Winter. Bah, who needs it?
Especially when Arizona is just a short flight away. Tempe, part of the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area, is basically Phoenix’s next-door, ASU-loving, super-cool neighbor. With a happening food scene, it’s no wonder why Tempe is becoming one of Arizona’s most loved destinations. Here are just a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this Sonoran Desert hot spot.
TAKE IN THE CACTI AT THE DESERT BOTANICAL GARDENS
You can’t very well go to Arizona and not see cacti, can you?
Home to 50,000 varieties of cacti and other desert plants, the Desert Botanical Gardens is celebrating 80 years in Tempe. Nestled among the red rocks of the Papago Buttes, this Arizona icon is a local favorite and a can’t-miss destination.
The Gardens offer special classes and exhibits throughout the year as well. Come check out Wild Rising by Cracking Art—running through May 10, 2020. Traveling straight from Milan, this art installation of over 1,000 animal sculptures was made from colorful and recyclable plastic. On display throughout the desert trails, this exhibit is sure to charm the entire family.
The DBG also hosts special events throughout the year and really know how to do it up during the holidays. This year, they hosted Las Noches de las Luminarias, lighting up the Garden with 8,000 flickering luminaria bags and twinkling lights. The Wild Rising statues were all aglow as well.
TOUR THE EISENDRATH HOUSE
When Chicagoan Rose Eisendrath visited Arizona’s Valley of the Sun in the 1930s, she quickly fell in love with the charm, spirit and warm winters of the Southwest. She wished to make herself at home—but was sadly turned away by a local valley resort because of her Jewish faith.
Undeterred, she called upon family friend and famed Arizona architect Robert Thomas Evans to build what became this two-story Pueblo Revival Style adobe paradise that she lived in until her passing.
Now a special point of pride for Tempe and the state of Arizona, the mansion highlights the importance of adobe revival structures that became popular again in the greater Phoenix area in the 30s and 40s.
Weddings and other special events are also celebrated here. And visitors are welcomed to explore as well with a ‘by-appointment only’ docent-led tour two days of the week. Check the website for how you can enjoy Rose’s home.
SEE THE HOLE IN THE ROCK
In Papago Park, near the Phoenix Zoo, sits the famed ‘Hole in the Rock.’ It’s not much to walk. Round trip is less than 1/3 of a mile.
The popular landmark is a series of openings, called tafoni, that eroded in a small sandstone hill, presumably caused by water flow. Early inhabitants may have used the opening in the rock to mark the seasons. You may use it to boost your social content.
Love those Instagram-able walls? Of course you do. Us too. Tempe has a number of fun murals and other artwork around the city to find plenty of fun content to show off on your gram.
Some of our faves:
Meet Me at Daley Park Mural
ADDRESS: 1525 South College Avenue
PRO TIP: This mural is actually a series of murals and features key moments in Tempe’s history. With so many vignettes to choose from, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most photographed in the city. Everyone has a favorite
Get Together Tempe
ADDRESS: 715 S McClintock Dr
“Woman in a Dream III”
ADDRESS: 1700 South College Avenue
But you can find artwork wherever you roam, including 13 rabbit sculptures of all shapes and sizes throughout the city.
FESTIVAL SEASON AND LIVE MUSIC
Tempe is home to many festivals throughout the year—including the bi-annual, three-day Tempe Festival of the Arts. An urban fine art festival with visual artists from around the country as well as food, and cottage arts like soaps, candles and sauces.
Two stages are also playing live music to enjoy. And then there are the beer and wine tastings from excellent wineries and breweries across the state. Tempe is known as a craft beer destination but the state also offers some fine wines to taste and enjoy.
There are also festivals throughout the year to enjoy and get your groove on.
But even if you’re not in town when one of these festivals is going on (and we highly recommend that you try to!)—rest assured that there is always something going on in Tempe so you should be able to find some kind of live music going on.
For example: Culinary Dropout, a restaurant that is always packed, offers live music on the weekends.
Music is an important part of the vibe here. Sometimes literally, as it is quite seriously cemented into the culture.
While walking along Mill Avenue, be sure to check out the Tempe Music Walk—which honors select bands, musicians and musical venues with a hometown association. Including 90s mega-band Gin Blossoms. Now ‘you’ve heard it from us.’ (See what we kinda did there?)
TAKE IN THE VIEWS OF ‘A’ MOUNTAIN
That’s ‘A’ mountain with a capital (not lowercase) A. Officially called Hayden Butte, everyone in Tempe calls it A Mountain (and so should you) because of the giant, 60-foot-tall, gold-painted letter A. The letter is so big that you can even see it when flying in (or out of) the Phoenix airport.
As everyone in Tempe will tell you—this is quite a popular hike. So if you’re game to get your cardio on, we say go for it and would love for you to share your thoughts! Or alternatively, if you’re not up for the hike (like, we admit, us), you can still admire it from afar. Which is what we did during our visit.
Our favorite view was at the rooftop pool of the AC Hotel Phoenix/Tempe Downtown. Just take the elevator to the top and look out! How easy is that?
Designed by Antoine Predock, Art in America dubbed the museum as “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona.” Also, there’s a sculpture of cowboy boots out front.
Fashion is always art, but it’s extra cool when art is about fashion. Riiight?
Housing the largest collection of Cuban art in the US, the museum also showcases both regional and national contemporary artists, as well as an award-winning print collection.
Extra bonus: it’s always FREE! Click on the website for the most up to date info on opening times.
Architecture buff? Theater lover? Or both? Either way, you’ll love visiting ASU Gammage theater.
An architectural landmark, the theater presents the best of Broadway, as well as concerts, symphonies, and more! Tony and Emmy Award winner John Leguizamo was just at the theater performing his one-man play LATIN HISTORY FOR DUMMIES.
Named after former ASU president Grady Grammage, the theater is one of the last public commissions by his friend, UNESCO-celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
And with a seating capacity of over 3,000, Gammage is one of the largest university performing arts centers in the world. The auditorium is (unsurprisingly) listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
WHERE TO STAY
Location, location, location. When you’re traveling, you want to be where all the action is.
And in Tempe, you can’t beat the AC Hotel Phoenix/Tempe Downtown. Just off trendy Mill Avenue—the hotel is located near the best bars and restaurants as well as Tempe Town Lake and downtown offices.
Owned by Marriott, the hotel’s luxurious rooms include everything you expect from the Marriott brand – elegant design, as well as extra perks like complimentary WiFi, mini fridges, a spacious fitness room and a happening bar downstairs.
Extra bonus: The hotel offered guests little lavender packets for extra sweet-smelling dreams after a full day exploring all that Tempe has to offer. Only downside here, we’re now spoiled and will want this at everywhere we stay. (Including home.)
PRO TIP: As mentioned above, visit the rooftop pool for what may be the city’s best views of “A” mountain.
WHAT TO EAT
Honestly, there is so much deliciousness that Tempe can offer the taste buds that we had to make it its own story. Click below to read up and come hungry!
Writer Lauren Goldenberg is on Twitter: (@adventurepretty) and Instagram (@adventureisthenewpretty).