A place once known only for a train depot named after the man who donated the land to the railroad has become one of the bright spots in metro Phoenix for foodies and those looking for a small ‘Town’ feel with big city menus. But there’s much more to The Heritage District than food. You’ll find a wondrous kinetic art piece, a manicured park, the famous Gilbert water tower and its accompanying jail, as well as a gallery, a theater, and a museum. And so much more on the way!
What’s known today at The Heritage District of Gilbert was once the entire Town. The town is named for Bobby Gilbert, the man who gave the railroad his land in exchange for the naming legacy at a time when the area was becoming known as the Hay Capital of the World — they supplied alfalfa for horse feed during World War I. Learn more about Gilbert’s History at HD South (the Museum).
The Heritage District is surrounded by family-oriented developments like Neely Farms and Western Skies, as well as attractions like the Riparian Preserve and Freestone Park. All of this is easily accessed via the Superstition Freeway, US60.
Things to Do
Plan your night out or an entire day at the Heritage District. There is plenty to keep you and your family busy and enrich your palate and soul.
You’ll find something for everybody in downtown Gilbert. This is not your typical chain filled spot (although there are a couple of chain restaurants like Dierks Bentley’s, Snooze, and Zinburger). The restaurants in the District are local by design. Some of the finest restaurateurs have opened up new locations here, including Barrio Queen, Oregano’s and Lo Lo’s Chicken and Waffles, Joyride Taco House and Postino East.
But the real gems are the ones run by local entrepreneurs, including Joe’s BBQ, Liberty Market, Romeo’s Euro Cafe’, SoCal Fish Taco Company, The Farmhouse, Flancers, and more — we could go on! Just find a parking spot along a street, in a surface lot, or a garage. A short walk around, and you’ll find something to suit your taste. And when you’re done eating, check out the newest Speakeasy and experience the 1930s at The White Rabbit — but you better have the password!
There’s plenty to do besides eat. While you’re down there, take the kids to the fun Water Tower Plaza and it’s splash pad, water tower, Historical Adobe Pump House, and cool Spinning Granite Ball Water Feature. There’s plenty of grass to throw down a blanket and soak up the sun.
Looking for something more cultural? The Hale Center Theatre offers family-friendly productions year-round in it’s ‘theater in the round’ experience. The Gilbert Historical Museum, now known as HD South is just south of Elliot. You’ll learn everything ‘Gilbert’ there, and you might even be able to head down to the basement to see the model train exhibit.
Throughout the year, Gilbert’s Heritage District boasts the following events:
- Farmers Market: 7-11am every Saturday at the Tower Plaza, featuring 60-100 vendors each week.
- Art Walk: October through March on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays, 9am-1pm at the Tower Plaza. This is a family and pet friendly event with art and live music.
- Annual Global Village Festival: April 6, 2019 @ 9:00 am – 2:00 pm. This event features art, dance, food and other events from around the world.
- Gilbert Days Parade: Every November, Gilbert celebrates its heritage with the annual Gilbert Days Parade. Come take a seat along Gilbert road and be part of this long-standing tradition.
The Heritage District didn’t become such a great destination by accident. The Town’s Heritage District Redevelopment Commission regularly makes updates to the Heritage District Redevelopment Plan (PDF). The most recent plan includes:
- A north anchor with potential office space, a hotel, conference area and multifamily housing.
- A new Commons with entertainment, retail and dining.
- A new road, “Vaughn Ventilator,” which will bypass downtown
The plan gets regular updates, so stay informed and attend Town Council and Redevelopment meetings.