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THE ARTS

Best Hotel Art
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa
A stay at the new Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa is akin to a retreat at the desert winter home of a deeply cool, deeply rich artist. Everything at this Mid-Century Modern revamp of an old Cottonwoods Suites property revolves around art inspired by the Sonoran Desert or made by local artists – many who live or work at the nearby Cattle Track Arts Compound, which is open for tours – from the colorful wool ball installation behind the front desk to the rustic earthenware dishes at Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen. In each guest room, you’ll find a binder that names each piece of art and a pack of mini colored pencils should your surroundings get your artistic juices flowing. 6114 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-368-1234, scottsdale.andaz.hyatt.com

 

Best Writing Group
Four Chambers Press Writing Group
You can’t create in a vacuum, as the old saying goes. Phoenix’s premier indie publishing/literary powerhouse hosts a writing group every second Sunday from 4:30-7 p.m. at Songbird Coffee & Tea House so that scribes both seasoned and novice can bounce ideas off of each other and get feedback on work from poetry to short stories (word count cap: 3,000 words). 812 N. Third St., Phoenix, fourchamberspress.com/writinggroup

 

Best One-Stop-Shop Art Gallery
ASU Grant Street Studios
This deceptively expansive converted building in Downtown Phoenix’s Warehouse District houses two galleries and more than 60 studios for the entirety of ASU’s MFA class. Keep your art walk at one address and enjoy the sheer diversity and amount of art available – including fiber, photography, painting, 3-D printing and ceramics, just to name a few. 605 E. Grant St., Phoenix, art.asu.edu/galleries-and-facilities/grant-street-studios

 

Best Place to Get Buzzed and Make Art
Changing Hands Bookstore’s Drink and Draw Nights
There are few practices that better unleash our inner bohemian, I-would-be-friends-with-Hemingway-were-he-alive sides than drinking and drawing. Fortunately, local literary mainstay Changing Hands offers an opportunity to do that in its regular Drink and Draw nights at the First Draft Book Bar in the Phoenix Changing Hands location. For an $8 participation fee – materials not included – you create to your heart’s content with a glass of your favorite swill. Sometimes, a live model shows up (no nudes, yet). 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-274-0067, changinghands.com

 

Best Musical Incubator
Rosie’s House A Music Academy for Children
Founded in 1996 by homeless advocate Rosie Schurz, Rosie’s House offers free classical and multi-cultural music instruction to economically disadvantaged kids in Central Phoenix. During the 2015-2016 school year, Rosie’s House provided 12,000 music lessons to 418 students who performed at more than 60 recitals, concerts and master classes. During that time, 100 percent of the program’s graduating seniors enrolled in college or enlisted in the military. Now that’s something to toot your horn about. 1875 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-252-8475, rosieshouse.org

 

Best Unconventional Art Space
Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art Shipping Containers
One of the more exciting players in Downtown’s art scene – now emerging from gangly adolescence into something akin to your cool cousin who makes her own clothes – is the non-profit Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art. phICA hosts artist residencies, promotes art incubation and community engagement and education, and the fruits of the organization’s labor are borne out in its shipping containers on Roosevelt Row. These unconventional spaces host compelling, thematically challenging shows from local artists and allow emerging curators to carry out their budding visions. 408 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, phica.org

 

 

FITNESS

Best Gym Culture
The Madison Improvement Club
Is it a nightclub or a gym? Sometimes it’s hard to tell with the Madison and its rambunctiously upbeat culture and “good vibes only” ethos. Even its class titles are relentlessly positive: Party on a Bike, Phenomenal Flow and #SlaySaturday Ride. We wholeheartedly endorse getting high at this club – no scary come-downs from endorphins. Two Valley locations, themadisonvibe.com

 

Best Views for the Hiking-Averse
The Waterfront at Tempe Center for the Arts
Hiking is part of what makes Phoenix a great city, but we get it – it can get hot, bones can get a little creaky and maybe you’re not really into the whole snake thing. Fortunately, there’s a great alternative in the (paved!) path that winds along Tempe Town Lake and through Tempe Center for the Arts and the new State Farm campus. If you’re into tons of glass; modern, angular architecture; and a great “beachfront” view, this is the walk for you. Bonus for asthmatics: minimal elevation change. Tempe Center for the Arts: 700 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe, 480-350-2822, tempe.gov/city-hall/community-services/tempe-center-for-the-arts

 

Best Place to Get Your Zen On
Butterfly Wonderland
Rooftop yoga classes in and around Downtown Phoenix are a dime a dozen these days. As our city becomes a more bustling metropolis, local yogis and yoginis clad in the latest $100 lululemon stretchy pants would rather show off their crow pose to their fellow, “evolved and centered” urban hippies amid skyscrapers than in a bare studio. But “namaste” doesn’t go with “concrete jungle” the way it does with “real jungle.” At Butterfly Wonderland, channel your chi in a straight-up rainforest ($20). 9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale, 480-800-3000, butterflywonderland.com

 

Best Dance Class
Tahitian Hula at Aloha Yoga and Hula
Aloha owner and instructor Myriam Valenzuela was shaking her hula-loving hips long before Disney’s Moana rekindled interest in Hawaiian culture last year. She offers two weekly hula classes for varying skill levels; the classic kahiko popularized by ‘60s surf movies, and the faster Tahitian style. If you’re worried about baring your midriff for the latter’s colorful costumes, don’t be. With brisk hip shakes and plentiful ab shimmies, this intense Polynesian mega-workout will give you an eight-pack in record time. 4939 W. Ray Rd., Chandler, 480-307-8007, alohayogaandhula.com

 

Coolest ‘Hood on the Rise
Grand Avenue
The Grand Avenue area has long been Downtown’s sort of alt-Roosevelt Row. With funky galleries, tiki bars, tire shops, restaurants and all manner of other oddities and amusements, it has always been a great place to explore the seedier side of Phoenix’s cultural scene. But when the famed Trunk Space venue (briefly) closed and then moved off Roosevelt and Bragg’s Pie Factory diner shut its doors in late 2015, it seemed that the quirky neighborhood was contracting. But not for long – late last year, Barrio Café chef Silvana Salcido Esparza opened up Barrio Gran Reserva in the old Bragg’s space and local resident Konstadinos Tsimahidis unveiled the excellent, aggressively curated Grand Avenue Records. And now that RoRo has more midrise apartment buildings than galleries, Grand Ave. may be experiencing something of a renaissance. facebook.com/GrandAvePhoenix

 

Best Quick Workout
Vibetality
No time for an hour-long fitness class? No worries. Vibetality offers 15-minute classes that utilize whole-body vibration to intensify the workout and deliver maximum results with a minimum time commitment. Five vibe classes – from strength training to yoga – are conducted while the participants are on vibrating plates. Proponents say the classes deliver the same strength results as one-and-a-half-hour classes. 1940 S. Alma School Rd., Chandler, 602-842-3007, vibetality.com

 

Best Public Golf Course
Mountain Shadows Resort
In the mood for a quickie? Located at the chicly cubist Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, the 54-par charmer is tailor-made for beginners and duffers on a schedule – nothing but par-3s the whole way ‘round. The views of PV are magnif, and you can grab a craft refreshment at the resort’s Hearth ‘61 restaurant after you make like Jordan Spieth. 5432 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley, 480-624-5400, mountainshadows.com

 

 

THINGS TO DO

Best Place to Take an Out-of-Town Visitor
Musical Instrument Museum
We’ve taken a million out-of-town visitors to a million different Valley landmarks, attractions and museums, and the one that never fails to impress? The joint with Elvis Presley’s guitar. Of course, the King’s axe isn’t the only wondrous thing about the MIM – it sports a collection of 15,000-plus instruments, from an Indonesian gamelan to vintage American harmonicas. Pity the poor out-of-towner who doesn’t love it. 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, 480-478-6000, mim.org

 

Best Place to Drop the Kids
FatCats Fun
The modern suburban parent’s answer to a babysitter, FatCats is an indoor fun center housing a newly upgraded arcade, bowling alley, pirate-themed glow-in-the-dark golf course and movie theater with reclining seats. It’s a lifesaver in summertime, when scorching Phoenix temps drive even the heartiest desert kids indoors, and on Tuesday nights when movies are just five bucks. Unlike some of its competitors (cough, cough, rhymes with Brave & Custers), FatCats is totally kid-centric and cheap enough to bring the whole fam. 4321 E. Baseline Rd., Gilbert, 480-498-3325, gilbert.fatcatsfun.com

 

Best Place For A Girl Date
Arizona Roller Derby
Making new friends can be tough past the age of 10. What are two gals supposed to bond over in the absence of class projects or the ability to double-dutch? Roller skating, of course. Big girls don’t cry at Arizona Roller Derby – they kick some serious butt. The second oldest league in the country, with more than 100 active skaters, ARD is home to nine teams with names like the Tent City Terrors and Surly Gurlies. Even if you’ve hung up your skates for stilettos, we bet you’ll bond with new lady friends at an ARD bout – played around the state – over how badass boss babes can be. arizonarollerderby.com

 

Best Public Facelift
Desert Botanical Garden
Over the past decade, we’ve watched DBG’s cactus-shaped donation meter inch its way up to an $18.5 million goal. Last year, that bulging succulent finally dropped major moolah to welcome a greenhouse, educational center and a permanent 3,200-square-foot butterfly pavilion. If the packed parking lot is any indication, this caterpillar has finally metamorphosed into a major Southwest tourist attraction. 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 480-941-1225, dbg.org

 

 

Best of the Valley Battle:Dine-In Movie Theaters
Why it took the movie industry 100 years to finally realize people might want a rosé with their rom-com, we’ll never know. Here are two dine-in theaters we find utterly Oscar-worthy.

RoadHouse Cinemas
9090 E. Indian Bend Rd., Scottsdale, 480-750-7295, roadhousecinemas.com

Swing-out, school-desk-style dining gives you plenty of dining real esate while you watch Hugh Jackman claw baddies.  

$20.95 for a twilight movie, half-off happy hour margarita and quesadilla is the best deal of any dine-in theater in the Valley.

It’s the only Arizona-owned, full-service dine-in theater in the Valley, and has the lovably corny Old West décor to prove it.

VS.

Alamo Draft House
4955 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler, 520-213-8129, drafthouse.com/phoenix

Legit film-nerd operation. Cult and art-house fare make it the East Valley’s new counterculture nerve center.

First-rate mixology program. Recent one-off drink special: A Clockwork Orange-themed “Korova Milk Bar” with Myers’s rum, crème de cacao and nutmeg.

Strictly enforced no-talking policy. Observe it! You don’t want to mess with film-nerd bouncers.

 

 

Best of the Valley Trio
Chill Out

Best Place to Find Your Zen
The Church of the Epiphany
Tucked behind a tiny wall, the contemplation garden beside this Episcopalian church worthy of praise for its “everybody welcome” policy and Grammy-winning choirmaster (don’t get too excited, he’s a Phoenix Chorale member, not John Legend) is pristine and perfectly groomed. A traditional fountain bubbles to drown out the noisy 101 access road, and a small stone bench makes an ideal reading nook on cool, breezy nights.
2222 S. Price Rd., Tempe, 480-968-4111, epiphany-tempe.org

Best Outdoor Nap Spot
Scottsdale Quarter Splash Pad
Yeah, this splash pad in a tony North Scottsdale shopping “village” can get overrun by the stay-at-home set and their squealing babes come summer. But the place clears out when fall and winter roll in. And those plastic lounge chairs are damn comfortable. Settle in for a midday snooze – the timed fountain will lull you into dreamland like a real-life sound machine. 15059 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-270-8123, scottsdalequarter.com

Best Place to Watch a Sunset
Rooftop of Terminal 4 Parking Garage at Sky Harbor Airport
Mother Nature has blessed the Valley with unrivaled sunsets, as evidenced by the flood of stunning photos posted by locals on Instagram and other social media. Our favorite sunset-appreciation spot: the long-term parking garage rooftop at Sky Harbor’s Terminal 4, which offers stunning, unobstructed panoramic views of fire-red sky with aircraft in flight over city lights and mountains. Compositionally, it’s unbeatable. The airport charges you a few dollars to park, but it’s a small price to pay for this million-dollar view. skyharbor.com

 

Best ClearingHouse for Volunteers
HandsOn Greater Phoenix
If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, but aren’t sure where to start, HandsOn Greater Phoenix is a one-stop shop listserv of community service projects. Choose from about 60 volunteer opportunities each month, from reading to kids at the Salvation Army’s Family Homeless Shelter to working the spay/neuter hotline for Animal Defense League of Arizona to pruning trees at the Japanese Friendship Garden. Find your niche and put those hands to work. 5151 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix, 602-973-2212, handsonphoenix.org

 

Best Travel Tool for the Chronically Late
Sky Harbor Airport’s Real-Time Web Updates
If you’re like most people, going to the airport can be a hectic proposition. Did I remember to lock the back door? Where did I put my passport? Is the oven turned off? To make your travel day a little easier, you can now check the waiting times at all security checkpoints on Sky Harbor Airport’s website. It might not get you there on time, but at least you won’t be surprised when you miss your flight. 602-273-3300, skyharbor.com

 

Best of the Worst Traffic Roundabouts
Roundabout on Galvin Parkway
C’mon, does anybody think roundabouts are a good idea? The traffic-calming devices popping up around the Valley are largely misunderstood, poorly navigated and are a major cause of confusion for the uninitiated (AKA everybody except East Coast transplants). Still perplexed? Remember to yield and then go with the flow. At least driving the roundabout on Galvin Parkway between the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo gives you sweeping views of the Valley.

 

Best Storytelling Event
Arizona Storytellers Project
All the Valley’s a stage for amateur raconteurs these days, with different live storytelling events popping up every week. But the best (and most polished) is still the first. The Arizona Republic’s Arizona Storytellers Project started in 2011 and has since grown into a USA Today Network series with monthly events in 11 cities. With themes ranging from first loves to immigration, the Project creates a community through storytelling. Plus, Phoenix finally gets bragging rights as a trend-starter rather than trend-follower. storytellersproject.com/phoenix

 

Best Summer Camp/Educational program
SPOT 127
Who says journalism is dying? KJZZ – National Public Radio’s Phoenix member station – is shaping a new generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins through SPOT 127, its youth media center aimed at low-income and at-risk high schoolers. SPOT 127’s immersive summer boot camp provides hands-on journalism training in radio and video production, and podcasting. Could a Phoenix-based Serial be in the works? East and West Valley locations, spot127.org

 

Best Local Use of Tech
Waymo Test Program
Turns out our flat roads, Downtown grid design and lack of snow make Phoenix Metro the perfect locale to test Google’s driverless Uber-like ride program. In April 2017, Waymo CEO John Krafcik announced that hundreds of Phoenix metro families will be chosen to test-own a Waymo. It’s a win for Phoenix – as long as Google steers clear of AI that would turn unassuming minivans into Stephen King’s Christine. waymo.com/apply.