Wells Fargo Center, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

If you’re planning a trip to Arizona, you might be thinking of visiting popular destinations like the Grand Canyon, Sedona, or Phoenix. But have you considered Tempe? This vibrant city, located just east of Phoenix, is a hidden gem that offers a unique blend of outdoor adventure, arts and culture, and delicious food and drink. In this article, we’ll explore the best things to do in Tempe, Arizona.


Tempe is a city with a rich history, stunning natural beauty, and a lively cultural scene. Founded in 1871, the city was named after the Vale of Tempe in Greece due to its picturesque location in the Salt River Valley. Today, Tempe is home to over 180,000 residents and a thriving downtown area that offers something for everyone.

Outdoor Activities

One of the best things about Tempe is its stunning natural beauty. The city is surrounded by mountains, lakes, and hiking trails, making it the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts.


  • A Mountain (Hayden Butte): This iconic Tempe landmark offers a challenging hike with breathtaking views of the city. The trail is just under a mile long, but it’s steep and rocky, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes.
  • Papago Park: This 1,500-acre park is home to several hiking trails, including the popular Hole-in-the-Rock Trail. The trail takes you through red sandstone formations and offers stunning views of the city.
  • South Mountain Park: This is one of the largest municipal parks in the country, with over 50 miles of hiking trails. The park is also home to ancient petroglyphs and stunning desert landscapes.


  • Tempe Town Lake: This man-made lake is a popular spot for biking, jogging, and walking. The lake is surrounded by a 5-mile loop trail that offers stunning views of the city skyline.
  • Tempe Beach Park: This park offers a scenic bike path that runs along the Salt River. The path is paved and flat, making it perfect for a leisurely ride.

Water Sports

  • Tempe Town Lake: In addition to biking, Tempe Town Lake is also a popular spot for water sports. You can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and electric boats from the Boat Rentals of America kiosk.
  • Salt River: If you’re looking for a more adventurous water experience, consider tubing or rafting down the Salt River. Several companies offer guided tours, including Salt River Tubing and Arizona Rafting.

Arts and Culture

Tempe is home to a thriving arts and culture scene, with several museums, galleries, and performance venues.


  • Arizona State University Art Museum: This museum features a collection of contemporary art, ceramics, and works on paper. Admission is free.
  • Hall of Flame Fire Museum: This museum is dedicated to the history of firefighting. It features over 100 fire trucks, including a horse-drawn steam engine from 1873.
  • Tempe History Museum: This museum tells the story of Tempe’s history, from its early days as a farming community to its modern-day growth.


  • The Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts: This gallery features contemporary art exhibitions, as well as performances and events.
  • ArtSpace West: This gallery features works by local artists, as well as classes and workshops.

Performance Venues

  • Tempe Center for the Arts: This state-of-the-art venue hosts a variety of performances, including theater, dance, and music.
  • Gammage Auditorium: This Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater is home to the Broadway Across America series, which brings national tours of Broadway shows to Tempe.
  • Marquee Theatre: This historic theater hosts a variety of concerts and events, from indie rock to stand-up comedy.

Food and Drink

Tempe’s food and drink scene is diverse and delicious, offering everything from craft beer to vegan cuisine.


  • Four Peaks Brewing Company: This popular brewery offers a variety of craft beers, as well as a full menu of pub fare.
  • Pedal Haus Brewery: This brewery features a large outdoor patio and a rotating selection of craft beers.
  • Huss Brewing Company: This family-owned brewery specializes in small-batch beers, including their popular Scottsdale Blonde.


  • House of Tricks: This cozy bistro is located in a historic home and offers a seasonal menu of American cuisine.
  • Culinary Dropout: This trendy restaurant features a variety of comfort foods, including their famous fried chicken.
  • Cornish Pasty Co.: This restaurant specializes in traditional British pasties, as well as a variety of vegetarian and vegan options.

Coffee Shops

  • Cartel Coffee Lab: This local coffee roaster offers a variety of brews, as well as pastries and sandwiches.
  • Press Coffee Roasters: This coffee shop features a modern, minimalist design and a rotating selection of brews.
  • Lux Central: This popular coffee shop is located in a historic building and offers a cozy atmosphere and a variety of brews.


Tempe, Arizona may be overlooked by some travelers, but it’s a destination that offers something for everyone. From its stunning natural beauty to its thriving arts and culture scene, Tempe is a city that’s full of surprises. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a foodie, or a culture vulture, Tempe is a destination that should be on your radar.