Tempe 101 – a prep course for life at Arizona State University

Every August, a new group of wide-eyed freshmen will descend upon Tempe, making it their home for the next four (or more) years. Tempe is a great place to go to school. It’s a fun college town that truly embraces Arizona State University into the culture. Tempe is also a great place to live, with lots to do all year round. Let’s make this school year a great one for students and their parents. Forks up, Sun Devils!

Below is a quick guide to some of the best of Tempe – where to shop, where to eat and what to do. Find even more things to do in Tempe, or call us at (480) 894-8158.

To stay up-to-date with ASU’s important tips and precautions on Novel Coronavirus, visit their page, where you can find the updated guideline for students and visitors on campus.

Dorm Room Essentials

Living on campus or moving away from home for the first time can be quite daunting. There are endless amounts of essentials and supplies you will need, from bedding to rugs to cozy chairs, to make a dorm room or your college apartment really feel like home. Check off those needed items by viewing the ASU move-in guide checklist.

If you’re traveling from out of state and can’t get these items in advance or if you accidentally forget some things at home, ASU Tempe Campus is located next to several big retailers that have everything you need to mark off your list and more! 

Check off those needed items at these stores in Tempe:

Tempe – Near ASU Tempe Campus

Tempe Marketplace – 2000 E. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 966-9338
Target – (480) 214-2667
Cost Plus World Market – (480) 921-0500
Marshall’s – (480) 966-3647
Five Below – (480) 967-5826
JCPenney – (480) 829-3555
Ross – (480) 894-4032

Walmart – 800 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, AZ 85282 | (480) 966-0264

South Tempe

*Beginners Tip: Go further away from campus to avoid waiting in line and to find a larger supply of goods.
Target – 1818 E. Baseline Rd., Tempe, AZ 85283 | (480) 831-9162
Walmart – 1380 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, AZ 85284 | (480) 345-8686
IKEA Tempe – 2110 W. IKEA Way, Tempe, AZ 85284 | (480) 496-5658
At Home – 1050 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, AZ 85284 | (602) 337-3037

Arizona Mills – 5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282 | (480) 491-7300
Ross – (480) 214-7328
Five Below – (480) 456-8611
Burlington – (480) 897-4700
Marshall’s – (480) 897-4940

Outside of Tempe

Bed, Bath & Beyond – 837 N. Dobson Rd., Mesa, AZ 85201 | (480) 610-2675

Restaurants in Tempe

Sure, many students have a meal plan as part of their room and board package. That’s definitely convenient, but as they say, variety is the spice of life. Students and their visiting parents can find many locally-owned, extremely tasty restaurants in Tempe. I can’t help but mention a few of our favorites.

Dining On-Campus and Near ASU

Test Tempe’s culinary scene and stay close to campus by trying locally grown and harvested food at Engrained Café, located inside the Memorial Union on the second level. Power up before class at The Original ChopShop with a fresh juice and one of their incredible sandwiches or salads and enjoy on their charming outdoor patio. Indulge in made-to-order hamburgers at The Chuck Box, which is the longest running business in Downtown Tempe, so that should say how loved by locals they are. For a quick hit of sugar, you can’t beat the freshly baked treats at Insomnia Cookies on University Drive, the gourmet Mexican Ice Pops at The Paleta Bar Tempe on College Avenue, or the delicious ice cream sandwiches at Slickables on Mill Avenue.

People eating and studying at tables inside ChopShop Tempe
Original ChopShop

Breakfast and Brunch spots

Daily Dose Tempe
Daily Dose Tempe

If breakfast is your favorite meal of the day or you love brunchin’ with your friends, you’re in luck. The choices are almost endless in Tempe. Check out Tempe’s best breakfast restaurants on our blog.

Pizza for Days

If it’s moving day, grab a delicious and filling slice of pizza at one of Tempe’s Italian restaurants. Our pizza by the slice blog has all the details.

Artichoke Pizza
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza

Must-Try Tempe Restaurants

Alter Ego at Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown
Alter Ego at Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown

Less than half a mile from ASU Old Main is Alter Ego, located on the ground floor of the Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown. It has gorgeous modern interiors and a huge wall mural that is the perfect photo-op for new Tempeans! They also have an open patio with a view of Downtown Tempe and ASU. Our favorites? Their Katsu Chicken Sandwich or the Ego Burger.

Spinato’s has the best pizza this side of Chicago. And, it should – the owners hail from the Windy City. Their sweet, flavorful sauce will keep you coming back again and again. They have several locations around town, but the original is in Tempe, just a stone’s throw from Tempe Marketplace.

Authentic Mexican food is one of the benefits of living in Arizona. There are quite a few places to choose from in Tempe, including Rosita’s, Ghost RanchGadzooks and Casa Reynoso. We can’t say which one is our favorite because we love them equally. We encourage you to try them all too.

Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine are also Tempe’s claim to fame. Pita Jungle, located adjacent to the ASU Tempe Campus on the corner of University Dr. and Mill Ave., offers mouth-watering dishes, including the Chicken Schwarma Wrap and Grilled Vegetable Salad, and most importantly, their prices won’t break the bank! Also, for more international flavors that have been local favorites for years, try Curry CornerThe Dhaba, the Phoenicia Café, or India’s Flame. For a real international treat, you have to try the Ethiopian dishes at Cafe Lalibela.

Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch: Modern Southwest Cuisine

Things to Do and Attractions

Arts and culture, shopping, festivals and outdoor activities are abundant in Tempe, providing a must-needed break away from homework! Here are just a few Tempe attractions and local gems to help newbies adjust to their home away from home.

Tempe Town Lake Activities

Tempe Town Lake is a great spot for boating and exploring the pathways around the lake. Boat Rentals of America-Tempe Town Lake provides kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, donut boats, electric boats and more for hourly rentals. Bikers and runners can easily travel from campus to the lake and then take a scenic jaunt around the lake and over the bridges.

Tempe Town Lake Donut Boat
Donut Boats for rent at Boat Rentals of America-Tempe Town Lake

Free Things to Do

A man in a wheelchair looking at an art projector screen inside the ASU Art Museum
ASU Art Museum

As a Sun Devil Alumna, I know how it feels to be a college student trying to do everything for as little cost as possible. The best things in life are free, so we put together a blog of free things to do in Tempe!

Best Places to Shop

Tempe Marketplace is a shopping destination but is also full of great restaurants (such as Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill and Gen Korean BBQ House), a movie theater and free live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

Arizona Mills is home to outlet shops, such as Adidas Clearance Store and Nike Factory Store. They are also the best place to cool off and enjoy attractions like Tilt Studio, SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium, LEGOLAND Discovery Center and a Harkins IMAX theatre.

Find bestsellers, classic books and gift items at Changing Hands Bookstore. This favorite Tempe spot also hosts a full calendar of events, including language classes, author events and workshops.

Changing Hands Bookstore
Changing Hands Bookstore

Outdoor Activities

The daytime temperatures are toasty in August, but the mornings are usually cool enough for an exhilarating hike. Once October rolls around, the hiking and biking trails around town are full of fitness-loving fanatics enjoying their time in the sun. The most convenient trail is at “A” Mountain, located at Mill Avenue and Third Street. South Mountain Park and Preserve in Phoenix has more than 51 miles of cactus-lined trails. And, Piestewa Peak is well known for its heart-pumping, scenic ascent.

Papago Park is both a destination for hiking and biking. Located north of Tempe Town Lake, Papago’s trails can be accessed from Mill and Curry and College and Curry. You’ll also find Desert Botanical Garden, Hall of Flame Fire Museum, the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona Historical Society Museum and Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park here.

"A" Mountain sunset overlook
“A” Mountain

Downtown Tempe and Events

Downtown Tempe, located next door to campus, is a natural gathering spot for students, locals and visitors. There are more than 100 shops, restaurants and taverns along Mill Avenue. It is the perfect place for a fun night out or for people watching from a shady patio. Downtown Tempe is also the spot to shop for ASU fan gear. Check out our complete list of Downtown and University shops that will help you commemorate your ASU experience.

If you’re a visitor, future Sun Devil, or an event attendee looking to stay close to campus, check out our Hotels near Arizona State University blog for the best places to stay while you enjoy all things ASU.

Find info about upcoming festivals, fun runs, triathlons, live music and more on the Tempe Tourism event calendar.

Downtown Tempe two friends
Downtown Tempe

We’re on Instagram and TikTok! Follow us @tempetourism to stay-in-the-know of all things Tempe!

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!

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