9 Fun and Free Things to do in Tempe, AZ

Now that pandemic restrictions have eased a bit, many are looking for fun activities to enjoy with family and friends. However, not all of us have the budget for expensive outings.

If you’re in Tempe looking for fun, low-cost ideas, we have you covered! This college town offers plenty of amenities and attractions for locals and visitors alike. Here is our list of 10 Fun and Free Things to do in Tempe.

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Tour Art Exhibits Around Arizona State University (ASU)

ASU Art Museum

Tempe is a hub for artists and art lovers alike. So, it’s no surprise that close to the ASU campus, you can enjoy plenty of exhibits. One installation we recommend visiting is by artist James Turrell called “Air Apparent.”

On the other hand, if you’re looking to escape the heat we suggest you visit the ASU Art Museum. This completely free museum is open Thursday – Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm, and the building is on the West side of campus, so there is plenty of parking. The space has different exhibits throughout the year, so you’ll have a completely different experience depending on when you visit.

Another great option down the street from the museum is the Ceramics Research Center, which is open on Friday – Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm. That means if you get your timing right, you can see two unique museums for the price of free. Each museum offers a memorable experience and is a must-see if you’re an art lover in the Tempe area.

Visit Tempe Town Lake

sitting on the water at tempe town lake

Tempe Beach Park is a popular destination because it’s an easy way to spend the afternoon with your family, friends, or significant other. There are boat rentals, water activities, and a seven-mile trail that loops its way around Tempe Town Lake.

It’s also worth checking out if a special event is planned before you go. The lake is home to over 40 events throughout the year, including Ironman Arizona, the Fantasy Lights Boat Parade, and the largest Independence Day celebration in the state!

The park is large and runs along the south side of the lake. So, there are plenty of grassy areas to lay out under the sun or plan a picnic with your loved ones.

Volunteer at a Museum

One indoor option is volunteering. Although Tempe’s museums can have admission costs, some also offer volunteer opportunities, and you get certain perks in exchange. Volunteering is also a great way to connect with the community on a deeper level.

There are opportunities to volunteer all over Tempe, but in particular, we recommend volunteering with the Arizona Museum of National History, Desert Botanical Garden, or Hall of Flame. Not only are these some of the most popular destinations in Tempe, but volunteering is simple.

You can reach out directly via email, or if you prefer, you can give them a call.

Shop at Your Local Farmers Market

If you are curious about what Tempe is all about, the Farmers Markets are a great place to start. Even if you’re not in the mood to buy anything from the vendors selling fresh produce, bread, honey, flowers, and more, there’s plenty to see and unique things to sample.

Fortunately, timing isn’t an issue as the Tempe Farmers Market is open daily from 8 am – 11 pm. This event is the primary farmers market in Tempe, but there is another market located up the street in Old Town Scottsdale.

If you’re willing to drive a few minutes outside city limits, you can visit the Scottsdale market from 8 am – 1 pm on Saturdays.

Enjoy Your Afternoon Exploring the Outdoors

papago park

Altogether, Tempe offers over 50 community parks, which makes it easy to spend an entire afternoon exploring different playgrounds, trails, and other green spaces.

The Tempe Parks website gives you an overview of amenities for each location, so you can choose the one that works best for your plans. One great place to start, though, is the Kiwanis Community Park. If you are visiting Tempe this massive 125-acre park has many amenities, including horseshoes and urban fishing.

If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, though, we recommend The Hole in the Rock trail in Papago Park. This easy trail offers a short walk to the mountain’s summit, where you can take in breathtaking views.

Attend a Free Show

band performance on mill avenue

Finding shows with free admission around Tempe can be challenging, but a few venues put on weekly free events. One of those venues is the Bridge Improv Theatre, which hosts an open jam every Saturday at 10 pm.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for an event with less audience participation, you can occasionally catch live music on Mill Avenue. A few local bars and pubs offer live music, although not all do it weekly.

Your best bet is to call up venues on Mill Avenue. Plenty of the bars rotate bands and other forms of entertainment, like trivia or karaoke.

Be sure to catch happy hour, since many places will offer discounts before 7 pm, this is a great time to split some appetizers and drinks with friends or family.

Sign Up for an Event at Your Local Library

woman walking up the stairs at the library

The Tempe Public Library is one of the largest libraries in the state. The best part is they host events throughout the year, and with over 16,000 books you’re sure to find something great to read. You can visit their website for a complete list. Tempe has several libraries, so make it a point to visit your closest one and you’re bound to find something that interests you.

Alternatively, you could drive up the road and check out the Scottsdale Civic Center Library, which also puts on regular events. Here you can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi or unwind with a good book at the coffee shop.

Take Yourself on a Photography Tour

Tempe is known for its stunning sunsets and picturesque views. There are plenty of hidden gems that aren’t always easy to find. Taking yourself on a photography tour will give you a chance to discover hidden gems of your own.

You can start by taking pictures around Tempe Town Lake at night. This beautiful area is even better at night when the nearby buildings are lit up.

We also highly recommend a self-guided tour of Tempe’s incredible architecture. There are many historical buildings throughout Tempe, including Gammage, Tempe Center for the Arts, and College Avenue Commons.

There are many good options for self-guided tours, but another great one is murals. You can check out some incredible art and hopefully capture some instagrammable moments along the way!

Visit the Rose Garden

Although this particular attraction is in Mesa, it’s only a 15-minute drive from Tempe. Mesa Community College hosts this unique attraction and it boasts one of the most extensive Rose Gardens in the Southwest.

There are over 9,000 rose bushes here, with every color you can imagine. This garden puts on various events throughout the year as well, so it’s worth checking out their events page before making your visit.

Make Tempe Your Next Destination

We’ve taken you all over the city, from art exhibits to public parks and live music, but that’s only the beginning. Tempe tourism has so much to offer, and now you can make your own adventure with this list.

We hope you’re excited try out some of these ideas!

There is a lot to do in Tempe, and whether you’re looking to spend some quality time with your children or planning an adventure with friends, Tempe has something for you.

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