Tempe grooves as Scottsdale's rowdy little brother

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Joseph Currie doesn't hit the strip clubs when he wants to party during his Phoenix/Scottsdale golf getaways. Instead, he comes to Tempe where the college girls -- real girls actually going to college rather than stripper university -- dance on the bar in Catholic school girl uniforms.

Tempe's Mill Avenue
Tempe's Mill Avenue gets this crowded Fiesta Bowl week. The rest of the year, the nightlife is still hopping.
Tempe's Mill AvenueKarsten Golf Course at ASU in TempeThe Buttes Resort
If you go

At least they do at The Library, a bar on Mill Avenue (everything of significance in Tempe seems to be on or right off Mill) that's something of a modern party cult legend. The E Network's "Wild On" -- the show that usually shows foam-covered debauchery clubs in places like Cancun -- featured Tempe's The Library in a segment.

"The first time I heard about this place two ASU (Arizona State University) coeds told them they were going to the library," Currie said. "I thought they were actually going to study or something. But these two girls didn't look like they spent a lot of time in a library if you know what I mean.

"So I looked it up and found this place."

Currie is in his late 40s. Amazingly, he doesn't look so out of place in this hangout on the main drag of a college town (Tempe is home to Arizona State). There are a number of middle-aged guys in golf polo shirts camped around the large bar. Funny how college girls in Catholic school uniforms can bring out diverse crowds.

"This is the dream man," Currie said, eyeing a waitress in one of those plaid skirts who's truthfully much more healthy Midwest girl than aspiring supermodel. "You play great courses during the day and hang out at a low-key spot like this at night."

Okay, it's a little hard to describe a bar that's main selling point is girls in Catholic school girl uniforms -- a place that also features a '80s metal cover band Metalhead (think KISS with the face paint, but not the talent) every Wednesday night -- as low key.

A place that holds a beer-for-books promotion when it first opens to stock its decor with actual books isn't anyone's wallflower. The Library is part of a Tempe nightlife scene that's decidedly less sophisticated, sleek and snobby than Scottsdale's black-clad, model-frequented hotspots though.

You will not find anything close to the buzz -- or the traffic jams -- in Tempe that you get in Scottsdale. But more golfers are turning to this often afterthought town of 160,000 that borders both Scottsdale and Phoenix for its simpler night rhythms.

It's hard to find a place in Tempe where jeans and a T-shirt wouldn't be acceptable going-out dress.

This includes several spots where you could actually take your wife or girlfriend. Tempe's main drive (Mill Ave.) draws families to its walkable shops and restaurants during the daylight and early evening hours. Arizona State merchandise shops are plentiful and a hulking Borders bookstore is the center of a lot of things. There's even something of a hippie vibe (or at least as close as Arizona gets to a hippie vibe) with people hanging out on street corners.

The unique thing about Tempe is that there's also a mountain -- a real hunking piece of rock -- that you can walk up on the end of Mill, right across from the ASU basketball arena.

If mountain climbing in the city -- or at least mountain trail walking isn't your thing -- the Rula Bula Irish Pub may be. This is as an authentic Irish pub (or at least as authentic as many of the places you'll find in Ireland) with a big backyard outdoor patio seating area with its own separate bar and the requisite love of Guinness. Gray-haired snowbirds have found this place as well.

After 10 p.m., though, Tempe definitely morphs into a frat boy party zone. Or a want-to-be-frat-boys-again "Old School" party vibe. Not surprising, a lot of the 40-somethings trying to relive (or create better) college days are golfers.

Don't think Catholic school girl uniforms are enough? There's a Hooters right above The Library. Though going to Hooters after The Library is akin to hitting McDonald's after having an authentic hamburger. There are a good half dozen better options along the main drag.

Tempe is like Scottsdale's rowdy little brother. You may not might to invite him to the white-linen Sunday dinner. But he's a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with on Saturday night.

"Tempe reminds me more of a Myrtle Beach," vacationing Illinois golfer Carl Emerick said. "You can feel comfortable there."

Tempe has great golf too

Being literally in Scottsdale's backyard, Tempe doesn't need to provide a plethora of golf options of its own. If you're heart set on playing in Tempe itself, Karsten Golf Course is the best bet. This is the ASU course, but it's no typical university course. Karsten's a Pete Dye-credited design with a Brown Mile bunker on No. 8 and the expected railroad ties. It's one of the better values in the entire Phoenix valley as well. Tempe also has an 18-hole municipal golf course, Ken McDonald Golf Course.

You're also within an eight-minute drive to golf courses like Phantom Horse and Legacy.

No one said you need to stay in Tempe to party in Tempe. For those who want to be close, the Buttes Resort and dramatic-rock-carved, center-of-it-all pool scene is the choice. You're not within walking distance to Mill Ave. at Buttes, but it's still the best option.

Of course, if you spend the night getting beer from costume Catholic school girls you might not care what the room looks like. Go ahead and jump up on a table yourself if you want. It's Tempe. No one's going to mind.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment