavern, and Back Door Lounge. Photo by Judy Karnia

Next door, the Back Door Lounge has a patio overlooking the park, a comfortable indoor space, and a long bar. The menu includes wine, cocktails, and food.

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When Visiting the Scottsdale Civic Center Park

Scottsdale Civic Center has something for everyone to enjoy, whether you are strolling through, visiting a museum, attending a performance, or hanging out for a few hours. This urban park encompasses much greenery and plenty to do, a true oasis in the desert.

Situated in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, AZ, Scottsdale Civic Center is an urban park surrounded by galleries and shops. Discover what to do in Scottsdale Civic Center Park on your next trip to Arizona. 


Scottsdale Civic Center Park: An Urban Desert Oasis