Tempe 101: A Prep Course for Life at ASU

Welcome to Arizona State University! We’re here to help you become a Tempe expert.

Every August, a new group of freshmen descends upon Tempe, making it their home for the next four (or more) years. Tempe is a great place to attend college — for so many reasons. It’s a fun college town that truly embraces Arizona State University into the culture. Tempe is also a great place to live, with endless events and things to do all year. 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, including where to shop, where to eat and what to do. To find even more Tempe inspiration, check out these things to do and follow us at @tempetourism across all social channels.

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:

Shopping near ASU Tempe Campus

Tempe Marketplace – 2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 966-9338

Tempe Marketplace is a one-stop destination for super shopping, a lineup of great restaurants, entertainment (The District Stage hosts live music), a Barnes & Noble for hitting the books and even personal pampering. Attractions here include, Dave & Busters, Lumberjaxes Axe Throwing Bar & Grill, Harkins Theatres, a variety of pop-up events and endless possibilities for retail therapy. But first, let’s furnish that dorm or apartment:

Tempe Marketplace The District Credit Emily Piraino Photography
Tempe Marketplace | Emily Piraino Photography

South Tempe Shopping

During high-traffic seasons, including back to school and holiday shopping, you may have better luck in selections, variety and crowds by shopping further away from campus. These South Tempe staples are a short drive from the ASU Tempe campus:

  • Target – 1818 E. Baseline Rd., Tempe, AZ 85283
  • Walmart – 1380 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, AZ 85284
  • IKEA Tempe – 2110 W. IKEA Way, Tempe, AZ 85284
  • At Home – 1050 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, AZ 85284
IKEA Restaurant & Cafe Tempe
IKEA Tempe

Arizona Mills

5000 S. Arizona Mills Circle, Tempe, AZ 85282 | (480) 491-7300

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. For all your dorm/home needs, visit: Ross, Five Below, Burlington and Marshalls.

Shopping at Arizona Mills
Shopping at Arizona Mills

Additional Shopping Experiences in Tempe

Changing Hands Bookstore – 6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe, AZ 85283 | (480) 730-0205
At this Tempe favorite, you’ll find bestsellers, classic books and gift items as well as a full calendar of events, including language classes, author events and workshops.

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

For vintage and retro shoppers, we’ve curated the best spots for finding one-of-a-kind wardrobe additions here. Plus, a few pop-up events that you won’t want to miss.

Changing Hands Bookstore
Changing Hands Bookstore

Things to Do and Attractions

Arts and culture, 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.

For starters, check out your transportation options on and around campus. Tempe is a breeze to navigate. With our transportation guide — which covers the convenience of Valley Metro Rail and Tempe Streetcar, plus parking info — you’re set for any event or adventure.

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.

Activities at Tempe Town Lake
Paddling adventures at Tempe Town Lake

Free Things to Do

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!

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

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.

The red sandstone buttes of Papago Park make it a picturesque destination for hiking, biking, photography and picnics. Located north of Tempe Town Lake, the park’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 S’edav Va’aki Museum (formerly Pueblo Grande Museum and 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 list of all the best places to grab Sun Devil apparel, accessories and more.

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

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 visitors will find many unique, locally owned restaurant concepts throughout Tempe. Here’s a few of our favorites for your consideration.

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

Dining Guides

What’s New: Stay in the know with our ever-evolving list of new restaurants, bars and more in opening Tempe. We bring you the latest and greatest via our places to dine, drink and dance blog.

Mexican: 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 RanchCocina Chiwas, Gadzooks 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.

Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch

International Flavors: Global cuisine another one of Tempe’s claim to fame. International flavors that rank tops among locals include Curry CornerHaji-Baba, The Dhaba, the Phoenicia Café, or India’s Flame. For a real international treat, you have to try the Ethiopian dishes at Cafe Lalibela. Check out the Apache Boulevard Spice Trail for more inspiration.

Breakfast: 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: 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

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

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