The alfalfa, cotton and dairy farms that first put Gilbert on the map a century ago may have ceded their acreage during the town's exponential growth—from 5,700 residents in 1980 to more than 267,000 today—but town leaders and residents alike have taken thoughtful steps to recognize and remember the community's agricultural roots and history.
In Gilbert's walkable downtown Heritage District, visitors stroll through blocks of historic downtown buildings. These former homes of Model T repair shops and dance pavilions now house galleries, performance venues and restaurants from some of the Valley's best-known culinary concepts.
Experience events in Gilbert at nearby Water Tower Plaza—named after the still-standing 200-plus-foot-tall water tower built in the 1920s to irrigate the town. Browse the booths and kiosks at the Gilbert Farmers Market every Saturday morning, and during the cooler months, stroll the plaza's bimonthly evening art walks.
Cruising for a brew-sing?
Many of the restaurants in downtown Gilbert are outposts of local chains that got their footing in Phoenix. One of the country's most successful craft breweries, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co., reversed that trend, opening its first location in Gilbert before opening a second years later in downtown Phoenix. More than a half-dozen other craft beer and coffee brewers throughout town offer their own drafts and flights, as well.
Get back to nature
To immerse yourself in the outdoors without leaving town, head to the Riparian Reserve at Water Ranch, where nearly 70 acres of lakes and streams have been created through Gilbert's imaginative plan for reusing 100% of its effluent water. Around them, 4½ miles of trails weave through different vegetative zones and wildlife habitats. Birdwatchers have identified nearly 300 different species throughout the grounds, which are also a destination for walkers, hikers and anglers, who can catch and keep most of the fish stocked in the basins throughout the year. To prolong your stay beyond a day, reserve one of the three on-site campsites.
Gilbert's Agritopia development includes a 12-acre urban organic farm. The commercial side supplies restaurants such as the neighboring Joe's Farm Grill. At the community garden, visitors can follow the footpaths that wend between plots tended by locals who grow everything from artichokes and pomegranates to honeysuckle and hollyhocks. While on-site, stop by Barnone to see a diverse collection of local makers at work, selling their handcrafted goods.
Farming on this stretch of land began in 1927 when the principal crop was alfalfa. The goal of the Johnston Family Foundation for Urban Agriculture, which manages it, is to preserve it and other urban farms for future generations—another example of the efforts to preserve the connection between a growing community and cultivating the food needed to nourish it.
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