When the enterprising merchant Charles Trumbull Hayden arrived here in 1871 to
set up a trading post, he liked this spot on the south bank of the Salt River because
it was the safest place to cross with his freight wagons. Hayden also found it a
great location for his flourmill and ferry service.
Darrel Duppa came over from Phoenix to visit Hayden's ferry one day, and remarked that the Salt River Valley reminded him of the Vale of Tempe between Mt. Olympus and Mt. Ossa in Thessaly, Greece. Hayden liked the name and, eventually, it stuck.
Farmers settled in Tempe (tem-PEE) to raise livestock, establish a dairy, and grow a variety of crops. In 1885 the Territorial Legislature established nearby Arizona Territorial Normal School, now Arizona State University (ASU) and one of the largest schools in the country. Sandwiched between Phoenix to the west and Mesa to the east, Tempe (pop. 163,000) lies just south of Scottsdale.
Downtown Tempe offers more than 140 cafes, restaurants, nightspots, bookstores, and specialty shops along and just off Mill Avenue. Brick-paved sidewalks shaded by trees invite a stroll. The Tempe Convention & Visitors Bureau at 51 W. Third Street can fill you in on local events and services.
Many of Tempe's original buildings have survived. Charles Hayden's home at Rio Salado Parkway and Mill Ave. dates from the early 1870s and is now Monti's La Casa Vieja Restaurant. His flour mill (rebuilt in 1918 after a fire) and the 1951 grain elevator stand across Mill Avenue. Other notable historic structures downtown include the 1888 Hackett House/Tempe Bakery (now a gift shop) at 95 W. Fourth Street, the 1899 Hotel Casa Loma (now a restaurant and offices) at 398 S. Mill Avenue, the Laird and Dines Building at 501 S. Mill Avenue, and the Tempe Hardware Building at 520 S. Mill Avenue. Architecture that would have surprised the pioneers lies to the east—the upside-down glass-and-steel pyramid city hall at 31 E. Fifth Street and an Arab-styled mosque at Sixth and Forest Streets.
Parking and Getting Around
The parking garage at Hayden Square is a good bet downtown; the nearby Visitors Bureau and other area businesses will validate your parking. Enter the garage by turning west one block on Third or Fifth Streets from Mill Avenue. You can also park in the metered spaces in front of the Visitors Bureau.
Parking is tight on the ASU campus, but you can use metered parking spaces (one hour maximum) or several pay lots; visitors' parking is well signed. Most of the central campus is closed to motor traffic. Valley Metro (602/253-5000) connects the university with Tempe and the rest of the Valley. The free FLASH bus services make loops Mon.-Fri. around campus and downtown. Cyclists will find marked bike lanes. Both motorists and pedestrians need to be on the lookout for bicycle riders, especially at night when they may zip down streets and sidewalks without lights. The Visitors Bureau provides bus and cycling maps.
The Tempe History Museum
This attractive museum (809 E. Southern Ave. at Rural Rd., 480/350-5125 recording or 480/350-5100, www.tempe.gov/museum, 1-5 p.m. Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and Sat., closed Fri. and major holidays, donations welcome) portrays many aspects of the city in the exhibition—Tempe: Distinct, Diverse, Dynamic—dramatically stages the stories of the city and explores its social, environmental, educational, and community history using a thematic approach. Temporary shows appear too, and kids have their own gallery.
Niels Petersen House
Built in 1892, this late Victorian Queen Anne-style house (1414 W. Southern Ave. at Priest Dr., 480/350-5151, 480/350-5100 group tours, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. and Sat., last tour at 1:30 p.m., donations welcome) used a clever ventilation system to keep the interior livable in summer. You can tour the interior, restored to its 1930s' Bungalow appearance, and learn how Niels Petersen contributed to Tempe's early growth. Outside, a small park offers picnic tables and a playground.
Arizona SeaLife Aquarium
Explore the sea and learn about sea life conservation at the family-friendly exhibits here (5000 S. Arizona Mills Circle, Ste. 145, 877/526-3960, www.visitsealife.com/arizona/, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun. and 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.); check the website for feeding times, talks, prices and discounted tickets. The ocean tunnel surrounded by sharks is a highlight for many visitors, and there are jellyfish, rays, a sea turtle, seahorses, and many fish to marvel at. Kids also enjoy the touch tank and play area. It's in the northeast corner of Arizona Mills Mall, which is at the southeast corner of the Superstition Freeway (US 60) and I-10; head east from I-10 on Baseline Road or south from the Superstition Freeway on Priest Drive.
Tempe Town Lake
A two-mile section of the barren gravel riverbed of the Salt River just north of Tempe has been transformed into a lake with parks on each shore. Inflatable dams hold the water in, which arrives via a canal. Visitors can bring their own non-motorized boats, rent one, or take a tour, but there's no swimming. Free outdoor concerts take place Sunday evenings in spring. Tempe Beach Park on the south shore offers picnic tables and playgrounds.
Hayden (Tempe) Butte
A short stiff climb will take you from downtown to the rocky summit for a panorama of Tempe and beyond. Interpretive signs describe some plants and history. The trail begins on the butte's south side near the junction of Fifth Street and College Avenue beside Sun Devil Stadium.
A bit of old Mexico lies just beyond southwest Tempe. Yaqui and Mexican-Americans offer restaurants, fruit stands, bakeries, and craft shops in this small, slightly run-down community. Most of the shopping is along Avenida del Yaqui (Priest Dr.) between Guadalupe and Baseline Roads. The large white Yaqui Temple and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church can be seen one block west.
When the Arizona Legislature founded ASU in 1885, classes met in a four-room,
red-brick structure set on 20 acres of cow pasture. Today, broad lawns, stately
palms, and flowering subtropical trees grace the 720-acre main campus of Arizona's
largest university. Growth has been spectacular in recent decades; the school now
has more than 60,000 students on four campuses. About 7,100 students attend the
300-acre ASU West campus in Phoenix, while another 3,100 students take classes at
the ASU East campus in Mesa. Undergraduates can choose from 87 majors, while graduate
students can earn a master's degree in 95 subjects or a doctorate in 48.
Attractions on campus include the striking ASU Gammage auditorium, art galleries, and a variety of museums. The landscaped grounds offer pleasant walking among many different exotic and native trees plus some unique sculpture and architecture. You can learn about points of interest and the campus-wide arboretum with free maps and pamphlets available from ASU's visitor center. Additional exhibits described in the brochures, but not listed below, may interest you too. Activity slows down a bit in summer—it's hot—but most of the galleries and museums stay open, except as noted.
To learn more about ASU, contact the Memorial Union's information desk (480/965-5728) or write ASU, University Dr. and Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ 85287. ASU's website www.asu.edu provides maps, parking information, museum and library details, campus tour schedules (nonstudents can join), self-guided tours of public art and the Arboretum (which covers the entire Tempe campus), and events. The university sponsors two FM radio stations, KBAQ with classical music at 89.5 MHz. and KJZZ featuring jazz and National Public Radio at 91.5 MHz.
ASU Art Museum at Nelson Fine Arts Center
Art and architecture intertwine on the west side of campus (southeast corner of Mill Ave. and 10th St., 480/965-2787, http://asuartmuseum.asu.edu, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., extended to 9 p.m. on Tues. except in summer, closed Sun.-Mon. and major holidays, free). The American Gallery traces themes from early portraiture to landscapes and abstract art. Other exhibit spaces usually host contemporary art. You can also explore sculpture on several outdoor terraces. A gift shop sells a variety of unique crafts.
Architect Antoine Predock designed the Center to provide a "village-like aggregation of buildings" housing the arts. Aspects of the existing campus and the desert can be seen in the choice of materials, forms, and colors. Light coming in from skylights reflects off surfaces a total of 10 times before illuminating the artwork—a process meant to deflect the harmful qualities of daylight. In addition to the museum, the Center is home to the Galvin Playhouse and University Dance Laboratory. You can park in front at the meters or in the nearby visitor parking lot.
Ceramics Research Center
ASU Art Museum's ceramic collection (north across 10th St. from the Nelson Fine Arts Center, 480/965-2787, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., free) will amaze you with its diversity, beauty, and whimsy. Rotating exhibits may show pots by noted Native American artists, life-like figures, abstract forms, and perhaps a bit of bawdy playfulness.
Undergraduate students stage art shows in this little gallery (480/965-3468, noon-5 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., noon-3 p.m. Fri., closed in summer, free) just north of the Ceramics Research Center, but you have to walk around to the north-side entrance.
Harry Wood Gallery
Here you can peruse exhibitions (Art Building, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fri., free) of paintings, photography, or sculpture by Master of Fine Arts students.
Gallery of Design
You can see some of the latest techniques, illustrated by drawings and scale models. (south side of the Architecture and Environmental Design building, 480/965-6693, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., free). The building also holds the Howe Library of Architecture.
This gallery (Matthews Hall, 480/965-6517, 12:30-4:30 p.m. Sun., 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., closed in summer, free admission) features historic and contemporary photographic exhibits.
Museum of Anthropology
The collection (Anthropology Building, 480/965-6224, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri., summer hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., free) illustrates prehistoric Hohokam and modern Native American cultures, archaeological techniques, and concepts of anthropology.
The university's main library (480/965-6164, http://lib.asu.edu/hayden) houses the Arizona, Chicano, and East Asian special collections, along with the Labriola National American Indian Data Center and government documents. Staff can also tell you of specialized libraries at other campus locations. Computers provide access to library holdings and the Internet. Head up to the 4th floor to see the Luhrs Gallery exhibitions of historic photos in the hallways. The library is open from early morning to late at night, with shorter hours during summer and academic breaks and for the special collections.
The university's social center offers more than a dozen places to eat. Students and visitors relax downstairs in a lounge or patio, go bowling, or play a game of billiards. Staff at the main floor information desk (480/965-5728) can tell you about the latest concerts, theater performances, art shows, and sporting events. It's open daily from early morning to late at night with shorter hours in summer and breaks.
Computing Commons Gallery
Intriguing technology-generated artwork appears in five to six shows annually (Computing Commons building, 480/965-3609, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri., free).
Offerings include general-interest books, textbooks, supplies, maps, and Sun Devils souvenirs (480/965-4170).
Life Sciences Center
Meet the university's live rattlesnakes—perhaps all 18 of Arizona's subspecies—plus Gila monsters and non-venomous snakes in hallway exhibits (Life Sciences Center A Wing, 480/965-3396, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., free).
Center for Meteorite Studies
See visitors from outer space (Room C-139 and the adjacent hallways of the C Wing of the Physical Sciences building, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri., free).
R. S. Dietz Museum of Geology
Here in the F Wing of the Physical Sciences building (480/965-7065, about 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., free), you can check the six-story Foucault pendulum to see if the earth is still spinning, or watch the earthquake map to learn if there has been some shaking. Exhibits illustrate geologic processes and identify rocks, minerals, and fossils.
Gaze up at star shows in ASU's Planetarium (F Wing of the Physical Sciences Building, 480/965-6891, http://sese.asu.edu/planetarium, small charge).
Daniel E. Noble Science Library
The nearby science and engineering departments have their collections here (480/965-7607, http://lib.asu.edu/noble, open morning to late at night). You can look up collections or browse the Internet on computers. Hikers plan trips using the map collection (3rd level, 480/965-3582, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri.).
You'll see this circular structure, commemorating a former ASU president, on the southwest corner of campus (480/965-0458 tours, 480/965-3434 box office, www.asugammage.com). Dedicated in 1964, the 3,000-seat auditorium was the last major building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Broadway plays and many cultural offerings take place on stage. Free 30-45 minutes tours are offered Mondays between September and mid-May unless the auditorium is in use; call the day before to get on a tour. The auditorium, set into a curve where Apache Boulevard meets Mill Avenue, is easy to spot.
The university has fielded some top teams. You can see their trophies, clippings, and photos at the ASU Sports Hall of Fame (in the circular corridor of the Wells Fargo Arena, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.). The giant 75,000-seat Sun Devil Stadium hosts football games, while the 14,000-seat Wells Fargo Arena serves ASU's basketball squads. Baseball plays in the 4,500-seat Packard Stadium. Buy tickets to games in front of the Sun Devil stadium at the Sun Devils Athletic Ticket Office (480/727-0000, www.thesundevils.com) or at the event.
On to Tempe Accommodations