Day Trip: Downtown Tempe, AZ
Why go to Tempe now: Long equated with ASU football, this neighborhood has quietly emerged as a hot arts destination. ASU’s campus has a dozen art galleries and collections, and September kicks off the season of plays, concerts, and exhibitions.
What started it all: The opening of the dazzling Tempe Center for the Arts three years ago.
Our favorite gallery: Northlight Gallery (closed Fri and Sun; free), which has a knack for discovering local photographers.
Best place to see public art: The Mill Avenue and Third Street light-rail station, where glass panels with desert motifs shimmer by night.
Showtime: The Frank Lloyd Wright–designed ASU Gammage theater lands big Broadway productions (asugammage.com for tickets).
Make it a weekend: Tempe Mission Palms Hotel puts you within striking distance of it all (from $139).
Street smarts: Don’t circle the block looking for scarce parking—head for one of the public garages just off Mill Avenue.
Things to do in Tempe
- Palace of the arts: The soaring, angular Tempe Center for the Arts, right on Tempe Town Lake, is home to nine performing arts groups. Catch a jazz concert in its black box Studio, a ballet in the open air amphitheater, or another of the 12 or so performances that happen every weekend. If you don’t have time for a show, wander the outdoor sculpture garden or stroll the lake path, which has great views of the architecture. Closed Sun; 700 W. Rio Salado Pkwy.
Where to eat
- Dinner alfresco: Try the shiitake-crusted salmon at House of Tricks, where two historic bungalows are joined by a sweet vine-covered pergola. $$$; closed Sun; 114 E. Seventh St.; 480/968-1114.
- Pre-show buzz: Caffeinate before curtain time at Cartel Coffee Lab—equal parts coffee shop, artsy hangout, and industrial roaster. 225 W. University Dr.