What better place to casually explore than a college town? A college town where the sun is (nearly) always shining! Tempe, Arizona, sits in the Valley of the Sun, and the mascot for Arizona State is the Sun Devil, so the warm weather is pretty much assured. What Tempe also has are those typical college town spots to find a great burger, a cool place to hang out and have coffee, and a store that carries classic vinyl.
Whether you visit Tempe for a PAC-12 football game, Major League Baseball spring training, or simply to check out this desert oasis, be sure to include these hotspots.
The Chuckbox has been an ASU staple, sitting right across the street from campus for over 35 years. It's a classic, old-school, cash-only, burger bar where you walk up to the front, order your burger, they throw it on the grill right in front of you, and you get your sides and sodas while watching it cook. We recommend the Tijuana Torpedo, which means they throw a slice of jalapeno jack cheese and a freshly roasted full green chile on top.
Just down the street on University Drive is Chompies, a classic New York deli in the desert. In 1979, the Borenstein family moved from Queens to Arizona and brought with them their recipes for bagels, latkes, knishes, and matzo balls. You can also grab Chompies' famous Mile-High sandwiches that come loaded with pastrami and corned beef. If you're up for it, try the Ultimate Slider Challenge. Eat a dozen loaded sliders in 30 minutes and not only is your order free, you get your name listed in their Hall of Fame. If you're feeling less adventurous, just stop by the bakery and get a slice of black-and-white, seven-layer cake.
You don't even have to leave campus to enjoy the offerings at Dave's Doghouse, where each dog is served on freshly toasted bread. The most popular choice on campus is the mac 'n' cheese dog topped with cheesy pasta and bacon, but don't be afraid to try the "Beantown" option topped with baked beans or the classic Boston Dog topped with onions, relish, and old-fashioned yellow mustard.
You can't really say you've been to college until you've spent hours hanging out in an indie-feeling coffee house. Cartel Coffee Lab, just a couple of blocks from campus, serves a number of great coffee options while offering a variety of spaces to do everything from kick back and relax with friends on a couch, play a game of chess or, God forbid, actually study. Although this is a coffee house near a college campus, the clientele is truly eclectic, and anyone will feel welcome there at any time of day.
Heading down Mill Avenue about a mile from campus you'll find Zia Record Exchange. Whether you're collecting vinyl, want to find the DVD of your favorite obscure movie, or just soak in the atmosphere of being surrounded by a seemingly limitless supply of records, tapes, CDs, and DVDs, you'll enjoy a trip to Zia.
The first thing to note about Tempe Beach Park, just a few blocks north of campus, is that there really is no beach per se. The park surrounds Tempe Town Lake, and while there aren't waves or sand, there are plenty of other beach activities like boating, walking or jogging on the boardwalk, or enjoying various festivals that are set there.
The official name of a large outcropping overlooking ASU's Sun Devil Stadium is Hayden Butte Preserve Park or Tempe Butte, but ask anybody locally and its called "A" Mountain because of the 60-foot tall, gold-painted, first letter of the alphabet that can be seen lit up during night games. During the day, it's a great place for hiking, and its peak elevation of nearly 1,400 feet above sea level offers great views of the city below as well as the surrounding area. The hike to the top is short just half-a-mile - but steep - rising 158 feet in elevation during that short trip.
The feel of a college town can be a fun way to go back in time and is made even better when it's accompanied by plenty of sun.
Have you been to Tempe? What are some of your top tips?
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Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin are hosts of The Travel Brigade Show - a weekly travel and destination podcast. Kathleen Curry is experienced in both the travel industry and broadcasting. She has worn the hats of travel writer, photographer, travel agent and hospitality evaluator. Her advice of, “No excuses, just travel!” reaches out to listeners who pick up on her enthusiasm for travel and benefit from her savvy advice. Her travel guilty pleasures are eating at a street-cart vendor so she can splurge later to order room service, finding deals to rack up sky miles so she can book her next flight and hoping her social security comes through some day because she has spent her future retirement savings trekking the globe.
Geoff Griffin is a reformed attorney turned travel junkie with over two decades of experience as a journalist and editor specializing in sports, outdoor recreation and travel. His current philosophy is that there are two stages in life - You’re either on a trip, or you’re planning your next trip. His travel guilty pleasure is trying recreation adventures that require the use of an expert guide to keep him from harming himself or hopping on a plane knowing nothing about his destination other than the airport code and wandering about a new town while relying on the locals to point him to the best places.
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