Home to Arizona State University, Tempe, just east of Phoenix, contains the vibe you would expect in a college town, and attractions that make you want to stay awhile.
Unlike other cities in the Valley of the Sun, Tempe is landlocked on all sides by neighboring communities, which means much of the ambitious growth and development that have turned it into a must-see destination have been fueled by incredibly imaginative use (and reuse) of features that already existed within its city limits.
Ride the waves
Perhaps the most dramatic example is Tempe Town Lake, created in 1999 at a site on the Salt River where riverboats once delivered grain to be ground at the historic Hayden Flour Mill. Now, more than 2.4 million people a year visit the 220-acre manmade reservoir for kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing. Or stick to the miles of surrounding parks and paths for walking, bicycling, Segway tours, volleyball competitions, music and food festivals and other Tempe Town Lake events.
Mill about downtown
The lake marks the north end of downtown Tempe, known as Mill Avenue, where the sidewalks buzz day and night with people checking out the shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. Twice a year, the neighborhood hosts the Tempe Festival of the Arts, where more than 350 artists and artisans take to the streets and sidewalks to showcase their wares.
Head back to school
You don't have to step far onto Arizona State University's Tempe campus to start experiencing something fantastic: ASU Gammage, a landmark performing arts center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, hosts touring Broadway productions, concerts and dance performances. ASU Art Museum presents a colorful collection of Latin American art. Or head to outer space by visiting the Lunar Exploration Museum and NASA's Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Operations Center.
Catch a homerun
Each spring, Tempe Diablo Stadium is home to the Los Angeles Angels for Cactus League Spring Training. Bonus tip: Before each game, you'll see fans waiting outside in the west parking lot near the practice stadium; it's a prime spot to score autographs from your favorite players headed to the playing field!
Put it in park
At Papago Park, the 150-acre desert preserve split between Tempe and Phoenix, visitors can enjoy more than 10 miles of Tempe hiking and biking trails. One of the most popular (and shortest) leads to the iconic Hole in the Rock, a west-facing cave carved out of a sandstone butte that affords fantastic sunset vistas.
For a more manicured experience, head to the 125-acre Kiwanis Park in south Tempe, where tennis courts, a batting range, a 5,000-square-foot seasonal splash pad and an indoor heated wave pool and splash pad are scattered around a 12-acre man-made lake where visitors can rent kayaks and pedal boats. (Speaking of pedaling, Tempe’s 217 miles of bike paths helped earn its designation as a Gold-Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.)
Experience the great indoors
In Tempe, even shopping malls have been reinvented as innovative and imaginative destinations: Arizona Mills hosts both the two-story LEGOLAND Discovery Center, complete with the 1-million-brick Miniland that replicates Arizona landmarks including the Grand Canyon, and the 26,000-square-foot interactive aquarium SEA LIFE Arizona.