Photo: Scott Troyanos

#5. Tempe

Offering a big-city experience, Tempe, Ariz., features all the amenities of a major metropolitan area in a college-town atmosphere. Part of the Phoenix area, Tempe has vast shopping opportunities; a diverse economy; excellent recreational facilities; and warm, sunny days. Arizona State University plays a major role in the city’s economy by providing more than 11,000 jobs, but it also helps set the cultural tone with more than 60,000 students on campus. Residents know school is back in session when they see the new freshman class hike “A” Mountain and cover the giant letter in a new coat of white paint.

A site to behold, the Gammage Auditorium at ASU, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, hosts Broadway shows and concerts. Both students and area residents can find their groove in Tempe’s bars that frequently feature live music and craft beers. Perched near Tempe Town Lake is the Tempe Center for the Arts, which includes art galleries and stage areas where actors and musicians entertain. Homecoming week at ASU features a block party that draws thousands of visitors to downtown Tempe each fall. Also known as the Mill Avenue District, downtown Tempe bustles with activity and an abundance of shops, restaurants and galleries.
A large water park, two public pools, a splash playground and three neighborhood spray pads help keep residents cool during the hottest parts of the summer. The city-owned Tempe Beach Park includes spray cannons, a waterfall and dumping buckets. Big Surf Waterpark lets visitors cool off in a large wave pool and get wild on water slides.

With more than 175 miles of bike paths and trails, Tempe is known as a bike-friendly community. A hike up the nearby South Mountain Park and Preserve offers a view of the city’s skyline, and the park comprises 16,000 acres. A golfers paradise, Tempe’s courses range from pro-level fairways to places where children and beginners will feel like pros. In addition to top collegiate sporting events, Tempe is home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, and MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks play in nearby Phoenix.

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