My 2020 Quaran-cation: Graduate Tempe, near Phoenix, AZ

Approximately a 5 minute read

Let’s take a trip into the past: One year ago, the weekend following Thanksgiving. I’ve had this post drafted for a while but didn’t finalize it or get the pictures uploaded due to… *gestures at everything.* So, my Graduate Tempe review is going to be very specific, hopefully still applicable to you, and if nothing else the post will be a one-of-a-kind memory from a one-of-a-kind year.

Did you take any weirdly specific trips during 2020? Tell me about it in the comments or leave me a link to your post ūüôā

My husband and I were (and still are) the type to pay attention to California’s coronavirus-related restrictions and take them seriously. We avoided groups of more than three households for about 12 months, with the exception of one large outdoor event. We ordered takeout most of the time, and ate outside on newly-erected streetside restaurant patios the rest of the time.

That said, at one point in November 2020, we decided that nine months was too long to stare at the same four walls… so we strategized a vacation we could take without seeing anybody. The quaran-cation was born and we booked a trip to Graduate Tempe, just outside of Phoenix, AZ.

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Our Trip

As frequent readers of The Voyageer know, for me a quirky hotel can be the whole point of a trip. I’m lucky in this way, because during the pandemic, as I’m sure you remember, a lot of stuff was closed. Even if stuff wasn’t closed, during the pre-vax days of the winter 2020 surge, we wanted to have fun and be as safe as possible. A college-themed hotel in across from an empty college campus perfectly fit the bill.

I selected Graduate Tempe based purely on the photos and vibe I got from the website. This relatively young chain (Graduate Hotels) has one-of-a-kind locations in Ann Arbor, Berkeley, New Haven… a lot of college towns. Hence the name. The more I read about the company, the more excited I was to visit. College towns are normally dominated by boring big-name hotel chains and could use a little pizazz. No shade, but I generally look for more interesting and unique experiences when I travel. The retro-eclectic furnishings sealed the deal for me and I instantly booked.

As for the trip. What did we do on our quaran-cation? In Phoenix/Tempe, we grabbed takeout from several local restaurants and brought it back to the room to eat while watching TV. I don’t have cable at home, so one of my favorite hotel pastimes is to binge whatever marathon of Pawn Stars, Diners Drive-ins and Dives, Snapped, or other similar cable TV show, is inexplicably playing in four-hour blocks. We also walked around the eerily-empty ASU campus and appreciated the notable architecture.

The hotel pool and hot tub were totally empty except for one other couple who were also from SoCal. As an introvert, this is pretty much my dream scenario, and especially during the pandemic I was happy there weren’t a lot of people around. Upon check-in, we got upgraded to first-floor room with a walk-out to the back lawn, which was clutch for traveling with our pup. So it was a lot like our normal “stay at home” routine, just with different walls to look at, which made all the difference.

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The hotel is located right across the street from Arizona State Universtiy. It would be an excellent place to stay while visiting a student, coming for an important sports game, touring campus, or attending a loved one’s graduation. The closest interstate is I-10. The address is at the bottom of this post for your convenience.

Graduate Tempe Rooms

Let’s be honest. The lobby and rooms are why I booked. The bed was really comfortable and the eclectic, collegiate decoration made me feel like I was back in undergrad (except, a highly curated version of undergrad).

The hotel designer must have gotten a Master’s Degree in Power Clashing because between the tweedy tartan blackout curtains, to the houndstooth accent chair, to the groovy tumbling-block carpet, a look that should not work… truly worked well. Even the bathroom was delightful, with a yearbook-inspired cartoon wallpaper treatment (and my favorite Malin + Goetz toiletries).

Graduate Tempe Ameneties

Due to the pandemic and the nature of state-by-state rules and regulations, we called ahead before driving all the way out to Tempe to find out what amenities would be open. YES! The pool would be open. And by pool, I mean pool and hot tub. Mainly hot tub. It was November after all.

Other amenities include: airport shuttle, bike rentals and a gym (neither of which I used), pet-friendly policies, and an onsite restaurant/bar. We did not have a chance to dine in at The Normal Bar but the menu looks promising.

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I’m not sure if or when I will have the chance to visit Gradate Tempe again, but I really enjoyed my time spent. Hopefully you found something useful here if you are planning a trip to the greater Phoenix area.

Graduate Tempe
225 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ 85281
Book Now | Website | Instagram

Photos by Doug and Staci Jackson for The Voyageer.

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Staci blogs about travel at


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