Thriving arts community. Unlimited outdoor adventures. A foodie’s paradise. Tempe is so much more than a college town! After experiencing Tempe over the years, here is my Tempe Weekend Itinerary and everything that you must do while in Tempe, AZ.
*Sponsored: Thank you to the Tempe Tourism Office for sponsoring this blog post!
About Tempe, AZ
Tempe, located in the heart of Metropolitan Phoenix, is a vibrant and offbeat destination to experience fun adventures in 330 days of sunshine.
150 years ago, Tempe was founded in 1871 by Charles Trumbull Hayden. Hayden homesteaded in 1870 and built a store, flour mill, warehouses, blacksmith shops and a ferry. Shortly after, the now Arizona State University was established in 1885, which is currently one of the largest universities in the country. Tempe is also home to the following corporate headquarters: Chase, Edward Jones, Go Daddy, Insight, KPMG, Northern Trust, Carvana and Shutterfly.
As far as traveling to Tempe, it’s a 10-minute drive from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and a short drive from surrounding cities. If you’re like me and coming from the Tucson area, then you can expect a 1.5-hour drive.
Since Tempe has something to offer for everyone, you won’t be disappointed! From the food, attractions, sunsets–I love it all. So if you’re ready, let’s start discovering Tempe, AZ!
Where to Stay
Now before we dive into our Tempe Weekend Itinerary, I’d like to briefly describe each hotel. Whether you’re here for a romantic getaway, a girls trip, an Ironman Arizona race or maybe something for your family, you won’t be disappointed because each hotel offers a different aesthetic.
The Westin Tempe
The Westin Tempe is decorated in the Westin’s signature nature and wellness theme, and evokes a spirit of Arizona’s diverse landscape. It’s the most elevated hotel in Tempe. Their gym is one of the best– they even have a Peloton so you don’t have to break your workout streak! For a nice dinner, Terra Tempe Kitchen & Spirits is one of my favorite options. Aside from exceptionally crafted cocktails and menu items, you will also want to save room for dessert. The orange creamsicle cheesecake is my favorite! Finally, don’t miss out on the highest-rooftop in Tempe, Skysill Rooftop Lounge. For more inspo, watch my Instagram Reel highlighting their rooftop views at sunset and the remarkable culinary creations from their signature restaurant.
The Westin Tempe | 480-968-8885 | 11 E. 7th St., Tempe, AZ 85281
Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown
This hotel is so fun! Tempe is an eccentric and thriving arts community, so I loved seeing so much color and art in this southwest-meets-modern hotel. I’d recommend booking a night at this hotel for a fun weekend with friends. They have the best rooftop pool in Tempe and also offer gorgeous cabanas. Alter Ego is the incredible lobby restaurant, which is my favorite brunch spot in Tempe! For a unique brunch item, the Fried Rice Omelet (FRO) is my go-to! But for non-egg lovers, you will savor every bite of the Katsu Chicken and Pandan Waffle. Watch my Instagram Reel to see why Canopy Tempe is one of my favorite hotels in Downtown Tempe.
Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown | 480-968-6800 | 108 E University Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281
AC Hotel by Marriott Phoenix Tempe/Downtown
I stayed at this AC Hotel location during my 70.3 Ironman in 2017. It is right next to Ironman Village at Tempe Beach Park, which I appreciated for the bike drop-off and race day check in. But aside from the race, it’s conveniently located next to Tempe Beach Park. Other highlights include: nice pool, mountain views and walking-distance restaurants. This hotel has minimalist, modern decor. On my next Tempe staycation, I plan to revisit this hotel.
AC Hotel by Marriott Phoenix Tempe/Downtown | 480-642-6140 | 100 E Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe, AZ 85281
Moxy Phoenix Tempe/ASU Area
If you’re on a budget then this is a the perfect hotel for you. Although it’s not downtown Tempe, you can’t really complain about the affordable rate. Bonus, you get a welcome cocktail. There’s a lot of cool features about this hotel: industrial decor, monthly events calendar, self-help storage rooms with linen and amenities on each floor, vinyl records and in-room record player. Another nice aspect is that the hotel is walking distance from my favorite culinary section in Tempe, The Spice Trail. Read more about that in my Where to Eat in Tempe post.
Moxy Phoenix Tempe/ ASU Area | 480-968-3451 | 1333 S Rural Rd, Tempe, AZ 85281
What to Do in Tempe
When you visit Tempe, you will be pleased to discover that there’s so much to do and see! Below are my top picks on where to go and what to do in Tempe. If you need some help planning out these activities, I shared the Tempe weekend itinerary in the next section.
Desert Botanical Gardens
With more than 50,000 plants, it’s easy to immerse yourself in the Desert Botanical Garden’s 140-acre property. From this extensive collection, you will discover 485 rare and endangered species. Through June 19, you will have the opportunity to see nine of Dale Chihuly’s famous glass sculptures installed along the garden’s trail. If your schedule permits, I recommend visiting the gardens at sunset. Once you visit the Desert Botanical Gardens, you’ll see why it has continued to attract visitors over the past 80+ years.
Desert Botanical Gardens | 480-941-1225 | 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, ASU Gammage is one of the largest university-based performing arts presenters in the world! This historic 3,000 seat hall holds a special place in my heart because I grew up driving to Phoenix with my parents to see Broadway shows! From my memories, I recall seeing The Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast.
ASU Gammage | 480-965-3434 | 1200 S Forest Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281
KOLI Equestrian Center
Located in the heart of the Gila River Indian Community Reservation is the KOLI Equestrian Center! During your ride, keep your eyes open for wild horses as you earn the history behind the tribal lands. There are as many as 1500 wild horses roaming the Gila River Indian Community Reservation, but your only chance to see them is with KOLI Equestrian Center. Reservations are required and do book quickly! To see the amazing experience my husband and I had with our wrangler, watch my Instagram Reel.
Hole in the Rock, a natural geological formation in Papago Park, contains a series of tafoni eroded in a sandstone hill. Historians believe the Hohokam tribes used the ceiling hole to indicate the solstices and equinoxes. Whether you’re from Arizona or not, Hole in the Rock at Papago Park is a must! Plus, it’s free and a five-minute walk from the parking lot to the hole. For more outdoor adventures, Papago Park offers 1,500 acres that caters to mountain biking and trail running.
Papago Park | 602-495-5458 | 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
Second Sundays on Mill
After the 6th Street Market experienced incredible success, it expanded into the new Second Sundays on Mill! Every second Saturday from 10am-3pm, Mill Avenue closes to transform into a local market that features a variety of Arizona-made and crafted goods. You will find anything from jewelry, candles, unique gifts, culinary creations and more! Additionally, you can expect street performances, live music, outdoor fitness classes and outdoor games.
Second Sundays on Mill | Downtown Tempe Mill Ave
Town Town Lake & Tempe Beach Park
Tempe Beach Park is the prime destination for outdoor recreational sports, events, picnics, festivals and even simply, relaxation! There’s so much to do, and it’s easily one of my favorite spots to include in a weekend itinerary in Tempe. On most staycations in Tempe, I enjoy starting my mornings with a 7-mi-loop run around Tempe Town Lake. And when I’m with friends, we seek out adventure by paddling or kayaking in the lake. Equipment can be booked with Boat Rentals of America, and I highly recommend kayaking Tempe Town Lake at sunset!
Tempe Town Lake & Beach Park | 480-350-5200 | 80 W Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe, AZ 85281
Boat Rentals of America | 855-690-0794 | 72 W Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe, AZ 85281
Weekend Itinerary in Tempe, AZ
To help you decide on what to do while visiting, I created this Tempe weekend itinerary down below. This is ideally set for the weekend but you can modify it to fit your needs. Check hours and make reservations when possible.
- 4pm Check-in to one of the hotels mentioned above.
- 5pm (or one hour before sunset) Arrive at The Westin Tempe for rooftop cocktails at Skysill Rooftop Lounge, there’s usually live music on Fridays
- 6:30pm Head downstairs for dinner at Terra Tempe Kitchen & Spirits. A reservation is strongly recommended.
- 8pm Option to explore the nightlife on Mill Avenue or prepare for Day 2’s action-packed day.
- 7am Morning activity: run around Tempe Town Lake or hike up ‘A’ Mountain
- 9:30am Arrive at Canopy Tempe and go to their lobby restaurant, Alter Ego, for brunch.
- 11am From Canopy Tempe, take a short drive to Desert Botantical Gardens. Exploring Chihuly in the Desert is a must! The exhibit will be up through June 19, 2022. Tickets are required.
*Also recommended, explore in the evening.
- 1pm For a late lunch, drive down the Spice Trail for a culinary adventure. Start with lunch at The Dhaba. Reservations recommended.
- 2:30pm After lunch, explore two popular spots, Neko Mart for Asian snacks, and Mango Rabbit for innovative boba drinks and bubble waffles.
- 4pm Head over to Boat Rentals of America at Tempe Beach Park. Kayak or paddle board Tempe Town Lake. The 2 hour slot is recommended.
- 6pm Grab dinner somewhere casual: Artichoke Pizza, Hachi Ramen, or Cornish Pasty Co.
Or, eat somewhere nice: Top of the Rock, Ghost Ranch or House of Tricks. Reservations recommended for the nicer restaurants.
- 6am (or sunrise) Drive over to Papago Park to watch the sunrise from the Hole in the Wall.
- 10am Later in the morning, check out of your hotel then drive to Crepe Bar.
- 12:30pm Ride with Koli Equestrian Center to see Wild Horses.
- 2pm Head back home.
Since I’m such a passionate foodie, I created a separate blog post dedicated to the Tempe food scene. To read my restaurant recommendations, please visit my Where to Eat in Tempe: A Foodie’s Guide to Tempe, AZ blog post. This is your ultimate foodie’s guide on where to eat in Tempe– whether you’re looking for the top brunch, dessert, lunch, dinner, romantic or ethnic restaurants.
For the latest food and travel updates, make sure you’re following me on Instagram, @HappilyPinkBlog.