Visiting Phoenix? Consider These Excursions Off the Light Rail
In New York, the subway is the popular mode of public transportation. In Boston, it’s the “T,” and in Los Angeles, riders jump on the Metro. Nearly every established city in the country has a public transit system used by thousands of people every day— and Phoenix is no different.
More than 49,000 people use the Phoenix Metropolitan Light Rail System on weekdays to get to downtown offices, entertainment and cultural districts, places of learning and the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, according to the 2017 Valley Metro Ridership Report. Beyond local commuters, visitors to Phoenix can utilize the Light Rail as a central transportation spine to conveniently access both downtown and the surrounding areas north and east of the city.
Off the Rail
One of the best parts of the Light Rail is where it can take you. Check out some of the following stops and attractions off the Light Rail for educational or entertaining experiences.
- Just off the Central Avenue and Encanto Boulevard stop is the Heard Museum, which houses a vast collection of American Indian art. Exhibits rotate throughout the year and include everything from jewelry and documentaries to musical instruments and pottery.
- The Burton Barr Central Library is a short walk south from the Central Avenue and McDowell Road stop. The library is most known for its architecture, which was designed around the summer solstice, according to com. The physical alignment of the five-story building allows light to enter the building and cast a kaleidoscope of colors against library walls at high noon on the summer solstice.
- The Japanese Friendship Garden, also a short distance off the Central and Roosevelt stop, is a partnership between the city of Phoenix and its Sister City, Himeji, Japan. With a $7 admission fee, you can wander through the tranquil park, which includes a koi pond. On the third Saturday of each month, October through June (with a reservation), you can participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
- On the first and third Fridays each month, hop off the Light Rail at the Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street stop. Roosevelt Row is abuzz with people exploring the revitalized neighborhoods. There’s often live music, food trucks and open art galleries to explore on these evenings.
- If you travel further down the Light Rail line to the Mill Avenue stop, you’ll find more eateries and lots of Sun Devils fans. Arizona State University’s main campus is located here and the streets are often alive with students and sports fans taking in games at the stadium.
- A short walking distance from the stop is Tempe Beach Park and Tempe Town Lake. Here you can rent paddle boats and kayaks or enjoy a stroll around the lake. Dogs are welcome, and it’s a good place to grab an ice cream and enjoy the weather.
Ticket to Ride
Visitors to Phoenix can take advantage of the entire Light Rail system to access various parts of the city. Some of the relevant information that may interest potential train riders includes:
- The Phoenix Metropolitan Light Rail System is taxpayer-funded and managed by Valley Metro. The current Light Rail route is a 26-mile line, and would take 85 minutes to travel the entire route. It begins at 19th Avenue and Dunlap in Phoenix, before turning southwest and following Central Avenue to Roosevelt Street. From there, the train heads west into Tempe and continues to Mesa Drive and Main Street in Mesa.
- The train runs on electricity and operates seven days a week (4:40 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday with extended hours to 2 a.m. on Friday nights; 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; and 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday), according to Valley Metro.
- Purchasing a ticket for the Light Rail is easy and can be done online or at a fare vending machine at a station. Tickets are $2 for a single ride. Or, you can pay $4 for an all-day pass and use it as many times as you want, in any direction the train goes. An extra $1.25 is required to ride the Express/RAPID lines, according to Valley Metro.
- Maps, train times and transit stops are available online from Valley Metro.
- Train cars are wheelchair, kid, bike and animal friendly (when in cages). The train is air conditioned and monitored by cameras and personnel who walk through cars to scan tickets to verify proof of payment.
Not only is the Light Rail a great way to get around the Phoenix metro area, but the attractions along the way can make for a fun excursion for locals and visitors alike.
Originally published November 2013.