Tempe Ideal Itinerary

A daylong visit to Tempe offers an easy way to sample the state’s renowned landscape, arts, artisans and more By: Mindy Poder
Desert Botanical Garden // © 2012 Mindy Poder
Desert Botanical Garden // © 2012 Mindy Poder

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Phoenix Zoo // © 2012 ASU GAMMAGE

 Phoenix Zoo // © 2012 AZ Jade

Four Peaks Brewery // © 2012 TIM TRUMBLE

 Four Peaks Brewery // © 2012 Mindy Poder

ASU Gammage // © 2012 Mindy Poder

 ASU Gammage // © 2012 ASU Gammage

Tempe is conveniently located in the center of Arizona and is accessible via all the major interstates, making it a logical launching point or side trip for adventures around the state. During daylong trips to Tempe, visitors can get a taste of what makes the city — and the state — special.

1. Desert Botanical Garden
Located in Papago Park, The Desert Botanical Garden is a great spot to begin an exploration of the area. On the Desert Discovery tour, an enthusiastic docent led our small group throughout the trails, stopping at notable plants to discuss their history, origin and use as well as interesting facts, including what’s inside a cactus, why the bark of the Palo Verde tree is green and how the fibrous agave, or century plant, is transformed into tequila. I was surprised at how much I learned and how useful that information turned out to be during the rest of my roadtrip through Arizona’s landscape, dotted by agave and saguaro and cardon cacti. The garden is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the free tour is offered daily at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. from October to May. Tickets cost $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for students and $8 for children ages 12 and younger. Special group rates and activities are also available. (480-481-8104, www.dbg.org)

2. Phoenix Zoo
After learning about Arizona’s plants, clients can make the five-minute drive to the Phoenix Zoo, where animals abound. On my visit, I saw a lion, a tiger and a bear — and so much more. Grevy zebras and Mhorr gazelles are among the 1,300 animals featured at the zoo, which also boasts 200 endangered species. Activities offered at the zoo include a safari train that takes patrons around the grounds on a narrated tour, an endangered animals-themed carousel, camel rides, a petting zoo and the Giraffe Encounter, an observation deck where guests can feed giraffes. Admittedly, the Phoenix Zoo is a great spot for children, and the place was swarming with kids — though my favorite two-year-old was undoubtedly the African lion. Tickets cost $18 for adults and $9 for children ages 12 and under. Hours vary depending on the season. (602-273-1341, www.phoenixzoo.org)

3. Four Peaks Brewery
Observing flora and fauna is not the only thing to do in Papago Park, which offers a number of trails for hiking and rock climbing. Nearby, the Tempe Town Lake is the spot for water activities including kayaking and paddleboarding. But, if walking meets your clients’ daily exercise quota, outdoor shopping at the Mill Avenue District offers a comprehensive selection of shops. Craft beer and hearty food, however, was what I was yearning for and, even though it was the middle of the day, I wasn’t alone. In fact, the brewery, a turn-of-the-century red brick warehouse, was packed. I soon found out why from my beer sampler, which offered generous portions of Four Peaks’ eight regular handcrafted ales as well as a bonus seasonal brew. Four Peaks’ sandwich bread and pizza are made using the brewery’s ales and were a tasty complement. For dessert, clients can make their own beer shake by mixing slices of the generous ice cream cake with an oatmeal stout. Also sure to please — but offered exclusively during the fall — is the brewery’s Pumpkin Porter. (480-303-9967, www.fourpeaks.com)

4. ASU Gammage
Ending the night with a Broadway show is always a treat but, in Tempe, clients can experience theater in true Arizona style. The Arizona State University (ASU) Gammage is one of the state’s famous Frank Lloyd Wright architectural attractions. Unlike the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz., the ASU Gammage is the only public building in Arizona designed by Wright as well as one of his last works. Wright originally proposed the building for Baghdad, Iraq, until he toured the university in 1957 with then college president Grady Gammage. History aside, there’s a whole schedule of reasons why clients should visit. This year, the Gammage hosts renowned acts including “Wicked”; “Green Day’s American Idiot”; “Rain, A Tribute to the Beatles”; “La Cage Aux Folles;” and “Million Dollar Quarter.” Advise clients to come early as the theater’s parking lot is small. (480.-965-3434, www.asugammage.com)

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