Hello, spring! Welcome back, and feel free to stay an extra month… or five. In this most beloved of Arizona seasons, strive for peak positivity with our salute to all that’s lovely about the Valley of the Sun.

101 Things We Love About the Valley

Written by Niki D’Andrea, Wynter Holden, Leah LeMoine, Lauren Loftus, Shelby Moore, Craig Outhier Category: Lifestyle Issue: March 2017
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1 Those sublime, surreal moments you sometimes experience in a desert metropolis.
Like this.

2 The solidarity forged by our unholy summers.
“It’s like the process of enduring these summers is a kiln for the soul. We are continually refined. Our hearts are pure, our character strong and our resilience unparalleled.”

— Phoenix artist Devin Fleenor


 



3 Abundant parking.
Sure, parking Downtown can get a little hairy, but it’s nothing compared to a coastal city, and our suburbs are veritable Edens of free parking. We also have high-quality, exceedingly well-maintained roads. It may sound boring, but go back east and pay for the privilege of bumping along a clogged toll road riddled with pot holes and then tell us our asphalt matrix isn’t a thing of beauty.

4 Our pizza.
Huffington Post put Phoenix at No. 9 on its list of the best pizza cities in America, but we say anything higher than No. 6 is a joke. Bianco, POMO, La Piazza, The Parlor, Pizza A Metro… we’ll put them up against any other fivesome in the country.

5 Location, location, location.
Hour flight to the beach, or Vegas. Hour drive to the snow. Mexico is a day trip. We have all of the West at our fingertips.

6 Our casual, no-fuss fashion habits.
Take New York City, for comparison. Their casual Fridays are our every-days. Our casual Fridays are, like, their stay-at-home-with-a-sinus-infection days. To live here is to be at peace with flip-flops and cargo shorts.

7 Binkley’s.
We love that gastronomical mad scientist Kevin Binkley thinks enough of Valley diners to launch a 23-course, two-seatings-a-night, $150 prix fixe tasting odyssey at his rebooted midtown restaurant. That’s trust. 2320 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, 602-388-4874, binkleysrestaurant.com

8 The private karaoke rooms at Geisha A-Go-Go.
Phoenix may lag behind other major American cities in cultural metrics such as “Burmese cuisine” and “avant-garde theater,” but our karaoke game is ninja, son. Modeled after the karaoke boxes of Tokyo, this Old Town Scottsdale pub rents private rooms to amateur warblers by the hour – a sure-fire way to get your mic-shy mate to join in on a group rendition of “Sweet Caroline.” 7150 E. Sixth Ave., Scottsdale, 480-699-0055, geishaagogo.com

9 Unusually accessible celebrities.
Raise your hand if you’ve seen a Phoenix Sun at Steak 44.

10 Lincoln Drive.
Great views of Phoenix in one of the Valley’s poshest ‘hoods makes this our favorite city drive. Also: There is no faster way to transit 24th to 44th streets.

11 Year-round golf.
Behold, the miracle of winter seeding.

12 Everybody’s a transplant.
According to a University of Virginia analysis, just 38 percent of Arizona residents in 2013 were born in the state – the third lowest figure in the nation. Midwestern émigrés get most of the press, but the single biggest feeder state is California. Nine percent of us were born there.

13 We own “desert chic.”
Live amongst creosote and cacti and decorate your abodes with Mexican tile and succulents. We invented that.

14 We have teams in all four major pro sports leagues.
What’s that? Soccer? Haha.

15 The intense wildlife.
If you’re not getting stung by an Arizona bark scorpion, you’re getting chased by javelinas. Or Gila monsters. Or tarantula hawk wasps. So metal.

16 Our marvelous resorts.
The Arizona Office of Tourism estimates there are 62,000 hotel rooms in the Greater Phoenix area, with a fair portion clustered in spa-centric destination properties like the J.W. Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa (950 rooms), the Arizona Biltmore (739 rooms) and the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa (732 rooms). So many rooms, so many smokin’ staycation deals for summer residents. It goes without saying, but: We love paying $100 for a room at the Biltmore.

17 Upward mobility.
The Valley is still a great place to dig your heels in and pursue the American dream.

Median home cost
Phoenix  $205K
Los Angeles  $530K

Projected job growth (2017)
Phoenix 3.1%
Los Angeles 1.8%

Source: Forbes

18 Our splendid Mexican grub.
We’ve done a fair amount of traveling within these here United States, and every out-of-state visit includes at least one attempt to find a decent local taqueria. Our conclusion: The Valley has the best Mexican cuisine in the country. And, sure – we’ll take the Pepsi challenge with San Diego or Los Angeles any ol’ day of the week. (See #67)

19 The Waste Management Phoenix Open.
The name will never roll off the tongue, but we wouldn’t trade the “people’s open” for any major golf tournament in the world. (Except the Masters. We’d be crazy not to take the Masters.)



20 The hiking.
“Things We Love” lists are subjective, of course, but the hiking in Phoenix is objectively spectacular. According to PHOENIX hiking guru Mare Czinar, no other American city affords its residents and visitors such a variety of options within such close proximity to the urban core. “My opinion: It’s the best,” says Czinar, a self-described “peak bagger” who’s hiked all over the West.

Hiking is so revered in Phoenix that the city sponsors a Phoenix Summit Challenge modeled on the famed mountain-climbing standard, held every November. Czinar offers this alternative PHOENIX Seven Summits itinerary for experienced hikers who want to tackle a world-class trails challenge on their own over a single day. arizonahiking.blogspot.com

PM Seven Summit Challenge
5 a.m. Gila Valley Lookout. Long (7 miles round trip) and steep, this South Mountain trail is effectively your warm-up.
7:30 a.m. Camelback Mountain. Ascend to the Valley’s highest point (2,704 feet) on this well-trod trail in Paradise Valley. Some boulder scrambling required.
9:30 a.m. Piestewa Peak (pictured). Czinar isn’t a huge fan of this popular “urban treadmill” in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, but it’s steep and quick. If you can make it to the top in 25 minutes, you’re definitely a hiking one-percenter.
11:15 a.m. Lookout Mountain. Located just up the 51 freeway, this is a super fast (1 mile round trip) burner.
12:30 p.m. Shaw Butte. The next peak to the west is a long, meandering loop that will give your quads a chance to unknot.
2:30 p.m. North Mountain. Also part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, this 1.6-mile trail is paved for much of the way. Little risk of a pulled ankle.
4 p.m. Shadow Mountain. Czinar calls this 1-mile culmination of the Seven Summit Challenge a “sweet little traipse” with a short scramble at the top and interesting views of mansion builds and a “weird-looking reservoir.”

Total time: 8-12 hours

21 All the pretty cars.
We’ve lost count of all the elite car shows that happen here – e.g. Barrett-Jackson, Russo and Steele, Concours in the Hills – and there’s also a robust weekend hobbyist scene. Here’s two to visit: Cars & Coffee, a monthly gathering which is relocating from the Shops Gainey Village to the Scottsdale 101 shopping center this April (scuderiasouthwest.com); and Rock ’n Roll McDonald’s Car Show (pictured) at The Pavilions, held every Saturday (thepavilionsattalkingstick.com).

22 Downtown Chandler.
Alamo Drafthouse, The Ostrich, The Brickyard Downtown, et al, are transforming the East Valley city into a destination for experience-seekers.

23 Our literary scene.
Practitioners of prose, poetry and general wordsmithery have ample opportunities to get published, from local literary journal/publishing house Four Chambers Press (fourchamberspress.com) and bilingual translator/publisher Cardboard House Press (cardboardhousepress.org) to micropoetry publisher Rinky Dink Press (rinkydinkpress.com) and indie zine shop Wasted Ink Zine Distro (wizd-az.com). Open mics, poetry/prose readings and workshops also abound.

24 Our menagerie of semi-retired heavy metal stars.
Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Alice Cooper, Bret Michaels (Poison), Dave Mustaine (Megadeath) and others have all called the Valley home.

25 Shorts in December.
Call it “snowbird chic.”

26 Casino buffets.
Talking Stick: A Champagne brunch with endless crab legs in our own backyard? Beats Vegas.
Fort McDowell: We’ll “gamble” with all-you-can-eat shrimp here any day of the week.
Casino Arizona: Crab legs, prime rib, dim sum lunch, dessert bar. We could keep going, but we had you at “dessert bar.”







27 Biking the canals at dusk.
And snapping pics like this on your iPhone.

28 McCormick-Stillman
Railroad Park.
With its dwarf train rides, holiday lights and miles of toy tracks, MSRP is a kids’ favorite. And by “kids,” we mean people ages 4-94. 7301 E. Indian Bend Rd., Scottsdale, 480-312-2312, therailroadpark.com

29 Little Miss BBQ.
Eternal blessings to Scott and Bekke Holmes for kickstarting the Valley’s barbecue renaissance. 4301 E. University Dr., Phoenix, 602-437-1177, littlemissbbq.com

30 Haboobs.

31 We’re the birthplace of the New Times.
Bad for scandal-plagued politicians, great for our counterculture cred.

32 Homeboy’s Hot Sauce.
Given our climate, culinary heritage and proximity to the birthplace of the chile pepper, Phoenix should by all rights dominate American hot sauce production. And it just might, if creator Jacob Cutino’s delicious, impeccably packaged line of capsaicin-rich condiments goes viral. homeboyshabanero.com

33 Cougars!

34 Jeff Flake.
We love the hair. We love the abs. We love the principled, lead-from-the-middle positions on immigration, healthcare and employment discrimination. Arizona politics has taken its licks, but our junior senator redeems us.

35 TGen.
From Valley Fever to lymphoma, everybody’s favorite Downtown genomics lab is unraveling disease, one nucleotide at a time. Still the brightest feather in the Valley’s bio-tech cap. tgen.org

36 Verrado.
Sure, we enjoy ribbing our friends in the deep West Valley about their remote location relative to the city core – “colonists,” we call them – but this master-planned settlement near the White Tank Mountains is pretty cool, we have to admit. Lots of festivals and fairs, tons of community spirit and adorable neo-Mayberry home design. Plus, you’ve got a 45-minute head-start on road trips to California. verrado.com

37 Changing Hands Bookstore.
Whether you met your sweetheart, shook hands with Anne Rice or found the dog-eared copy of Jane Eyre you’d been looking for there, most locals have a charming Changing Hands Story. Think of it as the cozy neighborhood bookshop version of Mel’s Diner. Two locations, changinghands.com

38 UnderTow’s subterranean cocktail lounge.
Amazing what a Fotomat-size underground tiki bar will do for a city’s cultural self-image. 3620 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-753-6504

39 The Phoenix Suns.
Yes, it’s been a challenging half-decade, but youngsters Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender have the experts predicting a bright future. Besides, even when the Suns are bad, there’s always…  

40 The Suns Dancers.

41 Bob Parsons.
The GoDaddy founder leap-frogged Bruce Halle to become our favorite local billionaire in the wake of his recent effort to reboot the Arizona Film Office. Solid, Bob.

42 The Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt.
Snaking 11 miles through the heart of Scottsdale, this multi-use artery of parks, lakes, footpaths and golf courses is a godsend of city planning. Every city should have one. scottsdaleaz.gov/parks/greenbelt

43 This old cowboy.

 

Farmers’ Markets.
Phoenix’s farmers’ markets are far more than just produce piles. From fresh-baked bread and canned jams to ceramics and fresh meats, locally crafted items come with a sense of community.  

44 Ahwatukee Farmers’ Market A Sunday
East Warner Road, Phoenix, arizonacommunityfarmersmarkets.com
Craving some Caribbean curry, mon? Circle Key Farms sells goat meat from animals raised on their Arizona farm at this smaller Sunday market.

45 Scottsdale Old Town Farmers’ Market  • Saturday
Brown Avenue, Scottsdale, arizonafarmersmarkets.com
Educator Mark Lewis is dedicated to local foraging and reviving native agriculture. Check out his Chmachyakyakya booth to sample dishes crafted with some of the 100+ plants and mushrooms he’s collected, including cholla cactus and tepary beans.

46 Uptown Farmers’ Market • Wednesday and Saturday
Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road, Phoenix, uptownmarketaz.com
Named one of the country’s best farmers’ markets by Cooking Light, Uptown is home to hip and trendy foodstuffs like the adorable (and addicting!) jars of small-batch mixers from Iconic Cocktail Co. It’s literally a party in a jar.  

47 Peoria Farmers’ Market at Park West • Saturday
97th Avenue and Northern Avenue, Peoria, mommasorganicmarket.com
Ever since watching a YouTube video on turning your pool into an edible garden, we’ve been obsessed with hydroponics. Southwest Aquaponics and Off the Hook Aquaponics are on hand with organically water-grown veggies at Momma’s Organic Market.  

48 Open Air Market at Phoenix Public Market • Saturday
721 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, phxpublicmarket.com/openair
Now going into its 12th year, the outdoor market at Central Avenue and McKinley Street is home to a fabulous fourth Saturday gardening series covering everything from succulent care to container gardening, taught by the folks at Dig It Urban Gardens + Nursery.

49 Watching cult classics at Pollack Tempe Cinemas.
Pollack puts the “cult” in Cult Classics by attracting hordes of strangely dressed fanatics chanting and muttering lines from ’80s throwbacks like Spaceballs and Weird Science. The monthly throwback cinema night also features back-wrenching velour seats and VIP movie T-shirts that appeal to our inner 10-year-old. Recent screenings included Princess Bride and Moulin Rouge anniversary engagements. 1825 E. Elliot Rd., Tempe, 480-345-6461, cultclassicsaz.com

50 Emma Stone is from here.
Just a few years into her career, the 29-year-old La La Land actress is already the biggest home-grown Arizona movie star of all time. Granted, it’s not a terribly competitive list:
• Michael Biehn (Aliens)
• David Spade (Tommy Boy)
• Jennie Garth (Beverly Hills, 90210)
• Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie)
• Keri Russell (The Americans)







51 High Tea at English Rose Tea Room.
Fussy floral linens and fancy china aside, English Rose is the place to indulge your sweet tooth (and your feminine side) on the sly. Sip Earl Grey with lemon-coated biscuits, sweets and finger sandwiches all prettied up and petite for the pinky-lifting crowd. 201 Easy St., Carefree, 480-488-4812, carefreetea.com

52 Phoenix poet laureate Rosemarie Dombrowski.
We love that the City of Phoenix chose its inaugural poet laureate in 2016. And we love this poem she wrote about her favorite thing in Phoenix – Civic Space Park – especially for this list.

Civic Space Park
You’ll find it at the intersection of manufactured shade and grassy knolls, of Phoenicians drinking coffee in the subterranean enclave and the new arrivals who wander over from the light-rail station talking jazz and lamenting lost daughters, awed by the brightness of the sun at this latitude. My eyes settle on the ominous net that holds up the sky, the students crossing Central, the table where we’ll read Lorde and Baraka, Levertov and Rich, Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti, imagining the moment when someone will compare texts to connective tissue, how ideas are like fibers that provide nourishment, prevent tearing, form a scaffolding for people and communities – some just beginning to navigate the space, others already forming the foundation.

55 Survivalist self-improvement classes at TechShop.
Sewing? Check. Blacksmithing? Check. Woodworking and welding? Got ’em. TechShop’s monthly classes average around $60-$80 for non-members, a bargain for skills that’ll help you survive the Zombie Apocalypse – or just a garden-variety societal collapse. 249 E. Chicago St., Chandler, 480-327-0820, techshop.ws

54 Our odd-looking churches.
Don’t tell us you haven’t noticed. From the cupcake-shaped Asbury United Methodist Church in Central Phoenix (pictured) to the baffling Capstone Cathedral on Shea Boulevard – a ground-to-spire pyramid of roofing material that practically begs you to drive your 4x4 over it – the Valley is (cough) blessed with weird-looking places of worship.

56 Plant-spotting at Desert Botanical Garden.
Walking DBG’s two miles of native plant-lined pathways reminds us that not every square inch of desert need look like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The past five years has also brought new dimension to the park’s hospitality game: hip cocktail events, arty feature walls, trendy cuisine and the new butterfly pavilion opening this spring. 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 480-941-1225, dbg.org

57 Outdoor adventure in Desert Breeze Park.
A well-kept secret of the suburban mom coffee klatch, this 4-acre mini amusement park has a carousel, 50-cent rides and a well-maintained choo-choo; plus a stocked fishing lake and smooth biking trail for those past the Peter Piper age bracket. Tip: Beware the phone-staring, unaware Pokémon GO zombies clogging the main jogging path. 660 N. Desert Breeze Blvd., Chandler, 480-893-6652, desertbreezerr.com
 
58 The Arizona Renaissance Festival.
February 11-April 2
arizona.renfestinfo.com
Debauchery-minded Tyrion Lannister wannabees love the ample turkey legs, mugs of ale and feisty wenches found here, not to mention the 30-acre park’s 13 entertainment stages, royal pleasure feast and joust to the death. We tortured a few peasants for three insider hacks to maximize your medieval experience: A Many revelers visit Ye Olde Clothing Shoppe to blend in with the setting. But there’s a catch: You won’t get picked for audience participation shticks unless you’re dressed like a muggle. A Bring a left sock to Twig the Fairy and she’ll reward you with extra glitter and gems. A Find the sheriff to have a friend or family member tossed in the pillory. Bring a squirt gun on hot days to cool your buddy off while he’s stewing in the stocks.

59 Vegetarian food options.
Just 10 years ago, our vegetarian/vegan options could be counted on one sad hand. Now we’re counting them with our toes, too, while feasting on vegan doughnuts and ice cream at Nami (tsoynami.com), cauliflower tacos and tepary bean burgers at The Coronado (thecoronadophx.com), and curries and “kung fu noodles” at Veggie Village (vegvillage888.com).

Our crop of urban farms.
The furious outward expansion of the Valley had at least one positive side effect: It left a lot of undeveloped pockets of farmland – patches of idyll in the middle of a concrete desert, often with retail stores selling fresh, delicious produce and food. Experience them.

60 Singh Farms
Right off Thomas Road and the 101, the oasis-like farm is a master class in sustainable desert-climate farming. facebook.com/singhfarms

61 Maya’s Farm
The farm, located by South Mountain, has been a constant presence at the Phoenix Public Market in Downtown Phoenix over the years, known as much for growing beautiful produce as hosting beautiful weddings. mayasfarm.com

62 Two Wash Ranch
At his farm in New River, owner Dave Jordan grows produce aplenty, but specializes in poultry: chickens, hens, turkeys and more.

63 Steadfast Farm
Known for their Community Supported Agriculture program and top-flight restaurant clients, this family-owned farm has a new home in Queen Creek. steadfastfarms.com

64 Devour Culinary Classic.

An instant smash hit with Valley food fans upon its debut in 2010, this Local First Arizona production at the Phoenix Art Museum packs a who’s-who roster of genius-level culinary talent into two days of nibbling, drinking and scening (March 4-5), along with an emerging program of foreplay events on the days prior (February 26-March 3). It’s pretty much a Valley food love-in, so we asked these Devour chefs: “Whose food do you love?” devourphoenix.com

Bernie Kantak
The Gladly
“When I dine out, it’s really random. Da Vang for pho, Guanaquito for papusas, Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House for shaved noodles with XO. Apparently I don’t do much carb counting.”

Akos Szabo
MATCH Cuisine & Cocktails
“My favorite haunts are the larder + the delta for their local Buffalo cauliflower; Tacos Chiwas for tacos de tripas and  lengua; and Maxim restaurant, for their exceptional wonton soup with egg noodles.”

Charleen Badman
FnB
“I was just at Noble Eatery today. I’ll get any one of their burrata toasts or vegetable sandwiches. They’re open until 3, so I can sneak in for lunch after yoga.”

Justin Beckett
Beckett’s Table
“I’m a huge fan of The Parlor. [My wife] Michelle and I usually hit it up after work on Saturdays. I almost always get the Calabrian pizza and/or the Parlor Insalata [and] a garden mojito to take the edge off.”

Michael Babcock
Welcome Diner
“Currently I’d have to tip my hat to Tratto. Incredibly focused and simple Italian food. The pastas are immaculate and I always get whatever the off-menu special is.”

Josh Hebert
Posh
“My wife and I can be caught day-drinking and having stellar bar food at Four Peaks. And because I used to live in Japan: Sushi J in Scottsdale. Killer and reasonably priced.”

Christopher Gross
Christopher’s/Crush
“Los Dos Molinos. I get the machaca pizza or the carne adovada with red sauce.
Two bowls of red sauce.”

Kevin Binkley
Binkley’s
“I love going to DeSoto Central Market. I love the diversity of food. I like to eat oysters, the chicken skin po’
boy and the fried cauliflower.”

Lori Hashimoto
Hana Japanese Eatery
“I absolutely love the lemongrass soup at Reathrey Sekong. When I find food I love, it needs to be consistent every time, and they do a fantastic job with that.”

Doug Robson
Otro
“The places we frequent the most are: Tacos Jalisco; Hana Japanese Eatery for sushi; St. Francis’ forbidden rice dish; FnB to get inspired about food and hospitality.”

 

 

65 Spring festivals in general.

The Valley has so many spring culinary events, cultural fairs and outdoor art exhibits, you could almost hopscotch from festival to festival and never miss a day – or a weekend, at least. Our festival picks for every weekend March through May.

March 4-5 • 53rd Annual Phoenix Scottish Games
Held at Steele Indian School Park, this wee cultural gathering showcases competitive highland dancing, pipe bands, heavy athletics, country dancing, historical re-enactments, vintage British car exhibitions and representatives of more than 50 Scottish clans. arizonascots.com
Why You Should Go: Female log throwers and haggis – we dare you to find them anywhere else.

March 11 • Viva PHX
Staged simultaneously at two dozen indoor and outdoor Downtown venues, this motley musical gathering – conceived and produced by Crescent Ballroom owner Charlie Levy – is going all-out in its fourth year, with mashup maestro Girl Talk, surf-rock outfit The Drums and proto-punk legends X among the headliners. vivaphx.com
Why You Should Go: Best lineup of any spring music festival this year.

March 16-19 • Art Detour
Take a self-guided tour of more than 100 artist studios, galleries and assorted street-side installations in the Roosevelt Row arts district. This is the long-running event (29 years) that helped jump-start the city’s First Friday Art Walks. artlinkphoenix.com
Why You Should Go: It’s either this or the Pot of Gold festival (potofgoldaz.com), and you’re not down with G-Eazy.

March 25 • The Great American Barbeque & Beer Festival
Help consume more than 200 kegs of craft beer and 20,000 pounds of barbecue at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park in Chandler. Ride a mechanical bull. Toss some cornhole. chandlerbbq.com
Why You Should Go: It’s March in the Valley and you’re eating brisket and drinking a San Tan. C’mon!

April 1-2 • Phoenix Pride
Support the Valley’s LGBTQ community at Steele Indian School Park, where music acts, food vendors, art expos and more swirl together in a heady two-day celebration of tolerance and radical expression. And nachos. phoenixpride.org
Why You Should Go: Will almost certainly have better dancing than the Chandler Jazz Fest (chandleraz.gov) across town.

April 8 • The Good Life Festival
Celebrate the affluent East Valley ideal at Encanterra in San Tan Valley with wine tastings, shopping, gourmet food and unapologetic yacht-rock worship with performances by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. thegoodlifefest.com
Why You Should Go: Are you a Boomer? Or just rock like one? Be with your kind.  

April 13 • Arizona Wine and Dine
Chefs from Bourbon Steak, T. Cook’s, Litchfield’s and more will be on hand to feed Scottsdale sybarites at this star-studded, resort-focused, nibble-and-sip event at the Scottsdale Quarter. azwineanddine.com
Why You Should Go: Get the profligate substance consumption out of your system before Easter.

April 19-30 • Arizona International Film Festival
Not a huge week for festivals in the Valley, so why not head Tucson-way to see some interesting art flicks? Includes filmmaker Q&As and more than 80 short films and features. filmfestivalarizona.com
Why You Should Go: It gives you an excuse to check out Welcome Diner’s new Tucson location (welcomediner.net).

April 29-30 • Chandler Craft Spirits Festival
Look how Chandler rolls. Barbecue fests, jazz fests and now the East Valley’s first spirits-only beverage fest. All of Arizona’s major micro-distillers should be on hand at the Downtown Ocotillo to mix craft cocktails and pour samples. chandlercraftspiritsfestival.com
Why You Should Go: Support the Chandler renaissance!

May 6-7 • Cinco Phoenix
It’s Cinco de Mayo weekend. What, you were expecting Italy Fest? Two full days of music, food booths and lucha libre wrestling will fill up Downtown’s west 200 block on Washington Street. cincophx.com
Why You Should Go: All-you-can-eat tacos; possible El Santo sighting.

May 12-14 • FORM Arcosanti
“Full immersion” and “unlimited creativity” are promised by organizers at this mysterious three-day art and music retreat at the late Paolo Soleri’s experimental Arcosanti desert compound in Camp Verde. The $229 ticket “application” includes camping and many unsolicited hugs. experienceform.com
Why You Should Go: It’s the closest thing to Burning Man you’re likely to find in Arizona.

May 21-22 • Willcox Wine Country Festival
We just can’t resist the siren-song allure of…Willcox? Granted, it has everything to do with the remote farming community’s wine scene, fêted over two days at this all-star assemblage of Southern Arizona vinification. willcoxwines.com
Why You Should Go: You might see winemaker Sam Pillsbury there… and that bloke is fun.

May 25-28 • Phoenix Comicon
If you can describe the origin and uses of a “tachyon beam,” you’ll want to be at this Downtown geek-a-thon come Memorial Day. Guests include sci-fi stars David Anders (iZombie, Alias) and Jason David Frank (Power Rangers). phoenixcomicon.com
Why You Should Go: Lots of form-fitting superhero outfits, and sci-fi geeks are better-looking than ever.

66 The Great Picnic.
It’s not a chef-groupie pipe-dream like Devour, but the Scottsdale Culinary Festival’s signature weekend event – a sun-splattered bazaar of booze tents, picnic blankets, live music and tasty noshes from familiar chain restaurants – is a helluva good time (April 8-9). It also marks the ceremonial end of heavenly spring weather in the Valley. So don’t waste the opportunity. scottsdalefest.org







67 West Valley taquerias.
The best upscale Mexican food in the Valley is located east of Central Avenue, but for great street-style tacos, you gotta venture west.

• Super Tacos Los Cuais
Specializes in pork al pastor cooked in the classic style on a vertical spit – a rarity that pays off big time in flavor and texture. Plated on house-made tortillas. 6522 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale, 623-847-9935

•  Ta’Carbon
Angus beef, cooked over mesquite coals, yields some of the city’s finest carne asada; find it on a menu filled with off-cuts for the adventurous. Two locations. tacarbon.com

•  Taqueria Los Yaquis
Parked semi-permanently outside of Charlie’s dance club, this legendary food truck does just chicken and beef, but excellently. 727 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix

•  Asadero Toro
Across from the fairgrounds in industrial Phoenix, Toro specializes in asada, served over rustic handmade flour tortillas. 1715 W. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, 602-340-9310, asaderotoro.com

68 Our seasonal aromas.
One thing about the Valley that only a year-round resident could love: the way each season has its own distinctive smell. Desert Botanical Garden horticulturist Tracy Rhodes and DBG Director of Horticulture Brian Kissinger name the telltale aromas of the Phoenix seasons:

Winter: Rain brings earthy petrichor (the scent of rain falling on dry soil) and pungent humus (essentially, dirt). Also: smoke from our chimineas.  
Spring: The citrusy scent of orange tree blossoms dominates.
Summer: Heat-hardy herbaceous sages and fragrant eucalyptus trees thrive. Also: asphalt.
Fall: Monsoons spur smoky smells of creosote and spicy-sweet vallesia.

69 We finally licked this artisan ice cream thing.
Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung disrupted the Valley’s dessert economy big time when they launched Sweet Republic in 2006. It remains our favorite local purveyor of the creamy cold stuff – in no small part because of the duo’s commitment to seasonal experimentation and new flavors. Some 2017 releases to look for:
• Meyer Lemon Olive Oil: Made from Bob McClendon’s Meyer lemons and Queen Creek Olive Mill olive oil.
• Sweet Corn: Using corn sourced from the Freeman Corn Patch in Mesa.
• Peach Sorbet: Made from Schnepf Farms peaches in Queen Creek.

70 Paul Goldschmidt plays here.
Is it too early to start ranking the 29-year-old Diamondbacks slugger against the Valley’s all-time greatest sports stars? Hardly. Some Goldy facts:
• Currently the D-backs’ career batting leader at .299.
• In just five full big-league seasons, has amassed 29 WAR (wins against replacement) – the new-age statistic most commonly cited to measure overall player excellence. Will most likely overtake Luis Gonzalez (30 WAR) as the team’s all-time leader among position players this season.
• At current 29-homers-a-year pace, will pass Gonzalez’s 224 career-homer mark in 2019.
• Signed through the 2018 season, with a team option for 2019.

71 Phoenix-style sushi.
From the folks who brought you the Nogales Hot Dog food trucks comes Sushi Sonora, specializing in raw fish with a Phoenix flair. Because nothing encapsulates the spirit of modern Phoenix like cool, experimental sushi fused with traditional, greasy Mexican food. Some classics have made the menu, like the California roll, but the titular Sonora roll includes carne asada, avocado and cream cheese. Two locations. sushisonora.com

72 La politique de Phoenix.
Sure, they piss (some of) us off. A lot. But credit where credit’s due: simultaneously passing some of the country’s most conservative policies while also legalizing medical marijuana and raising the minimum wage gives voters a certain swagger.

73 Tubing the Salt River.
Yeah, the majestic wild horses that live along the river banks are straight out of an old Western novel, but we’re here for the floating booze parties. Season starts in May. saltrivertubing.com

74 Primo bachelor(ette) partying.
Scottsdale is rising in the bachelor/bachelorette party destination ranks, with bountiful clubs, pedal-powered pub crawls, proximity to spring training stadiums and sweet Airbnb deals.

75 Arizona State University.
It’s a point of pride that one of the biggest universities on the globe (more than 71,000 enrolled in 2016) was also ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for innovation in 2016 and 2017 by U.S. News & World Report, ahead of Stanford and MIT. Boom.

76 Roosevelt Row.
Without our feisty Downtown arts district RoRo, it would all be strip malls and beige stucco. We’re thankful for the color.

77 Drinking cascara at Peixoto Coffee.
Now that Starbucks has sunk its corporate claws into coffee cherry tea, it’s no longer the poor man’s java – but Peixoto’s cascara is still a one-of-a-kind experience, given its sourcing from the family farm in Brazil. Made from the discarded husks of coffee plant berries, cascara is gently earthy, with a slight berry aftertaste that’s especially pleasant in Peixoto’s seasonal spiced cider. 11 W. Boston St., Chandler, 480-275-2843, peixotocoffee.com

78 The faint but lingering echoes of the Old West.
It wasn’t so long ago that our suburban sprawl had a higher population of horses than humans. Peruse the cowboy art galleries of Old Town Scottsdale for picturesque reminders of this period.

79 Sky Harbor Airport.
Ask those poor sods in Denver about the benefits of having an airport conveniently located in the city center. Great location, well-managed terminals, packed to the gills with local restaurants – we love flying out of Sky Harbor. skyharbor.com

80 Local dive bars.
Like TT Roadhouse. ttroadhouse.com

81 Local hooch.
Like Arizona Distilling Company’s Desert Dry Gin. azdistilling.com

82 Local recovery programs.
Like The Meadows in Wickenburg. themeadows.com

 

83 Our emerging generation of artisan chocolatiers.
Along with Zak’s Chocolate and a handful of others, Stone Grindz Chocolates is rekindling local interest in handcrafted confections. We sweet-talked Stone Grindz co-owner Steven Shipler, who runs the business with Kasey McCaslin. stonegrindz.com

Q: How long have you been making chocolate and how did you get started?

A: A little over five years ago, without any idea we would become chocolate makers, we happened upon a stone grinder. We bought some cacao nibs and started making chocolate with the simple intention of having fun and creating something new.

Q: Which part of making chocolate has had the steepest learning curve?

A: Roasting. Chocolate is one of the only foods we eat that is both fermented and roasted. These two processes are where the flavors are created.

Q: How did you feel about being selected as a Good Food Awards finalist for 2017? Tell us about the 70 percent Wild Bolivian chocolate that got you there.

A: Out of 2,000 chocolate entries, we placed in the top 1 percent. To say the least, we feel honored to be selected among the elite chocolate makers in America. The flavor is like caramel [and] roasted malt, and has this smooth, creamy, cashew-esque finish. It has a strong chocolate backbone without any bitterness to speak of. It is a dream!

 



84 You can see champions play on the cheap.
In addition to our four major pro sports teams, Phoenix has a pair of tertiary pro teams that actually win championships. Seeing them is hardly a bank-breaking proposition.

Arizona Rattlers (AFL)
Cheapest ticket: $5
Average parking cost: $12
Average cost for a beer at the game: $10

Phoenix Mercury (WNBA)
Cheapest ticket: $11
Average parking cost: $10
Average cost for a beer at the game: $10

 

85 The Cactus League.
Undoubtedly one of the coolest things about the Valley is the way half of the world’s best professional baseball players alight on it every spring. Here are some 2017 Arizona spring training tips.

Craziest Hot Dog: The half-pound Mega Dog at Salt River Fields is quite the behemoth: a foot-long weiner smothered in green chile mac and cheese and pulled pork.
Rookie to Watch: San Diego Padres slugger Hunter Renfroe raked as a September call-up last season, posting a silly 1.189 OPS over 11 games. The starting right fielder job is his to lose.
 
Can't-Miss Game: Indians @ Cubs on Sunday, February 26. The first meeting between the teams since their epic, extra-innings showdown in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

86 Our epic sunsets.
Plein-air painter Becky Joy (beckyjoy.com) chases the chromatic magic and fleeting light of Phoenix sunsets, and commits them to canvas. “To paint a sunset, you need to be sitting up a bit to see the whole sky,” Joy says. “Most of my sunsets painted on location are quick sketches to record the color and values. It is in the studio that I paint completed and larger sunsets.” The Phoenix-based artist favors three locations for evening inspiration:
1: “I often paint in the area of Pinnacle Peak and off of Happy Valley Road in Scottsdale,” Joy says.
2: “I’ve painted up by the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort,” Joys says, “which gives a different view, more of the Valley and lights, as well as a sunset.”
3: “I live close to North Mountain, so I’ve gone into the various parks, walking up a bit on the mountains to paint sunsets.”











87 Mid-Century Modern architecture.
As a city that experienced its biggest growth spurt in the postwar’50s and ’60s, Phoenix is one of the country’s most splendid depositories of Mid-Century Modern buildings. Four of our favorites:

The Parlor Pizzeria
Once home to a beauty parlor – hence the name – this Camelback Corridor restaurant preserved the concrete-cast art deco wall outside, perforating the dining room with meditative daytime light. 1916 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix

Postino Highland
Housed in a Mid-Century bank building just north of Old Town Scottsdale, this Postino outlet boasts a colorful, revitalized design by boutique firm Brick & West, though it was originally erected by DWL, one of Phoenix’s oldest architecture firms. 4821 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale

First Christian Church
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the late ’40s, this North-Central Phoenix church famously boasts a nearly 150-foot tall turquoise spired tower – as if the Almighty Himself hurled a lawn dart from on high. 6750 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix

Souper! Salad!
The strange, sweeping roof of this former West Phoenix church calls to mind a volcano. Today, it’s home to, of all things, a salad bar chain. 10005 N. Metro Pkwy. E., Phoenix

88 Our geek culture.
There’s no need to hide behind your Clark Kent glasses here in Phoenix. Pop culture nerds are in good – and plentiful – company at these geeky hideouts.

Geeks Night Out at City Hall
March 2
The City of Tempe and Arizona SciTech Festival team up for an annual night of Bill Nye-worthy experiments such as lightsaber battles, liquid nitrogen demos and robot battles. It’s free, and family-friendly. 31 E. Fifth St., Tempe, tempe.gov

The Grid: Games & Growlers
Open daily
One of the few Valley nightspots where you can get your game on until 2.a.m., The Grid hosts monthly 8-bit comedy and tabletop nights in addition to its daily lineup of video and arcade games. Download yourself here Thursday nights to play Killer Queen, the world’s only 10-player strategy arcade game. 525 S. Gilbert Rd., Mesa, 480-621-8088

Geeks Who Drink Trivia at 8-Bit Aleworks
Wednesdays
With its retro Nintendo controller taps and game-themed beer menu (e.g. Hopsassin’s Creed), the single-room 8-bit is an ideal venue for the nationally-syndicated weekly pub trivia game (geekswhodrink.com). Sports questions are kept to a minimum and there’s nearly always a Star Wars or Marvel reference. 1050 N. Fairway Dr., Avondale, 623-925-1650, 8-bitaleworks.com

Phoenix Comicon
May 25-28
Hang with 100,000 of your new best friends at Phoenix’s biggest geek convention, where locals rub elbows with sci-fi icons, get pics with 2017 guests David Anders (iZombie) and Sean Maguire (Once Upon a Time) and prance around in tight spandex without being egged. Phoenix Convention Center. 100 N. Third St., Phoenix, phoenixcomicon.com

Gotham City Comics and Coffee
Open daily
The closest thing the East Valley offers to the comic book shops of our youth, Gotham City is a mini-warehouse of new titles and back issues with a comfy couch to encourage reading. Granted, the coffee bar and Walking Dead collectibles are new trends, but the small-town vibe and cluttered shelves are totally old-school. 46 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-649-3065, downtownmesa.com/gotham-city-comics-coffee

89 It’s a gosh-darn sandwich wonderland.
Small sandwich shops are popping up, big and small, across the Valley. It’s a sa-miracle.

Pane Bianco
Bianco’s little shop whips up daily market special ‘wiches on house-baked bread in addition to salads, pizza al taglio by the slice, and their famously simple mozzarella, basil and tomato sandwich. 4404 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-234-2100, pizzeriabianco.com

Le Dinersaur
Delivery only, so long as you email the day before (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Le Dinersaur posts a weekly sammy menu online and on Instagram every Monday with, usually, three options only - anything from Asian-inspired pulled chicken to roasted veggies. ledinersaur.com

Worth Takeaway
Instagram-ready branding leads many to this Mesa lunch counter, where breakfast is served all day and sandwiches land on locally baked Proof Bread. 218 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-833-2180, worthtakeaway.com

Noble Eatery
In addition to loaves of their famous sourdough, Noble serves up top-notch meats, cheeses and produce on house-baked flatbread. 4525 N. 24th St., Phoenix, 602-688-2424, nobleeatery.com

Leoni’s
Leoni’s bakes its focaccia fresh for all of its sandwiches, which are stuffed with Italian prosciutto, hard cheeses, olive tapenade and much more. 7116 E. Mercer Ln., Scottsdale, 480-607-2888, leonisfocaccia.com

90 Hayden Flour Mills.
We love that the Valley has its own heritage grain mill – and so do local restaurateurs and bakers, it seems, with Jeff Zimmerman’s line of artisan grains popping up on menus from Pane Bianco to Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. Here are some of the ancient grains Hayden has revived for your eating pleasure. haydenflourmills.com

Red Fife: Has a honey-like aroma when baked into pastries and breads, with caramelized, nutty flavors.

Blue Beard Durum: Earthy in flavor; perfect for pasta or rustic breads.

Durum Iraq: Hearty and rich in flavor; like Blue Beard and Sonoran White, it’s great for pasta.

Sonoran White: One of the Southwest’s oldest varieties of wheat; perfect for flour tortillas, bread baking, or eaten as wheat berries in soups. (Benny Blanco tortillas pictured.)

Purple Barley: Intrinsic sweetness and an earthy, faintly smoky taste make it great for pastries; also offered in a pancake mix.











Eclectic shopping.
We may not have the retail power of L.A. or Manhattan, but Phoenix’s more unique boutiques still manage to delight our inner divas.

91 Antique Sugar
801 N. Second St., Phoenix
602-277-5765, antiquesugar.wixsite.com/antique-sugar
Many of our A-line aspirations and Jackie O. dreams are realized in this 2,000-square-foot palace of polyester. Carefully curated racks contain everything from prom dresses to ’80s suits with customary linebacker shoulder pads, plus an extensive selection of retro menswear.  

92 Pink House Boutique
7009 N. 58th Ave., Glendale
623-298-4766, pinkhouseboutique.com
Home to trendy yet affordable duds for twentysomethings (think printed leggings and trapeze tops for around $20), Pink House also has a decent selection of rockabilly dresses and funky accessories like skull pillows and anchor earrings.

93 urbAna
5027 N. 44th St., Phoenix
602-957-5066, urbanashop.com
Imagine Anthropologie without the ironically high-priced hippie duds. We’re so obsessed with the cobalt china and ritzy barware at Ana and Brian Wells’ posh housewares boutique that it’s tempting to join their wedding registry sans fiancé.   

94 Local Nomad
100 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
602-441-4378, localnomadshop.com
In October 2016, fashionista Lauren Danuser gifted Phoenicians with a new hub for trendsetting clothing, perfumes, jewelry and accessories plucked from a life of world travels. Favorite finds include a moon phase calendar and spicy, aromatic vetiver and sage beard tonic by Herbivore Botanicals.

95 Shirts ‘n’ Things
1840 W. Southern Ave., Mesa
480-827-0256, shirtsnthingsaz.com
Band tees. Voodoo Vixen dresses. Retro bowling shirts. Our go-to place for gifting metalheads, punk lovers and goth gals, this college-dorm-friendly shop also carries alternative baby bibs and onesies for those who want their babies to stand out before they stand up.

96 Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
Famed for their zany feats of local sourcing – they’re the same guys who use actual pecan pies to make their Pecan Pie Porter – these upstart East Valley brewers juggle dozens of beer projects at a time. Most are seasonal, use local products and produce, and have a short availability window due to high demand. azwbeer.com

A White Canyon Blonde Stout
Brewed with bitter cacao nibs from local chocolatier Zak’s Chocolate and rich, bold coffee from Superstition Coffee Co.
A Lemon Cucumber Ginger Gose
Wilderness brewers are obsessed with this tart, slightly salty beer style made with cucumbers from Steadfast Farm and salt from Hayden Flour Mills.
A  Biere De Wassail
Using apples from Annie’s Orchard in Willcox, this farmhouse-style beer is technically part cider.

97 The rest of our craft beer scene is kicking butt, too, actually.
The Arizona craft beer scene has frothed up like a hastily poured hefeweizen in recent years. When Rob Fullmer became president of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild three years ago, there were 35 breweries in the guild; now, nearly 90 Arizona breweries are members – including roughly three dozen in the Valley. The annual Arizona Strong Beer Festival in February draws an estimated 8,000 people, and continues to grow every year. We recently picked Fullmer’s beer brain.

Q: What are some of the things that helped facilitate Arizona’s craft beer explosion?

A: We’re in the West, so laws for alcohol are generally more liberal than they are on the East Coast. We’ve got a large metropolitan city and we don’t have the sense of boundaries and borders… we’ve got a lot of breweries that are sort of defining their neighborhoods, and then they’re stitching them together. 

Q: What are some characteristics of Arizona craft beers?

A: I think we make a drier, more approachable beer, but 57 percent of our breweries now are four years old or less. And they’re the guys sort of setting what the boundaries are. We’ve got kind of a two-humped camel in Arizona – we’ve got some established breweries that have been around 10, 15, 20 years… then we have these little unique places that have the liberty to do these interesting things.

Q: What are some cool Valley tap rooms?

A: There’s Peoria Artisan Brewery… they’ve got a full menu and a nice patio. Closer to Downtown, you’ve got SunUp [Brewing Co.] and they’ve got the best cask selection in Arizona. Fresh cask ales, usually a half dozen or so at a time. Mother Bunch [Brewing] is a great place – you run into city officials and state legislators there. SanTan Brewing [Company] – not a lot of people know that they serve breakfast. McFate [Brewing Co.], they do classic pizzas in a beautiful space in south Scottsdale.

Q: Why support local beer?

A: I’m not saying “Buy local beer because it’s the best.” I’m saying you have to support it because it’s in your neighborhood. And oftentimes, it is pretty good.

98 The Bianco empire.
En route to becoming one of the world’s most famous pizzaiolos and restaurateurs, Chris Bianco also gave us the Valley’s best new restaurant: Tratto, with a focus on heritage grain pastas and local produce. We love his food, we love his feisty East Coast swagger, we love his crazy hair. Most of all, we love that he put Phoenix on the proverbial pizza map. pizzeriabianco.com

99 This thing.

100 The kindness of strangers.
Celebrity Fight Night, Pat’s Run, “Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars” – the Valley is rarely at a loss for high-profile philanthropic events. “It’s something I’ve noticed,” 3TV anchor Heather Moore says. “A lot of wealthy people retire out here, season out here, and often they’re pretty eager to contribute [to charities].”

101 Our “sentinels of the desert.”
Did we have to include saguaros on this list? It’s a cliché – but, yeah, we did. Three facts about Arizona’s stoic, arborescent cactus you might not have known.
• The saguaro’s scientific name, Carnegiea gigantea, is an homage to industrialist Andrew Carnegie, whose Carnegie Institution founded Tucson’s Desert Botanical Laboratory in 1903.
• Saguaros have pleats that expand like accordions to soak in water during rains, and contract as the cactus uses its stored water.  
• You can buy saguaro syrup, known as Bahidaj Sitol. Made from saguaro fruit hand-harvested and cooked over mesquite by the Tohono O’odham people, the syrup is available at Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry in Scottsdale (sphinxdateranch.com).

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