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5 Ways to Experience Tempe, Arizona

How to play hooky in the desert town.

Tempe, Arizona

1. Graduate Tempe

The playful decor at the Graduate Tempe hotel gets full marks for honouring the many successes of its next-door neighbour, Arizona State University (ASU) at Tempe. Pages from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species adorn the front desk as a nod to the nearby Institute of Human Origins, and the honeycomb-patterned carpet in the conference room is a wink to the busy work carried out at the Honey Bee Research Facility. Before grabbing a seat at Tapacubo (the hotel’s on-site restaurant) for a barbacoa-braised short-rib taco with pickled onion and melted cotija, stop at the bar for a margarita served from actual gas pumps from the 1940s. (The glass-topped counter is made of 38,000 real Mexican pesos.)
225 East Apache Blvd., 480-967-9431, graduatetempe.com

Graduate Tempe

Photo by Christian Horan Photography


2. ASU Gammage

With practically no right angles, a rose-quartz mosaic and over 27 shades of brown ochre, Frank Lloyd Wright’s ASU auditorium is like a master class in art and architecture. Empty space inside the ceiling provides superb acoustics for artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Philip Glass and Trisha Brown, who have all played here. This fall, get an amusingly off-syllabus take on literature and history with acclaimed productions of Wicked and The Book of Mormon.
1200 South Forest Ave., 480-965-3434, asugammage.com


3. Papago Park

Meep meep! Make like one of the roadrunners that populate this state park and zigzag along the trails among cacti and 10-million-year-old red-rock formations. Take a break from your phys. ed. with a picnic under a ramada in the shadow of the Hole in the Rock, through which you can enjoy both the sunset and views of greater Phoenix worthy of the honour roll.
625 North Galvin Pkwy., 602-495-5458, phoenix.gov/parks


4. Desert Botanical Garden

In the section devoted to Gila Desert specimens, give a wide berth to the needles of the cholla cactus. It’s called a “jumper,” and that’s because of its needles, which are extremely hard to remove. Head here in the evening to see certain fussy cacti that flower only at night. This 50,000-plant-strong garden also hosts events year-round, including a Day of the Dead celebration in early November.
1201 North Galvin Pkwy., 480-941-1225, dbg.org


5. Four Peaks Brewing Company

Learn about the painstaking brewing process with a guided tour of this Arizona craft brewery, then put theory into practice sampling the beers that have made the place famous, including the Kilt Lifter, a caramel-flavoured, Scottish-style pale ale, and the Hop Knot American IPA, which uses five types of hops. It’s rumoured that ghosts still haunt the building, which was built before Arizona joined the Union.
1340 East 8th St., 480-303-9967, fourpeaks.com


Tempe Arizona Campus Spots

3 on-campus spots that make the grade

1. The fresh smoothies at Engrained are all about local products. We loved the ASU Citrus Swirl, with mango, pineapple, banana and Seville oranges grown right on campus.
1290 South Normal Ave., 480-965-4239, engrainedcafe.com

2. Get a hands-on education at the Gallery of Scientific Exploration in ASU’s new Science and Technology Building. Touch real meteorites and watch scientists at work in the adjoining research labs.
781 East Terrace Rd., 480-727-2868, sese.asu.edu/GSE

3. Part of ASU’s public art collection, Arizonan artist James Turrell’s Air Apparent will make you see things out of the clear blue sky like never before.
herbergerinstitute.asu.edu/public_art

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