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Gilbert, AZ

Just 30 years ago, Gilbert, Ariz., was little more than an agriculturally focused town known as the "Hay Shipping Capital of the World," located just a few miles from the more bustling city of Phoenix. Today, after rising from a little under 6,000 population in 1980 to more than 200K today, Gilbert offers a growing downtown dining scene and nightlife set amongst family-friendly neighborhoods.

The Community of Gilbert

Gilbert is routinely on the list of top 10 safest cities in the U.S., so you're not likely to find a particularly bad neighborhood. Due to rapid growth, most neighborhoods consist of newer construction and families. You'll also find plenty of churches and an especially notable Mormon influence, along with a good-sized temple if you wish to attend or just browse around the lovely grounds.

What to Do in Gilbert

True to its agricultural roots, Gilbert has a busy Saturday Farmers Market that's great for browsing or for picking up fresh ingredients for your evening meal. With enough food trucks and booths to satisfy anyone's tastebuds, the atmosphere at the market combines a touch of hipster with an authentic hometown experience. Open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday but come early in the summer to beat the heat.

Even if you're not a theater buff, the Hale Centre Theatre earns rave reviews for its consistently top-notch comedies, plays and musicals. The theatre itself is built in the round, so there's not a bad seat in the house. General admission tickets start at $34, with discounts for kids. Check the schedule to see what's playing while you're in town.

Locals rave about the beauty, wildlife viewing and even fishing at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. Complete with playground and several walking trails, the preserve is home to many species of birds including herons, egrets and geese. Bring your binoculars for the best viewing.

One Place You Shouldn't Miss in Gilbert

After the sun dips down below the horizon, stop in at the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory, located at the Riparian Preserve. Well-trained and enthusiastic volunteers will help you check the stars and get a close-up view of your favorite planet. In the summer months, come early to see the sun and its solar flares. Free, but donations are gladly accepted. Open Fridays and Saturdays from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

Dining in Gilbert

You might not think a desert community is the place to go for seafood, but the High Tide Seafood Bar & Grill will prove you wrong. Tucked away in a strip mall, the setting isn't unique, but take one bite of the cioppino or lobster bisque and you'll fall in love. Dig into the sea bass or beer-battered halibut and don't forget dessert -- the bread pudding is excellent.

Joe's Real BBQ in downtown is something of a Gilbert landmark, as the building that houses this homespun meat-and-all-the-trimmings restaurant has been standing for more than 70 years and Joe's has been there for 20. The pulled pork wins culinary awards but the atmosphere is relaxed and the prices reasonable.

Very Walkable
Some Transit
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