I recently spent a weekend in Chandler, Arizona, exploring a part of the East Valley of which I knew little. Turns out Chandler is named for its founder, Dr. Alexander John (A.J.) Chandler, a Canadian who was the first veterinary surgeon for the territory of AZ who, in 1891, purchased land south of Mesa to grow alfalfa. On his land, named the Chandler Ranch, Dr. Chandler subdivided and sold plots of land, eventually establishing a town square and formally incorporating the town of Chandler in 1920.
Anchoring Downtown Chandler is the San Marcos Resort–named for Friar Marcos DeNiza who was the first European to enter the Salt River Valley–that Dr. Chandler built in 1913 as a getaway for wealthy tourists and celebrities. Boasting the first grass links course in Arizona, the San Marcos Resort still stands as a Historical Register of Historic Places. Architecture buffs will be interested to know that Dr. Chandler was friends with Frank Lloyd Wright and had asked him to draw up plans for a second resort which was never built, most likely due to the Great Depression.
The town of Chandler originally established itself as an agriculture boom town with a focus on cotton, corn, and alfalfa. Apart from tourism and agriculture, Chandler was also known for its ostrich farms, and while those farms are gone, the town still pays homage to its history with the well-known Ostrich Festival held yearly in March, this year marked for March 16-19, 2023.
Chandler has been routinely named in the top 100 best cities for young people. Large companies drive a lot of the growth: for instance, Intel has a very large presence, employing over 12,000 people of this town of roughly 250,000. For a small town, it turns out Chandler has a lot to offer in terms of dining and entertainment. To plan your stay, I have compiled a fun-filled list that will give you just a small taste of what Chandler has to offer during a 48-hour stay. And if you have more suggestions (or have ever been to the Ostrich Festival!), feel free to drop me a line in the comment box below. Cheers to sunny Chandler! xoM
FRIDAY. Familiarize yourself with the city of Chandler by starting in Downtown Chandler. Park in the lot near San Tan Brewery (8 S. San Marcos Place) and you can walk the covered archways of the former San Marcos Resort, now a Crowne Plaza, exploring boutique shops and eclectic art galleries.
Along the south wall of the San Marcos are the 225-foot long Commonwealth Canal street murals (1 S. San Marcos Place), painted by Ariana Enriquez, a Chandler resident and Chandler High School alum. Nearby, on the exterior west-facing wall of the San Tan Brewery are the murals (8 S. San Marcos Place) by graffiti artists Noe Baez and Champ Styles. In the breezeway between ChopShop and Saba’s Western Wear are a series of murals celebrating the history of Chandler by artists Joey Salamon and Cam DeCaussin. Popping out of this breezeway you will find yourself at the murals of sahuaro cacti and cactus wrens (AZ’s state bird) by Lauren Lee.
No doubt by now you have worked up an appetite, and luckily the nearby Hidden House (159 West Commonwealth Ave), located in a charming 1939 white cottage, offers a full menu of New American favorites like Pan Seared Duck Breast, Prime Grade Pork Chops, and Espresso-Crusted Filets. Try to snag a table on the patio, where on weekends they have live music. Prior to turning in, head to Hidden House’s sister concept, The Brickyard (85 West Boston St.), known for their stellar craft cocktails, to try a classic or one of their custom recipes, or perhaps just a simple digestivo like an amaro.
SATURDAY. Sleep in and take your morning latte at Peixoto Coffee Roasters (11 W. Boston St., Suite #6) who specializes in coffee from their family farm in Brazil, before taking a walking tour of the art gallery at the Chandler Center for the Arts (250 N Arizona Ave.), a 2,000 square-foot gallery featuring art from regional and national artists in rotating exhibitions throughout the year.
For lunch treat yourself to some Southern comfort like the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich and Fried Catfish at The Stillery Chandler (130 S Arizona Ave.), where owners Steve and Alane Kovach, bring in live acts from Nashville every weekend. To walk off some calories, head to Veterans Oasis Park (4050 E. Chandler Heights Rd.), with 113 acres of green space, including a beautiful community fishing lake, scenic hiking and horseback riding trails, and the Field of Honor on the southwestern corner of the park, a moving monument to the East Valley’s veterans. For dinner, consider Craft 64 Chandler (68 W Buffalo St.), with a Cheers-like vibe that offers a rotation of 30 local craft beers on tap including eight of Craft 64’s own brews and a great selection of wine. The restaurant sources from local farms and pulls their own mozzarella cheese, in addition to making fresh pizza dough for their delicious selection of wood-fired pizzas.
SUNDAY. There is no better way to start off a Sunday than at the Ocotillo Farmer’s Market (2547 W. Queen Creek Rd.) followed by brunch at Bottle and Bean (2577 W Queen Creek Rd #100). Launched just recently in the fall of 2022, the Ocotillo Farmer’s Market is held every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. and features various purveyors of local produce, flowers, fresh baked goods, natural meats and seafood. Bottle and Bean is a combo coffee shop and wine bar that serves menus from breakfast to dinner, including a coffee bar using beans from a local roastery, a wide selection of beer and wine (also to-go), and a charming patio and outdoor lawn for soaking up some of that morning sun.
Where To Stay:
Marriott Phoenix Chandler. Open in 2019, the Marriott Phoenix Chandler (1600 S. Price Rd.) is a comfortable 264-room hotel that is situated on Price Road with easy access to both Downtown Chandler and Downtown Ocotillo, in addition to shopping, dining, golf courses and the Wild Horse Pass casino. With an outdoor heated pool, poolside fire pit, state-of-the-art fitness gym, and onsite Starbucks Cafe, you may not want to leave the grounds of this spacious hotel; in which case you are in luck because the lobby bar and full-service restaurant, Proof ’19, features a menu of American and Southwestern cuisine by Executive Chef Juan Vasquez-Santos.
Other Eats and Treats:
Jin-ya Ramen (130 S Arizona Ave #1). Delicious ramen in a sleek, modern Japanese setting.
Thaily’s (444 E Chandler Blvd Ste 1). A fusion of Cambodian and Iraqi cuisine highlighted recently by the NY Times.
Mingle and Graze (48 S San Marcos Pl. Suite A). Cheese, charcuterie, and tasty sandwiches for dine in and carry out.
Share Tea (140 N Arizona Ave.). Popular chain for bubble (boba) tea.
Shimogamo (2051 W. Warner Rd. #14). High-end Japanese plus a $140 omakase tasting menu.