College towns are known for creative expression and Tempe, Arizona, just might be the most creative of them all.

Tempe is defined by its youthful vitality and a universal love of the arts, especially at Arizona State University (ASU) and the downtown Mill Avenue District.

Fun-filled festivals, public art, award-winning local theater, blockbuster Broadway productions, contemporary dance companies and funky local bands are all part of Tempe’s arts and cultural scene.

Tempe Festival of the Arts

Many visitors plan their trip to Tempe around the bi-annual Tempe Festival of the Arts (Dec. 2–4, 2011, and March 30–April 1, 2012, from 10 a.m. to dusk each day). Over these three-day weekends, the Tempe Festival of the Arts will fill the Mill Avenue District with beautiful and engaging works from more than 400 artists and artisans.

Artworks range from photography to jewelry to sculpture and everything in between, creating a distinctive shopping experience. There are collection-worthy masterpieces, budget-friendly arts and crafts, and a cottage edibles section with tasty treats and homemade goods.

Adding to the experience, all artists are on-site to greet festival attendees. This free festival provides a street-fair atmosphere with entertaining performers, live music and hands-on activities for children.

But that’s not all. Food and wine enthusiasts are sure to find new favorites at the Arizona Wine Festival. More than 10 Arizona winegrowers will showcase their best offerings, giving guests the opportunity to taste wines and buy these fruits of the vine by the bottle or case.

Attendees can also sample craft beers from three of Tempe’s local microbreweries – Dave’s Electric Brew Pub, Four Peaks Brewery and Sleepy Dog Brewery – at the Art of Beer event. Beer will also be available for sale by the bottle or case.

There are also a variety of restaurants and cafés in the Mill Avenue District, perfect for refueling after a long day of shopping for treasures.

Public and Performance Art in Tempe

Throughout the year, there are many other ways to be inspired by the arts in Tempe.

Look for the public art displays throughout the city, especially in the Mill Avenue District, alongside the pathways that surround Tempe Town Lake and on campus at Arizona State University.

If you’re a fan of Broadway shows, you’ll be right at home at ASU Gammage.

This historic auditorium, beautifully designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is among the largest university-based presenters of the performing arts in the world and plays host to one of the most successful Broadway series in the country.

The 2011/2012 Progressive® Broadway Across America–Arizona season and special engagements include some of today’s biggest hits straight from New York, including Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, Wicked and La Cage Aux Folles.

Visual Art and Live Music in Tempe

There are also more than 20 free museums and galleries on campus at Arizona State University. Collections range from contemporary art to photography to science.

The largest is ASU Art Museum, which presents works of art that stimulate, educate and make a statement about our society. There is a focus on contemporary art, new media, ceramics and other crafts, prints, art from Arizona and the Southwest, and Latino art.

The visually stunning Tempe Center for the Arts (TCA), located on the shore of Tempe Town Lake, is a popular destination for visual and performing arts.

Childsplay, a professional theater company for young audiences, delights and entertains children and their parents with colorful productions based on popular stories and life lessons.

The Gallery at the TCA features rotating themed art exhibitions. The TCA is also home to a variety of performances including symphonies, dance companies and even open-mic nights from talented local singer-songwriters.

Many of Tempe’s restaurants, taverns and clubs feature regularly scheduled live music. Styles range from acoustic sets from local musicians to some of the most popular national acts at venues such as Marquee Theatre.

No matter what inspires you most – music, theater, visual arts or fun-filled festivals – Tempe is a perfect destination for art enthusiasts. Visit and begin planning your trip to this exciting college town.

(Brought to you by Tempe Tourism Office,  or (800) 283-6734.)