Your guide to new — and new-to-you — experiences for 2023
Fall is here, Fall is here, which means the perfect season to plan your uniquely Tempe adventures is upon us. Start planning by checking out the top 23 things to do in Tempe, Arizona, that made our must-do list for 2023.
No matter if you think you’ve done it all in Tempe or are just looking for new ways to experience some of the wonderful things this city has to offer, this is your guide to the latest and greatest attractions, recreation, dining options, sports and more.
So, whether you’re planning your next trip to Arizona, a fun-filled staycation weekend, or even your annual Tempe bucket list, we’ve got you covered.
1. Visit the Desert Botanical Garden
Kick-off your year by experiencing the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert at the Desert Botanical Garden. From towering saguaros to delicate wildflowers, the garden is home to more than 50,000 desert plants from arid regions around the world. And lucky for us, it’s in Phoenix, just across the bridge from Downtown Tempe.
Through May 14, 2023, check out the garden’s latest art installation: Playing with Stars, a series of large-scale sculptures by Arizona-based visual artist Rotraut. Known around the world, Rotraut’s artwork explores the energy of the seasons and the relationship of nature with the sky, sun and universe. In addition to these bold and lyrical sculptures that enliven the garden’s trails, a selection of her paintings and small sculpture are on display in the Ottosen Gallery.
2. Try new restaurants, coffee shops and more
With so many new eateries joining Tempe’s roster of restaurants — not to mention coffee shops, breweries and more — the New Year is the perfect reason to try some of these new flavors.
Throughout 2022, Tempe welcomed quite a few new concepts, including Society by EVO, Hundred Mile Brewing Co., Henhouse Cafe’s fourth Valley location, Two Hands Seoul Fresh Corn Dogs at two new locations, Lou Minalti’s at Tempe Marketplace, Bonfire Craft Kitchen and Tap House in South Tempe, Busan Mart, a Korean grocery and convenience store and plant-based powerhouse Dos Pink Tacos. Additionally, Ziggi’s Coffee also made its debut on Tempe’s coffee shop scene, and Tan-Cha joined the city’s lineup of boba purveyors.
Keep up with our ever-evolving list of new places to dine and drink in Tempe. So far, 2023 has brought grand openings for Cocina Chiwas, Goldwater Brewing Co. at The Crossings, four concepts at Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU and more!
3. Catch a hockey game at Mullett Arena
Since October 2022, Mullett Arena has become the new home of the Sun Devils men’s hockey team and the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes (for the next to seasons). In addition to hockey, the 5,000-seat venue will continue to host various events, including Lucha Libre Worldwide. It’s also home to Big Chicken, a concept by Shaquille O’Neal that fuses his home-cooked childhood favorites with today’s trending flavors (Level 2 northwest concessions).
The Sun Devils regular season kicks off Oct. 6, 2023, and the Coyotes 2023-2024 preseason takes place Sept. 22- Oct. 7, 2023, with the regular season kicking off Oct. 21, 2023.
4. Hike “A” Mountain at sunrise
“A” Mountain is a popular hike in Downtown Tempe frequented by many — especially at sunset. However, we recommend switching it up and heading to the summit for sunrise. You’ll be surprised just how different the 360-degree views are once the first light stretches across the Valley from east to west. It’s a quick, yet steep trek up to the top — that clocks in at under a mile (out and back) for an elevation gain of 232 feet.
5. 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. The museum is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
6. Visit the ASU Art Museum
Highlighted as “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona” by Art in America, 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.
Not-to-miss 2023 exhibits include “The Malevolent and the Serene: Japanese Tea Bowls and Prints from the Collection” through February 6, 2023, and “Lucha Libre: Beyond The Arenas” through May 7, 2023.
7. Toast to a sky-high happy hour
Rooftop venues are the hottest thing in the hospitality scene — we don’t make the rules, we’re just here to celebrate them! And, Tempe is home to a growing number of hotel rooftop bars, for swimming, sunning, sipping and sunset watching. Each with its own signature flavors, amenities, atmosphere and seasonal offerings, Skysill Rooftop Lounge at The Westin Tempe and Alibi at Canopy by Hilton Downtown Tempe are absolute musts for your must-do list.
Safe to say, this is a trend we highly recommend hopping on (or continuing) well into 2023. This is when Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU add its rooftop concept to the line up.
If it’s rooftop swimming you’re after, check out these additional recommendations.
9. 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. For added convenience, these works of art are all located in Downtown Tempe. Check out the self-guided tour of Downtown Tempe with the Public Art Map, which 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.
8. Hike to Hunt’s Tomb
Exploring Papago Park, especially a hike up Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, is highly recommended experience. However, few have discovered the park’s path to Hunt’s Tomb. It’s a bit farther than Hole-in-the-Rock Trails, but it’s well worth the trek to experience the history of this landmark. As you might have guessed by its name, this white, 20-foot pyramid marks the final resting place of Arizona’s first Governor George W.P. Hunt — who was fascinated by the pyramids that he saw on a trip to Egypt — as well as his wife and several other family members.
*Directions: Follow Galvin Parkway to signs indicating Hunt’s Tomb.
10. Catch Arizona Theatre Company at Tempe Center for the Arts
New for this year, Arizona Theatre Company is moving to Tempe! Coming off a season that included such performances as The Lion, The Wickhams, Christmas at Pemberley and The Legend of Georgia McBride, ATC announced that it will move to Tempe Center for the Arts beginning with the 2023-2024 season.
This schedule adds to the robust offerings currently performing at this state-of-the-art venue and marks a new era for ATC, and affirming the City of Tempe’s commitment to the arts.
11. Catch a live show
Tempe has no shortage of live-music venues. In fact, this city’s musical roots run deep. From such icons as Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers and Gin Blossoms to newcomers including The Irie and The Main (to name a few), live performances are right at home in Tempe. And, thanks to stages of all sizes, there’s many options for finding the perfect show to match your playlist preferences.
While mainstays include Yucca Tap Room, Marquee Theatre and more, there are a few new venues that beckon music lovers. Darkstar Theatre, a new music venue open inside the historic Tempe National Bank Building at 6th Street and Mill Avenue, features up-and-coming artists from all genres across the music spectrum.
If DJs and dance floors are more your kind of thing, Anoche Cantina and Six40rty are both new options for cocktails and nightlife on Mill Avenue.
And, for the all-ages set, check out live music every Friday and Saturday night at Tempe Marketplace’s District Stage. Located in the heart of the shopping complex, this outdoor venue is the perfect setting for the entire gang to enjoy the beautiful Arizona weather, a stunning sunset and some food from one of the many nearby restaurants.
12. Schedule tea time at Drink Me! Tea Room
If you haven’t experienced an afternoon tea, then you definitely need to add Drink Me! Tea Room, a whimsical and enchanting place, to your list. 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 story. They also incorporate different seasonal themes with corresponding flavors to choose from. Past favorites have included an Edgar Allen Poe theme for Halloween and Winter Wonderland theme during the holiday season.
Check out this blog post for the story of how Drink Me! Tea Room was founded, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at our tea time experience.
Drink Me! is located on the northwest corner of McClintock Drive and Warner Road. Be sure to make a reservation on their website before visiting.
13. See a Broadway show at ASU Gammage
The 2022-2023 Desert Financial Broadway Across America series is only half over, so there’s more than enough time left this season to catch a show at ASU Gammage this season. Between January and August 2023, Jesus Christ Superstar, Frozen, Annie, A Soldier’s Play, Hairspray and Beetlejuice will hit the stage. So, plan accordingly.
P.S. We highly recommend arriving early to take in the grandness of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and the beautiful grounds surrounding this iconic landmark.
14. Step up your brunch game
Our 2023 motto is, “all perfect days begin with brunch.” If this resonates with you, grab your foodie crew and plan an awesome best-meal-of-the-day tour throughout Tempe. With so many options to choose from, we’ve put our expertise into a round up of Tempe’s top breakfast spots to help you navigate your next delicious affair. From decadent carbs and bubbles to fresh fruit and lighter fare, you’ll find it here!
15. Get sporty and try a new beginner-friendly activity
We love axe throwing! It’s fun and far less dangerous than it sounds. Give it a whirl, and you may discover your favorite new hidden talent. Hotshots Axe Throwing is perfect for a group of friends or a unique date night. This experience comes with a Hotshots Axe Coach who will teach you everything you need to know about this trendy 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)!
If seeking out new and creative opportunities for being active has landed on your list of New Year resolutions, you may want to give indoor rock climbing a try. This unique, adrenaline-pumping activity engages your entire body. The idea may seem a bit risky, but our friends at Phoenix Rock Gym have all the training and safety precautions in place to make this a thrilling experience for all ages.
16. Try your hand at creating something new
Get creative at Painting with a Twist. Beyond the average pottery painting spot, 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 book a group for a virtual class. We recommend the in-person experience, in which case, BYO snacks, beer or wine add to add to the fun. Advance registration is required.
Brush up on your painting skills at 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 or pick up a Hammer @ Home DIY kit. In-person workshops last around 2-3 hours, and attendees are welcome to bring their own snacks, beer or wine. Advance registration is required.
You may also want to check out the classes, programs and leagues organized by the City of Tempe each season.
17. Support local at Tempe shops
Nothing captures the essence of a city quite as well as its locally owned shops, makers, artisans, creatives and culinary delights. Tempe is home to a robust array of places to discover, shop, savor and take home elements of what makes this city so unique. From apparel and books to treats and art, be sure to check out these spots that make shopping local such a rich and eclectic experience. For lovers of all things vintage and retro, we have these are the shops for you.
18. 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. Restored to its grandeur in the 1930s, the house contains educational interpretive displays, period furniture and vista views of the Valley of the Sun.
The visitor’s center invites you to schedule a one-hour, docent-led tour of the house by calling (480) 350-5100. Tours, available between October and April, provide guests with the opportunity to hear the fascinating story of Rose Eisendrath and this historic home, including details on its architecture and occupants.
19. Plan the perfect picnic
Sure, picnics might have peaked in 2020 for some. But this trend reinvigorated our passion for pairing two of our favorite things: food and Sonoran Desert landscapes — specifically, Tempe’s many parks. Check out our complete list of parks to visit and the nearby restaurants to get takeout from. Looking to put a new spin on your next picnic? Try ordering delivery from one of our star-powered ghost kitchen concepts. Still slightly under the radar, Tempe is home to MrBeast Burger, a virtual brand by Mr. Beast aka Jimmy Donaldson — a popular YouTuber with over 90 million followers — and Another Wing, a chicken wing concept featuring seven signature flavors by Grammy Award-winning artist and record producer DJ Khaled (“another one, another one”).
20. Voyage Tempe Town Lake on a rental watercraft
We can say with 98% certainty that Tempe Town Lake is the most photographed spot in our city — and we love seeing your photos of the lake! (Don’t forget to tag us in your photos @tempetourism or #OurTempe.) The alluring juxtaposition of the colorful sky and the silhouettes of the lake’s landmark bridges are especially striking, and peaceful, during golden hour.
The most immersive way to experience — and capture — this bliss, however, is on the water. Depending on your party size, and the particular activity you’re looking for, Boat Rentals of America offers pedal boats, paddleboards, kayaks and electric donut boats for navigating the lake.
21. Pair a sunset horseback ride with margarita sipping
About 11 miles from south Tempe, KOLI Equestrian Center is located on the Gila River Indian Community — home to miles of breathtaking Sonoran Desert scenery. Specializing in horseback trail riding adventures, hay wagon rides and cattle drives, KOLI has designed all excursions as “walking” rides to keep it simple and gentle on both riders and their horses.
Book the sunset margarita ride, and you’ll return just before sunset for margaritas, chips and salsa. Perfect ending to the evening! Rides, and several other activities, are available at various times throughout the day, so check the website for more information.
22. Check a hot air balloon ride off your bucket list
For four decades, Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Company has been offering the most-unique vantage point of the Sonoran Desert: from the basket of a hot air balloon that’s a couple of thousand feet above the ground! Will this be the year that you join the ranks of over 750,000 passengers that have taken to the sky above the Valley of the Sun? If so, you’ll find sunrise flights available year-round (weather permitting), and sunset flights available in the winter months.
Tip: We took a sunrise flight the morning after a summer monsoon. The weather was perfect and the clouds were particularly striking. There’s no off season when it comes to scheduling this experience.
23. Plan for vacation or staycation
Tempe is home to some of the coolest hotels with rooftop pools and restaurants on-site or within walking distance. Tempe’s unique properties are synonymous with relaxation. We’re encouraging you to actually plan a vacation in the New Year, 2022 is gone, so let’s move on to something better in 2023. Save this date, January 31, 2023: National Plan for Vacation Day! Make plans to travel later and save on 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 and see if you’re staying on track with these activities.