Tempe 101 – a prep course for life at Arizona State University

Every August, a new group of wide-eyed freshmen will descend upon Tempe, making it their home for the next four (or more) years. Tempe is a great place to go to school. It’s a fun college town that truly embraces Arizona State University into the culture. Tempe is also a great place to live, with lots to do all year round. Let’s make this school year a great one for students and their parents. Go Devils!

Below is a quick guide to some of the best of Tempe – where to shop, where to eat and what to do. Find even more things to do in Tempe, or call us at (480) 894-8158.

To stay up-to-date with ASU’s important tips and precautions on Novel Coronavirus, visit their page where you can find the updated guideline for students and visitors on campus.

Dorm Room Essentials

Living on campus or moving away from home for the first time can be quite daunting. There are endless amounts of essentials and supplies you will need, from bedding to rugs to cozy chairs, to make a dorm room or your college apartment really feel like home. Check off those needed items by viewing the ASU move-in guide checklist.

If you’re traveling from out of state and can’t get these items in advance or if you accidentally forget some things at home, ASU Tempe Campus is located next to several big retailers that have everything you need to mark off your list and more! 

Check off those needed items at these stores in Tempe:

Tempe – Near ASU Tempe Campus
Tempe Marketplace
– 2000 E. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 966-9338
Target – 1800 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 214-2667
Cost Plus World Market – 1800 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 921-0500
JCPenney – 1800 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 829-3555
Ross – 55 S McClintock Dr, Tempe, AZ 85281 | (480) 894-4032

Walmart – 800 E. Southern Ave., Tempe, AZ 85282 | (480) 966-0264

South Tempe
*Beginners Tip: Go further away from campus to avoid waiting in line and to find a larger supply of goods.
Target – 1818 E. Baseline Rd., Tempe, AZ 85283 | (480) 831-9162
Walmart – 1380 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, AZ 85284 | (480) 345-8686
IKEA Tempe – 2110 W. IKEA Way, Tempe, AZ 85284 | (480) 496-5658

Arizona Mills – 5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282 | (480) 491-7300
At Home – 5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282  |  (480) 214-7328
Burlington – 5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282  |  (480) 897-4700
Marshall’s – 5000 S. Arizona Mills Cir., Tempe, AZ 85282  |  (480) 897-4940

Outside of Tempe
Bed, Bath & Beyond – 837 N. Dobson Rd., Mesa, AZ 85201 | (480) 610-2675

Restaurants in Tempe

Sure, many students have a meal plan as part of their room and board package. That’s definitely convenient, but as they say, variety is the spice of life. Students and their visiting parents can find many locally-owned, extremely tasty restaurants in Tempe. I can’t help but mention a few of our favorites.

On-Campus and Near ASU Dining

Test Tempe’s culinary scene and stay close to campus by trying locally grown and harvested food at Engrained Café, located inside the Memorial Union on the second level. Power up before class at The Original ChopShop with a fresh juice and one of their incredible sandwiches or salads and enjoy on their charming outdoor patio. Indulge on made-to-order hamburgers at The Chuck Box, which is just about at close to a local legend as you can get near campus. For a quick hit of sugar, you can’t beat the freshly baked treats at Insomnia Cookies on University Drive or delicious ice cream sandwiches at Slickables on Mill Avenue.

Original ChopShop Tempe
Original ChopShop Tempe

Breakfast spots

Daily Dose Tempe
Daily Dose Tempe

If breakfast is your favorite meal of the day, you’re in luck. The choices are almost endless in Tempe. Check out Tempe’s best breakfast restaurants on our blog.

Pizza for Days

If it’s moving day, grab a delicious and filling slice of pizza at one of Tempe’s Italian restaurants. Our pizza by the slice blog has all the details.

Artichoke Pizza
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza

Must-Try Tempe Restaurants

Parents, treat your student to a nice meal at House of Tricks. The food is a gourmet mix of inspired French and American cuisine. Located in two charming turn-of-the-century bungalows with a lush patio, House of Tricks is just steps from campus but feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Alter Ego at Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown
Alter Ego at Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown

Less than half a mile from ASU Old Main is Alter Ego, located on the ground floor of the Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown. It has gorgeous modern interiors and a huge wall mural that is the perfect photo-op for new Tempeans! They also have an open patio with a view of Downtown Tempe and ASU. Our favorites? Their Katsu Chicken Sandwich or the Ego Burger!

Spinato’s has the best pizza this side of Chicago. And, it should – the owners hail from the Windy City. Their sweet, flavorful sauce will keep you coming back again and again. They have several locations around town but the original is in Tempe, just a stone’s throw from Tempe Marketplace.

Authentic Mexican food is one of the benefits of living in Arizona. There are quite a few places to choose from in Tempe, including Rosita’s, Ghost RanchGadzooks, Casa Reynoso, and if you have a plant-based diet or just looking for something new, try GuacStar Kitchen and Cantina. We can’t say which one is our favorite because we love them equally. We encourage you to try them all too.

Ghost Ranch
Ghost Ranch: Modern Southwest Cuisine

Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine are also Tempe’s claim to fame. Pita Jungle is located adjacent to the ASU Tempe Campus on the corner of University and Mill Ave. Mouth-watering dishes include the Chicken Schwarma Wrap and Grilled Vegetable Salad and their prices won’t break the bank. Also, for more international flavors that have been local favorites for years, try Curry CornerThe Dhaba, or the Phoenicia Café. For a real international treat, you have to try the Ethiopian dishes at Cafe Lalibela.

Things to Do and Attractions

Arts and culture, shopping, festivals and outdoor activities are abundant in Tempe, sometimes making it hard to focus on homework. Here are just a few Tempe attractions and local gems to help newbies like their home away from home even more.

Tempe Town Lake is a great spot for boating and exploring the pathways around the lake. Boat Rentals of America-Tempe Town Lake provides kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, donut boats, electric boats and more for hourly rentals. Bikers and runners can easily travel from campus to the lake and then take a scenic jaunt around the lake and over the bridges.

Changing Hands Bookstore
Changing Hands Bookstore

Find bestsellers and classic books at Changing Hands Bookstore. This favorite Tempe spot hosts a full calendar of events, including language classes, author events and workshops. It’s an excellent place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The daytime temperatures are toasty in August, but the mornings are usually cool enough for an exhilarating hike. Once October rolls around, the hiking and biking trails around town are full of fitness-loving fanatics enjoying their time in the sun. The most convenient trail is at “A” Mountain, located at Mill Avenue and Third Street. Don’t miss the petroglyphs along the trail. South Mountain Park and Preserve in Phoenix has more than 51 miles of cactus-lined trails. And, Piestewa Peak is well known for its heart pumping, scenic ascent.

Papago Park is both a destination for hiking and biking, but also learning. Located north of Tempe Town Lake, Papago’s trails can be accessed from Mill and Curry and College and Curry. You’ll also find the Desert Botanical Garden, Hall of Flame Fire Museum, the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona Historical Society Museum and Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park here.

Tempe Marketplace is a shopping destination but is also full of great restaurants (such as Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill and Kabuki Japanese Restaurant), a movie theater and free live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

Arizona Mills is home to some of the area’s best shopping, such as H & M and Nike Factory Store, and also attractions like Tilt Studio, SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium, LEGOLAND Discovery Center and a Harkins IMAX theatre.

Downtown Tempe, located next door to campus, is a natural gathering spot for students, locals and visitors. There are more than 100 shops, restaurants and taverns along Mill Avenue. It is the perfect place for people watching from a shady patio. Downtown Tempe is also the spot to shop for ASU fan gear. Check out our complete list of Downtown and University shops that will help you commemorate your ASU experience.

Downtown Tempe two friends

If you’re a visitor, future sun devil, or an event attendee looking to stay close to campus, lucky for you, we put together a blog on Hotels near Arizona State University to help find the best place for you to enjoy all things ASU.

Find info about upcoming festivals, fun runs, triathlons, live music and more on the Tempe Tourism event calendar.

We’re on TikTok! Follow us @tempetourism to stay-in-the-know of all things Tempe!

Written Toni Smith

An Arizona native, Toni Smith loves to dine out, conquer hiking trails, go to concerts and survive hot yoga classes. She has also never met a dog she didn’t love instantly. She lives in Tempe with her husband and daughter.