In honor of our annual Where to Live cover story, the PHOENIX editorial and art teams wax poetic on why our 'hoods are best, with restaurant and activity recommendations.
My family and I live close to Piestewa (nee Squaw) Peak in North-Central Phoenix's 85020 area code. We love our neighborhood's generously-spaced, irrigated, 50s-era lots and quick access to the mountain – at least duringthe nine months of the year when hiking outdoors in Phoenix is not potentially lethal. The neighborhood's centrality is also favorable – Downtown Phoenix, Old Town Scottsdale, Kierland Commons, Tempe and Glendale are all 15-20 minutes away, and the nearby Arizona Canal makes for a fun, fair-weather bike ride.
Culture: No trip to 85020 is complete without a stop at Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, which is nice, flatter, lower-key alternative to the Piestewa Peak summit trail. Afterwards, grab sushi at Moto, which has the best craft beer programming of any Japanese eatery in the Valley.
Things to Do: Stick your bikes in the back of your SUV and take an out-and-back tour of the Arizona Canal, starting on Central Avenue just north of Northern Avenue. Biking south, hit Chelsea's Kitchen for lunch, then OHSOfor refreshments before flipping around and heading back north. Finish at Ladera Taverna Y Cocina from the Vig braintrust, located on Central just north of the canal.
Dining: It's been fun watching cool, locally-owned restaurants, gastropubs and bars replace the aging strip malls and showroom spaces on the 7th Street dining drag: The Yard, Mora, The Womack, Honor Amongst ThievesandOtro Cafe have all opened within the last six years.
Mirelle Inglefield--Art Director
I live in 85254. It's considered Scottsdale but with Phoenix city services. It's sort of a weird situation; for example, we don't get to use the Cactus Aquatic center without paying like an actual Scottsdale resident would because we are paying Phoenix taxes not Scottsdale. Or throw a birthday party at McCormick-Stillman Railroad park... but, whatevs, there is still so many things to love. Here are just three:
Culture: For live music, drinks and dancing, Handlebar-J is where it's at, just ask local country music outlaw Jessi Colter! Wednesdays are my favorite night to go - it's when J. David Sloan and the HBJ Horns rock out with the Herndon Brothers. The intensity will get you moving. Don't worry if you got no rhythm, there is sure to be somebody to grab you by the arm and lead.
Things to do: Take a leisurely bike ride to Sereno Parkwhere there are winding paths, slides, sand and swings to soar over tree tops!
Dining: Pizza at Il Bosco is a practically a weekly treat for me and my partner. Owner Bill Forrest perfected the art of crust-making by learning under the tutelage of best bakers he could find and continuously experiments with new topping ideas and reinventing his classic specialty. We love the friendly, conversational service - they are literally always up to something delicious.
Lauren R. Loftus--Associate Editor
My ZIP code is 85283: South Tempe, bounded west-to-east by the I-10 and Loop 101, and north-to-south by Baseline and Elliot roads. It's the quiet, more laid-back suburban sister to North Tempe's cool college bars, student housing and ASU's sprawling main campus. I love my 'hood because it's very close to the all the action of North Tempe (not to mention the easy freeway access to Scottsdale, Central Phoenix and Downtown) but still feels secluded and peaceful. There's a mixture of affordable single-family homes and big ol' horse properties plus copious bike paths. Here's a little 3-point itinerary for a fun afternoon excursion around the '283 (when the heat breaks, of course):
Culture:Bike ride along the Arizona Canal. Start with a quick circle around the duck lakes at Kiwanis Park before peddling south past the power plants (which look cool and apocalyptic at sunset).
Things to Do: Take a detour into the Tempe Square Shopping Center on McClintock Drive and Guadalupe Road for a stroll around the original Changing Hands Bookstore.
Find new releases, used classics and hippie-kitschy goodies like crystals, wind chimes and cheeky coffee mugs. If you get an early start on the weekend, brunch at the connected Wildflower Bread Co. is highly recommended – especially the lemon-ricotta pancakes with a side of sausage.
Dining: Backtrack west into the Tempe Lakes community. Bike around the man-made lakes and stop for a cocktail and snack at Pier
54, a cute little patio bar overlooking the lakes with powerful misters and, often, live music. Happy Hour (open-6 p.m., M-F) boasts a screaming deal of a bottle of wine or pitcher of beer and a flatbread (I like the Brie and capicola) for $19.99 for two or more people.
Leah LeMoine--Managing Editor
I live in North Phoenix, in the 85024 ZIP code. I love my neighborhood because of its diversity. There are million-dollar homes on one block and seedy smoke shops on the next. It's thoroughly urban, yet our backyard abuts undeveloped desert land. I see just as many bikers as I see retirees. It's a good mix. And I love being close to the 101, I-17 and 51 freeways, which make getting around the Valley so easy. Some highlights of my 'hood:
Culture: My boyfriend and I love taking in concerts at the Musical Instrument Museum, which is five miles from our house. This past March, we saw Cuban jazz legend Arturo Sandoval.
Things to Do: I love taking our dog for morning and evening walks. We live beneath a little mountain and it does beautiful things to the light in our neighborhood. It's particularly magical when it hits our neighbors' desert landscaping.
Dining: We go to Viet Kitchen almost weekly for pho, fried rice, vermicelli bowls and – my favorite – crunchy egg rolls with fish sauce.
Angelina Aragon--Associate Art Director
The party is here on the west side! I live on the west side of Phoenix and I love my neighborhood because I am close to my family and when driving back from California, I will be home faster than those who live in Chandler. Ha!
Culture: We don't live too far from downtown Phoenix, which is nice. Downtown in general has so much culture. Once place that I like to take my daughter is the Arizona Science Center. It's always a great time and never getsold.
Things to Do: We live extremely close to Westgate Entertainment District, which has tons of things to do do. I usually take my daughter to AMC and after the movie we go to Fractured Prune Donuts, then go hang out in splash pad area. On some nights there is even live music in the grass area. Another thing to do on the west part of the valley is catch a D-back game. Every time I go to a game I have an absolute blast...the chants, dances, food, drinks, races, kiss cam, flying balls, the atmosphere...I love everything about attending a game.
Dining: One place I love on the west valley is Long Wongs AZ Famous Wings. We have been getting our wings from here since I was a kid, so now I keep the tradition going...and now I have my daughter hooked.