Omied and I had the fun opportunity to travel to Arizona with the Tempe Tourism Office, and I’m excited to share all the deets on what to do in Tempe, AZ! We spent a weekend in Tempe and had such a great time exploring. Tempe was giving us a lot of mini-Austin vibes and we loved that there was live day music everywhere, cute seasonal events, and great food. It was like I was at a day music festival in Tempe!
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend getaway in the desert, or visiting a friend at Arizona State University, here’s a fun three-day weekend itinerary that you can steal!
What to Do in Tempe, AZ: Three-Day Itinerary
What to do in Tempe, AZ: Day 1
Lunch at Little Miss BBQ: A few years ago when we flew into Phoenix to visit Sedona, we were starving and looking for a good food spot near the airport before heading on our drive. Yelp lead us to Little Miss BBQ and it was legit the best barbeque I’ve ever had in my life. This family-owned joint puts so much care into their slow-cooked meats and they are just insanely delicious. Since then we actually joke about how we would fly back to Phoenix just to eat at Little Miss BBQ again. So you know we were stoked to head straight there after we landed. Expect long lines, but just know it is absolutely worth it. The baby back ribs are our absolute favorite and the meat just falls off the bone (the brisket and all of the sides are also out of this world). We were so happy to find that it was even better than we remembered!
Check-in: We checked into The Graduate Tempe hotel for the weekend and loved its central location and fun and funky decor and vibes. Their pool is great for lounging and relaxing, and their diner and coffee bar make breakfast a breeze.
Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden: Right at dusk, we went over to the Desert Botanical Garden for their Las Noches de las Luminarias event, where they are the center to thousands of hand-lit luminarias around the gorgeous gardens. It was so beautiful and romantic and we loved walking around checking out all of the local bands playing around the garden, as well as all of the stunning cacti. They also had bars set up throughout the garden with delicious spiked seasonal drinks like hot chocolate and hot cider with brandy. Soooo good, and it made for the perfect date night or a special event with friends.
Dinner at Postino Annex: For dinner, we went over to Postino Annex to have some delicious bruschetta and wine.
ZooLights: To round out the night we went to the Phoenix Zoo, which was all decked out in Christmas lights and so much fun!
What to do in Tempe, AZ: Day 2
Breakfast at Normal Diner: We had a yummy breakfast at Normal Diner at our hotel. Omied had the fried chicken and red velvet waffles and I had the avocado toast, and then we obviously had to share the fruity pebbles French toast. After fueling up we were ready for a full day.
Narande Spa: We got spoiled by Narande Spa at the Phoenix Marriott Tempe at The Buttes with a couple’s massage. It was so relaxing, and afterward, you’re able to enjoy their beautiful pool and hot tubs, even if you’re not a guest at the hotel. The hot tubs are sprinkled throughout the rocks and cacti so it was fun hopping from pool to pool.
Lunch at House of Tricks: After our massages and relaxing in the pools we went back over to downtown to have lunch at House of Tricks. Their artichoke dip was so freaking good! And they make a pretty kick-ass bloody mary.
Papago Park: Before dusk, we went over to Papago Park to hike around and find a spot to sit and watch the sunset. The famous “hole in the rock” is (just like it sounds) a hole in a giant rock wall that’s perfect for a short hike and place to hang out and soak up the beautiful views.
Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade: The Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade is a super cute event that Tempe hosts during the holidays, where the local peeps get together and basically anyone with a boat and some lights and creativity can deck out their boat holiday style and participate in the light parade in Tempe Town Lake. And then Santa rolls up in the last boat and the kids go crazy, and they end with a fireworks show. Seriously the cutest and we loved watching all the decked-out boats go by, getting everyone in the holiday spirit.
Dinner at Culinary Dropout: Since Culinary Dropout is really close to Tempe Town Lake, we walked over for dinner and had some great ribs and off the hook fondue. We were also obsessed with the local band Vinyl Station that was playing that night. They were seriously amazing and we ended up staying after dinner to have some beers and listen to them longer.
What to do in Tempe, AZ: Day 3
Snooze for Brunch: OMG Snooze. We loved this spot for brunch! Omied and I had the B.E.A.T. sandwich and the corned beef hash, and then we went a little crazy on the dessert side and had the French toast AND the pineapple upside-down pancakes. Those pancakes were divine and I am legit still dreaming about them.
Hike “A” Mountain: After our decadent lunch, we walked over to “A” Mountain, just a couple blocks away. On the hike, you can see ancient Hohokam rock art petroglyphs, which is super cool as they date back to when the Hohokam people inhabited that area between A.D. 1 and 1450. It’s a pretty short and easy hike and once you’re at the top you have a great view of downtown Tempe and Phoenix and the desert and mountains.
Sixth Street Market: We strolled through the Sixth Street Market with local artisans and checked out some of the other local boutiques as well, while we worked our appetite back up for lunch.
Lunch at Cornish Pasty Co.: For lunch, we went to this English dive bar that’s known for their pasties. I had their classic shepherd pie and it was pretty delicious. Their pasties are huge, so it was perfect to have half for lunch and save the other half for the plane ride home. I literally could go crawling back.
That’s my three-day itinerary for Tempe! I had several readers DM me on Instagram when I was posting on Stories during our trip saying how they love visiting Tempe, and honestly, it was such a pleasure traveling there and getting to check out the local scene and the best things to do in Tempe, so I can see why! If there’s anything I missed that we should check out next time, let me know!
The next time I make my way out to Tempe, I definitely want to make time to check out the Mill Ave District because I hear it’s a lot like downtown Scottsdale with lots of shopping and fine dining. I also want to try and see the production of Miss Saigon or catch a show at the Marquee Theatre. I hear traveling to Tempe in September is a lot of fun since there are sporting events to attend with friends and restaurants having restaurant week!
Thank you so much to Tempe Tourism for sponsoring this what to do in Tempe, AZ post! We had so much fun and can’t wait to visit again.
Thinking of traveling to Arizona? Check out my Scottsdale and Sedona guides!
At the Tempe Town Lake, there are activities to go fishing, boating, rowing, or a casual stroll. For the holidays, they put on the Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade.
Tempe Arizona is famous for Arizona State University, Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, or Angels spring training for baseball.