From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Gilbert is so much more than just a suburb of Phoenix. With a thriving population and community of its own, this unique Arizona town is bursting with life — and plenty of things to see, do and explore while you’re living there.
From fine dining to entertainment to outdoor recreational opportunities, in this article, we’ve gathered up some of our favorite things to do and places to explore in Gilbert. Read on to learn about some local gems that even some locals may have been missing out on!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Although the Phoenix area is known as a metropolis, there are also some incredible natural spaces to explore — and the desert has so much more to offer than dry sands and cacti! Here are some of the best state and national parks to add to your itinerary in Gilbert, AZ.
Just 30 minutes from Gilbert and offering more than 300 acres of beautiful countryside to roam, Lost Dutchman State Park is a quick and easy getaway — and also home to a wide variety of wildlife such as mules, javelinas, and jackrabbits. Its namesake is a famous gold mine from old western lore, and it’s an especially popular destination for bikers and naturalists.
Named for the 3,374-foot mountain that serves as a beacon in the wide-open desert countryside, Picacho Peak State Park is located approximately halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, making it particularly convenient for folks in Gilbert. Many campgrounds are available in the area, and there’s plenty of outdoor recreation to get into for every fitness and interest level.
Encompassing well over 4,400 square miles (that’s 2.9 million acres), the Tonto National Forest is a truly wild place — perfect for getting lost in the best way. With some of the most rugged landscapes in the country, this is a great spot for hikers, bikers, and just those who enjoy the great outdoors.
Gilbert’s desert locale means it’s situated amidst tons of excellent outdoor recreation opportunities. From wheelchair accessible strolls to challenging, heart-pumping uphill treks, here are some of the best hiking trails in Gilbert.
At just over three miles and with only 100 or so feet in elevation gain, Blevins Trail is a venture that’s relatively easy, but still offers some stunning, sweeping views for your effort. Tucked into the eastern part of Usery Mountain Regional Park, this expedition is punctuated with beautiful Saguaro cacti and is dog friendly, so long as your furry friend is leashed.
A loop of just about three and a half miles and almost 1,000 feet in elevation gain, Hidden Valley Trail via Mormon Trail is considered a moderate hike, and is located inside of South Mountain Preserve. This is a popular trail due to its wide variety of scenic experiences: you’ll pass through tunnels, by dry waterfalls, and over sand dunes.
If you’re looking for a bit of a climb and some bragging rights, Pinnacle Peak Trail takes you up about 1,000 feet over the course of less than two miles, meaning you’ll definitely break a sweat… but get some stunning scenery for your efforts. Renowned for its beautiful, seasonal wildflower bloom, this trail is accessible year-round.
Another toughy that rewards courageous hikers with a stunning view at the top, Camelback Mountain via Echo Canyon Trail is only two and a half miles out and back… which means you’re climbing all of its 1,400 feet of elevation gain in just about a mile and a quarter. If you’re in shape for it, though, this is a quick and rewarding workout whose vistas will make you forget you’re breaking a sweat in the first place.
A hike that’s accessible to all, the Judith Tunell Trail at South Mountain is a short and easy adventure, measuring only half a mile and seeing almost no elevation gain. Fully ADA wheelchair accessible, this is the perfect opportunity for those who want to ensure everyone can come along for the adventure.
We know you’re hungry for adventure… but what about plain old hungry, too? Here are some of the best restaurants in Gilbert, from Italian to Mexican and beyond.
Locally owned and operated but featured on the likes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Grubstak is more than a restaurant: it’s a truly unique dining experience. You can literally layer — which is to say, stack — your own meal, creating a truly custom dish. Of course, pre-curated meals are also available for those of us who want to leave it to the experts!
Looking for the best vegan and vegetarian eats in Gilbert? The Uprooted Kitchen offers a smorgasbord of plant-based eats that don’t feel anything less than indulgent. The menu changes weekly, but always features fresh, flavorful ingredients and delicious treats like mac & “cheese” and French toast.
It can be hard to discern the best Asian restaurant in any city, and Gilbert has quite a few options to choose from. But Haiku Tokyo is nothing if not warm, inviting, and satisfying: custom-crafted poke and ramen bowls mean you can eat there many times without revisiting menu items, and a range of kid-friendly options are available, too.
The tacos might be good enough to be the namesake, but Creek Side Taco Shack is also a great place to order other Mexican favorites like burritos, quesadillas, and chicharones, too. There’s also beer — and the relaxed indoor/outdoor setting complete with fire pits and sand volleyball courts just makes it that much better.
Looking to add some fancy to your date night excursion, or just to treat yourself? Nico Heirloom Kitchen is a stunning Italian dining room, offering your old-school Tuscan faves with innovative twists, and it’s all done in an upscale casual setting. The pastas are hand-crafted and fresh, just like everything else, which is to say: enjoy!
This farm community in Gilbert is an oasis in the middle of the desert. The businesses on the property source produce directly from the grounds they're built on, staying true to their goal of building a local, sustainable economy. Besides being beautiful to walk through, Agritopia has a coffee shop, a burger spot, and Barnone, which is a craftsmen community space consisting of small business owners and makers, including a brewery, winery, flower shop, and much more.
The Gilbert Farmers Market features a great mix of produce and other products from local farms and popular food trucks. Located in the heart of downtown Gilbert and within a few steps of some great restaurants, this one is worth a stop even if you have to cross the valley to get there. This market is so popular that many of their previous vendors have opened brick-and-mortar shops! Open Saturdays.
The East Valley towns of Chandler and Gilbert may be on the far side of the Phoenix suburbs, but Provision Coffee is worth the drive. It's housed inside of the Palette Collective, which is a salon space rented out by independent hair stylists. They roast their own coffee, offer beer and wine, and everything on their signature rotating coffee drink menu is delicious!
Once you’ve hiked and had your fill, there’s still plenty to explore in Gilbert! Here are just a few of the many options available.
Gilbert is a great place for kids! Here are some of the top family-friendly things to do in this part of Arizona.
What kid isn’t obsessed with trains? Heck, we know plenty of adults who are, too. The Arizona Railway Museum will get visitors of all ages up close and personal with a wide variety of locomotives, as well as an artifact collection recording many years of train-related history.
As the name implies, this unique theme park is actually in nearby Mesa — but it’s well worth the drive. Golfland Sunsplash offers mini golf, waterpark attractions, laser tag, an arcade, and so much more. It’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon with the family, and truly offers something for everybody.
Sure, there’s no shortage of things to do in Gilbert during its blazing daylight hours… but the town doesn’t just pack it all up when night falls, either. Here are some of the best things to do in Gilbert this weekend if you’re looking for some after-hours adventures.
Sometimes, a night at the movies is just what the doctor ordered — and Harkins Theatres San-Tan Village is the perfect spot to catch a big new blockbuster or the occasional indie film. Offering 16 screens, an expanded snack bar, and a child play center in the lobby, this is a great spot for date night or a family outing.
Gathering with friends for a glass of wine is always fun… but what about adding in a relaxing, creative activity on top of it? The Art House offers sip-and-paint sessions perfect for an evening wind-down, as well as a variety of other classes and courses to help you hone the craft and have a blast.
You don’t have to take out a second mortgage to enjoy all the variety and beauty Gilbert has to offer! Here are some of our favorite things to do in Gilbert that don’t cost much at all.
If you’re willing to drive into Phoenix, the Desert Botanical Garden makes for a great escape. Showcasing a wide range of plants from the southwest and beyond, this well-manicured green space covers 140 acres and is home to a whopping 50,000 plants — and general admission starts at just $14.95.
Spanning as far back as the Renaissance and as far forward as the most contemporary, still-living artists, the collection at the Phoenix Art Museum is epic and renowned — and the institution is, in fact, the largest art museum for visual art in the United States. Special emphasis is placed on Asian, European, and Latin American artists, and admission starts at just $23 per person… and each Wednesday, you can get into the main collections for free between 3 - 9 p.m. (special exhibitions may cost extra).
It’s true: there are some incredible things to see and experience in Gilbert that will set you back a whopping $0. Here are a couple free things to do if you’re bored and broke (or trying to avoid getting there!)
What’s even better than a regular park, where the humans can play? A dog parks, where the four-legged furry friends can romp along as well! Cosmo Dog Park is Gilbert’s go-to spot for canine lovers of all stripes (er, spots?) and includes a variety of amenities to make your experience even better, including waste disposal stations, drinking fountains, barbecue grills, picnic tables and more.
A popular Phoenix destination and part of Heritage & Science Park, Heritage Square is a city block featuring some of the most beautiful Victorian homes from back in the days the town was first settled. It’s a great spot for a warm afternoon stroll and definitely one the top items on our list of things for couples to do in Phoenix. It’s also on the National Register of Historic Places, so you don’t just have to take our word for it that it’s well worth your time and effort!
In need of something a little indulgent? There are some amazing salons and day spas in Gilbert to help ensure you look and feel your best. Here are our suggestions.
Sometimes, touch is more than just soothing — it’s healing. At Touch of Tranquility Massage, not only will you find skilled practitioners offering a wide range of massage modalities, but also aromatherapy, body wraps, and other treatments aimed at making sure you feel incredible when you walk out of the studio.
A comprehensive spa experience, El Bella Day Spa offers massage and skin care, as well as nail care, hair styling, body treatments and more. They also have a selection of carefully curated packages available to help you maximize your enjoyment while keeping your spending at a minimum — best of both worlds!
A great haircut is all about edges — from the sharp edges of the scissors that cut the hair to the cutting edge of the style you wear. At The Edge Salon, you’ll benefit from seasoned and knowledgeable practitioners who know how to create the perfect look for each individual’s requirements, all done in a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Staying in shape is critical to ensuring you stay strong enough to enjoy the plethora of to-dos this area has to offer! Here are some of the very best gyms and yoga studios in Gilbert, Arizona so you can get your sweat on with a smile.
The name just about says it all! If you’re looking to get — or stay — in shape in the greater Phoenix area, Desert Fitness is the standard go-to. With state-of-the-art workout equipment, amenities including child care, and a variety of fun and motivating classes and programs, this gym is a great place to find your way to your goals with all the help you need at your side. (Plus, there are multiple locations — convenient!)
A homegrown institution that’s been serving the community for nearly two decades now, Gilbert Yoga is a beloved studio offering a range of classes suited to all sorts of fitness and interest levels. Whether you keep it gentle with yin yoga, access movement you might not have thought you could with Yoga for Everybody or Chair Yoga, or get meditative with the candlelight class, you’re sure to leave feeling both stronger and more grounded.
Think of Sirrine Studio as a one-stop shop for serenity: this yoga studio also offers massage and ashiatsu, as well as hosting special, not-to-be-missed wellness events that will get you situated in both your body and the community. Infant massage classes for parents can also help you forge a new bond with your baby.
It’s obvious that you’re not going to grow bored and tired in Gilbert… but with a landscape this rich, how can you not take advantage of all the amazing day trips in the area? Here are some of our favorite getaway destinations within a stone’s throw or so of Gilbert, Arizona.
Just about an hour and a half south of Gilbert, the city of Tucson offers a whole new view of the Arizona desert — one that’s shored up with sweeping Saguaro views by way of Saguaro National Park. A great town to visit whether you’re after epic hikes or delicious meals of tacos and tequila, it’s well worth taking a quick drive south for the afternoon — or a weekend.
Turn your getaway vehicle the opposite direction, and you’ll wind up in a completely different kind of desert scene: the beautiful and rugged high desert, which is also home to none other than the Grand Canyon (not to mention all the other incredible preserved wilderness spaces in the area). Flagstaff is a great place to visit: small but cozy, and offering more than its fair share of cultural attractions and coffee shops thanks to its status as a college town. Whether it’s home base for outdoor adventures or the adventure in itself, you won’t regret taking the visit.
If you’re ready to venture out of Arizona state borders, consider heading west as far as California — where you’ll meet another kind of desert, still. World renowned for its namesake plants (which actually aren’t trees at all, but giant succulents!), Joshua Tree National Park is an otherworldly landscape you won’t want to miss.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Gilbert that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Gilbert? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.