Gilbert (AZ), once known as the “Hay Shipping Capital of the World” due to its large farming community, is a town just southeast of Phoenix, and growing all the time. Its approximate 300,000 residents can look to William “Bobby” Gilbert for the town’s inception, which, in 1902, had provided land to the Arizona Eastern Railway to build a line connecting many new towns in the area. Gilbert’s first store began in 1910, with its post office opening its doors in 1912. And to quote a past sporting commercial: “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby”! Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Gilbert.
1. Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch
Any bird watchers in the family? After a walk through the Riparian Preserve there’s bound to be a few new interested members! There have been close to 200 species spotted here and, in fact, if you’re visiting on any third Saturday of the month why not join the free Friends of Audubon Arizona Family Bird Walk, between 8am and 11am? The park is fun any day of the week, and makes for a great stroll through its lovely surrounds. There are picnic tables and plenty of clean bathrooms available too. And did I mention the many bunny rabbits freely bouncing around?
2. Hale Centre Theatre
All shows at the Hale Centre Theatre are family friendly and are popular in the town for their wonderful productions. The Theatre also produces children’s shows of its own. Another detail making it such a well liked venue is due to the fact all 350 chairs are placed in a round design rather than a rectangle one. None of the seats in this venue are far away from the stage which guarantee a good view for everyone! The theatre’s handy location in downtown Gilbert, make it super convenient to enjoy a meal at one of the nearby restaurants before or after a show.
3. Downtown Gilbert
For a small area, downtown Gilbert certainly knows how to pack things in! Though it is only a few blocks long, the location offers a great choice of excellent restaurants to please all palates, from BBQ to Mexican to Italian to country fare! And, not only that; if you’re in the area on a Saturday morning you can enjoy the farmer’s market situated just behind the water tower. You will also be able to see local bands performing a variety of music genres. Sit and enjoy a coffee or soda in the sunshine with the family after a walk and exploration around this fun area!
4. St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church
This new church skillfully combines technology with the comforting feel of a traditional church, whatever your denomination. If you attend one of the many daily masses conducted by the much revered Father Sergio, you will be able to see why he is such a popular priest. There is also a full sized replica of Michelangelo’s La Pieta within the church, being one of only eight in the world. If you are there on a Sunday you can purchase a very reasonably priced breakfast from the Knights of Columbus.
5. Freestone District Park –something for everyone!
Freestone Park is one of those clever parks with an attraction to please every member of the family, whatever age or fitness level! These include volleyball, basketball courts and tennis courts, skating area, three Ramadas, seven open picnic tables with BBQ grills, plus six shaded picnic tables. On top of that there are five acres of lake area, conveniently stocked with fish for the anglers of the family. Not forgetting the model railroad, amusement area, mini Ferris wheel and carousel for the little ones, together with a complete wheelchair friendly environment, everyone is guaranteed a fun day out!
6. Right On Target Clay Guides of AZ
For a complete change from the usual sightseeing attractions, what about having a go at some clay shooting? One hour lesson with all equipment (includes 25 shells, shotgun, 25 targets and all safety equipment) for $100/hour (check prices) will certainly give the family the time of their lives! Greg and Bob, the highly experienced owners (always stressing safety first), together with other coaches will lead you through each different clay pigeon set up and are there to help in every way, whether you are an expert or a beginner. (Minimum age 15). The wilderness backdrop helps to complement an amazing day.
7. Gilbert Farmers Market
This lively market is open every Saturday and holds anything from between 60 to 100 vendors at a time. The market offers a vast variety of fresh locally grown produce from the nearby farms together with a variety of local meats, sauces, jams, pickles and handcrafted products. Don’t forget to stop by one of the many food trucks, to pick up some delicious freshly made quesadillas and tamales. There are tables and chairs to sit down and enjoy your goodies, as well as a giant game of Connect Four and Jenga to keep the younger members of the family amused.
There is great family fun to be had at FlipSide! The area is clean and houses a variety of exciting arcade games such as Laser Tag, Crash Pods, Blast Pad, billiards, video games and the ever popular Laser Maze. There are at least 60 games to keep everyone happy and occupied, as well as a bowling area to please the older members of the family. Finish off a great day by treating everyone to some of FlipSide’s mouth watering pizza and French fries!
9. Have a top time at TopGolf
TopGolf is a sprawling entertainment venue with a high-tech driving range & ritzy lounge offering drinks & games to its patrons. Sounds good? It gets even better! For a very reasonable price, your family or friends can enjoy unlimited play and a delicious lunch before or after your game. It really is an enjoyable day out for all; you can hit balls and score points – or not, as the case may be! – in a relaxed atmosphere where you can let your hair down and have fun. And don’t forget to tell the kids about the fabulous inject your own donuts (with cream or jam)! This is a great outing for family, couples and friends, for all level of golfers.
10. Gilbert Historical Museum
Learn all about Gilbert’s past at the Historical Museum, where, for over 30 years, they have proudly preserved and exhibited the town’s history. The museum is housed in the only building on the National Register of Historic Places, too! Within the museum are a plentiful amount of artifacts and photos depicting much about the town and, for military fans, there is a fascinating area in which to learn all about Arizona’s role in WWII together with a collection of some famous autographs, including Jefferson and Churchill, to name just a few. There is also a gift shop to pick up a few noteworthy mementoes.
11. Gilbert Temple, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints
This Temple is the pride and joy of Gilbert’s LDS members, being one of the first new temples to be built concurrently with the Gila Valley Arizona Temple after Thomas Monson assumed responsibility as the LDS Church president in 2008. The temple is constructed in a beautiful well tended setting and, although non members are unable to enter the interior, a walk around the grounds themselves will be a peaceful, quiet experience for all. The church next door is open to visitors with resident missionaries available to answer questions.
12. SunDust Gallery
Immortalize your pet in paint! Well, not literally, but SunDust Gallery offers classes for all the family on how to paint and what to paint, as well as clay and batik lessons. All materials are provided for you and you can go at your own pace – especially useful if you’re a painting novice. And if you don’t feel that a portrait of Rover would go down too well with the house decor, choose instead from 100 plus images available. You can bring your own drinks and snacks too. And if you don’t have time to finish your masterpiece before close of day, no problem, as the gallery allows you to bring your canvas back to finish anytime for a $10 studio fee.
13. For a great fish dish, drop into Mulligan’s Grill
You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy a meal at Western Skies Golf Club, which is where you can find this one of a kind fish restaurant! Treat the family to a delicious meal of generously sized lightly battered fish, coleslaw and the Grill’s home made delicious potato chips. And, if you’re there on a Friday, you can take advantage of their ‘all you can eat’ Friday Fish Fry! If anyone doesn’t want fish, no problem, as there is also a simple menu of burgers and salad to choose from. The restaurant is clean and light with cheerful staff and speedy service.
14. Arizona Camping Trips & Self-Guided Outdoor Adventures
For a great family experience, look towards this company who provides self-guided camping and outdoor adventure trips for both experienced and beginner campers. Join one of their trips in which the family can learn and enjoy how to camp, build bonfires, grill over an open fire and generally have a wonderful time in a genuine outdoor adventure! Arizona Camping Trips will also give you some great advice on where to camp and the best spots to enjoy the awesome panoramic views, some of which are not even listed in any vacation or camping guide!
15. Jump for joy at BounceU
BounceU is an enjoyable place for kids to expend their spent-up energy! They can amuse themselves bouncing around and sliding along all sorts of different inflatable structures. The rooms they use vary but they are mostly huge and have a variety of things to do for kids and adults alike! The kids can have fun at the drop of a bounce, and will love moving between rooms, exploring all the different bouncers available. There are other enjoyable pastimes as well, like climbing, sliding and shooting hoops, all overseen by the very patient staff!
16. San Tan Village
SanTan Village is an open air, regional lifestyle mall center spanning 1,200,000 square feet of delectable shopping. There are, in fact, an amazing amount of shopping and dining options, available to all budgets. The clever thing about this mall is the way it’s been shaped, consisting of small streets that have created a neighborhood atmosphere. There is really something for both the kids and the adults, and you will be able to find pretty much everything here from Macy’s to Dillard’s, to Barnes and Nobel – need I go on? And if you’ve worked up an appetite after all this consumer activity, there is an excellent selection of restaurants to choose from.
17. Phoenix Escape Room – will you be able to find a way out?
Here’s a real puzzle for the whole family to solve! The Phoenix Escape Room offers a challenging, interactive game that will stretch everybody’s imagination and mind. During your adventure, you will find yourselves flexing your brain and looking in nooks and crannies you had never even noticed. You have to find the hidden objects and then work out the clues to solve the puzzles that will earn you your freedom. But you also have only a limited amount of time, so you have to be quick! Spending time in Escape Room with family or friends will enable you to learn a lot more about everybody! Are you up for the challenge?
18. Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory
The Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory (GRCO) is located at the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert’s Water Ranch. Your kids will delight in learning all about the planets as they spend a Friday or Saturday evening at the Observatory, where the knowledgeable staff can answer any questions they may have in reference to outer space. The observatory houses a 16-inch diameter Meade, modified Richey-Cretien scope, guided by a Paramount ME computer controlled German equatorial mount slaved to The Sky professional computer program, so who knows what they might find looking down, while they are busy looking up!
19. Sup Urban Farm
The Sup Urban Farm is an educational mini-farm and a great place to teach everyone all about the lost arts of backyard gardening and sustainability. The farm’s goal is to produce enough food for all the workers, with extra to share! A visit to the farm will be an interesting experience for anyone eager to learn about organic food production, self-sufficiency, and sustainable living. Even if that’s not really on your check list, and whether you consider yourself to be a backyard gardener or not, a trip to SupUrban Farm is definitely worth a family outing.
20. Regal Gilbert Stadium 14
For a taste in luxurious movie viewing, treat the family to a show at the Royal Gilbert Stadium 14. The movie theater is popular with locals as it offers great big comfortable recliner seats together with large arms which are situated in huge aisles, guaranteeing enough room for all of its patrons to pass by. The theater complex is made up of multiple screens that feature all the new release films and all at a very affordable price. The theater is clean with courteous and helpful staff.
21. Western Skies Golf Club
This traditional 18-hole, 6700 yard layout is popular with every level golfer. Western Skies Golf Club is only a short drive away from downtown Phoenix and is a moderately-priced, full service golf facility that meets the need for anyone in their search for affordable golf! The course is good, with some long par 3s and even when crowded, it appears everyone can play at an even pace. Though there are plenty of houses near the fairways there doesn’t appear to be any interference with play. Come on, dads, why not treat yourselves to a relaxing day out!
22. Celestial Massage
Pamper yourselves with a visit to the Celestial Massage, a unique therapy spa where luxury spa treatment is provided at very affordable prices. The staff do their best to make you feel completely looked after, with refreshing body massages and a good understanding about how to bring tranquility and peace into your everyday busy lives as well as relieving places of stress you probably didn’t even know you had.
The Spa’s peaceful ambiance is within an intimate environment where you will enjoy therapeutic massages guaranteed to make you feel a new person!
23. World of Beer
While the rest of the family shop till they drop, why not pop into World of Beer, where you will be presented with at least 500 different bottled beers to choose from!
There are many on tap too, and by the time the family return you’ll all be ready to have something to eat in the well stocked restaurant and outdoor patio area. The helpful staff do their best to ensure service is quick, and your kids will be telling their friends for days after all about the giant Bavarian Pretzels they encountered there, probably some of the largest in the land!
24. Arizona Frontiers
A wonderful way for you all to explore this area and beyond is to take a tour with knowledgeable and experienced guides. Arizona Frontiers can offer you just that, with some free hotel pick ups, snacks and bottled water provided and plenty of room for the younger members of the family. Both guide and driver present information about the area you are traveling to and along the route itself, and you are allowed sufficient time to browse and go along at your own speed. There are so many interesting areas to visit in the vicinity, why not have a chat with them and let them advise which would be of the most interest to you and your family?
25. The Boardhub
Whether or not you’ve ever tried wakeboarding, or are indeed a dab hand already, the Boardhub offers you a new family adventure, facilitating a greater learning experience with plenty of professional instruction. You will be taught by some of the most skilled wakeboarders in Arizona, with instructors who are fabulous teachers, and well known for their patience and understanding, plus a shared desire to see their student succeed! The Boardhub was established in 2011 and has helped teach many of today’s wakeboarding fans. So why not give it a go? The water looks just right!