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A Sun Devil outing: The guide to fun places to visit in Tempe

Though Tempe is widely known for its party scene, the city offers a wide variety of different ways to spend your free time


Sun Devils need days off, but the big question of what to do with free days can leave many stumped.

Tempe is often flooded with students flocking to Mill, ready to party at establishments such as CASA and Varsity Tavern. However, the spotlight on parties and bars shadows other activities, stores and restaurants that await eagerly for Sun Devils. Much of them are known like the Chuckbox, but Tempe also has some hidden gems. 

Outside of Zia Record Exchange on Mill Avenue on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024 in Tempe.

Zia Records

Near Dutch Bros and Fry's on Mill Avenue, Zia Records sits waiting to welcome any and every customer to explore the music-filled store.

Established in 1980 and only located in Arizona and Nevada, Zia Records is a record store that sells new and pre-owned vinyl, CDs, apparel, comic books and anime-themed gifts.

The store is all about music and anything creative. From new and old vinyls and thousands of stacked CDs to hundreds of DVDs and a multitude of comics or manga, there is something for everyone.

Katie Gregson, the store manager of Zia Records in Tempe, said the general appeal of the store is a sharing of common interests and the ability to come together with people who might not normally find each other.

It even offers trades and pre-owned items for its customers. For trades, the item must be cleaned, the trader must have some form of permanent ID and transactions must all be completed in one day. The record store always keeps its pre-owned items in top condition for the next buyer.

With a plethora of music from rock to pop, no one’s tastes are left out. 

"There isn't a single person who doesn't listen to music or watch movies, read books or even collect Sonny Angels," said Gregson. "It's a place for literally everyone to come."

Zia Records is located at 3201 S. Mill Ave. and open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. 

Outside of The Chuckbox on University Drive on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024 in Tempe.

The Chuckbox

In the heart of the Tempe campus, the Chuckbox is a prominent location for its fair prices, old-fashioned aesthetic and rowdy atmosphere.

Tempe residents notice the wooden sign held by chains, reading "The Chuckbox — Real Charcoal Broiled Hamburgers" with a lower sign reading "over 278 sold," while turning on University Drive.

First opened in 1972, the Chuckbox’s menu offers burgers, hot dogs, deep-fried mushrooms and zucchini, jalapeño poppers and Rice Krispies treats.

These meals are uniquely served by employees who cook the burgers over an open mesquite fire. The customer can then customize their order using the wide array of ingredients at the open condiment bar before sitting down at a wooden table inside the smoky interior. 

"I think a lot of other places like In-N-Out and McDonald's are the same prices, but they’re a major food chain, so it’s probably not going to be as good," said Alex Garzao, a freshman studying business. 

The Chuckbox is on 202 E. University Dr. and is open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

Outside of ACG Go near University Drive on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024 in Tempe.


A small, vibrantly green store called ACG-Go, located off the corner of College Avenue, fuses a love of sweet drinks and anime. Upon entering, the store is filled to the brim with large anime-centered gumball machines, theme music and all types of shows and movies from the world of Japanese animation. 

From the outside, the cafe-infused shop advertises what they sell through items promoted in the glass – an easy way for people to find a store they may enjoy.

Yashvi Jain, the social media specialist at ACG-Go, spoke on how the stickers, games and a surplus of Sanrio characters and merchandise are what pulls everyone into the store. 

"(ACG-Go) has a lot of stuff that I usually watch because I like anime, and I used to come by here pretty often," said Jain. "For at least the (people) that watch anime, you definitely can see that this is an anime store from the outside."

More specifically, the fun-filled store is topped with merchandise from shows like One Piece or video games like Genshin Impact. The merchandise also has a wide variety of goods: figurines, pens, keychains, plushies, etc.

The food aspect also adds a favorable twist and appeal to the store.

The cafe portion of ACG-Go serves all-day bento boxes as well as milk tea, fruit tea, coffee, smoothies, and their specialty drinks with the option of boba. Most drinks vary from the prices of $6.45 to $8.45 depending on the size. 

ACG-Go is a perfect place to find a new piece for a collection and hang out with people who have the same love for Japanese animation.

"Honestly, for me back when I just used to visit it was pretty fun being in here," Jain said. "There's a lot of colors everywhere. The music's always great."

ACG-Go is located at 521 College Ave. Unit 111 and open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Outside of Level-Up Gaming near University Drive on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024 in Tempe. 

Level-Up Gaming 

Level-Up Gaming is a PC gaming center dedicated to providing players with a premium and clean gaming experience, according to Shaker Al-Salem, the owner and a network engineer.

Like walking into a spaceship, Level-Up Gaming offers an experience in an ultramodern environment – gleaming blue lights shine on the PC's LED mechanical keyboards, where gamers play a wide variety of games from the hub's library.

Specifications-wise, the custom-built computers run at a high pace of 1080p and 14400p, according to Al-Salem.

"It's a unique gaming experience in a safe environment for competitive and friendly gaming for all ages," said Al-Salem. "And you get to play games on high-end PCs. We have the best computers in the Valley between other places."

The rates vary for the amount of time played, but for $33, customers can purchase a day pass to play until closing. A special offer for birthday parties is also offered, allowing 12 customers up to three hours of gaming and two large pizzas and drinks for a collective $300.

"We get students. We get customers all around Phoenix," said Al-Salem. "Some of them drive 40 minutes."

Level Up Gaming is at 1301 E. University Dr. and is open 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. 

Sun Devils need days off, but the big question of what to do with free days can leave many stumped. These locations offer students many unique places to spend their free time, out of the spotlight of Tempe nightlife.

Edited by Katrina Michalak, Sadie Buggle and Grace Copperthite.

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