Whether you live in the Tempe area or you’re visiting us for the first time, there’s more to our city than the endless sunshine. Tempe is a place with surprises around every corner. You’ll find public art and murals scattered throughout neighborhoods and public spaces. Several of Tempe’s buildings have historical significance or were designed by noteworthy architects, adding character to our skyline, in addition to being excellent photo ops. And, if you’re a beer lover, Tempe has you covered with five breweries that all bring something a bit different to Arizona’s craft beer scene.
Because Tempe is easy to navigate at 40 square miles, it’s an ideal place to take your own self-guided tour. Here are some of our favorite places to see during your own Tempe driving, biking or walking tour.
Tempe Center for the Arts (TCA) – designed by Architekton + Barton Myers Associates
This stunning building, on the south shore of Tempe Town Lake, utilizes a framework of concrete and steel to allow performing art spaces and public art to come to life. From the outside, you can see Mare Undarum – Sea of Waves (Reflecting Pool) by Ned Kahn, a public artwork that uses mirrors on the outside of the building to reflect the pool below. From the outside patio, you can see Tempe Town Lake in a new way, as the infinity edge pool seems to seamlessly connect with the lake. And, in the sculpture garden, even when the TCA is closed, you can look through the glass walls of the sculpture garden on the east side of the building to see Aurora, a sculpture by Brower Hatcher. The bright blue interlocking leaf-like forms are inspired by desert seed pods.
ASU Gammage – designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
In 1957, ASU President Grady Gammage wanted to create an auditorium that would be a signature building on campus. He was friends with Frank Lloyd Wright and called on him to help with the project. Wright had designed an opera house that didn’t get built in Bagdad, Iraq so he used that as the basis for this new ASU building. It is the only public building in Arizona designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Fans of the architect will immediately recognize this 3,000-seat building as one of his designs.
College Avenue Commons – designed by Gensler + Architekton
This work of art on College Avenue is best seen from the east side of College, where you can really get a sense of how the top floors seem to magically balance on the north side of the building. The vertical and horizontal stripes add visual interest. It’s no wonder that this is where tours of ASU begin. There’s also a beautiful shop inside that sells all things ASU. College Avenue Commons is LEED Gold-certified.
ASU Art Museum – designed by Antione Predock
The ASU Art Museum is part of the Nelson Fine Arts Center, which was designed by Antione Predock, an architect based in Albuquerque. It’s distinctive pink and gray hues and underground entrance are very reminiscent of its desert environment. The clean modern lines of this building are a perfect match for the intriguing contemporary art showcased within.
Tempe Municipal Building/Tempe City Hall – designed by Michael and Kemper Goodwin
In a Southwestern city with a Greek name, an upside-down pyramid design for our Tempe City Hall fits right in. Our City Hall was built in 1970 and was a catalyst for downtown redevelopment. According to the City of Tempe website, “the pyramid sits at a 45-degree angle to the bordering streets, to gain maximum sun in the winter and minimum heat in the summer.” The unique design provides shade around the base of the building, which is an important feature during the warmer months.
Murals and Public Art
The story of Tempe can be told by the large-scale murals and public art installations, both permanent and temporary, sprinkled throughout the city. Our talented local artists inspire us to see things in a different way and just take a breath and observe.
The Tempe Tourism Office has created two blog posts with accompany videos that highlight some of our favorite Tempe murals. You’ll learn a bit about the artists and the inspiration for each piece.
The City of Tempe has a comprehensive online list of all the public art in town, from murals to sculptures to functional art – transit stops that are anything but ordinary. View the city’s Public Art Interactive Map to find artworks in downtown, on campus, in city parks and along street and bike paths.
Tempe is a city with historical buildings dating back to the late 1800’s, juxtaposed with modern high rises. The City of Tempe has a Walk Through History series of self-guided tours of the most historic areas. You can see ASU’s Old Main, the first building in Tempe with electricity, Old St. Mary’s Church and the iconic Hayden Flour Mill. The interactive story maps can be used with Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome web browsers. Or, you can view the PDFs on your phone or print them beforehand.
Before your self-guided history tour, check out the Tempe Tourism’s Tempe History video series. Local “hip-storian” Marshall Shore guides viewers through the history of the ASU Tempe Campus, Tempe itself and the Eisendrath House, an adobe house in Papago Park.
Arizona State University (ASU) Tempe Campus
Arizona State University is full of history, pride, and tradition. The beautiful ASU Tempe Campus is full of public art, signature buildings and gathering places. ASU’s website has several options for a self-guided tour, from a 360 degree online tour to videos. But, one of our favorites is the ASU Tempe Campus Points of Pride self-guided tour. Use this online guide to plan your stroll around campus to see some of the most iconic places, from the picturesque Palm Walk to Desert Arboretum Park. These points of pride are significant to any student, alumni, or future Sun Devil.
Starting with the most photographed spot on campus, Palm Walk has history dating back to 1917. This iconic walkway is lined with 100 palm trees located at the center of campus. At the north end of Palm Walk turns into the Palm Walk Overpass, also known as the University Bridge. This pedestrian bridge arches over University Drive and connects students from the north side of campus to the south side of campus. The Palm Walk Overpass will also lead you to the best places to be on campus, at least on game day, Sun Devil Stadium and Desert Financial Arena. Sun Devil Stadium is nestled between two buttes and is the home of Arizona State Football team and Desert Financial Arena is home to men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, gymnastics and volleyball teams.
Other points of interest on campus include Hayden Library which was originally built in 1966 and is the largest library on campus. University Club dates back to 1908 and is listed on the Arizona Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
You are officially invited to sample your way through the selections at one or more of Tempe’s breweries. You’re bound to find your new favorite. Learn all about the breweries in Tempe and plan your own route – using a designated driver or Uber or Lyft of course! Here’s just a bit of info about each Tempe brewery.
The O.G., Four Peaks Brewing Company, is located in a historic creamery building and makes the most popular beer in the state, Kilt Lifter, and other favorites like Peach Ale and 8th Street Pale Ale. And, we’ll eat anything on their menu, but we especially love anything made with beer bread.
Huss Brewing, owned by husband and wife team Jeff and Leah Huss, is an independent brewery that distributes throughout Arizona. Their award-winning beers are Scottsdale Blonde and Koffee Kolsch. You can take a deep dive into their brews at their Tempe Taproom.
Pedal Haus Brewery is located in Downtown Tempe. Pedal Haus boasts not only award-winning beers and one of the largest patios around, but also a food menu with more gluten free and vegetarian options than you’d ever expect. Their Biere Blanche wheat beer and White Rabbit hazy IPA are local favorites. And, for the carnivores, don’t miss their Buttermilk Fried Chicken.
Fate Brewing Co. started in Scottsdale in 2012 and we are overjoyed that they opened a location in Tempe. Their mid-century modern surroundings set the stage for their popular beers, such as Irish Red Ale, Buena Vista Blonde Ale and Candy Bar Milk Stout. Their food menu is well though out, from an Ahi Tuna Salad to the Lunchbox Burger, topped with peanut butter and fig jam.
The Shop Beer Co. is a chill place to grab a beer, order in your own food, and take a break on their patio. The Shop is known for their mainstays like Church Music IPA and Coffee Brown. But we’re also big fans of their seasonal releases with names like Taco, Nocturnal Daydream and Unicorn Rave. You never know what’s coming up next.