We recently got to visit Tempe, Arizona so that I could do the Ironman 70.3 and so that we could enjoy a little vacation! I gotta say, it’s the perfect long weekend getaway destination. The weather is PRIME (albeit, a little hot for racing…), the food is amazing, and there are so many fun little activities to do.
So let’s jump in to it!
Getting There & Getting Around
Tempe is conveniently located in the heart of the Phoenix metropolitan area, making it extremely easily accessible. That’s actually one of the things that drew me in to selecting to race here – kinda lame, sure, but it’s only 5 mins from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to downtown Tempe! They offer numerous domestic and international flights, making it an easy point of entry. From the airport, you can take a taxi, ride-share, or use public transportation to reach Tempe. So many options!
As for getting around once you’re here, again – there are quite a few options! Renting a car would be the easiest, but most expensive. We chose to skip the rental and just use ride-sharing options whenever we had to venture outside of downtown, since most of what we needed was walkable! We used Uber, Lyft, and Waymo (autonomous vehicles), as well as Bird scooters.
The scooters were for sure my favourite, because you still got to see the city as you were commuting. Plus, there are so many multi-use pathways along the town lake and up the canal system!
Waymo is an autonomous vehicle that is available to the public in Metro Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and soon, Austin. This was my first time in an autonomous vehicle and it was SO COOL! We were obsessed. They were typically also cheaper than Ubers/Lyfts… probably because they are less in demand as some people are still hesitant to get in a self driving car. Reasonable!
Where to Stay in Tempe, Arizona
One of my favourite things about Tempe is that a lot of the attractions are walkable, if you choose the right place to stay! Here are some of the best areas to consider for your stay, along with a few hotels I’d recommend.
1. Downtown Tempe: If you want to be right in the midst of the action, Downtown Tempe is the place to be. It’s a lively and central location, packed with restaurants, shops, and entertainment options. During our stay, we chose the Sonesta Select Tempe Downtown. While we chose this spot because it was close to the Ironman Village and race start, it ended up being a nice central location for all of our activities.
2. Arizona State University (ASU) Campus: The ASU campus area is another fantastic option. It has a vibrant atmosphere and a variety of hotels, catering to different budgets. Staying near ASU gives you easy access to the beautiful Tempe Town Lake and the Mill Avenue district, known for its dining and nightlife.
3. Near Sky Harbor Airport: If convenience and proximity to the airport are top priorities for you, there are several hotels in close proximity to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Some of these hotels even offer complimentary shuttle services to make your travel hassle-free. However, downtown Tempe itself is quite close to the airport so I think it’s well worth the extra travel time (only a few mins!).
Our experience at the Sonesta Select Tempe Downtown was great! I would definitely recommend this place to those visiting. It was an easy walk to Tempe Town Lake, and it was surrounded by shops and restaurants. The pool and hot tub were lovely as well.
While we only stayed at the one hotel during our visit to Tempe, I had the chance to explore a few others that left a great impression. The Westin Downtown Tempe is a fantastic choice for those seeking a comfortable and well-located stay. We stopped by to check out Skysill, the rooftop bar and pool. I’d probably choose to stay here if we ever come back to Tempe!
I also visited the Canopy by Hilton to dine at Alter Ego, and the hotel seems to be a lovely spot with a vibrant atmosphere and an innovative culinary scene.
One thing we noticed was that there are a lot of hotels in Tempe. No matter your budget or preferences, you’ll be able to find a good fit.
When to Visit Tempe and Weather Information
Choosing the right time to visit Tempe depends on your preferences and the type of activities you plan to enjoy. The city’s climate is characterized by its arid desert climate, with plenty of sunny days year-round. As a Canadian, I would plan my vacation here during the winter months to get a break from our cold and get some much needed Vitamin D!
Here’s a breakdown of the seasons and weather to help you decide when to plan your trip:
Spring (March to May): Spring is a popular time to visit Tempe. The weather is pleasantly warm without being overly hot, with daytime temperatures ranging from 24-30°C (mid-70s to mid-80s°F). This is an excellent time for outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and exploring the city’s parks and gardens. The blooming desert flowers are a nice added bonus!
Summer (June to August): This is cooking weather. Daytime temperatures get up to 38-43°C (well into the 100s°F), making outdoor activities less comfortable during the peak of the day. If you can handle the heat and are looking for great hotel deals, visiting in the summer can be budget-friendly. Just be sure to stay hydrated and plan your outdoor adventures in the cooler morning and evening hours.
Fall (September to November): Fall is another fantastic time to visit Tempe. The scorching summer temperatures begin to mellow, with daytime highs in the 27-35°C range (80s and 90s°F). This season is ideal for outdoor exploration, and you’ll also find a variety of cultural events and festivals taking place during this time.
Winter (December to February): Winters in Tempe are mild and comfortable. Daytime temperatures typically range from 15-24°C (60s to 70s°F). This is the prime season for snowbirds escaping colder climates, and it’s an excellent time for hiking, golfing, and enjoying the city’s cultural offerings.
In summary, the best time to visit Tempe depends on your tolerance for heat and your activity preferences. Spring and fall are often considered the most pleasant seasons, with ideal weather for outdoor adventures. However, if you don’t mind the heat and prefer to save on accommodations, a summer visit can be budget-friendly. Just be mindful of the extreme temperatures and plan your activities accordingly. Regardless of when you visit, Tempe’s sunny skies and a wide array of attractions make it a great destination year-round.
A note: we visited at the end of October, and it was a spicy 37-38°C nearly every day. So be prepared for the heat no matter what!
What to do in Tempe
We booked our trip for the race, so I really had no idea what else there was to do in Tempe. And I was pleasantly surprised! The town offers a range of indoor and outdoor activities, as well as fantastic dining options and stunning sunrises and sunsets. Here’s a list of my top picks:
Hiking: “A” Mountain: For a quick outdoor adventure right in the heart of Downtown Tempe, head to the “A” Mountain trail. This is a super short 1 km out-and-back hike with spectacular views of the ASU campus, the lake, the airport, and other surrounding landmarks. Tip: go for sunrise or sunset!
ASU Art Museum: A totally free experience, you can delve into the intersection of architecture and activism at ASU Art Museum. Explore the museum grounds for unique photo opportunities and intriguing exhibitions. Make sure to check out the crafting room!
Desert Botanical Garden: Experience the world’s finest collection of arid plants from deserts around the globe. With over 50,000 desert plants spread across 140 acres, the garden is a must-see.
Bonus: have a meal at Gertrude’s, a lovely restaurant within the garden.
Papago Park: This park is best known for the stunning Hole-in-the-Rock Trail, a short 0.5 km hike leading to a breathtaking lookout. However, it also has many other trails and lagoons that are worth exploring as well!
Tutugether: Engage in a brand-new crafting experience located on Mill Avenue. Here, you can explore customizable tufting, pouring techniques, and Decoden arts theories to unleash your creative side. I’m super sad we ended up not being able to squeeze this activity in, but I have heard only good things!
Boat Rentals of America, Tempe Town Lake: Get out on the water and enjoy Tempe Town Lake with kayak, paddle boards, pedal boats, and motorized watercraft available for rent. We did not rent boats, since I simply swam in the lake to get my fill of water time! Lol
The culinary scene is Tempe is pretty fantastic. I ended up writing a whole dedicated post just for the food! Check it out here: Where to Eat in Tempe.
The sun really puts on a show in the desert! Each and every sunrise and sunset we saw was just beautiful. Whether you prefer urban views or natural beauty, Tempe has the perfect spot to soak it all in. Check out my favourites here: Best Spots for Sunrise & Sunset in Tempe.
Three Day Itinerary
We spent 5 days in Tempe, but a bunch of that time was focused on race prep and race day. Since Tempe is the perfect long weekend getaway, I’ve put together a sample 3-day itinerary that’s designed to help you make the most of your visit.
- Sunrise hike at “A” Mountain
- Breakfast at Daily Jam
- Get on the water at Tempe Town Lake
- Afternoon tea at Drink Me! Tea Room
- Tuft a custom rug at Tutugether
- Dinner & sunset at Skysill
- Sunrise along Rio Salado Pathway
- Breakfast and games at Snakes and Lattes
- Shopping in the Mill Ave district
- Lunch at Pita Jungle
- Hike “hole-in-the-rock” trail and explore Papago Park
- Desert Botanical Garden for golden hour and sunset
- Dinner at Gertrude’s
- Sunrise at Tempe Town Lake
- Brunch at Alter Ego
- Visit ASU Art Gallery
- Relax by the pool
- Sunset at Tempe Town Lake (or another rooftop restaurant such as Alibi)
- Dinner at Cocina Chiwa’s
- Pick up cookies from Crumbl for dessert
For the full trip experience, check out my YouTube vlog from the long weekend:
*Kinda sponsored: I was hired by the Tempe Tourism Office to create an Instagram Reel with highlights from my trip. So while this post is not sponsored, a portion of the trip was covered by the office.