9 ways Gilbert, AZ will surprise you

Let’s start with a bonus surprise: Gilbert, Arizona, is the
most populous town in the US. Not bad for a place you might very
well never have heard of. It’s located on the edge of the Phoenix
metroplex but has its own vibrant downtown entertainment scene, its
own foodie culture, its own nature escapes and quirky
attractions…all with that friendly, close-knit, family-filled

Gilbert is coming up on its centennial in 2020. Though there are
probably 100 to match, here are just nine ways this Arizona
destination will surprise you.

1. You’ll learn that, sometimes, a water tower is much more than
just a water tower.

Joyride Taco House

Joyride Taco House. Photo: Discover Gilbert.

The Gilbert
Water Tower
is one of the town’s most notable landmarks,
sitting next to an adobe pump house that was also Gilbert’s first
jail, right in the heart of downtown. The 230-foot tower was built
in 1927 to fill the needs of the growing community, and it stored
water for firefighting and drinking until 1985.

Fast forward a few decades, and it’s now pretty much the
center of everything. The surrounding plaza and park — which
includes a splash pad (open at night!) and water walls — is a
tranquil place to hang out, but also serves as the anchor of the
downtown Heritage District, where you’ll find awesome shops and
restaurants. Check it out at night, when the tower lights up the
sky. During springtime, head to the plaza’s amphitheater to hear
free concerts under the stars.

2. You’ll realize that beer just tastes better in the desert.

Local-beer snobs, rejoice — there are tons of locally crafted
brews for your palate to experience here. Most Gilbert restaurants
feature Arizona beer on draft, including The
Whining Pig
, Grubstak,
and Cold Beer &
. There are also breweries you can check out for

  • Arizona Wilderness
    taps a different one of their ales every
    Thursday, along with year-round standards. They’re super into
    using local Arizona ag products.
  • 12
    West Brewing Co.
    , located in Barnone and brewing with a
    10-barrel system, creates beers with names like “Suh Dude” and
  • Flying
    Basset Brewing
    , one of the newest arrivals, makes the Flying
    Basset Copper Ale — taste it for notes of citrus and
  • OHSO just opened in the
    Heritage District. It’s a dog-friendly spot that also features a
    restaurant (they’ve got great brunch) and a distillery. A
    morning, noon, and night kind of place.

Anywhere you go in Gilbert, ask your server what local beers are
on tap. You can experience desert beer flavors at most full-service
restaurants in town. And if you read that last sentence as
“dessert,” there are those, too.

3. You’ll get in touch with your inner farmer.

Agritopia farm Gilbert Arizona

Photo: Agritopia

Known as the “Hay Capital of the World” in the 1920s for its
alfalfa hay production, Gilbert still embraces its farming roots.
New urban farm environments give “city folk” several ways to
get in touch with their sustainable sides. Just a few include:

  • The Farm at
    — which dates back to 1927 — welcomes people to
    tour the grounds, where incredible crops like Medjool dates, blood
    oranges, heirloom tomatoes, and leafy greens are produced. Pick up
    some fare at the self-service store, or nibble at a local
    restaurant, 20 of which source foods from the Agritopia farm (more
    on restaurants later).
  • The Gilbert Farmers
    , in the Heritage District, hosts at least 60 local
    vendors every Saturday all year long. A rainbow of produce and
    handcrafted food, plus arts-and-crafts items, plants, and more,
    line the market. Grab a bite from a vendor, or visit a local food
    truck for lunch.
  • Mother Nature’s
    is one of Gilbert’s largest purveyors of Christmas
    trees. It’s open year-round and is geared toward families, with
    hay rides and chances to visit cute farm animals like pigs,
    turtles, and ducklings. A trip to the pumpkin patch in October is a
    go-to fall event, and food trucks and vendors gather around the
    farm every Thursday evening.

4. You’ll encounter a mirage in the desert.

The Riparian
, a serene 110-acre wildlife habitat, is a bit
different from what you’re probably expecting. It includes seven
water recharge basins, which essentially makes it a watery oasis in
the Valley desert. It’s also a great place for bird watching,
with nearly 300 species on the to-spot list. Plus, it’s common to
see bunnies, turtles, ducks, and snakes along the paths. There are
plenty of family-fun activities, with reservable picnic ramadas and
a play area.

5. You’ll acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, you are a foodie.

With the emphasis on local ingredients and fresh farm produce,
it goes without saying that Gilbert residents love their food.
It’s easy to create a food tour out of the dozens of local
restaurants dotting the downtown streets of the Heritage District,
including Joe’s
Real BBQ
, set in a 1929 building and open since 1998. There’s

  • Postino
    , famed throughout the Valley for its killer $20
    special: a bottle of wine and a plate of bruschetta, available on
    Mondays and Tuesdays from 8pm
  • Barrio
    , serving Mexican delights like tableside guacamole,
    tacos, enchiladas, and burritos
  • Clever
    , with an Asian-inspired menu ranging from vegan pad thai to
    vegetable ramen and Korean fried chicken

  • Oregano’s
    , one of Arizona’s best Italian joints, with
    massively huge portions of pizza, pasta, and the must-have dessert
    pizza cookie

Besides restaurant-hopping downtown, you can also grab your fill
of Valley favorites at the Gilbert
, a recurring pop-up food truck gathering every Friday
from 5:30 to 9pm. Each night also includes live music and a craft
market, giving you an excuse to hang around and go back for

6. You won’t need to leave room in your budget for a rental car.

Gilbert is a pedestrian-friendly place, with plenty of canal and
trail paths for walking, biking, and
. The Central Trail System encompasses 135 miles,
including 54 miles of marked bike paths, some of which wind along
the canals.

Along the way, most trails lead to one of the major parks or
smaller nature-filled areas, providing green, shady spots for
breaks. One is Zanjero Park, where you’ll possibly catch a
glimpse of owls — the 20-acre park is home to a burrowing owl
habitat. There’s also a dog lake at Cosmo Dog Park, which
includes off-leash areas.

7. You’ll find that the best seat in the house…is any seat in
the house.

The Heritage District’s Hale Centre
is all about juxtaposition: Huge shows with Broadway
pedigree, like Annie and Newsies, are put on in an intimate,
in-the-round theater setting. That means the seats are set all
around the stage, with everyone getting a prime view of the

Open in its current form since 2003, the Hale Centre Theatre is
in fact the longest continually running, privately owned and
operated theater company in the United States — its roots date
back to the 1940s. Each show is family-friendly, and the unique
stage shape (and size) makes any show — even one you may have
seen a dozen times before — feel completely fresh.

8. You’ll learn that handmade is how Gilbert rolls.

Those who enjoy getting their hands dirty, and those who enjoy
watching those who enjoy getting their hands dirty, should check
out Barnone. It’s a
one-of-a-kind experience with every visit — the space is home to
a dozen makers specializing in hand-crafted goods, including
wood-burned décor, cooking tools, custom sports firearms, and
handcrafted paper products. The handmade touch extends to locally
produced food and drinks — you’ll find plant-based dining,
wood-fired pizza, and locally blended and brewed wine and beer

is seen in other ways throughout Gilbert, too.
Art Intersection is technically a gallery, but they’re all about
local art. They give artists a space for workshops, they work with
students and the community, and they even run a photo lab where
amateurs are welcome to practice their craft. And then from October
through March, the Gilbert Art Walk isn’t just open-late
galleries — it also has dozens of artist booths featuring mediums
like jewelry, painting, ceramics, and photography. Check it out the
first and third Saturdays of every month — it’s basically a
farmers market, but for art. Both of these are in the Heritage
District, which by now you’ve probably noticed is where you need
to be.

9. You’ll say “om”…with goats.

Arizona goat yoga Gilbert

Photo: Meghan Cyr for AZ Goat

Forget downward-facing dog. Upgrade to some downward-facing goat
at Arizona Goat Yoga. Get into
tree, full wheel, or boat pose, and you can enjoy the company of a
baby goat as you stretch into cuteness oblivion. It doesn’t
matter if you’re a hardcore yogi or have never stepped on the mat
— it’s all about increasing your state of peacefulness…with a
little help from a handful of adorable baby animals.

Times for each hour-long class vary, but they’re typically
held at least a couple times a week, with both morning and night
options. You’ll be led by a certified yoga instructor and can
take as many rests throughout the class as you want. Just don’t
be surprised if a baby goat noses you during your next child’s

The post
9 ways a trip to Gilbert, AZ will surprise you
appeared first
on Matador Network.

Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News2
9 ways Gilbert, AZ will surprise you