Educational, Entertaining Excursions off the Phoenix Light Rail

Ticket to ride

The Phoenix Metropolitan Light Rail System is taxpayer-funded and managed by Valley Metro. The current Light Rail route is a 20-mile line, with plans to extend the line north, east and west by 2023. It begins at 19th Avenue and Montebello in Phoenix, before turning southwest and following Central Avenue to Roosevelt Street. From there, the train heads west into Tempe and continues to Sycamore and Main Street in Mesa.

The ride runs on electricity and operates seven days a week (4:40 a.m.–11 p.m. weekdays; 5 a.m.–2 a.m. Saturday; and 5 a.m.–11 p.m. Sunday).

Using the Light Rail is easy. Just buy a ticket at the station or participating retail locations, hop on and soon you’ll be traveling with ease. Tickets are $2 for a single ride. $4 for an all-day pass. Use it as many times as you want in any direction the train goes.

Maps, train times and transit stops are available on this handy PDF 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.

In New York, it’s the subway. 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 45,000 people use the Phoenix Metropolitan Light Rail System daily to get to downtown offices, entertainment and cultural districts, places of learning and the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, according to Valley Metro officials.

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.  The museum houses a vast collection of Native American Indian art. Six to eight exhibits rotate each 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. 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 library has more than 700,000 items in its catalog for readers and researchers to peruse.

The Japanese Friendship Garden, also a short distance off the McDowell stop, is a partnership between the city of Phoenix and its Sister City, Himeji, Japan. With a $5 admission fee, you can wander through the tranquil park, which includes a koi pond. On Saturdays (with a reservation), you can participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

On 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/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 cooler fall weather.

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