Gilbert: Friendly atmosphere, picturesque weather
Gilbert: Friendly atmosphere, picturesque weather
The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Arizona could be an image of a vast desert, the Grand Canyon of course, maybe even a cowboy, or a saguaro cactus. Fans of Hollywood Westerns perhaps envision the location for countless classic movies. These are all things associated with the 48th state, however, the town of Gilbert just southeast of the capital Phoenix is putting Arizona on the map for different reasons.
The Wallet Hub ranking also places Gilbert 2nd in Lowest Violent Crime Rate Per Capita. When it came to the Least Percentage of Families Below the Poverty Line, Gilbert tied for 3rd with two other cities, Plano, Texas and Rancho Cucamonga, California.
High ranking is not new to the town of Gilbert. BusinessInsider.com named Gilbert the 5th Safest City in the US in 2011. In 2013, Gilbert was bestowed top rankings by The Daily Beast as the 8th Most Thriving City in the US, and the 2nd Safest City in the US by Law Street Media. Gilbert public education has also received accolades. For example, Gilbert Classical Academy, which was founded in 2007 and serves 7th to 12th grade, was ranked 28th last year in the US News & World Report Best Schools List. In addition, it placed in the top five high schools in the state by SAT scores.
The development of the town of Gilbert traces back to the year 1902 when the Arizona Eastern Railway solicited landowners to donate right of way to complete their railway expansion. Property owned by William “Bobby” Gilbert became the site of the new town that flourished and was named after him. Gilbert became known as the “Hay Capital of the World” up until the late 1920s, as it was a major agricultural community. On July 6, 1920, after almost two decades of growth, Gilbert was incorporated into Arizona. It was not until the 1970s that Gilbert expanded into its current borders. Although the population was less than 2,000 people during that time, Gilbert foresaw rapid expansion in its future. Since 1980, the population has doubled every five years, making the current number 217,000. The estimated population of Gilbert for the year 2030 is 305,000. Moreover, the population of Gilbert is characteristically young. The median age is 31.5 years old and 36.9 percent of the population is under 19.
With a population that is growing and youthful, recreation in Gilbert is vigorous and vibrant. For the outdoors inclined and physical activity lovers, Gilbert offers a wide range of fun options. Shopping centers are abundant and varied. For history buffs, old downtown Gilbert provides their fix. Even foodies can enjoy the restaurant scene here in Gilbert. Local restaurants such as Joe’s Farm Grill and The Coffee Shop (located in Agritopia) have been featured on the famed Food Network.
Amanda Elliot, from the Office of Economic Development for the town of Gilbert explains the growth as well as appeal of this destination.
My first question is:
What is the status of international tourism in Gilbert? Would you say it is high or low?
Thirteen percent of Arizona’s overnight visitation was made up of 5 million international overnight visitors in 2012. In Gilbert, international visitors are primarily from Mexico, Canada and Gilbert’s Sister Cities (Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland and Leshan, China).
Marketing Gilbert as a destination on an international level is a very expensive endeavor. Therefore, the majority of the community’s efforts have been focused domestically. However, Gilbert has been exploring ways to better market to the international community and has taken small steps in this direction in Canada, Mexico and China.
Why should tourists visit Gilbert? In other words, what does Gilbert do to promote tourism in general and more specifically what does it have to offer to international tourists?
Gilbert may be a large city, but its friendly atmosphere and unique amenities are a draw for visitors. Some of the premier amenities include:
Riparian at Water Ranch — The Riparian at Water Ranch features hiking and equestrian trails and provides an opportunity for wildlife and bird watching. Close to 250 species of birds have been sighted and many people come from different states and countries to see the beautiful and sometimes rare birds. The park boasts covered picnic areas, a dinosaur dig site and campsites that can be reserved for a desert getaway. The Riparian also has the only Phoenix Metropolitan area astronomy observatory open to the public.
Agritopia — Agritopia is a magnet for foodies, farmers and tourists interested in seeing first-hand how a desert residential community is addressing urban farming. The community offers a garden open to non-residents and paths to view the organically-grown crops. The hub of the neighborhood is a small plaza, which overlooks the farm. Here, visitors will find a coffeehouse, a nationally recognized farm-to-table restaurant and an honor system farm stand.
Gilbert Museum — With a vast collection of vintage artifacts, photographs, oral histories and archives, the Gilbert Museum is a great place to step back in time and discover life of Western United States settlers.
Heritage District Dining — Gilbert’s Heritage District, rich with buildings resembling the “wild-west” is home to premier dining spots in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. The locally unique neighborhood restaurants are authentic, offer exceptional food and radiate charm. When visiting the Heritage District, it is easy to see why the community is called #DeliciousGilbert.
Hale Theatre — The Hale Center Theatre has a legendary heritage as the longest continuously running, privately owned and operated theater company in America. This 110-seat theater in the round offers weekend matinee and evening shows.
Shopping — Gilbert’s shopping experience ranges from well-known brand names like Coach at the San Tan Village Mall to artisan shops and markets located within in the Heritage District, which offers a variety of merchants who provide quality goods for thrifty-minded visitors.
Big League Dreams — If you’ve ever dreamed of playing in a big league ballpark, Big League Dreams is the place for you. The fields are built as scaled-down replicas of famous ballparks including Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field.
Finally, what is your message to potential visitors? What would you say to invite our readers to visit the town of Gilbert?
Located in the southeast valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area, Gilbert is the 5th largest city in the state of Arizona, the 2nd safest city in the United States, and has gained national attention for its friendly atmosphere, picturesque weather and unique amenities.
Gilbert has over 9.8 million square feet of retail for shopping and more than 700 acres of designated open space for recreation and entertainment, providing a thriving and diverse community. Gilbert is home to seven golf courses, six major parks, four community pools, four community recreation centers, a performing arts center, a privately-owned theater, an indoor ice arena, a riparian preserve and the Big League Dreams Sports Complex. Throughout the year, Gilbert is host to numerous festivals, a weekly farmers market and a bi-weekly art walk.
In addition, Gilbert is central to many of Arizona’s scenic attractions including the Superstition Mountains, location of the legendary Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine and Tonto National Forest which contains scenery ranging from rugged desert to cool pines.
From its old downtown water tower to its vast shopping centers, Gilbert, Arizona holds something for everyone. Whether you enjoy nationally recognized cuisine, scenic hikes, a game of golf, or a renowned theater, this thriving city with its friendly and family oriented atmosphere is the place to visit.
Email: [email protected]
Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town
DUBROVNIK, Croatia: Marc van Bloemen has lived in the old town of Dubrovnik, a Croatian citadel widely praised as the jewel of the Adriatic, for decades, since he was a child. He says it used to be a privilege. Now it’s a nightmare.
Crowds of tourists clog the entrances to the ancient walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as huge cruise ships unload thousands more daily. People bump into each other on the famous limestone-paved Stradun, the pedestrian street lined with medieval churches and palaces, as fans of the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” search for the locations where it was filmed.
Dubrovnik is a prime example of the effects of mass tourism, a global phenomenon in which the increase in people traveling means standout sites — particularly small ones — get overwhelmed by crowds. As the numbers of visitors keeps rising, local authorities are looking for ways to keep the throngs from killing off the town’s charm.
“It’s beyond belief, it’s like living in the middle of Disneyland,” says van Bloemen from his house overlooking the bustling Old Harbor in the shadows of the stone city walls.
On a typical day there are about eight cruise ships visiting this town of 2,500 people, each dumping some 2,000 tourists into the streets. He recalls one day when 13 ships anchored here.
“We feel sorry for ourselves, but also for them (the tourists) because they can’t feel the town anymore because they are knocking into other tourists,” he said. “It’s chaos, the whole thing is chaos.”
The problem is hurting Dubrovnik’s reputation. UNESCO warned last year that the city’s world heritage title was at risk because of the surge in tourist numbers.
The popular Discoverer travel blog recently wrote that a visit to the historic town “is a highlight of any Croatian vacation, but the crowds that pack its narrow streets and passageways don’t make for a quality visitor experience.”
It said that the extra attention the city gets from being a filming location for “Game of Thrones” combines with the cruise ship arrivals to create “a problem of epic proportions.”
It advises travelers to visit other quaint old towns nearby: “Instead of trying to be one of the lucky ones who gets a ticket to Dubrovnik’s sites, try the delightful town of Ohrid in nearby Macedonia.”
In 2017, local authorities announced a “Respect the City” plan that limits the number of tourists from cruise ships to a maximum of 4,000 at any one time during the day. The plan still has to be implemented, however.
“We are aware of the crowds,” said Romana Vlasic, the head of the town’s tourist board.
But while on the one hand she pledged to curb the number of visitors, Vlasic noted with some satisfaction that this season in Dubrovnik “is really good with a slight increase in numbers.” The success of the Croatian national soccer team at this summer’s World Cup, where it reached the final, helped bring new tourists new tourists.
Vlasic said that over 800,000 tourists visited Dubrovnik since the start of the year, a 6 percent increase from the same period last year. Overnight stays were up 4 percent to 3 million.
The cruise ships pay the city harbor docking fees, but the local businesses get very little money from the visitors, who have all-inclusive packages on board the ship and spend very little on local restaurants or shops.
Krunoslav Djuricic, who plays his electric guitar at Pile, one of the two main entrances of Dubrovnik’s walled city, sees the crowds pass by him all day and believes that “mass tourism might not be what we really need.”
The tourists disembarking from the cruise ships have only a few hours to visit the city, meaning they often rush around to see the sites and take selfies to post to social media.
“We have crowds of people who are simply running,” Djuricic says. “Where are these people running to?“