Tempe's Outdoor Season Is Only Getting Started

Sep 13, 2021

School is back in session and cool temperatures are right around the corner, but it’s not too late to squeeze in one more summer-style vacation. In fact, Tempe’s outdoor season is just getting started. Average high temps in the next couple of months will be in the 70s and 80s, which means that Tempe has plenty of pool days and alfresco nights left in 2021.

Another reason to celebrate the season? This fall will mark the return of fall favorites including ASU Football and the Broadway series at ASU Gammage. Autumn is also the perfect time for heart-pumping hikes in the mountains. Pack your swimsuit and sunglasses then head to this cool Arizona college town for one last hurrah. Once you arrive, a few new hotels (and their rooftop pools) will be ready to welcome you. 

Read on for a few of our favorite ways to enjoy Tempe in the fall.

Get on the Water

credit: Tempe Tourism

Water activities may not shout "autumn" where you live, but in Tempe, this time of year is perfect for water-filled fun. Rent a kayak, standup paddleboard or swan pedal boat from Tempe Boat Rentals located at the edge of Tempe Town Lake, then row, paddle or pedal your way around the two-mile-long lake that runs through town. As you glide through the calm water, you'll see runners and cyclists passing on trails that line the lake and—behind them—the city's glimmering skyline and rugged mountains.

Once you've worked up an appetite, treat yourself to a brew and a meal on Mill Avenue, located just a few blocks away from Tempe Beach Park. Here the patio dining is plentiful, so you're sure to find a spot where you can soak up more time in the sun while you dine.

If you do plan to imbibe a beer or two, consider using the city's Light Rail system for transport; the 3rd & Mill Station is within blocks of both the lake and Mill Ave's dining hotspots.

AC Hotel Phoenix Tempe/Downtown | credit: Ethan Hill Media

If you're ready to be in the water (rather than on it), you're in luck—pool season in Tempe can run well into autumn, particularly if your hotel of choice has a heated swimming hole. One such option is Hyatt House Tempe, which opened near Arizona State University's campus in late 2020. Its cozy rooftop pool has views of ASU Sun Devil Stadium. From the rooftop of nearby AC Hotel, catch views of the stadium and Hayden Butte as you wade into the pool's cool water.

Or you can check into the recently opened Canopy by Hilton Downtown Tempe, located within walking distance to more than 100 restaurants, shops and music venues along Mill Avenue. Here, the full-service rooftop pool is lined with sun chairs and cabanas on the building's 14th floor.

A block away, you'll find Tempe's newest hotel (and the largest to open in the city in 30 years): The Westin Tempe. Their rooftop infinity pool is flanked by a Jacuzzi, daybeds, cabanas and a spectacular view of the city and surrounding mountains. At night, Skysill Rooftop Lounge (set to open in fall), serves hand-crafted cocktails and sharable bites under the stars. 

Take in the Outdoors

credit: Tempe Tourism

Our favorite way to get better acquainted with a new (or familiar) place is from the seat of a bicycle. It offers a combination of fresh air, the ability to cover a lot of ground and some throwback fun. No matter your level of knowledge about a city, a guided tour has that special ability to teach you something new.

If you're thinking that an hours-long bike tour sounds hard, don't sweat it. Green Belt Bike Tours has electric bikes with pedal assist that allows the rider to choose the level of intensity. Take a tour of Tempe that includes scenic bike paths, Tempe Town Lake, Papago Park and Hole in the Rock.

credit: Tempe Tourism

For a quick hike in Tempe city limits, climb Hayden Butte, also known as A Mountain (so named for the 60-foot-tall golden "A" on the hillside in honor of ASU) where you'll catch views of Tempe Town Lake and ASU campus. The butte also has a significant number of petroglyphs—rock carvings—thought to be made by Hohokam people between 750-1450 A.D.  You can find these carvings on the south slope of the butte adjacent to the football stadium.

Go to a Live Event

credit: Tim Trumble

Tempe gives visitors the opportunity to see acclaimed Broadway shows without the hefty price tags found in larger cities. ASU Gammage's lineup this season starts off with the Pulitzer-, Grammy- and Tony-winning show Hamilton (Sept. 8 – Oct. 3) with mid-week ticket prices beginning at just $49 per seat. Also set to grace the stage this fall is Mean Girls (Nov. 2-7), based on the 2004 movie written by Tina Fey with music by Emmy-award-winning composer (and Fey's husband) Jeff Richmond.

If you're planning a visit in 2022, you can look forward to a musical version of the 1982 film Tootsie (March 15-20), The Lion King (June 14-19) and Oklahoma! (Oct. 18-23).

If you can't make it to a show, at least stop by to adore ASU Gammage's performing arts center which is a work of art in itself; the building was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

credit: Downtown Tempe Authority

To see many more works of art, attend one of the state's largest festivals. Returning for the first time since December 2019, Tempe Festival of the Arts (which typically holds bi-annual events in Tempe—one in spring and another in fall) showcases work from 350+ artists from around the country and across 18 disciplines including fashion, woodwork and painting. From December 3-5, visitors can shop the unique, hand-crafted artworks from booths lining Mill Avenue and surrounding streets. 

Low Key Piano Bar | credit: Tim Trumble

In the 1990s, iconic rock bands of the era—including Jimmy Eat World, Gin Blossoms, Meat Puppets, The Refreshments and Dead Hot Workshop—cut their teeth in locally owned clubs on Tempe's Mill Avenue. The street has evolved since its bootstrap days, but there are still several venues that host up-and-coming local musicians and national touring acts. 

Yucca Tap Room (established in the 1970s) is one of the oldest clubs in the area and it maintains a neighborhood hangout vibe. Low Key Piano Bar hosts dueling piano shows. The Marquee is one of the area's most popular music venues, with 150+ concerts per year from a wide variety of genres.

credit: Tim Trumble

And if you missed college football in 2020, there's good news—Arizona State's Sun Devils are welcoming fans back to the stadium this season (with no capacity restrictions). While the season is already underway with two games in the books, you can still catch one of the five remaining home games between Sept. 25 and Nov. 27 against Colorado, Stanford, Washington State, USC or ASU's in-state rival, the University of Arizona.

As you and your fellow fans spill out of the stadium still celebrating ASU's (inevitable) victory, take a deep breath of cool desert air and preserve this moment to bring you a smile on some future day.

Ready to go? Read about more places to stay and things to do, and then start planning your Tempe getaway.

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