Best Alternative to Mill Avenue (2008)

Tempe Marketplace

We feel so guilty.

Look, we know we're supposed to celebrate Mill Avenue, given its status as the closest thing this metropolis has to an urban shopping district. But, um, there's a new marketplace in town, and we can't resist the pull.

NoPho folks have had Desert Ridge for a while, and there are all sorts of grand shopping options popping up along the other edges of metro Phoenix, but the center of town was limping along without a mega-mall, 'til Tempe Marketplace opened late last year.

We're in love. We know the whole thing is beyond super-sized — down (rather, up) to the enormous "pots" outside the equally huge Harkins movie theater. But we just can't help ourselves. Despite the overwhelming number of teeny-bopper chains, there's something irresistible and, amazingly, community-oriented about this place.

One smart reason: free concerts by national acts, smack-dab in the center of the mall. Sponsored by 103.9 The Edge, a different band rocks the stage each third Thursday in front of Cadillac Bar and Grill, to the delight of Old Navy and Barnes & Noble shoppers.

Since the event started, we've caught smaller acts like The Hypo Twins and The Summer Set and veteran rockers including The Presidents of the United States of America and MGMT.

And then there's the Night Gallery (for details, call 480-965-6536), a smart, odd-duck approach to showing fine art. Night Gallery is open in the evenings (6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday — hence the name), and shows the work of ASU faculty, alumni, and grad students. The spot opened at the end of June and survives on donations, the largest of which comes from the company behind the mall (they kick in the use of the building and cover the A/C bill). Organizers say that a surprising number of people stumble across Night Gallery every day — as many as 1,000 in two to three hours. If you're looking for, say, a 9-foot bronze "vessel" by Mary Neubauer or one of Christopher Coluille's digital prints of a car graveyard in Iceland, this is the place.

The finer things in life (art, music, community) aside, we love to hang out at Tempe Marketplace because even in the summer, someone's figured out a way to make the misters so cold, they can build a roaring fire and it only seems slightly odd. Plus, we're slaves to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Sorry, indie gods.

Location Details

2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe AZ 85282


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