Five Reasons You Should Let Tempe Tempt You This Winter and Spring
With a jam-packed calendar of events in winter and spring, this beautiful and charming Arizona city is the must-book Southwestern getaway. Here are five reasons to visit Tempe this season.
What makes the dreamy desert city of Tempe even dreamier for visitors looking for an easy and transporting weekend getaway? Perfect weather (sunny and 70-degree daytime highs from February to April!) and a vibrant and diverse events season that sizzles through spring. From iconic Cactus League spring training games and staged entertainment at Innings Festival, to the musical, cultural, and culinary draws of the Arizona Aloha Festival and Spring Festival of the Arts, Tempe comes alive with events that make the city one of the top destinations for a trip full of entertainment, great food, sporting events, and more. Whether you’re a family looking to maximize spring break, an outdoor explorer by day and foodie by night, or a culture seeker who also enjoys a hotel with a spa (or a view), here are five reasons to make Tempe your one-stop spring travel solution.
The Best Festivals in the West
Located in the heart of the Phoenix Metro area, Tempe boasts a lively events calendar, all against the backdrop of the stunning Sonoran Desert. The town truly comes alive with spring training attracting baseball enthusiasts who come to watch the Angels, Cubs, Dodgers, and other Cactus League teams prepare for the coming season. Adding to the spring appeal is the Innings Festival (Feb. 23-24 and March 1-2), which features three stages of musical performances and appearances by MLB legends. Where else can you see the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Matt Kemp share a stage? For art aficionados, or those just looking for a good time, the Tempe Festival of the Arts is a must-visit, occurring both in spring and fall (March 8-10 and Dec. 6-8). This event transforms Mill Avenue into a hub of creativity, showcasing hundreds of artists, live entertainment, and a variety of food and drink options. Get a henna tattoo, attend a wine tasting, browse the works of international artists, and enjoy the all-day jams. And, on the weekend of March 16, Arizona Aloha Festival celebrates the diverse cultures of Hawaii and the South Pacific. The event hosts a vibrant marketplace featuring island-themed arts, crafts, apparel, and home decor. Attendees can experience music and dance traditions from the Hawaiian hula to the dances of Tahiti, with contributions from local Arizona artists, as well as international performers from as far away as New Zealand. Fuel up with Hawaiian gastronomical highlights like a classic “plate lunch,” or the iconic kalua pig as the lakeside desert breezes transport you to the islands.
It’s Easy to Get to (and Get Around)
Just a short flight from most major cities in the West and less than 10 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Tempe landscapes pack beautiful public spaces and parks, an inviting urban lake, museums, and stunning desert sunsets into 40 square miles. The free Orbit Bus will shuttle you to and from a number of local destinations. Once you’re downtown, the Streetcar will carry you everywhere from Tempe Town Lake to the city’s many live music venues, restaurants, and craft breweries.
It Blends Nature and Culture
Nestled within the stunning Sonoran Desert, Tempe offers a vast 3,000-acre natural playground just minutes from its culturally sophisticated city center. This desert oasis is home to the expansive 220-acre Tempe Town Lake, attracting a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. From morning joggers and families enjoying picnics to stand-up paddleboarders, the lake is a hub for those looking for a waterside respite under that clear blue desert sky. Hikers will find a wealth of free parks and trails, with “A” Mountain being a popular spot for its trails that lead to panoramic city views. Papago Park‘s Hole-in-the-Rock Trail is a must-visit, offering stunning views of the city skyline through a unique rock formation. Adventure seekers and seasoned hikers can head to South Mountain Park and Preserve, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S., featuring 58 miles of trails, from easy strolls to challenging treks, perfect for trail runners and those seeking a more vigorous hike. Continue your adventure at the impressive xeric wonderland that is the otherworldly Desert Botanical Garden, which is home to one the most extensive collections of cacti and succulents as well as world-class art and sculpture. Shift from the botanical to the theatrical at ASU Gammage, the city’s premier venue for the performing arts. This season’s offerings include the acclaimed Broadway shows The Kite Runner, Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill The Musical, and Hamilton.
The Hotels Are Hot
The city’s hotels offer a home base for every taste. In the heart of downtown, sleek and stylish Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown boasts modern rooms and suites, with the rooftop pool lounge Alibi offering tropical cocktails and nibbles, making it an ideal urban retreat close to ASU and local attractions. The Westin Tempe stands out with its elegant rooms and a rooftop deck perched 18 stories high above the city (rad rooftops are a thing in Tempe!); the deck features a pool, Jacuzzi, and Skysill lounge, where guests can enjoy panoramic views and exquisite craft cocktails. Families seeking spacious lodging will appreciate suite-style hotels like the all-suite Residence Inn Tempe Downtown, conveniently located in the city center. Another family favorite is the Marriott Phoenix Resort Tempe at the Buttes, nestled into a mountainside with two pools and the Top of the Rock restaurant, offering dining experiences against the backdrop of stunning desert landscapes. Or book at the new Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU which draws inspiration from the surrounding landscape and the rich historical tapestry of the city. This AAA Four Diamond-rated haven is ideally situated adjacent to campus. Here you can indulge in the creative New American dishes at Neighborhood Services, the hotel’s signature ground-floor eatery. Alternatively, experience dining in the clouds at the enchanting Lucero Rooftop Lounge & Terrace.
The Dining (and Drinking) Is Delicious
Tempe offers diverse dining, cocktail bars, and breweries that evolve and expand on the Southwestern culinary traditions the region is known for. Chef Nik Fields has opened Arizona’s first Black-owned wine bar, Chic Chef 77, which expands the idea of what a vinous meal can be. Not only can you get excellent international wines by the glass, but also creative dishes like deviled eggs topped with Cajun shrimp and mimosa flights to punch up your brunch. Reserve ahead of time at new hot spot Cocina Chiwas, a wood-fired restaurant that features excellent world-class Chihuahuan cuisine from chef Nadia Holguin, semifinalist in the James Beard Award’s Best Chef, Southwest category. Tuck into Bone-In Pork Spareribs cooked in a Chile Colorado Salsa with a Mexican Manhattan made with mezcal, sweet vermouth, piloncillo syrup, and chocolate bitters. For those looking for a more thrilling nightlife vibe, the new Lumberjaxes Axe Throwing Bar & Grill is a one-stop dining, drinking, target-chopping, sports-watching event in and of itself, all with a menu of cocktails, beer, and bar bites from a “Hell’s Kitchen” contender. And the latest addition to the dining scene is the maximalist Asian-inspired sushi restaurant and nightclub Bang Bang that offers a dinner-to-dancing experience with a vast menu of modern sushi, creative cocktails, and DJ sets to close out a superlative event-filled desert vacation.