Outdoors and Culture: 24 Hours in Gilbert
Outdoors and Culture: 24 Hours in Gilbert
Rise with the sun for nature walks, visit the lively markets, museums and restaurants with patio dining, take in a show and end your evening with live music or a lowkey nightcap. That’s the perfect day in Gilbert.
Sunrise: Commune with Nature
Witness the early morning stirrings of Arizona’s wildlife at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. The meandering trails and paved pathways lead you through some of the best bird-watching land in all of greater Phoenix. Nearly 300 species of winged creatures have been spotted here, including several rare breeds.
Even if you’re not a birder, a sunrise stroll through the 110 acres of natural beauty yields much to see and experience. You’ll encounter seven ponds and a lake where fisherman cast off for largemouth bass, rainbow trout and sunfish. Designated viewing areas are ideal for photography. And dogs are welcome. Just make sure to keep your four-legged buddy on a leash at all times (“squirrel! bird!”).
Sign up for a tour of the preserve; the hour-long guided trek launches the second and fourth Saturday of the month and costs $10 per person.
Morning: Head to the Market
Every Saturday, Gilbert celebrates its rich agricultural heritage at the Gilbert Farmers Market, an outdoor marketplace of nearly 100 local farmers, growers and artisans. The market showcases purveyors such as Crooked Sky Farms, Cutino Sauce Co., Noble Bread, The Tamale Store and more.
If these names sound familiar, it’s probably because you’ve tasted their goods at notable restaurants throughout the metro area. And it’s likely you’ll encounter several of our area’s award-winning chefs perusing the meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies as they stock up for the week.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the market — here’s how to navigate it: Start at Mama’s Cold Brew for an organic iced coffee. Then move on to Waffle Crush food truck for a breakfast of chewy waffles with sliced strawberries. Next up, peruse the non-food wares — candles, bath products, ceramics — then conclude by browsing the fresh produce and other edible goodies.
Mid-day: Step Back in Time
Fun fact No. 1: Gilbert was once known as the “hay shipping capital of the world.” Fun fact No. 2: Gilbert had its own airport from 1946 to 1959. Discover historical trivia nuggets like these at the Gilbert Historical Museum. The museum displays photographs, oral histories and artifacts dating back to Gilbert’s early years. Explore the eight exhibits, including a live quilting bee — one of only a few still in operation in the country.
The HD South building houses the museum and carries a bit of history of its own — built in 1913, it operated as Gilbert’s original elementary school and now holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. If you have time, sign up for an expert-led workshop. Topics range from storytelling to gardening. Before you leave, stop by the gift shop located in the elementary school’s old nurse’s office for books and other souvenirs.
Afternoon: Dine Outside
Soak up the Arizona sunshine with an alfresco lunch. The pecan-wood-smoked barbecue is the number one draw at Joe’s Real BBQ; people have been known to line up around the block to wait for a table. The shaded patio is a close second. If you hit up Joe’s after the lunch rush, you’ll have no problem snagging a seat outside. All of the dishes are great, but the BBQ Sampler lets you enjoy a bit of everything.
Joyride Taco House invites you to pick from a list of 10 tacos, perfect for mixing and matching. The restaurant has an indoor-outdoor vibe, so even if you can’t dine on the patio, you’ll still enjoy the weather. Burgers on the brain? Then head to Zinburger. Here, the patio abuts the sidewalk — prime for people watching — in the Heritage District. The specialty burgers feature gourmet cheeses (Manchego, Havarti, Danish Blue) and flavorful toppings. Order a side of sweet potato fries and pair your meal with a cold craft beer — how about the Scottsdale Blonde from Huss Brewing?
Evening: See a Broadway Show
Gilbert offers a thriving arts and culture scene, especially when it comes to theater performances. The 350-seat Hale Centre Theatre is the longest continuously running, privately owned theater in the country. It also offers a year-round lineup of weekend evening and matinee shows. See classic hits such as Annie or Singing in the Rain.
Two performance spaces make their home at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts — where you can experience nationally known musicians in the grand concert hall or catch a more intimate performance in the affectionately named “little theater.”
Nightcap: Wine and Live Music
There are few better ways to end a Gilbert daytrip than with live music and wine, and you’ll get that at Garage East. Neighboring Barnone, this eatery and wine bar offers Arizona wines and a great dining patio. Weekends always feature special events like live music, classes, wine bottle decorating contests and the Sunday Winemaker Dinner Series.
In the mood for more live music? The Fall Downtown Concert Series features local bands performing at the Water Tower Plaza along with food trucks and a good crowd. The series runs till November 29 when it finales with the annual Gilbert Tower Lighting Concert — complete with free horse and carriage rides.
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