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Mill Avenue District Photo Tour - with Video
Which Mill Ave?
"Mill Avenue" is more than likely a very popular name for avenues all across America. This hub is dedicated to Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona.
Mill ave, is a hot spot for tourists because it is packed with restaurants (both chains and amazing privately owned restaurants), night clubs (from jazz to hard rock), and smoke shops (somewhat of a local fixation), and it is 2 blocks away from the sprawling campus of Arizona State University (ASU).
The thoroughfare is in the heart of beautiful downtown Tempe, and it is surrounded by fun-filled Tempe Beach Park, and tranquil Tempe Town lake, and it is nestled in the gorgeous desert landscape that is so prevalent in the metro Phoenix area.
The trendy destination is popular among tourists and locals alike, and it is an absolute must-see if you are in town.
Come with me and I will take you on a walking tour of Mill Avenue:
We begin our walking tour at the Phoenix Metro Light Rail, Downtown Tempe Station, which is located at the intersection of 3rd Street and Mill Avenue.
In order to get a basic grip on your bearings, you should know that the suburbs of Scottsdale is to the North, Chandler is South, Mesa is East (farther East than Tempe), and Avondale is West.
The train station is in the heart of the Mill Avenue District, and to the North is Tempe Town Lake and Tempe Beach Park, but you will head South when you disembark.
The first thing you will notice is the village-like feel of the district. The brick roadway is divided by a row of trees, plants and flowers, and there is ample walking room on the sidewalks along each side of the road.
A Word About Crowds
If you are visiting on an ordinary day, you might find a peaceful street with tolerable walking traffic and normal road traffic.
If you are visiting on a day where the Sun Rays are hosting a game, or a yearly event is happening like Octoberfest or the Cinco de Mayo Block Party, you should expect massive crowds.
I was in the Mill Ave District for the Fourth of July Celebration in Tempe Town Lake in 2010 and 2011, and there were more than 1 million people in attendance.
After the spectacular 4th of July fireworks show is over, it is tradition for the colossal crowds to descend upon Mill Ave (5 min walk) to party til they drop.
In short, if you do not like tremendous crowds, make sure to avoid the entire district if there is a festival, holiday, concert, ASU game, or any type of planned event.
You will first encounter a Mojo Yogurt, a 100% fat-free experience that offers 28 flavors in a self service environment.
On an ordinary day, this location of Mojo Yogurt is usually filled with nearby college students taking advantage of the free wi-fi. In fact, there is free wi-fi in most of the shops on Mill.
On the opposite side of the avenue, you will find a mini-park that masks the back parking lot of the sprawling Mission Palms Resort Hotel.
One of the first establishments of notice is a family-owned Mediterranean restaurant called Med Fresh Grill. The food here is incredible.
You will find perfectly tenderized, immaculately-seasoned, cuts of beef, chicken, and lamb in some of the tastiest Greek and Turkish concoctions ever.
Med Fresh also serves incredible vegetarian and seafood dishes as well - this is my favorite restaurant on the strip, and it has plenty of local fans.
Back to the Tour
The next stand-out establishment is for those who have a sweet tooth. Candy Addict is somewhat of a candy-lover's heaven.
Candy Addict is filed with more than 15,000 different types of candies from the past and present.
In this area, you will also find several mentionable dining experiences,such as Ra Sushi, Corleone's, Mexico, Vantage Bar, and Fatburger. This block of the strip is anchored by a two-story branch of Gordon Biersch Brewery.
Although Gordon Biersch is a chain that is famous for its beer, the food here is quite good. The picture below is my favorite dish, ahi salad.
Noticeable "Herb" Infatuation
One of the things that might stand out to you, is the amount of Head Shops, Smoke Shops, Tobacco Stores, Herb Culture Joints, and Herb Themed Restaurants along the Mill Avenue District.
All that I can say about this subject is that these shops exist to sell paraphernalia associated with herbal highs, not illegal drugs.
There are also a couple of hookah joints along the strip, and many more sprawled out in the downtown Tempe district that surrounds the ASU campus.
A couple of mentionable shops in this arena are Happy Healthy High Horny Herb Shop, Hippie Gypsy, Hippies Cove, The Munchies and a branch of Mellow Mushroom Pizza.
Back to the Tour
Along the thoroughfare, you will find the obligatory Starbucks coffee shop, tucked adjacent to, and underneath Gordon Biersch.
If you are an adventurous sort of person, you might want to have a look inside of Fascinations - I won't tell you what it is, It will be more fun for you if you find out for yourself.
If you venture further down the avenue, you will find another sweet shop, underground clubs, yet another sweet shoppe (this time its ice cream and cookies), a two-story branch of Hooters, and a hot, and always packed tequila bar called Canteen.
If you are in a mood for some cinematic entertainment, the Valley Art Theater is the place for you.
You won't find Hollywood blockbuster type films here (for that you'll need to head over to the magnificent Tempe Marketplace a couple of miles away).
Offbeat cinema and independent films take center state at Valley Art Theater, so be ready for some real entertainment.
City of Tempe
Because you are in the downtown district of a real city (Tempe), there are several ordinary and customary establishments available.
You will find that the police department, city hall, and main rail and bus stations are only one block away.
There is a branch of the United States Post Office located right on Mill Avenue, and Tempe Police cruisers, bicycle cops, and equestrian cops/mounted police (police on horseback) regularly peruse the strip.
Mounted cops re present in large force during planned events because the streets in the district are usually closed off to motor vehicles.
Bank of America has a large presence along the avenue, and there are branches of Comerica, and M&I Bank as well.
Chase Bank has a major call center around the corner, and a branch further down Mill Ave.,within walking distance of the main strip.
There is also a CVS drug store, a Chilli's restaurant, and plenty of fast food joints in the district - Jack in the Box is on the strip, and Burger King, Subway, and the Pita Pit, among many others, are less than a five minute walk off of the strip. Surprisingly, there is no McDonalds within walkable range (YAY!)
Back on the Tour
A little farther down, you will find a marvelous little Mardi Gras inspired, frozen adult beverage bar called Fat Tuesday.
But before you drop in to Fat Tuesday for a delicious frozen drink, you might want to make a stop at the burger joint next door, Five Guys.
You know Five Guys, right? It's the burger chain that President Obama made famous...they serve some of the best burgers around, with fresh meat and unique toppings like bell pepper, grilled mushrooms, and jalepeno peppers (of course, there is an entire selection of the usual burger toppings as well...)
The main reason I hit up Five Guys is for their ultra tasty Cajun Fries - you must try these when you get the chance.
Many street musicians come out to the district to give exposure to their work. Some are regulars, and some are first-timers, but either way, they provide another layer of culture to the area.
You might find two or three street musicians in the daytime, but when night fall hits this hot night-spot, the avenue is lined with solo musicians and groups that play all types of music.
If you want to do a little shopping on the strip, there are opportunities ranging from Urban Outfitters, to a hip little eclectic art, home accessories, and furniture shop called Loft a Go Go.
Walk down the avenue a bit and you will find plenty of other night clubs, restaurants, including a very trendy, and beautifully decorated wine bar and urban pizzeria called La Bocca.
I am not a wine person, so I cannot comment, but the pizza at La Bocca is out of this world, and the atmosphere is one of understated sophistication.
You can finish off your day on Mill Avenue by visiting the awesomely delicious, fusion Chinese restaurant, P.F. Chang's. It is a massive location, and its exterior provides a nice photo op.
Since the avenue flows through the city, and the main party thoroughfare is in the heart of the city of Tempe, you will have no problems getting around.
The best way to get to the avenue is by train, because the Tempe Town Center Light Rail station is located directly in the middle of all the action.
There are also Valley Metro Buses (602-253-5000), and a free Tempe Orbit shuttle (480-858-2350) that circulate the area all day and all night long.
If you are planing on drinking (And there are plenty of places to drink), you should probably plan to stick to the train and shuttles to get you around.
Concluding the Tour
The Mill Avenue District is packed full of other restaurants, shops, and sights and sounds that I did not include in this hub.
This hub would be 3X larger than what it is now if I were to include everything - these are just some of my favorites.
Make sure that you plan accordingly, because In the daytime hours, the area is a fun place to visit for all ages, but at night it is a big party scene, and planned events can tend to be chaotic.
If you ever get the chance to visit the beautiful metro Phoenix area, be sure to make it a point to include Mill Avenue on your itinerary.