12 Attractions in Gilbert, Arizona

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Robert Wilson

Nestled in the southeast valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area, Gilbert is a thriving suburban town with a population of over 208,000 residents.

Once a small farming community, Gilbert has rapidly grown into a family-friendly town with plenty to see and do. From historic sites that hearken back to Gilbert’s agricultural roots, to cutting-edge sports and recreation venues, Gilbert offers visitors an eclectic mix of attractions.

This article will highlight 12 of the top attractions that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Gilbert, Arizona. We’ll start with an overview of some of Gilbert’s most iconic landmarks before spotlighting some of the town’s museums and cultural sites. We’ll also cover Gilbert’s ample outdoor recreation opportunities, from rip-roaring water parks to serene botanical gardens.

And no trip to Gilbert is complete without taking in a spring training baseball game or doing some shopping and dining along Gilbert’s Heritage District. Read on to plan your Gilbert getaway!

Historic Gilbert

As one of the first towns founded in the Phoenix area, Gilbert has no shortage of historic buildings and landmarks that provide a window into the town’s early days.

Gilbert Water Tower

The Gilbert Water Tower has become something of an iconic landmark around town. This fully functioning water tower was built in 1925 to provide water for Gilbert’s small but growing population at the time. The 95-foot tower can hold 50,000 gallons of water and is still part of Gilbert’s municipal water system.

It received National Register of Historic Places designation in 1982. The water tower presides over Gilbert’s Heritage District, providing a striking background for photos and serving as one of the town’s most recognizable structures.

Heritage District

Gilbert’s Heritage District encompasses 16 blocks of historic buildings, shops, and restaurants in downtown Gilbert, centered around the iconic Gilbert Water Tower. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour to explore buildings constructed between 1895 and 1958. Highlights include the Gilbert Elementary School, built in 1912 and now the Gilbert Historical Museum, as well as the 1920s era Freestone Park.

Pop into vintage shops and grab a bite to eat at one of the district’s quirky restaurants housed in historic cottages. On Friday evenings from November through April, the Heritage District hosts a lively farmers market.

Cultural Attractions

In addition to its wealth of historic sites, Gilbert also offers some stellar cultural attractions guaranteed to delight visitors of all ages and interests.

Halle Heart Children’s Museum

The Halle Heart Children’s Museum provides a fun, hands-on space for kids 12 and under to play and learn. Exhibits focus on STEAM concepts, exploring science, technology, engineering, art, and math through interactive play.

Kids can experiment with cooking in the Pizza Patch Kitchen, build race cars on the toy garage play set, or get creative in the museum’s arts and crafts area. Exhibits like the Life Sized Human Body climber teach kids about health and anatomy. Parents will appreciate the museum’s specific areas for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Gilbert Historical Museum

To dig deeper into Gilbert’s pioneering past, schedule a visit to the Gilbert Historical Museum. Housed inside Gilbert Elementary School, built in 1912, the museum brings the town’s agricultural history to life through photographs and artifacts.

Displays provide an overview of significant people and events that shaped the town. The Joe Camp Room honors Gilbert’s founder, William Ellsworth Gilbert, with recreations of businesses lining Gilbert’s early downtown. Be sure to save time for the kids to dress up in old-timey costumes in the museum’s play area.

Hale Centre Theatre

For some family-friendly arts and culture, catch a show at Hale Centre Theatre, Gilbert’s premier performing arts venue. As Arizona’s only two-stage center in the round theater, no seat is more than 8 rows from the stage, allowing excellent views. Productions range from popular musicals like Mary Poppins and Annie to contemporary comedies and dramas. Unique to Gilbert, the innovative 180-degree moving stage and immersive, arena-style seating make you feel like part of the action.

Outdoor Recreation

Lucky for visitors, Gilbert enjoys sunny weather year-round, allowing plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. From rip-roaring waterslides to tranquil gardens, Gilbert offers top-notch outdoor attractions guaranteed to please everyone.

Rip Roarin’ Rapids

Cool off from the Arizona heat by making a splash at Rip Roarin’ Rapids water park inside Cosmo Dog Park. Sprawling across five acres, the Gilbert Aquatics Division runs this family-friendly park. Highlights include a 750-foot long lazy river, swirling vortex pool, dumping buckets, and multiple waterslides including a high-speed drop slide.

When you need a break from the water, let kids climb on junior play structures or flex their swing skills. Separate small dog and large dog areas mean four-legged friends can enjoy the park too. Guests will want to bring their own shade canopy or tent as certain areas lack covered seating.

Freestone Recreation Center

The Freestone Recreation Center provides both indoor and outdoor options for active families. Outdoor amenities include a leisure pool, 2.5 acres of grass sports fields, tennis and pickleball courts, and a large playground. Inside, guests will find a fitness center, full-court gymnasium, and multipurpose rooms for exercise classes, sports, meetings and events. The center offers year-round programming for all ages from swim lessons to youth cooking classes. Day passes allow drop-in access to all facilities and equipment.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Nature lovers will flock to the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch located along the banks of the thirsty East Maricopa Floodway. Originally constructed in 1927 to divert excess water from the Gilbert area during monsoon storms, the floodway has transformed into a lush wetlands environment. Today, the 300-acre preserve protects this sensitive habitat and the diverse wildlife living there.

More than 250 species of birds visit this Important Bird Area designated by the National Audubon Society. Guests can embark on wildlife viewing adventures via the preserve’s network of trails and observation areas. Interpretive signs provide information about the intricate ecosystem along the pathways traversing wetland forest, stream bank, and desert upland habitats.

Gilbert Regional Park

For recreational opportunities on a grand scale, look no further than the Gilbert Regional Park. Spanning 560 acres, this massive complex contains facilities for nearly every outdoor activity imaginable. Baseball and softball players have 10 lighted fields at their disposal surrounding the park’s signature feature – the Cactus Yards Championship Stadium, spring training home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and other MLB teams.

After the final out, the park transforms each weekend from a field of dreams into a field of music lovers for the Gilbert’s Concert in the Park series. Other park highlights include lighted tennis courts, sand volleyball pits, a BMX racetrack, an archery range, a model airplane airstrip, and 15 miles of multi-use trails that connect to regional pathway networks. Visitors will also find picnic ramadas, playgrounds, concessions and restrooms on site.

Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch

Another scenic nature area awaits visitors at Gilbert’s second Riparian Preserve location situated along the Val Vista Lakes. As an urban wetlands area, Gilbert Water Ranch protects vital habitat for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Guest can explore 7 miles of trails bordered by lush wetland vegetation like cottonwoods and cattails as well as patches of Mesquite forests and desert scrub.

Over 200 species of birds frequent the preserve along with mammals like muskrats, raccoons and ringtails. Interpretive displays help identify flora and fauna while directing hikers to scenic viewpoints overlooking lakes and streams. Photographers flock here to capture spectacular sunsets reflected in the waters.

Agritopia

Gilbert’s agricultural heritage shines through at innovative community farm Agritopia. Often hailed as one of the first agrihoods, the master-planned housing development integrates urban living with working farm land operated by resident Joe Johnston of Johnston’s Organic Farm. Agritopia visitors can tour Johnston’s orchards, gardens and apiaries via guided U-Pick Experiences and events.

Stop by the farm stand to select fresh organic produce or dine at on-site restaurant The Farm at Agritopia. Housing within the community encircles around 20 acres of lush farmland, allowing homeowners to easily reap the benefits of living adjacent to fertile fields. Visitors can book a stay at themed cottages named The Honey House, The Farmhouse, or The Organic Bungalow.

Sloan Park

Opened in 2014, the award-winning Sloan Park design echoes Wrigley Field’s iconic brick archways and marquee signage. The stadium’s facade even replicates the red brick patterns found on Chicago’s famed ballpark. Locals know Sloan Park simply as “The Brickyard.”

With a capacity of 15,000 people, the intimate stadium still provides excellent views of the field and Camelback Mountain beyond. Fans can watch pre-game warmups from special standing room areas above the dugouts. Arrive early to catch batting practice home runs whizzing over the Ivy Walls in left field. Sloan Park offers standard ballpark concession fare along with Chicago staples like Vienna Beef hotdogs and Dove ice cream bars.

Hohokam Stadium

In use as the spring training grounds for MLB teams since 1997, Hohokam Stadium boasts a rich history. The intimate park holds 12,000 fans in its exposed bleacher seats and covered grandstand areas. Baseball enthusiasts will appreciate nods to Hohokam’s original tenant – the Oakland A’s – like the Bash Brothers warning track alongside the outfield wall.

Players appreciate the stadium’s six full practice fields and clubhouse designed with the latest training facilities. Visitors can grab classic ballgame snacks from concession stands or have food delivered from on-site restaurant Helton Brewing Company. No trip to Hohokam would be complete without stopping by the Authentic Stadium Goods shop for licensed D-backs gear.

Shopping & Entertainment

When you’ve had your fill of attractions and activities around Gilbert, the town has no shortage of shopping and entertainment options to keep visitors happily occupied.

SanTan Village Mall

As Gilbert’s premier shopping destination, visitors are sure to work up an appetite browsing shops at the open-air SanTan Village Mall. Nashville-based CBL Properties developed SanTan Village to emulate an urban town center with tree-lined promenades flanked by stores. Shoppers can amble through over 100 specialty retailers and outlet shops or dine at unique restaurants like Korean barbecue spot Let’s Meat Korean BBQ.

Catch a flick on the big screen at Harkins luxury cinema then burn off popcorn calories playing a round of mini golf at Odysea’s Butterfly Wonderland course. The mall really sparkles during the winter holidays when overhead lights transform SanTan Village into a winter wonderland.

Riparian at Water Ranch

Trendy boutiques, one-of-a-kind galleries, and inviting restaurants line the streets of Gilbert’s scenic Riparian at Water Ranch community. Part of Brookfield Residential’s larger master-planned neighborhood, the Riparian shopping district overlooks tranquil lakes near the Riparian Preserve. Stores like antiquer Twigs sell stylish home furnishings befitting Riparian’s upscale aesthetic.

Stop for a scoop at Cold Stone Creamery or enjoy seasonal craft beers at Liberty Market’s on-site brewery. Golf enthusiasts can perfect their swing at Topgolf’s 3-level driving range anchoring the district. Live music fills the nights at American comfort food restaurant Culinary Dropout. With ample amenities for dining, shopping and entertainment, the Riparian at Water Ranch warrants a dedicated spot on your Gilbert itinerary.

Conclusion

With its interesting mix of history, culture, outdoor adventure and entertainment, Gilbert offers visitors an eclectic blend of attractions guaranteed to impress. Families will stay happily occupied bouncing between hands-on children’s museums, recreational parks, and innovative performance venues. Outdoor lovers have their pick of scenic nature preserves or modern sports complexes.

Baseball fans can soak up the spring training atmosphere at Gilbert’s two MLB stadiums. And when you need a break from the Arizona sun, Gilbert’s premier shopping and dining destinations beckon. Whether it’s your first time visiting the Phoenix suburbs or you call Gilbert home, this growing town packs plenty to see and do for visitors of all ages and interests.

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