Last Updated on November 25, 2020 by Janet Frost
Are you tired of the heat and crush of Phoenix traffic. Perhaps you live in Tucson and want an easy day trip north. Then you are looking for Gilbert, AZ. Gilbert is 25 miles southeast of Phoenix and 90 miles north of Tucson. This little farming community was once known as the “Hay Capital of the World”. Today, residents and visitors of Gilbert, Arizona are drawn to the local, fresh and authentic experiences of this burgeoning community.
Let’s Go learn 10 Reasons to Visit Gilbert, Arizona
#1 Small Town Atmosphere in Gilbert AZ
Gilbert is part of the greater Phoenix metropolitan region. The town has grown astronomically in the last 20 years but still offers a small town, homey experience. Gilbert, AZ proudly ranks in the top 25 safest and best cities to live in the U.S. Unlike some of its suburban neighbors, Gilbert continues to embrace its agricultural roots.
Near the center of Gilbert, AZ is the unique neighborhood of Agritopia. This community circles around the 11 acre organic farm owned and preserved by the Johnston family. Agritopia was created to not only preserve the farm in a new urban setting, but to create a village.
In addition to the “self-serve” Farm Store the little oasis offers freshly roasted coffee at the Coffee Shop, locally sourced meals at Joe’s Farm Grill, unique plant-based food at Uprooted Kitchen and craft beer brewed for the locals at 12 West Brewing. Several other small businesses and venues share space in Barnone .
#2 Great Food
The food choices at Agritopia are plentiful but Gilbert has much more to tempt your tastebuds. In contrast to the laid back farm patios at Agritopia, further north, you will find the bustling Heritage District. Anchored by both the historic depot and Gilbert water tower, the Heritage District is packed with historic and trendy dining establishments.
It seems impossible to discuss Gilbert restaurants without mentioning Joe Johnston. Remember, Agritopia was built on the grounds of the Johnston family farm. Joe is a well-known restaurateur in the east valley area and Gilbert is his home field.
In the Heritage District Joe Johnston’s influence is clearly evident. Joe’s Real BBQ is definitely a fan favorite in a historic 1930’s grocery building. The stylish and comfortable Liberty Market serves delicious creations for breakfast, lunch and dinner in another historic market building.
Recognizing the popularity of this booming farm town, several other Phoenix restaurant groups have expanded to Gilbert’s Heritage District. Postino East, Joyride Taco House, Zinburger and breakfast chain Snooze Eatery all sit along an easily walkable few blocks.
#3 Craft Beer in Gilbert
12 West Brewing Co
We need to find the beer in this hopping town. Back in Agritopia, you will find 12 West Brewing Co. 12 West Brewing Co is a brewery dedicated to creating the beer the neighbors love. Its taplist is IPA heavy but they do keep a few taps open for some fun and funk. With beer names like Hazy Cat Lady, of course it is going to be FUN.
Flying Basset Brewing
If you can pull yourself away from the relaxed and neighborly Agritopia, our next stop is 4 miles west on Ray Rd. Flying Basset Brewing is a more typical brewpub, serving a good selection of traditional beer and delicious beer-inspired food. The beer at Flying Basset Brewing is high-quality and a good selection, however, the real treat is how they use their beer in food and cocktails. The beertender had a lovely list of innovative beer cocktails and Joe, the chef, turned their Copper Ale into amazing culinary treats
Arizona Wilderness Brewpub
There are several other craft beer opportunities in Gilbert. One more favorite of mine is the Arizona Wilderness Brewpub in Gilbert. This fun spot has a great patio and interior with a fun burger and beer vibe. Their food and beer makes this a go-to choice again and again.
#4 Stylish Shopping
I rarely talk about shopping. Actually I rarely shop, just not my thing. But occasionally even I have to wander a mall to check out the latest fashions. San Tan Village is right off the main artery, 202 Freeway, smack in the middle of Gilbert. This is a stylish open air mall with all of the typical brands represented. There are plenty of chain restaurants and outdoor patios. While this mall is not especially unique from any other mall in the country, it is beautiful for wandering and window shopping on a warm evening.
#5 Performing Arts
David Hale Dietlein came from a long line of theater owners. His grandparents started the original Hale Theater in California. Today David owns and runs the Hale Center Theater in Gilbert. This beautiful stage/theater is focused on bringing quality, intimate and local theatrical experiences to Gilbert, Arizona. The venue is so popular in the region that they have undertaken an extensive building expansion in 2019.
#6 Nightlife in Gilbert, Arizona
Trendy Millennials, Hipsters and even Baby Boomers all love to sneak out for a little “nightlife”. That little old farm town of Gilbert has just the ticket. If you are done with the theater, but not done with your evening, then head on over to Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row in the Heritage District or The White Rabbit Bar/Speakeasy also in Gilbert (but the exact location is on a “need to know basis”).
Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Rows can be found in Scottsdale, Tempe and Gilbert Arizona, and of course Nashville. They describe the experience this way: “We offer a unique country atmosphere that blends dining, drinking and nightclub vibes into one undeniably fun experience.”
The White Rabbit Bar has a secret location and you must join their VIP club on the website for directions and the password. Once admitted in, this is a sleek sexy bar with cocktails to die for.
#7 Unique Nature
Many urban communities in Arizona create a natural water oasis in conjunction with their water treatment facilities. The Gilbert Riparian Water Ranch is an extensive example. Gilbert city planners wanted to create an innovative and unique way to combine water resource development with wildlife habitat, educational and recreational opportunities. The result was 110 acres, 70 of which make up 7 water recharge basins/ponds. One of these ponds actually has a unique distribution stream that mimics the action of an ephemeral desert stream.
This environment, referred to as “riparian”, is a birding paradise. A riparian zone is an area of marginal wetlands. In other words the banks and shores of a river or stream. With the warm winter climate of Arizona these water ranches draw a myriad of migrating birds. They claim sightings of upwards of 300 different bird species. There are 4.5 miles of trails, a boardwalk over one pond, and several bird blinds for observation and photography.
Learn More: Arizona Birdwatching Hotspots
#8 Biking Around Gilbert AZ
In today’s world, all truly inviting cities have a network of walking/biking trails. Gilbert, Arizona has 54 miles of marked bike trails and another 50+ equestrian trails. There are three trail systems running north-south—Heritage Trail, San Tan Vista Trail, and Marathon Trail—and one that runs east-west, Western Powerline Trail. They connect to most of Gilbert’s parks and parallel the Valley’s canal system. The trails also pass several pocket parks, small oasis that offer shade, drinking fountains, ramadas, and other recreational features.
Learn More: 5 Bike Friendly Cities
Arizona could easily be called the Golf State, especially the great Phoenix area. Our parents and grandparents have been flocking to Arizona to golf for years. Statistics show that the new generation of Millennials are losing interest in traditional golf. However, they are loving the new trend created by Topgolf. A Topgolf experience is like a combining bowling, arcades, and of course golf. The facilities offer group bays, competitive games, food and drink, all under a roof and climate controlled setting.
Well all that to say, Gilbert has a brand new and hugely popular Topgolf just north of the shopping at San Tan Village.
#10 Explore the Sonoran Desert
Located in the southeastern portion of the Greater Phoenix area, Gilbert has easy access to the fascinating Arizona wilderness. The Superstition Mountains are less than an hours drive to the east. Usery Mountain Regional Park is to the north. These two areas lie within the Tonto National Forest. In a small separate range is the San Tan Mountain Regional Park, which is 40 minutes to the south
All of these areas offer a variety of ways to explore the desert. Whether hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing or kayaking, the unique desert landscape and habitat is a worthy adventure.
Bonus #11 Ice Cream!!
TOPO Arizona has literally plunked down in the center of the Heritage District. This adorable little roadside food stand is Pure Arizona. It serves Burritos, Elote( a Mexican corn on the cob treat) and Prickly Pear soft serve ice cream. The tiny building and the Topo, gopher in Spanish, were airlifted into place behind a secretive construction barrier. Gilbert residents were thrilled with the revelation of this tasty addition.