Tempe Travel Guide

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Tempe Travel Guide

Tempe Local History

In 1865, the U.S. Army arrived at the eastern end of the Salt River Valley and established Fort McDowell. Afterwards Caucasian pioneers came to the area. Amongst these pioneers was Charles Trumbull Hayden, also known as the town "founder", who built a flour mill and began a ferry service across the Salt River.

"Hayden's Ferry," as the city was called then, was also the name of the only vehicle across the Rio Salado. The town developed slowly with mercantile, saloons and other businesses along the dusty main street Mill Avenue. It was later renamed to the City of Tempe, Arizona, by an English traveler who compared the area to the beautiful Vale of Tempe in Greece.

In 1886, the Arizona Territorial Normal School welcomed its first class of 31 students in the structure known today as Old Main, on Arizona State University's campus. Until World War II, the college town and farming community grew steadily and quietly. Only after the War did Tempe experience a rapid population increase, when the Baby Boom of post-World War II pushed Tempe's city limits against the neighbouring communities in every direction. In most recent years, corporate America has rediscovered and redefined the City of Tempe, Arizona.

The City of Tempe has seen great changes during the past two decades. The development of magnificent industrial parks, and planned communities, have been experienced by the dozens in an effort to keep pace with the influx of high-tech industry, financial, insurance, athletic, academic, cultural, political and tourism operations.

Tempe Attractions

Tempe Shopping

Tempe has a kaleidoscope of shopping choices, from nationally known department stores, to outlets and specialty boutiques. A unique shopping experience awaits visitors along downtown Tempe's Mill Avenue. This area is filled with gifts, jewelry, souvenirs, clothing, footwear and specialty shops. You can also enjoy a variety of shopping experiences beyond the downtown area. Arizona Mills or, Arizona's largest value-oriented mall, boasts more than 175 shops, restaurants and entertainment venues under one roof.

Arizona Mills - This huge mall in Tempe is on the cutting edge when it comes to shop-o-tainment. Visitors will find lots of name-brand outlets, a video arcade, a multiplex theater, and an IMAX theater. Located at 5000 Arizona Mills Circle, Tempe. Tel: 480/491-7300.

Sheplers Western Wear - You will find everything in the line of Western wear right here. It is not a very large shop, but it is very comprehensive and well worth a visit if you are interested in buying some real authentic cowboy duds. Located at 2700 W. Baseline Rd. Tel: 602/438-7400.

Hackett House - This charming gift shop in Tempe's historic original bakery specializes in one-of-a-kind treasures. All the sales benefits Tempe's award-winning Sister City Program. The shop is open Monday through Saturday, 10am - 4pm. Located on 95 W. Fourth St. Tempe. Tel: 480/350-8181.

Tempe Activities

Arizona Doll & Toy Museum - This small museum is located in the historic Stevens House on Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix. The miniature classroom peopled by doll students is a favourite exhibit. With dolls dating from the 19th century, this is a definite must for doll collectors. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm, and Sunday noon to 4pm. Admission is $2.50 adults, $1 children. Located at 602 E. Adams St, At Heritage Square. Tel: 602/253-9337. .

Castles & Coasters - Located adjacent to Metrocenter, one of Arizona's largest shopping malls, this small amusement park boasts an impressive double-loop roller coaster, plenty of tamer rides, four 18-hole miniature-golf courses, and a huge pavilion full of video games. Open daily (hours change seasonally). Ride and game prices vary; all-day passes $12-$23. Located at 9445 N. Metro Pkwy. E. Tel: 602/997-7575. .

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park - If you or your kids happen to like trains, you would not want to miss this park. On the grounds are restored cars and engines, two old railway depots, model railroad layouts operated by a local club, and, best of all, a 5/12-scale model railroad that takes visitors around the park. There's also a 1929 carousel and a general store. Hours vary with the season. Train and carousel rides $1; museum admission $1 adults, free for children 12 and under. Located in the neighbouring town of Scottsdale, at 7301 E. Indian Bend Rd. Tel: 480/312-2312.

Tempe Parks & Gardens

Tempe Town Lake - Perhaps the most unusual park in the Phoenix metro area, which was created in 1999 by damming the Salt River with inflatable dams. With its construction, Tempe now has a 2-mile-long lake for boating. Lining the north and south shores, are bike paths and parks. The best lake access is at Tempe Town Beach, at the foot of the Mill Avenue Bridge. Here you can rent kayaks and other small boats, and even take a brief boat tour with Rio Lago Cruise (tel. 480/517-4050). Boat tours cost $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and children 6 to 12, and $4 for children 5 and under. Tel: 480/350-8625.

Tempe Beach Park - The heart of Tempe Town Lake is the historic Tempe Beach Park. The park provides ample room for festivals or events, 5 miles of pathways and Splash Playground. Offering an outdoor venue, located along side of Tempe Town Lake, for large group functions as well as concerts and festivals. The park also includes walking and biking paths, and boating on Tempe Town Lake. Located at 54 W. Rio Salado Pkwy. Tel: 480/858-2199.

Arboretum at ASU - ASU's Arboretum is Arizona's largest public urban arboretum. Inside the Tempe campus, visitors can view collections of palms, deciduous trees, fruit-bearing trees, conifers, evergreen trees, desert trees, cacti, succulents and specialty garden displays. Arboretum walking guides are available at the ASU Visitors Center, Apache Boulevard and Rural Road. Admission is free. Open every day. Tours by special request. Tel: 480/965-8467.

Desert Botanical Garden - This garden is devoted exclusively to cacti and other desert plants, displaying more than 20,000 plants from all over the world. The Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Trail is the state's best introduction to ethno botany (human use of plants) in the Southwest. Along the trail are interactive displays that demonstrate how Native Americans once used wild and cultivated plants. Visitors can make a yucca-fiber brush and practice grinding corn and mesquite beans.

At the Center for Desert Living, there are demonstration gardens and an energy- and water-conservation research house. A cafe on the grounds serves good food and makes a great lunch spot. In spring and fall, there are also concerts in the garden. Admission is $7.50 adults, $6.50 seniors, $4 students 13-18, $3.50 children 3-12. The garden is located in Papago Park adjacent to the Phoenix Zoo, at 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy. Tel: 480/941-1225.

Tempe Restaurants and Bars

What lobster is to Maine, catfish is to the Southern palate. Fried catfish and hush puppies reign supreme. With a sweet, mild flavour and a firm texture, catfish (now commercially raised in ponds) is one of the most delectable of freshwater fish, despite its ugly appearance. The traditional way to cook it is in grease, a whole lot of grease.

Cooks today, having been warned about the health dangers of eating so much fat, have created entire cookbooks about more delicate ways to cook catfish, serving it with such dainty preparations as lime-and-mustard sauce.

Tempe Restaurants

House of Tricks - Housed in a pair of old Craftsman bungalows surrounded by a garden of shady trees, this restaurant has a completely different feel from modern Mill Avenue, Tempe's main drag, which is only 2 blocks away. This is a nice spot for a romantic evening and a good place to try innovative cuisine without blowing your vacation budget. The garlic-inspired Caesar salad and the house-smoked salmon with avocado, capers, and lemon cream are good bets for starters. Among the entrees, look for the lavender-and-herb crusted seared ahi. The grape arbor-covered patio, where there is also a shady bar, is by far the more pleasant place to sit. Reservations are recommended and you can expect to pay $6 to $11 for lunch, and $17 to $20 for dinner. Located on 114 E. Seventh St, Tempe. Tel: 480/968-1114.

Monti's La Casa Vieja - Visitors tired of the glitz and glamour of the Valley of the Sun, can head to Monti's La Casa Vieja. The adobe building was constructed in 1873 on the site of the Salt River ferry, which operated in the days when the river flowed year-round and Tempe was nothing more than a ferry crossing. Today, local families who have been in Phoenix for generations know Monti's well, and rely on the restaurant for solid meals and low prices. You can try a filet mignon for $12. The dark dining rooms are filled with memorabilia of the Old West. American. Main courses are available between $8 to $26, and reservations are recommended for dinner. Located 1 W. Rio Salado Pkwy, At Mill Ave., Tempe. Tel: 480/967-7594.

Top of the Rock - For desert drama, no other view restaurant can compare with Top of the Rock, which, quite literally, is built into the top of a rocky hill looking north across the valley. Luckily, quality accompanies the high prices, and in addition to the romantic setting, visitors can enjoy some very creative cuisine. The menu changes regularly, but keep an eye out for the chipotle-and-orange-glazed yellowtail snapper. Expect main courses to cost between $24 and $49, or try a Sunday Brunch at $36. Reservations are recommended. The restaurant is located 2000 West court Way. At The Buttes, A Wyndham Resort, Tempe. Tel: 602/431-2370.

Tempe Bars & Clubs

Bandersnatch Brew Pub - With good house brews and a big patio in back, Bandersnatch is a favourite of those unusual ASU students who prefer quality to quantity when it is beer-drinking time. There is live Irish music on Wednesdays. Located 125 E. Fifth St, Tempe. Tel: 480/966-4438.

Four Peaks Brewing Company - Consistently voted the best brewpub in Phoenix, this Tempe establishment, housed in a former creamery, brews good beers and serves decent pub grub. A favourite of ASU students. Located 1340 E. Eighth St, Tempe. Tel: 480/303-9967.

Rula Bula - The middle of the desert may seem like an odd place for an Irish pub, but Rula Bula has such an authentic feel that it is easy to imagine that it is damp and dreary outside. Located 401 S. Mill Ave, Tempe. Tel: 480/929-9500.

McDuffy's - With 70 TVs and two dozen beers on tap, this is a favourite of Sun Devils fans. Located 230 W. Fifth St, A block off Mill Ave., Tempe. Tel: 480/966-5600.

Margarita Rocks Beach Club - This Beach Club is a non-stop party of "Fun, Dancing, Entertainment and Booze". Happy Hour, DJ's, patios, huge dance floor, nightly special events are on offer. Located 410 S. Mill Ave. # D101, Tempe, Tel: 480/968-3301.

Tempe children's activities

Arizona Doll & Toy Museum - This small museum is located in the historic Stevens House on Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix. The miniature classroom peopled by doll students is a favourite exhibit. With dolls dating from the 19th century, this is a definite must for doll collectors. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm, and Sunday noon to 4pm. Admission is $2.50 adults, $1 children. Located at 602 E. Adams St, At Heritage Square. Tel: 602/253-9337. .

Castles & Coasters - Located adjacent to Metrocenter, one of Arizona's largest shopping malls, this small amusement park boasts an impressive double-loop roller coaster, plenty of tamer rides, four 18-hole miniature-golf courses, and a huge pavilion full of video games. Open daily (hours change seasonally). Ride and game prices vary; all-day passes $12-$23. Located at 9445 N. Metro Pkwy. E. Tel: 602/997-7575. .

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park - If you or your kids happen to like trains, you would not want to miss this park. On the grounds are restored cars and engines, two old railway depots, model railroad layouts operated by a local club, and, best of all, a 5/12-scale model railroad that takes visitors around the park. There's also a 1929 carousel and a general store. Hours vary with the season. Train and carousel rides $1; museum admission $1 adults, free for children 12 and under. Located in the neighbouring town of Scottsdale, at 7301 E. Indian Bend Rd. Tel: 480/312-2312.

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