Facebook is full of fun back-to-school photos of all my friends’ children this month. This seems like the perfect time to recommend The Graduate Hotel in Tempe, Arizona. This hip, moderately priced hotel is located across the street from Arizona State University and is fun for families. It would be an especially good choice for a college visit with teens or sports fans going to a PAC 12 match at ASU.
We happened to be there for Spring Break, which is an excellent time to visit Tempe and nearby Phoenix. My children are still in elementary school, so we’re not shopping for colleges yet. Nevertheless, we love visiting college campuses with them to nurture their love of learning, reinforce the value of a college degree, and show them how much fun it can be.
Our room on the fourth floor was a fairly typical hotel room, with two queen beds and a private bath. It was the bright, artistic decor that set it apart, intended to remind guests of a college dorm room, but better. The key cards look like student ID cards circa 1970, which was a fun detail.
Our 4th floor patio overlooked Arizona State University. The bathroom was stylish as well, with no tub, just an oversize shower. The shower had just a half wall that was so stylish, my kids couldn’t manage to keep the water inside of it. Had we stayed more than one night, we would have either figured it out or needed to ask for more towels.
I can’t imagine that there is a hotel in Phoenix that doesn’t have a pool, and The Graduate is no exception. Its’ rectangular pool is nothing fancy, but the deck is lined with bright sofas, thickly padded lounge chairs and umbrellas that made me feel like I’d just stepped onto a Mad Men set. Our pool time was short, so I enjoyed the comfy furniture while my kids practiced diving into the deep end. We had it all to ourselves that afternoon.
The Graduate Tempe has two on-site restaurants. We tried The Normal Diner for breakfast, and continued to enjoy the hip retro ambience. There were lots of interesting things to look at on the wall, including one section tiled with 8-track cassettes. It would be easy to start a game of I Spy while you wait for your food.
There is no children’s menu, but it was pretty easy for my kids to find breakfast items they liked on the regular menu. I ordered the red velvet waffle, my daughter got her favorite poached eggs and my husband chose biscuits and gravy. The other restaurant is Tapacubo, which serves Mexican fare with flair.
The Graduate Tempe across the street from Arizona State University on the south. It is within a couple of blocks from the restaurants, shops and entertainment on Mill Avenue. I recommend walking or biking along Mill Avenue if you can. Parking can be tricky, and traffic was heavy in the late afternoon. Bike rentals are available at The Graduate.
I didn’t attend ASU, but some of my college friends now live in the area. My daughter and I met one of them, with her daughters, at Sparky’s Old Town Creamery on Mill Avenue on the day we checked in. It was a fun place to catch up and introduce our girls to each other. We have a 20-year sorority reunion coming up, and hopefully, we’ll all meet again soon!
Not every place on Mill Avenue is family friendly, which was not a surprise. While I went to dinner nearby with my friend Colleen from Travel Mamas, my husband and kids walked to a pizza place on Mill Avenue. It turned out to be a little too edgy for my kids, ages 8 and 10. It was too dark, with too many heavily pierced and tattooed servers. I don’t think it was actually inappropriate, but my children were uncomfortable and we would choose someplace different next time. There are many options.
We had plans to visit the Phoenix Zoo at Papago Park, and I was happy to find that it was less than four miles away from The Graduate Tempe. The Desert Botanical Garden and other fun family activities can also be found at Papago Park.
We were sold on the location, hip retro vibe and moderate rates at The Graduate Tempe. It’s a good choice for families with college-bound kids, and any family that prefers something a little different from the typical hotel experience.
Disclosure: Our stay at the Graduate Tempe was complimentary for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own.