What’s the sign of a good trip to Arizona? Great memories are key.
But, a sign of an even better trip is a suitcase packed with bargains that are living proof of fun times and money well spent. Tempe, Arizona, is an ideal destination for those who seek a dose of sunshine along with a little retail therapy.
Tempe is full of first-rate shopping destinations and many independent retailers. Tempe Marketplace is a one-stop shop with more than 1.3 million square feet of restaurant and retail space, including everything from Divaz, a locally owned boutique, to large national stores such as Cost Plus World Market and Target.
The high-energy outdoor setting at Tempe Marketplace is a popular gathering spot, with comfy couches, fireplaces, fountains, a Harkins movie theater and live music on the weekends.
Arizona Mills offers the ultimate shopping experience with a mix of traditional, outlet and value retail stores and entertainment venues, such as Last Call by Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, NIKEFactoryStore, GameWorks, Harkins and IMAX theaters, Rainforest Café, Sea Life Arizona Aquarium, Forever 21 and H&M.
Arizona’s only IKEA is located just down the road and features everything for the home under one roof.
Tempe’s historic Mill Avenue District is a great place to find maroon and gold Arizona State University (ASU) gear, custom-made T-shirts and trendy apparel. The red-brick sidewalks of this historic downtown are also lined with a variety of restaurants and taverns for every taste and walk of life.
For fabulous local designers, visit Here on the Corner, located in the Mill Avenue District on College Avenue. In addition to carrying merchandise from local artists, on every third Thursday the store hosts local designer nights where guests can meet the talent behind brands, such as Aesthetically Assembled, a company that transforms broken jewelry into magnificent pieces, and Think Positive Apparel, a husband and wife duo who design stylish clothing featuring inspiring affirmations.
Here on the Corner also focuses on giving back with their passion for “products for a cause,” like Darfur beads, Haitian hearts and Pura Vida bracelets.
At Brand-X on Mill Avenue, visitors can create a shirt, messenger bag or hat that can’t be found anywhere else.
The imaginative team at Brand-X stocks a variety of apparel that can be customized with artwork, images, quotes or anything else that can be dreamt up. The result is a one-of-a-kind creation that is ready to wear in just an hour or two.
Twice annually in the spring and the fall, the Mill Avenue District is full of more than 350 artisans during the Tempe Festival of the Arts. The next Tempe Festival of the Arts will be April 5–7, 2013, from 10 a.m. until dusk each day.
This juried art show brings some of the most talented artists and craftspeople who sell everything from jewelry to sculpture to photography and everything in between.
Attendees can also enjoy street performers, music, cottage edibles, kids’ crafts and tastings from Arizona breweries and wineries.
ASU Art Museum Store
The ASU Art Museum Store, located within one of the most impressive contemporary art museums in Arizona, focuses on merchandise from local artists and works by ASU alumni and faculty.
For example, the Museum Store sells Street Gems, eco-friendly contemporary jewelry made from discarded items, such as plastic bottles, bags and caution tape. ASU School of Art alumna and faculty member Ann Morton is the creative force behind Street Gems.
This wearable art is made by homeless artisans affiliated with Lodestar Day Resource Center in Phoenix. The social initiative gives the jewelry makers the opportunity to learn a new skill and work as a team, helping them feel a sense of pride and connection to the community.
The store also carries ceramic pieces by highly acclaimed ASU School of Art faculty like Susan Beiner, Sam Chung and Kurt Weiser, as well as works from artists around the world, handmade greeting cards, imaginative and challenging toys for children, Oaxacan wood carvings and other unusual gift items.
Desert Botanical Garden Shop
After walking through the beautiful grounds at Desert Botanical Garden, stop in the Garden Shop located near the front entrance to take home a little piece of the Sonoran Desert.
Browse the Garden Shop for desert plants like mini barrel cacti or a colored gem wind chime to hang in the backyard. The Desert Botanical Garden’s prickly pear margarita mix will surely warm you up from the inside out.
On your way to the Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts to see the latest exhibition, stop in the TCArt Shop located near the main entrance. Inside, you will find fine craft jewelry and scarves, fine art, ceramics and much more, all designed by local artists.
Changing Hands Bookstore
There’s no better place to buy a book than Tempe’s Changing Hands Bookstore. Known as one of the best independent bookstores around, Changing Hands carries new and used books, fun gift items, cards, games and more gems.
It shares a space with Wildflower Bread Company so patrons can easily spend most of their afternoon with a good book and fresh food.
Local Tempe pasta company Decio Pasta is a delicious, all-natural treat sold at the Tempe Farmer’s Market, the upscale local grocer AJ’s Fine Foods and Whole Foods.
Their vegetable-infused pasta makes an excellent meal and an even better reminder of your trip to Arizona. Flavors are diverse and delicious. Look for spinach basil garlic, wild mushroom, Szechuan orange spice or the Southwestern-influenced chile cilantro.
(Brought to you by Tempe Tourism, (800) 283-6734, www.tempetourism.com.)