If you are visiting the west side of the University of Arizona, be it for business or pleasure, chances are you’ll find yourself in Main Gate Square for shopping or a bite to eat.

The stretch of retail and restaurant options — more than 60 in all along East University Boulevard, between North Euclid and North Park avenues — is a bustling hive of activity during the school year.

Students and alumni swell with Wildcat pride and fill the district during the Square’s Bear Down pep rally series on the Fridays before home games, kicking it up several notches for homecoming festivities in November. When the UApresents fall season rolls around, ticket holders use the boulevard as an oasis for food and drink before the brisk walk to Centennial Hall, for concerts, lectures and other live performances.

While neighboring parking garages can be found on both sides of East University Boulevard, the streetcar allows for easier access to all that the square has to offer.

Here are some reasons to visit:

The great outdoors

Patios are plentiful in Main Gate Square, and are often packed with people in the evenings, even in the intense heat and monsoon humidity that make up Tucson summers. The pizza joint No Anchovies, at 870 E. University Blvd. and its next-door neighbor Frog & Firkin, 874 E. University Blvd., both sport large patio spaces, with misters in the summer and heat lamps in the winter. Perhaps the best outdoor seating can be found on the rooftop deck at Gentle Ben’s, 865 E. University Blvd. Pull up a chair, order a craft beer and watch all the action along the boulevard from above.

Can’t-be-beat cocktails

The craft cocktail craze is alive and well in Main Gate Square, particularly on its east end where Wilko, 943 E. University Blvd., serves some of the city’s best mixed drinks. Led by beverage director Luke Anable, the restaurant boasts 12 house cocktails, three dessert cocktails, three original sangrias and a weekly experimental drink. In honor of the streetcar’s debut last weekend, the restaurant created the Trolley Parton, a corn milk and roasted corn husk-infused bourbon cocktail. “We were interested in making textural drinks, creamy drinks without using any milk,” Anable said. “It was a challenge.” Also try: Pasco Kitchen & Lounge, 820 E. University Blvd., where localized cocktails include the Mount Lemmon, a concoction with tequila, mint leaves, Luxardo limoncello, Plymouth sloe gin and fresh squeezed lemon.

Streetcar smarts

Several bars and restaurants along the streetcar route host trivia nights throughout the week, making it the perfect mass transit method for pop culture braniacs. In Main Gate Square, the trivia challenge takes place every Wednesday at the Auld Dubliner, 800 E. University Blvd. Geeks Who Drink, the national company that hosts many of Tucson’s team trivia games, runs the Dubliner game, with eight rounds of questions and soundbites. The games begin at 8 p.m. and last about two hours. Visit geekswhodrink.com/98/ for more information.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@tucson.com or 807-8430.