ASU

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

Every August, a new group of wide-eyed freshman 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.

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 800-283-6734.

Let’s make this school year a great one for students and their parents. Go Devils!

Dorm Room Essentials


From shower caddies to rugs to cozy chairs, there’s always a long, long list of supplies to make a dorm room or college apartment really feel like home. Check off those needed items at these stores in Tempe:

IKEA Tempe – 2110 W. IKEA Way, Tempe, AZ 85284 | (480) 496-5658

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

– Target – 1800 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 214-2667
Cost Plus World Market – 1800 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 921-0500
JCPenney – 1800 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 829-3555

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

At Home – 5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282  |  (480) 214-7328
Burlington – 5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282  |  (480) 897-4700
Marshall’s – 5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282  |  (480) 897-4940

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

Dining Out


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.

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. Power up before class at The Original Chop Shop with a fresh juice and one of their incredible sandwiches or salads and enjoy on their charming outdoor patio. Indulge on made to order hamburgers at The Chuck Box, which is just about at close to a local legend as you can get near campus. For a quick hit of sugar, you can’t beat the fresh baked treats at Insomnia Cookies on University Drive or delicious ice cream sandwiches at Slickables on Mill Avenue.

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

If parents are treating their student to a nice meal, House of Tricks is a must. The food is a gourmet mix of inspired French and American cuisine. House of Tricks is located in two charming turn-of-the-century bungalows with a lush patio. It’s just steps from campus, but feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Read about this oasis in Downtown Tempe that is a must try.

La Bocca Pizzeria & Wine Bar is a perfect spot in our favorite college town. It has a chic atmosphere, but the prices for wood fired pizzas, pastas, salads and sandwiches are very reasonable.

Spinato’s has the best pizza this side of Chicago. And, it should – the owners hail from the Windy City. Their sweet, flavorful sauce keeps me 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’sMacayo’s Depot Cantina, 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.

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

Things to Do and Attractions


Arts and culture, shopping, festivals and outdoor activities are abundant in Tempe, sometimes making it hard to focus on homework. Here are just a few Tempe attractions and local gems to help newbies like their home away from home even more.

Tempe Center for the Arts is located on the south side of Tempe Town Lake. Here you’ll find free art exhibitions at the Gallery, theatre productions and musical performances. One of my favorite events is Walk-In Wednesdays, a free open-mic night held September through May.

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, 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.

Find bestsellers and classic books at Changing Hands Bookstore. This favorite Tempe spot hosts a full calendar of events, including language classes, author events and workshops. It’s an excellent place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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. Don’t miss the petroglyphs along the trail. 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, but also learning. Located north of Tempe Town Lake, Papago’s trails can be accessed from Mill and Curry and College and Curry. You’ll also find the Desert Botanical Garden, Hall of Flame Fire Museum, the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona Historical Society Museum and Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park here.

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

Arizona Mills is home to some of the area’s best shopping, such as H & M and Nike Factory Store, and also attractions like Tilt Studio, SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium, LEGOLAND Discovery Center and a Harkins IMAX theatre.

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 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.

Tempe is known for special events and the season seems to really begin with Four Peaks Four Peaks Oktoberfest at Tempe Town Lake, set in mid October every year. Find more info about upcoming festivals, fun runs, triathlons, live music and more on the Tempe Tourism event calendar.

Toni Smith
Written Toni Smith

An Arizona native, Toni Smith loves to dine out, conquer hiking trails, go to concerts and survive hot yoga classes. She has also never met a dog she didn’t love instantly. She lives in Tempe with her husband and daughter.