Stay: Graduate Tempe
Located At: 225 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ 85281
Spend: ~$110 – $165 / night
Stay Here For: Prime location near downtown Tempe, punchy southwest-inspired personality, and affordable rates
I am a sucker for southwestern style. I love the earth tones, the punches of color, the rich textures, the terra cotta, the subtle nod to the ‘Wild West.’ To be real with you guys, my eyes go gaga whenever I visit Arizona, because, as expected, southwestern flair is so abundant, endemic to this state and its unique history. I NEVER leave Arizona without desperately wanting to buy precisely ALL the rugs, the vases, the woven baskets, and the turquoise jewelry. If you’re even remotely picking up what I’m putting down (and I feel like you are!), you can probably appreciate a hotel that manages to balance personality and punchiness with an appreciative nod to the culture surrounding it, and that’s exactly how I’d describe the Graduate Tempe.
The Graduate Tempe is the first property from Graduate Hotels, a chain offering design-forward, hip hangout-style accommodations near major college campuses around the country. Self-described as ‘where the school of life meets your favorite place to stay,’ the Graduate Hotels brand leans heavily into the idea of being a cool, fun place to stay whether you’re a prospective student visiting a campus, a family spending time in town, or a traveler looking for someplace affordable and located next to all the action. Baked into the fabric of each Graduate Hotel property, you’ll find nods to the surrounding heritage and flair that make each location unique. Speaking of location…
The Graduate Tempe is located across the street from Arizona State University, the biggest college campus in the entire country and home to more than 70,000 students. Nearby, you’ll find a number of Tempe hangouts just a quick walk away – the ASU campus and Gammage, Mill Avenue (the lively center of town, where you’ll find tons of bars, restaurants, and late-night bites), ‘A’ Mountain, and Tempe Town Lake. If you need to get anywhere further, the Graduate offers a free shuttle service within a 5-mile radius (which includes getting to and from the airport!).
In addition to the shuttle service, Tempe is an incredibly bike- and scooter-friendly town. You can find bikes and scooters to rent pretty much anywhere downtown, or you can borrow one complimentary from the hotel.
Beyond Tempe, you’re also just 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix and 20 minutes from downtown Scottsdale, so if you’re planning on renting a car, you’ll be just a quick drive away from pretty much anywhere you’ll likely want to go.
The atmosphere in the Graduate is retro-meets-south of the border. The skeleton of the building the hotel is in resembles a motel from the 1970s, but once you take a step inside you’re met with pops of color, art-filled walls, and the coolest couches and chairs (seriously, I contemplated stealing one). If you look closer at the decor, you’ll notice that the art selection is actually pretty intriguing and by no means random – each piece seems to have been specifically selected to incorporate the city’s history, fun local art, or a touch of southwestern flair to the overall environment.
Just off the lobby on the first floor, you’ll find the hotel’s all-day diner, The Normal, along with a pool for lounging the day away. The Normal has diner vibes with a southwest-influenced menu. Things like chilaquiles and quesadillas are mixed throughout an otherwise classic assortment of burgers and salads. I was only able to have a to-go quesadilla from here while running from place to place, and it was pretty standard, but in terms of a solid place to grab some appetizers and drinks before heading out on the town, the Normal definitely offers just that.
In addition to complimentary bikes and shuttle service, some other amenities the Graduate offers include loaner headphones (in case you forget your own), a pet friendly offering in case you’re traveling with your dog, and an on-site gym.
I’ve been told that Graduate Hotels are, in general, largely occupied by prospective college students, alumni, and families because of their proximity to college campuses. While I was staying at the Graduate in Tempe, I was actually surprised to see a lot of business travelers and airline staff (groups of flight attendants and pilots, since the Phoenix airport is just 10 minutes from Tempe) buzzing about the lobby throughout the weekend!
There are 140 rooms at the Graduate Tempe, and many of them will give you an amazing balcony view of the ASU campus and all of downtown Tempe. The rooms themselves are pretty standard in terms of size, but decorated throughout with fun, colorful prints, patterns, and artwork to brighten up the space. Like the lobby, there’s definitely a nod to the city’s art scene and southwestern / Native American influence, and I found myself eyeing the bright pillows and mid-century modern light fixtures for my own home (I swear, I didn’t steal ANYTHING but I wanted to!). There were clashing patterns and loud textures but somehow, it all just worked.
In addition to the lively, retro decor, the beds themselves are ultra cozy. You can snuggle up for hours watching TV or enjoying the view, or pamper yourself with the Malin & Goetz shower products available in the bathrooms.
Tips to Know Before You Go
1. TRANSPORTATION: Tempe is very walkable and easy to get around. You can also easily rent bikes or scooters, or take an Uber or Lyft. In addition to this, Tempe has its own light rail that operates seven days a week from early in the morning (around 4:30 or 5 am) to 11 pm. For routes and schedules, go here.
And, of course, if you’re staying at the Graduate you can take advantage of their complimentary shuttles and rental bikes onsite!
2. WHERE TO EAT: Besides the hotel’s restaurant, The Normal, there are some other great restaurants within walking-distance or a short bike ride from the property. For brunch, head to Morning Squeeze. If you’re in the mood for some hearty bites and a beer or cocktail, Pedal Haus Brewery and Four Peaks Brewing Co are some solid options to check out in the area as well. For a lively dinner and hangout with friends, check out Culinary Dropout and do not leave without ordering a DIY charcuterie platter or their out-of-this-world soft pretzels with provolone fondue.
3. WHAT TO DO IN THE AREA:
Paddleboard or kayak at Tempe Town Lake
4. WHAT TO DO AT NIGHT: At the Graduate, you’re just a 15-minute walk to Tempe’s nightlife scene, primarily situated on Mill Avenue. Head to CASA for literal tubs of cocktails or Whiskey Row if you want to dance. For something a bit more relaxed, check out Snakes and Lattes for a full bar and more than 1000 different board games to try your hand out with your friends.
For more recommendations on what to do while you’re in Tempe, check out my 3-day itinerary here.
Planning to stay in this hotel on your next trip to Tempe? Tell me below!