Explore Tempe during ASU Graduation

Graduation season at Arizona State University (ASU) is upon us and that means students are transitioning from adolescent college years into mature (hopefully employed) alumni. And parents, well… you’re probably more focused on how many tissues you will need to get you through the ceremony. Pro tip: about 75 tissues come in one box of Kleenex, so two boxes should suffice. You’re welcome. Let’s be real, ASU graduation in Tempe is a momentous occasion for both parents and students alike. And although this should be a joyful time, we know that wrapping up your college experience can get a bit stressful. That’s why we are here to give you the 4-1-1 on how to get the most out of your graduation week!

NOTE: Spring 2021 Ceremonies will be held virtually on Monday, May 3rd to celebrate the Class of 2021. There will be both virtual convocation ceremonies and in-person celebrations hosted by the individual colleges and and schools. Due to health protocol reasons, in-person ceremonies will be limited to the graduating students only. For more information, visit ASU’s commencement FAQ page.

Where to eat

Pedal Haus Brewery in Tempe

For all of you soon-to-graduate students, you’ve got your cap and gown and now your diploma is in hand (well, they actually mail you your real diploma). So, it’s time to C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E good times, come on! Rejoice in this big accomplishment with all your friends and family at these Tempe restaurants. Be sure to call ahead to reserve your tables and give businesses a heads up, especially when dining out with a large group.

  • Any special occasion in a Sun Devils’ life starts and ends with House of Tricks. Located just steps from Mill Avenue, House of Tricks is hidden inside two charming turn-of-the-century homes, behind a vine-strewn courtyard. Their private dining areas and patio can accommodate your family and guests. And, their menu is full of creative and delicious dishes that you’ll remember long after you finish your meal.
  • Top of the Rock is a local favorite and must see. Located at Phoenix Marriott Resort Tempe at The Buttes, they offer beautiful panoramic views of the Valley, locally sourced chef inspired cuisine, signature cocktails and an extensive wine list.
  • Caffe Boa has been a Downtown Tempe favorite for more than 20 years. Caffe Boa serves Italian dishes, such as handmade pastas and fresh seafood, crafted from the finest organic, natural ingredients.
  • Housed inside a 100-year-old former creamery and ice factory, Four Peaks Brewing Company’s 8th Street location is the original and the best place to showcase where your money was really spent during your four years of college. Note: brewery tours are still on hold due to the pandemic.
  • Pedal Haus Brewery is large and spacious enough to accommodate any party size. Reserve a section of their patio where you can enjoy cornhole or ping-pong or, go for a more exclusive atmosphere in their glass-encased private dining area.
  • Located at Papago Golf Course, Lou’s Bar and Grill serves up spectacular views of Papago Buttes as well as posh American cuisine. Enjoy golf course and city vistas in this airy dining space for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • Tempe Marketplace is an all-inclusive shopping, dining and entertainment destination that will satisfy your entire graduation party. Some great options for a graduation celebration includes: The Keg Steakhouse + Bar, Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill, Barrio Queen, Gen’s Korean BBQ House and Dave & Busters.

Where to take photos

Taken outside of Hayden Library

ASU has a very large campus and it can be quite daunting to find the perfect spot to take your graduation photos. Not to mention, you will be fighting for the same spot as thousands of other graduates and their families. Don’t let that intimidate you. We have put together a list of the most iconic buildings, walkways, breezeways and courtyards, where you’ll find the perfect background for your graduation photos.

  • Constructed before Arizona achieved statehood, Old Main is an iconic venue on campus and is the perfect backdrop for senior portraits. Take photos in front of the fountain, along the main stairwell or anywhere around the beautiful grounds that make for a great offset location.
  • There is a reason why this is dubbed the most photographed place on Campus, Palm Walk is the perfect spot for the quintessential ASU photo op. This iconic ASU walkway is lined with over 100 eloquently groomed palm trees spanning 4/10th of a mile, connecting the north and south side of campus. Palm Walk will lead you to several popular spots on campus such as the Memorial Union (MU) and the ASU Bookstore, the Sun Devil Campus Store, where you can grab your last-minute ASU memorabilia.
  • The newly revamped and extended Hayden Library is another amazing location to take photos. Plus it makes you look super smart! During the spring, the pink bougainvilleas are blooming outside the library which makes for a colorful backdrop.
  • If you’ve ever driven down University Drive between Mill Avenue and Rural Road, you know that the ASU University Bridge is something that must be photographed. Stand in front of the bridge where the ASU sign can be seen or stand on top and capture the heart beat of ASU Tempe Campus.
  • Every Sun Devil story kicks off with white washing the “A” on “A” Mountain, so it is only fitting to close this chapter by taking a graduation photo in this very spot. The best place to capture the “A” is from the first lookout point half way up the mountain. This is also a great spot to capture pictures of Downtown Tempe.
  • Bordered by West Hall and Dixie Gammage Hall, the Secret Garden is located just south of McClintock Hall. The Garden holds green grassy lawns, blooming flowers, and banana trees making it the perfect spot for taking your professional headshots.
  • Don’t think we forgot about your parents! Those of you who are ASU alums or have been around Tempe for years, should be familiar with the infamous Bandersnatch pub. Now’s your chance to relive those glory days and snap a photo in front of the Bandersnatch doors inside Residence Inn Tempe Downtown where they pay homage to the very pub that stood in the same location for years.
  • For more notable picturesque places, visit our blog.

Things to do in Tempe

Donut Boats from Boat Rentals of America- Tempe Town Lake

In between the commencement ceremony or ceremonies, picture taking and celebratory meals, there are lots of places where the whole brood (family and friends) can enjoy Tempe and our desert scenery. Here are a few ideas about things to do in Tempe during ASU graduation week.

  • Leave the driving and trip planning to someone else and go on a guided tour. Check out our Guided Tour blog for details on favorite options offered by local tour companies including hot air balloon rides, mountain bike adventures and excursions to destinations around the state such as Sedona, the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon.
  • Visit the Tempe Center for the Arts, located on the south shore of Tempe Town Lake. The Gallery at TCA reopened for free admission tours of its new EXPLORE: go boldly indoor exhibition. It is in operating in limited capacity so make sure to visit the Gallery at TCA page for more info.
  • Try something new and go axe throwing at Lumberjaxes. You will be surprised at how good (or how bad) you and your crew are at throwing an axe. But, whether you are great at it or not, you’re sure to have a fun time.
  • If you want something a bit more active and adventurous, try the indoor rock climbing gym at Phoenix Rock Gym! They have over thirty-foot high walls with over 17,000 sq. ft. of climbing surface. It may sound scary to some, but they teach you everything you need to know even if you’ve never touched a rope in your life. No experience is necessary, plus it’s indoors with A/C, what more could you ask for?!
  • Take a relaxing boat ride. Boat Rentals of America – Tempe Town Lake has stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, pedal boats, swan boats, electric boats that seat up to 12 people, and the newly added donut boats that seats up to 10 people. Boat Rentals of America – Kiwanis Lake at Kiwanis Park offers kayaks and pedal boats.
  • May is an ideal time to enjoy the cool morning temperatures or be awed by Arizona’s colorful sunsets from a hiking trail. Favorites include “A” Mountain in Downtown Tempe, Hole in the Rock at Papago Park and South Mountain Park and Preserve. Visit the Tempe Tourism hiking blog to learn about each trail.
  • There’s always a sense of calm when you visit Desert Botanical Garden. From their trails, you can see thousands of plants from arid climates around the world and you will learn more about the flora and fauna that call the desert home.
  • Go shopping at Tempe Marketplace or Arizona Mills. Whether you’re looking for items for a new apartment, clothes for job interviews, or just some fun accessories and gift items, or a great place to grab a coffee or dessert, these shopping destinations have you covered.

Where to buy ASU gear

Cactus Sports in Tempe

You can’t spend four years or more at Arizona State University (or send your kids there) without having a collection of ASU shirts, stickers, license plate holders and other items emblazoned with the ASU logo. Cactus Sports, the Sun Devil Campus Store and Sun Devil Marketplace are hubs for all things ASU. Read our ASU gear blog for more info on each place and learn about what items they carry.

The Tempe Tourism team is always happy to help with any questions that you might have. Reach out to us at 480-894-8158 or find us on social: @tempetourism. Be sure to tag your Instagram posts with #ourtempe so we can follow along with your graduation celebrations.

Congratulations to all ASU grads and their families. We’re proud of you all and we’re so glad that you chose ASU. Go Devils! #forksup

Written Alicia Griffith

Alicia is an ASU Alumna and Tucson native who is unapologetically herself. When she is not sharing her passion for Tempe, she is a devoted dog mom and reality TV enthusiast who has a weakness for charcuterie boards and wine!