Families and Kids

20 things to do in Tempe, AZ in the New Year

The new year is here! I’m not sure if I’m more excited 2022 is here or if 2021 is over… I digress. Here are 20-ish things to do in Tempe, Arizona in 2022.  

Whether you think you’ve done it all in Tempe or are just skimming the surface of all the wonderful things Tempe has to offer, we’re here to help you plan your next trip, your next fun-filled weekend, or maybe even your year in Tempe. If you’re planning a trip to Arizona, this is a great guide to help with your trip planning needs.  

1. Visit the Desert Botanical Garden 

Kick-off your year by experiencing the natural beauty of the desert at Desert Botanical Garden. The Desert Botanical Garden showcases plants from arid regions from around the world and lucky for us, it’s in Phoenix, just a few minutes from Downtown Tempe.

Now through June 19, 2022, check out the latest exhibition at the Garden, Chihuly in the Desert, an exhibit showcasing Dale Chihuly’s stunning, large-scale installations nestled among the Garden’s world-class collection of desert plants. Chihuly’s masterpieces stun from day to night as color, light, and form come alive for the first time ever at two locations, Desert Botanical Garden and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.

credit @readysetjetset Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Garden | Photo Credit/Permission: @readysetjetset

2. Try restaurants and coffee shops that are new to you

There are so many new eateries, long-standing restaurants and awesome local coffee shops in Tempe.  Check out some of our favorite coffee shops in the Tempe area that will make you skip Starbucks after giving it a read. 

2022 is a great excuse to explore Tempe more and try something new to you, including cuisine! We suggest Café Lalibela for Ethiopian food, Hachi Ramen for authentic noodles and flavorful broths, Chou’s Kitchen for authentic dishes from northeastern China, or Phoenicia Café for delicious and reasonably priced Mediterranean fare. 

If you’re taking the time to commit to your health in 2022, you may want to check out ways to stay fit in Tempe and what healthy restaurants are in Tempe. #NewYearNewYou

3. Hike “A” Mountain at sunrise

“A” Mountain is a wonderful and popular hike in Downtown Tempe frequented by many, especially at sunset. However, I’d like to recommend taking a sunrise hike because, why not?!

It’s a quick and somewhat challenging hike up to the top but going at sunrise helps you avoid the crowds. You will also get amazing photos of Tempe’s skyline. 

Insider tip: after you hike, you can reward yourself with breakfast at one of the hot spots, Daily Jam or Snooze, an A.M. Eatery.


4. Visit the Arizona Heritage Center 

Even native Arizonans will learn something new at Arizona Heritage Center. This beautiful museum in Papago Park is filled with artifacts that explain the contemporary history of the 48th state. You’ll learn about copper mining, agriculture, and even how the invention of air conditioning led to the development of metro Phoenix. Their hours are reduced at the moment, but you can visit Tues.-Sat. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"A" Mountain Sunrise Hike
“A” Mountain | Photo Credit/Permission: Ethan Hill Media

5. Visit the ASU Art Museum

ASU Art Museum was cited in Art in America as “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona.” ASU Art Museum exhibits nationally and internationally known contemporary artists, with a focus on Latin American art. The Museum also houses the largest collection of Cuban art in the U.S. and an award-winning print collection.

As you visit ASU Art Museum, we invite you to check out the new exhibit “Luster and Light”, now through May 17, 2022. This exhibition examines works that feature specific lustrous materials to relay cultural or social symbols, often to call attention to abuses of wealth and authority. 

ASU Art Museum | Photo Credit/Permission: The Daydream Diaries

6. Schedule a tour of the Eisendrath House 

This beautiful adobe home was built more than 80 years ago by Rose Eisendrath as a sign of protest against the Arizona resorts that wouldn’t accommodate her because of her Jewish heritage. Sign up for a tour ahead of time in order to hear the fascinating story of both Rose Eisendrath and the restoration of this iconic historic building. Docent-led tours are available on Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. by appointment only. 

Historic Eisendrath House in Tempe, Arizona
Eisendrath House

7. Hike to Hunt’s Tomb 

Hiking in Papago Park, especially the Hole in the Rock trail, is a highly recommended and popular place to explore. However, many residents and visitors haven’t discovered the path to Hunt’s Tomb. It’s a bit farther than walking to Hole in the Rock but it’s well worth the trek to experience the history of this landmark. It happens to be the final resting place for Arizona’s first Governor, George W.P. Hunt, who was fascinated by the pyramids that he saw on a trip to Egypt. Governor Hunt, his wife and several family members are buried at this landmark.  

*Directions: Follow Galvin Pkwy. Signs to visit the Phoenix Zoo. Along the pathway you enter the zoo parking lot, park as close as you can to the zoo, or head to the left through a secondary gate where you’ll find a small parking lot just below Hole in the Rock. Knock out two hikes in one! The pyramid should be in your line of sight east of Hole in the Rock or behind the zoo.  

Hunt's Tomb
Hunt’s Tomb

8. Self-guided tour of Downtown Tempe with the Public Art map 

We seek out art for different reasons, to inspire us, to make us laugh, to give us a new perspective, or just to help us appreciate the beauty that exists all around us. Tempe is a city that showcases the arts through murals, prints, and sculptures. Luckily for us, these works of art are all located in Downtown Tempe! Check out the self-guided tour of Downtown Tempe with the Public Art Map that showcases 50 pieces of public art.

If you want to explore more of Tempe’s art scene, we suggest hopping in your car for a self-guided driving tour of a few of our favorite Tempe murals. Check out our blog, Murals in Tempe, Arizona Part I and Part II to see the City of Tempe’s public art collection. You’ll be amazed at the creativity all around the city.

9. Schedule tea time at Drink Me! Tea Room 

If you haven’t experienced an afternoon tea, then you definitely need to add this to your list. Drink Me! Tea Room is a whimsical and enchanting tea room. What’s even better is all of their teas and treats are plant-based and gluten-free! Their Alice in Wonderland-inspired tea room includes six teas to choose from, each named after a character from the Alice in Wonderland story. They also incorporate different themes year-round depending on the season, with different kinds of seasonal flavors to choose from. Just last year, they had an Edgar Allen Poe theme for Halloween and Winter Wonderland theme during the holiday season. We can’t wait to see what they have in store for this year! 

If you’d like to read about the cool story of how Drink Me! Tea Room was founded and our experience during our tea time, then make sure to check out this blog post.

You’ll find them on the northwest corner of McClintock Drive and Warner Road. Be sure to make a reservation on their website before visiting! 

10. Find your new favorite salad to rotate into your weekly routine  

New year, new salads to try! Salads don’t have to be boring. And we don’t do boring salads here in Tempe.Try Strawberry Fields Salad, our team’s favorite from Perfect Pear Bistro. Now talk about colorful. It has crispy bacon, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, red onions, topped with balsamic vinaigrette. You can even add chicken, shrimp, or another choice of protein.
 
To help kick off your health journey this year we put together this healthy restaurant blog post filled with lots of green goodies, featuring places like ChopShop, MAD Greens, and CoreLife Eatery. 

Perfect Pear Strawberry Field Salad
Perfect Pear Bistro’s Strawberry Field Salad

11. Brunch crawl in Tempe with your friends/family 

My 2022 motto is “Work hard, brunch harder”. Grab your best foodie partners and plan an awesome food tour throughout Tempe. Host your own with friends/family with the guidance of our top breakfast spots blog. Maybe a walking tour is best because you’ll burn off some of the calories. Or,  drive between places in north and south Tempe to allow a little time for digestion. Totally up to you! 

12. Go axe throwing at Hotshots Axe Throwing

We love axe throwing! It’s fun and only slightly dangerous, but you may discover your own hidden talent. Grab some friends or have a unique date night.  For every group, they provide a Hotshots Axe Coach who will teach you everything you need to know about this fun sport. Each lane has one target that accommodates up to six guests. You’ll have a great time, and as a bonus, you can bring your own food and drinks (yes, alcoholic beverages too)!

Hotshots Axe Throwing Tempe
Hotshots Axe Throwing

13. Go indoor rock climbing at Phoenix Rock Gym 

If you’re figuring out what you’re committing to for the New Year when it comes to “being a better you,” consider this – a unique active activity that engages your body. We want to make this a suggestion because it’s a unique active activity that will engage your body. Rock climbing could be one of those things. It feels a little risky, but not as risky as going on your own out in the desert. We definitely don’t recommend that.

14. Try something new – learn to cook or create your own artwork

Try out a cooking class at Tracy Dempsey Originals. The legendary Tracy Dempsey Originals bakery is open Thursday-Saturday and is located on University Drive, just east of Priest. If you haven’t gone to her cute shop, it’s a must. She and her team fill the cases with the most wonderful treats, from tarts to cookies and cakes. She also features local wines and other Arizona products. Take a virtual  or in-person class with her so you can learn to make wonderfully warm meals or tasty desserts. Call (602) 775-4693 to register or learn more about upcoming classes.

Get creative at Painting with a Twist. Not your normal pottery painting place, Painting with a Twist offers a wide variety of activities for all creative levels and abilities. Sign up for an in-studio class, order an at-home paint kit, or attend a virtual class. And don’t forget to bring snacks, beer or wine during select evening classes. Advance registration is required.

Brush up on your painting skills at a new spot in Tempe called Hammer and Stain. Create your very own trendy wood signs using personalized stencils, paints and stains provided during the workshop. Book an in-person workshop, attend a virtual workshop or pick up a DIY kit for home. In-person workshops last around 2-3 hours, and attendees are welcome to bring their own snacks, beer or wine. Advance registration is required.

15. Shop local at Tempe shops 

Shop local more than ever this year to support our local Tempe businesses. Tempe has a wonderful array of local shops to explore. Find the perfect outfit at Creations Boutique, show your ASU spirit by shopping at Cactus Sports, head to Great Harvest Bakery for fresh-baked goods, or spend some time finding your next great read at Changing Hands Bookstore.

16. Listen to live music at Tempe Marketplace

Enjoy live music every Friday and Saturday night at the newly renovated, Tempe Marketplace, at the District Stage, located in the heart of the shopping complex. The outdoor stage is the perfect setting to enjoy the beautiful Arizona weather, a stunning sunset and some food from a nearby restaurant.

Tempe Marketplace stage
Tempe Marketplace stage

17. See a Broadway show at ASU Gammage

The 2021/2022 Desert Financial Broadway Across America – Arizona series is well on its way and includes shows such as THE BAND’S VISIT, TOOTSIE, HADESTOWN, COME FROM AWAY and THE LION KING.

P.S. If you haven’t ever walked the beautiful grounds, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture of the building is inspiring. You’ll be in awe of its grandness.

ASU Gammage
ASU Gammage

18. Order food to go and enjoy at a beautiful Tempe park

Grab takeout and hit the great outdoors at one of Tempe’s many parks. Some things you won’t want to forget; your choice of beverage, a blanket or towel to sit on, and sunscreen! Check out our complete list of parks to visit and the nearby restaurants to get takeout from.

19. Explore Tempe Town Lake on your choice of watercraft 

We can say with 98% confidence that Tempe Town Lake is the most photographed spot in Tempe and we love photos of the lake! We have a strong appreciation for how beautiful the sunset looks at the lake, especially with all of the bridges, the Tempe Center for the Arts and the peacefulness of this open space in our busy city. 

You should check out one of the paddle boats because it allows you to sit comfortably and requires a bit of effort to pedal yourself around the lake. Or, you can take out a paddleboard, kayak, or bring a few friends and family for a cruise on an electric boat.

Tempe Town Lake Sunset credit @traveling_newlyweds
Photo Credit/Permission: @traveling_newlyweds

Whatever way you decide to explore the lake, our friends at Boat Rentals of America will help you have an awesome and safe time! 

Don’t forget to tag us in your photos @tempetourism or #OurTempe 

20. Try a margarita sunset horseback ride with friends

KOLI Equestrian Center is located on the Gila River Indian Community, just 20 minutes south of Tempe. KOLI offers miles of breathtaking scenery and horseback trail riding adventures, hay wagon rides, and cattle drives. All of KOLI’s trail rides are designed as “walking” rides to keep it simple and gentle on both riders and their horses. When you book the sunset margarita ride, you return just before sunset to margaritas and chips and salsa. Perfect ending to the evening! They do offer rides at various times throughout the day so check their website for more information.

Tip: When we went for a sunset margarita ride recently, the KOLI team was hosting a date night! How fun and creative is that for a date?!

People horseback riding in Arizona desert
KOLI Equestrian Center

21. Check hot air balloon ride off your bucket list

Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Company boasts 38 years of experience offering hot-air balloon rides to over 500,000 passengers. Sunrise flights are available every morning at sunrise year-round, weather permitting. Or, enjoy Arizona’s breathtaking sunsets during a balloon flight in the winter months.

Tip: We took a sunset flight in November and it happen to be a bit warmer in Arizona at that time – so being hit with the heat of the propane tank flame made it even warmer. Should I choose again, I might sacrifice sleep to do a sunrise flight. I can only imagine how beautiful it would be to watch the Arizona desert go from darkness to then being washed over with beautiful morning sun as it rises over the mountain tops.

Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Company

22. Visit the Grand Canyon like never before

Grand Canyon Railway from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Since 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway has been providing top notch experiences for everyone who chooses this wonderful ride. And, I know we just celebrated the holidays but the Grand Canyon Railway offers wonderful holiday events so maybe you can tie up the end of 2022 with a ride on the rail on one of their themed rides. Tip: Arrive to Williams, Arizona the evening before your ride so you can get an early start on your day. Advanced tickets are required and the best part is, you can book what kind of train car you’d like to ride in which could provide an even richer experience.

Use booking code 8948158 and save 20% off your roundtrip train tickets now through December 31, 2022. Restrictions, availability and blackout dates apply. Excludes special events. Call 888-484-7245 for availability, reservations and more information.

Grand Canyon Railway with sunflowers
Grand Canyon Railway

23. Plan for vacation or staycation  

Tempe is home to some of the coolest hotels with rooftop pools, restaurants on-site or within walking distance. Tempe’s unique properties are synonymous with relaxing. We’re encouraging you to actually plan a vacation in the New Year, 2021 is gone, so let’s move on to something better in 2022. Save this date, January 25, 2022: National Plan for Vacation Day! Make plans to travel later and save tourism now. https://www.ustravel.org/events/national-plan-vacation-day 

Thanks for checking out the blog! If you liked it, let us know in the comments. Save it on Pinterest for you to review in March again to see if you’re staying on track with these activities.

Written Rachel Semik

Lover of all things social media and staying in the know, you'll find Content Strategist/ASU Alumni, Rachel out devouring ice cream sandwiches and tasting her way through Tempe's margarita scene.