Tempe, Arizona is one of the best long weekend destinations in the United States.
It has an annual average of over 300 days of sunshine, a lively college vibe, and the ideal blend of city meets nature.
Here’s how to spend 3 days in Tempe, Arizona.
Where is Tempe, Arizona?
Tempe, Arizona is part of a tri-city area consisting of Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe.
Each city has their own distinct vibe, and Tempe’s is fun and welcoming, likely a result of the more than 50,000 students enrolled at ASU’s Tempe campus.
The best way to get to Tempe is by flying into the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). From there, you can rent a car, use public transport, or call a rideshare to reach the downtown Tempe area.
It takes about 10-15 minutes to get from the airport to downtown Tempe. The airport has over 140 nonstop destinations daily, so it should be easy to reach from around the US.
Where should you stay in Tempe, Arizona?
Tempe has many lodging options. I personally have stayed in two and recommend them both.
The latest hotel to be added to the downtown skyline is the Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU.
It’s on the corner of University Drive and Mill Avenue and is chic, modern, and well equipped. Rates start at $275/night.
On my first visit, I stayed at the Tempe Mission Palms by Hyatt. It is elegant and located right by the famous “A” mountain.
Rates start around $200/night but deals can be found in the off season.
Why should you visit Tempe?
I love Arizona and I have visited Tempe twice. I appreciate how arts centered it is, with museums, exhibitions, and special events. There’s always something going on.
Tempe has easy hikes for those who like adventure but don’t want to over exert themselves.
At its center is Tempe Town Lake, a great place to kayak, ride e-bikes, or catch the sunset.
There are many different dining options, just pick the cuisine and you’ll find it available. They also have a thriving nightlife, open late and bustling.
In short, it’s a fun city. Here’s what you can get up to on a 3-day itinerary.
Day 1: An Introduction to the Best of Tempe
Upon arrival, head to Pedal Haus Brewery. This award-winning brewery has been named the Best Brewery in the United States at the Copa Cervezas de America.
My waiter promised me the IPA would change how I feel about IPA’s forever, and he wasn’t exaggerating.
This is a bike themed bar and eatery that serves a mean green chile smashburger. Relax and enjoy seating on the outdoor patio while waiting for your room to be ready.
Next, spend an afternoon at the Desert Botanical Garden. This 140-acre attraction features diverse desert landscapes and rare plants. It’s a popular place for photoshoots since it’s very scenic during golden hour.
They regularly have special events and displays. For instance, during my visit I was able to see the work of Fernando Botero on display.
He passed just prior to the opening of the exhibit and at the time of his passing was the highest paid living Latin American artist.
The exhibit was thoughtfully done and I appreciated seeing his larger sculptures incorporated into nature, on display around the trails.
Next, head to Hole-in-the-Rock Trail at Papago Park. This is a significant site for astronomy, with the hole and angles of the moonlight shining through it signaling to the First Nations when it was time to harvest or sew crops.
It is an easy, 5-minute hike with scenic views of the city, cropped and framed by the natural hole formation in the bright reddish brown rock wall.
After all this, you’ve worked up an appetite! I recommend getting your fill of Mexican food while you can at Ghost Ranch or Cocina Chiwas.
Depending on the day you arrive, on Thursday nights there’s the Little Cholla Night Market taking place at Culdesac, the first car-free community in the U.S. (next to Cocina Chiwas).
Day 2: From Bouldering to Kayaking
Start your day off right with a hearty breakfast. Two of my favorite spots are Morning Squeeze and Snooze an A.M. Eatery.
Once you have a good base to support your coming day of adventure, head to Arizona Bouldering Project.
You can get a day pass to access all their facilities for the day, including their bouldering walls, cold plunge, fitness center, yoga center, and more.
This is also a co-working space here if you need to get any work done.
Afterwards, head for lunch. I love the bruschetta options at Postino Annex and they have great happy hour specials where a pitcher of beer ends up being more economical than a pint.
Next, head to Tempe Town Lake. One of the best ways to enjoy the lake is by getting out on the water.
Boat Rentals of America offers kayaks, pedal boats, stand up paddle boards, motorized donut boats, and more.
You can also go e-biking around the lake if that’s more up your alley with Tempe E-Bike Tours.
While you’re in the area, stop by the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts. They have art on display by local artists and it’s free to enter.
For dinner head to Lucero at Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU, a rooftop bar with views of the Valley of the Sun and live music.
If you’re feeling up for it afterwards, explore some of Tempe’s nightlife like the Low Key Piano Bar.
Day 3: Strolling Around the Neighborhood
Start your morning by hiking “A” Mountain, easily identifiable by the large yellow “A” on the side.
This is about a 10-15-minute hike to the top, set aside 30-45 minutes for this site total depending on how long you want to linger. It has unrivaled views of downtown and is a popular trail for pets and people alike.
After your hike, stroll the Mill Avenue shops, like Potions & Lotions and Yucatecan Imports.
The second Sunday of every month there’s a market on Mill Avenue (from October to April).
For lunch, head to Taco Boys. This affordable and authentic taco spot is family owned and will make it so you don’t leave hungry.
If time allows you can visit James Turrell’s Skyspace: Air Apparent located on the ASU Tempe Campus. This is an outdoor art installation.
Also on the ASU Tempe Campus is Palm Walk, the most photographed place on campus with over 100 mature Mexican Fan Palms lining the walkway.
There’s a lot more you can fit into your trip to Tempe, from finding street art to visiting cultural centers, but you’ll just have to plan a return trip!
Till next time, safe travels.
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This post was sponsored by Tempe Tourism. All opinions are my own.