Sun-worshipers, foodies, art enthusiasts, swimmers and fishing enthusiast love Tempe, Arizona because – wait – did we say “swimmers and fishing enthusiasts”? Yes we did. That’s right, along with 300 days of sunshine a year and fantastic sunsets over desert mountains, notable art galleries, and excellent eateries, all worth the trip in and of themselves, Tempe is more than just sand, saguaros, and eggs-frying-on-sidewalks hot like your typical Sonoran desert city. Tempe is also home to a 225-acre lake smack dab in the middle of town: one great for jogging around, swimming through, paddle-boarding on, or watching the sun set over while you sip some tasty local vino and a much nicer option than the retreat to afternoon AC that’s standard practice throughout the region.
While Tempe Town Lake is a big part of what makes Tempe so special, there’s so much more to do and see as well that puts the place on many travelers’ bucket lists. In Tempe, you get great weather almost all the time, a lake to cool off in, fish it up on, or whatever aquatic activity, uh, floats your boat. Then, once you’ve cooled off and evening comes, it’s time to enjoy some live music and a craft brew or two right onshore in the many cool Tempe Town Beach venues if you want to stick close to the water. Or, head downtown just steps away to catch more action, music, drinks, and dancing in the lively Mill Ave district with its palm-tree lined streets and sidewalk cafes, art galleries, crazy college bars, and local festivals. Is Tempe sounding tempting? Well, read on to learn more about all the fun things to do in this desert oasis.
Before we jump into all the great stuff to do in Tempe, here’s a quick rundown on all the Stay Alfred travel apartments you can call home while you’re living it up Tempe style. Whether you’re looking for a travel apartment close to the water or an upscale spot to hang your hat near the downtown music scene, Stay Alfred is your place in Tempe. Got business outside of Tempe and would rather stay there? Check out our Stay Alfred travel apartments in nearby Phoenix and Scottsdale, too, and you’ll still have pretty quick access to the Tempe fun!
Tempe Outdoor Fun
Sunshine being one of the best reasons for visiting Tempe, we’ll start with the outdoor fun. From desert peaks to water slides to Tempe Beach Park action, Tempe will keep you outside all day long.
We’ve already mentioned some of the great things to do on Tempe Town Lake, but along with being simply an awesome afternoon cool-down, Tempe Town Lake is Arizona's second-most popular public attraction. Over two miles long, it’s home to major endurance sports events like IRONMAN Arizona, plus more than forty special events happening each year, including a Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade and Arizona’s largest Independence Day celebration. It’s a great spot for sailing, paddle-boarding and rowing, too!
Whether you actually get on the water or not, Tempe Beach Park is a fun place to chill, and definitely the biggest hangout on Tempe Town Lake. It’s home to major arts events, and boasts several sports fields, grilling areas, biking trails, funky water fountains to peruse, and more.
Tempe Town Lake isn’t the only spot only spot where you can enjoy some fresh air and sunshine in Tempe. Surf’s up not far from Tempe Town Lake at Big Surf Waterpark, a splash playground with water slides and a huge wave pool where you can get your Spicole on, Arizona style. And no Tempe trip would be complete without a round or two of golf on the gorgeous Rolling Hills Golf Course, the valley's best 18-hole executive golf course. In the mood for a hike? Tucked away in Tempe’s picturesque Papago Park, you’ll love exploring the great trails amidst spectacular sandstone formations.
Need to stretch your legs but don’t have time for a lap around the lake? Take a quick hike up Hayden Butte Preserve, a cool downtown peak standing 1,398 feet high and home to many desert plants and animals plus 500 Hohokam Indian petroglyphs the kids will love to check out. The kids’ll also love Tempe’s Sea Life Aquarium, which is just a short drive from downtown and features family-friendly exhibits with a variety of sea creatures from sharks to clown fish to seahorses, and more. The kids won’t want to leave!
Tempe Arts and Entertainment
Along with the loads of outdoor fun Tempe offers, there are plenty of arts and entertainment options to fill up an entire visit. One of the main attractions is Tempe’s Center for the Arts, a huge art installation on the lake that offers a diverse schedule with frequent performances from the local Stray Cat Theatre group, a “quirky, edgy and irreverent” indy troupe well worth the Arizona airfare in itself. The center also hosts masterful musicals from the Scottsdale Musical Theater Company, a group that specializes in breathing new life into Broadway classics, so you’ll be smiling all the way home to that Stay Alfred apartment. Before you head out, be sure to check out the center’s inspiring art gallery. Also check the linked schedule for local singers and songwriters, since Tempe’s Center for the Arts offers some of the best performances in town.
Speaking of local talent... Catch some more fantastic local bands and tasty eats and craft brews with a stroll to The District Stage at Tempe Marketplace on Friday and Saturday evenings. There’s nothing better than good food and great music combined! And, if big-name entertainment is what you’re after, head across the lake to The Marquee Theater, which hosts great national acts on a frequent basis.
Along with the center and many great galleries and music venues, Tempe’s most popular arts installations hold court at the Arizona State University campus. The Arizona State University Art Museum features collections of more than 12,000 ceramic and fine art exhibits and boasts one of the largest collections of Southwestern art in the US, including works by Latin American greats like David Alfaro Siquieros, Diego Rivera, Sandra Ramos, and Aimée García.
Got artsy kids in tow? ASU’s Gammage Memorial Auditorium, a beautiful venue designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, offers big Disney hits for the kids, as well as Broadway blockbusters.Tempe’s Childsplay Theatre Company offers a great lineup of kid-oriented productions, along with arts education for the youngsters. If you’ve got budding art aficionados with legs that need stretching, Tempe’s She Tempe project – a collection of murals found throughout downtown adorning urban walls, newsstands, and more – is for you. See if you can find them all then go jump in the lake!
Tempe Dining & Drinks
Home to some of the tastiest restaurants and craftiest bars in the Phoenix Metro area, there’s no better place to dine and bar hop then Tempe. With much of the cuisine and libations centering around Mill Avenue, it’s easy to make an evening there, though there are plenty of tucked-away spots around town and in Tempe Beach Park, too. Here are a few of our favorite.
A laid-back diner featuring to-die-for traditional Ethiopian fare, such as spicy chicken stew, loads of lamb options, and vegan victuals, too, Cafe Lalibela lets the libations roll, with enough wine and beer options for a one-stop night out. In the mood for seafood? Maybe a whiskey? Head on over to the memorabilia-filled local landmark, Casey Moore’s Oyster House, and order up anything from Fish ‘n’ Chips to a tasty Chipotle Hummus. For a more intimate dining experience, head on over House of Tricks and try some New American in this ultra-cozy, must-see 1920s-bungalow-turned-eatery.
A bustling bar hub with a vibrant music scene plus dozens of superb eateries, Mill Avenue District is the heart of Tempe’s upbeat nightlife atmosphere. The area has a little something for everybody, from thumping night clubs to quiet dive bars. Much of the Mill Ave traffic comes from the nearby Arizona State University campus and its 70,000 plus students.
Rack ‘em up and knock ‘em down (pool balls or beers) at Mill Ave Cue Club, a lively pool bar with a tasty array brews and cocktails plus decadent bar bites and much fun. Rula Bula Irish Pub, with “Rula Bula” meaning “Uproar and Commotion” in Gaelic, is also a Tempe must-see if you’ve got the energy for that much fun. And after a day full of Tempe sunshine, you will.
Tempe Beach Park
If you’ve just enjoyed a day on the lake, the adjacent Tempe Beach Park neighborhood has plenty of options to satiate your appetite and quench your thirst. From neighborhood beer gardens to bustling pubs with great grubs to a bar so, ehem, rustic an atmosphere you could bring your Yeti date, Tempe Beach Park delivers, memorably.
Wanting to eat large or feed your pet puma? Try The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen, a backwoodsy joint with antler chandeliers and pine-log bars that serves up solid American fare in quantity and quality, plus plenty of big screens to catch the game. Up for an ice cold brew? There’s one with your name on it at The Shop Beer Co., a laid-back tasting room and beer garden offering craft brews plus food truck yumminess. Like to keep moving while you sip? There’s ping-pong, bean-bag-toss, and other backyard game fun, too.
Tempe Beach Park dining options continue with Culinary Dropout, where you can pick from a huge selection of booze, beers and pub grub from tasty sliders to pretzel fondue. And, not enough can be said about the Tempe Marketplace, which boasts a huge alfresco shopping center with more than one million square feet of retail space and great dining options and bars to boot!
Make Stay Alfred your place amidst all the Tempe fun.
Liking all the fun things to do and see in Tempe? From downtown to Tempe Beach Park, make your Tempe stay that much better by booking one of our many Stay Alfred travel apartments today! Our full travel apartments offer actual living rooms rather than hotel foot-of-bed seating, in-unit laundry so you can pack light, plus full kitchens for whipping up home-cooked meals in style.
We hope you enjoy your trip to Tempe to the fullest and get your fill of sun and fun!