A funny thing happened in 2013. Both of us — two curmudgeonly writers who between us have lived in Arizona way closer to 100 years than either would like to admit — came to a shared conclusion.

We like Phoenix.

That's funny because for years we've loved to hate this place — even as we wrote dozens of entries for Best of Phoenix, reviewed plays, covered the art scene, and investigated politicians. (True, Amy's always maintained there's nothing more fun than picking the low-hanging fruit at the Arizona Legislature.)

Phoenix New Times Illustration
Tour the Calle 16 mural.
Tour the Calle 16 mural.
Drive a surface road until the city stops and the desert begins.
Drive a surface road until the city stops and the desert begins.
Drive through the Encanto/Palmcroft neighborhood.
Drive through the Encanto/Palmcroft neighborhood.
Spend a day at the spa at Camelback Inn.
Spend a day at the spa at Camelback Inn.
Take a driving tour of downtown Phoenix movie locations.
Take a driving tour of downtown Phoenix movie locations.
Pick peaches at Schnepf Farms.
Pick peaches at Schnepf Farms.
Eat Chris Bianco's mom's flourless chocolate cake.
Eat Chris Bianco's mom's flourless chocolate cake.
Eat a Sonoran hot dog at Nogales Dog.
Eat a Sonoran hot dog at Nogales Dog.
Have a cocktail in the Hyatt's Compass Room.
Have a cocktail in the Hyatt's Compass Room.
Shop on Seventh Avenue.
Shop on Seventh Avenue.

Location Info

Map

Pizzeria Bianco

623 E. Adams St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Restaurant > Pizza

Region: Central Phoenix

Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Scottsdale

5402 E. Lincoln Drive
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

Category: Hotels and Resorts

Region: Paradise Valley

Hyatt Place

7300 E. 3rd Ave.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Category: Hotels and Resorts

Region: Central Scottsdale

Barrio Cafe

2814 N. 16th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85006

Category: Restaurant > Contemporary

Region: Central Phoenix

Luhrs Building

11 W. Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Category: Services

Region: Central Phoenix

Details

See Also: The 20 That Got Away: Bygone Phoenix places and customs.
Check out the complete Phoenix Bucket List here.

But last year, there was a lot of talk about leaving the Valley, and somewhere in the midst of the conversation, we each decided that we actually don't dislike Phoenix anymore. The city has grown up; or we have. Or both.

That's why we both jumped at the chance to write up our bucket list for Phoenix — 100 things to do in this metropolis before you die. Most we've actually done ourselves. A few are still on the "to do" list.

Turns out, we had no trouble getting to 100. The challenge was cutting it back. Enjoy our list.


TOP 10 ITEMS FROM THE PHOENIX BUCKET LIST


Eat Mole at Barrio Café and Tour the Calle 16 Murals
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza serves an amazing mole at her Barrio Cafe, a restaurant lauded by everyone from James Beard (well, the foundation) to Guy Fieri (he stopped by last year). She's not just committed to good cooking; Esparza also is hell-bent on celebrating local culture and fighting anti-immigration policies and sentiments. So several years ago, she began encouraging local artists to put up murals along 16th Street, where her restaurant is located. The result — by many talented folks including Lalo Cato, Nomas, and Breeze — is stunning and not to be missed. (www.barriocafe.com)

Drive Through the Encanto/Palmcroft Neighborhood
In the '60s and '70s, Phoenix exploded with slump-block suburbs, most of which survive, blighting our architectural landscape with bona fide blah. Head downtown and drive through this best-kept neighborhood, and you'll be witness to what Phoenix looked like before Del Webb took over. Stunning 1920s California Craftsman bungalows and Mock Tudors stand side by side on wide lots framed by 100-year-old trees and well-tended box hedges. Stately Victorians and stunning saltboxes stare each other down on streets right out of the Good Old Days, when Encanto/Palmcroft wasn't history, it was just a better street in Phoenix.

Take a Driving Tour of Downtown Phoenix Movie Locations
Head through the westbound I-10 tunnel that appeared in 2005's Transamerica (watch for the Seventh Avenue sign!) and onto Monroe Street to try to pick out the storefront facades that appeared in 1953's War of the Worlds (which also used the West Valley's Dysart Road for its several "desert" sequences), then further south to Jefferson to ogle the Luhrs Building, which appeared in both Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and its 1998 remake. Turn north on Central Avenue to see the mile-wide stretch of downtown that was annihilated in the 1978 cheese-fest Fire in the Sky, about a nasty comet that fell to earth and landed (where else?) on our fair city. Hang a left at McDowell Road and check out the various locations (the Los Olivos hotel, a recently shuttered gas station on Second Street, and Encanto Park, which doubled as Mexico City) used by Sonny and Cher in 1969's Chastity.

Spend a Day at the Spa at the Camelback Inn
The spa at the Camelback Inn is one of the finest in the world and definitely the best in town. It may not be the fanciest, and you might find crazier spa treatments elsewhere, but you're going to have trouble finding a local who frequents spas who doesn't include Camelback in the rotation. Book a hot rock massage; you can't go wrong with any of the facials. And if they are offering the signature wrap, book that, too, and leave plenty of time for the steam room, the Jacuzzi and the cold plunge. Visit on a pretty winter day when the temperature's over 70, and (for no extra charge) spend the day by the private spa pool before or after (or both!) your treatment(s). Order the gazpacho. Stare at the mountain. Smell the air. You're welcome. (www.camelbackspa.com)

Eat Chris Bianco's Mom's Flourless Chocolate Cake
Yes, Chris Bianco makes one of the best pizzas in the world, and by all means you should have one if you haven't — or two, since we have trouble choosing between the Wise Guy and the Rosa. But the Bianco family is a tour de force in Phoenix, and if all you've had is the pizza, you're missing out. Marco Bianco takes charge of the bread, and you can often find him at Pane Bianco, a sandwich shop that recently expanded its menu to include more classic Italian fare. And Francesca, the family matriarch, comes in to the Town and Country Pizzeria Bianco location from time to time to make desserts. You can see her recipes on display there and try her handiwork. The flourless chocolate cake is sweet, rich, and dense in all the right ways. (www.pizzeriabianco.com)

Drive a Surface Road Until the City Stops and the Desert Begins
If you take Central Avenue all the way south, you'll eventually run out of city and straight into South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the United States and one of the largest urban parks in the world. If you start far enough north — say, at Camelback Road — you can watch suburban Phoenix turn into downtown's business district and then morph into what our town used to look like: sand and saguaro and the endless desert.

Eat a Sonoran Hot Dog at Nogales Hot Dog
Phoenix doesn't have an "official" food, and neither does the state of Arizona, which has struggled for years to come up with something better than the chimichanga. For an authentic local experience, try a Sonoran hot dog. Wrapped in bacon and available with an assortment of toppings (don't skimp on the jalapeños), Nogales Hot Dog is a delicious and reliable version of the decadent dog (lots of other hot dog stands in town come and go). Pair it with a Mexican Coke. (602-527-0208)

Shop on Seventh Avenue
If you're a fan of antique shops with a little thrifting thrown in, this one-mile stretch of road is pretty much all you need for a pleasant afternoon of acquisition. Starting at the southernmost end (Seventh Avenue and Indian School) of this unique retail trek, there's Zinnias, a premium antiques and collectibles mall (don't miss Antique Sugar, a separate store selling vintage clothing, at the front of the Zinnias building). From there, it's Flo's on 7th, perhaps the cleanest and best-organized thrift shop in town, then on to Qcumberz and Charlie's House and Retro Ranch (for mid-century stuff) and on up to Antiques on Camelback, stopping at any of another dozen antique and junk shops along the way. Finish off at White Dove, another super-clean thrift store, just north of Camelback, and then collapse into a post-shopping heap.

Pick Peaches at Schnepf Farms
Pack the sunscreen and take your Allegra — come May, it's peach-picking time. It's the perfect Mother's Day gift, smack dab in the middle of Schnepf Farms' multi-week festival. Take Mom with you or spare her the heat, pick peaches yourself, and bake her a pie. The farm, on the southeast tip of town, is friendly, dusty, and sweet. And you can even buy a pre-made pie. (www.schnepffarms.com)

Have a Cocktail in the Hyatt's Compass Room
Oh, sure. They have a reverse happy hour. But who cares if the Hyatt Regency's Compass Arizona Grill even serves drinks? You'll go there for the same reason we all have for more than 30 years: to slowly rotate and enjoy a 360-degree view of the Valley in our town's one and only revolving rooftop restaurant. You can eat dinner here — that's what the "Grill" in the Compass room's name is about — but no matter how good your lamb chop or garlic mash happens to be, you'll remember having stared down the skyline of our town and maybe witnessing one of those splendid sunsets we keep having. (www.phxhyatt.com)


The complete list: □ 
Visit James Turrell’s Knight Rise at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
□ 
Eat fried chicken at Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Café
□ 
See a Nearly Naked Theater performance
□ 
Tour Cerreta’s chocolate factory
□ 
See a New Wave band perform at 
a reservation casino
□ 
Attend the farmers market at Downtown Phoenix Public Market on a Saturday
□ 
Drive through the I-10 tunnel 
at night
□ 
Go fishing on the canal on 
Stanford Drive
□ 
Bone up on local history in 
the Arizona Room at Burton 
Barr Library
□ 
Have a cocktail in the Hyatt’s Compass Room
□ 
Step inside Tovrea Castle
□ 
Shop at SAS Fabrics by the Pound
□ 
Visit the monkeys at the 
Phoenix Zoo
□ 
Take Grand Avenue from Seventh Avenue all the way to Wickenburg
□ 
Watch Fife Symington make crème brûlée
□ 
Eat hot food and drink cold margaritas at Los Dos Molinos
□ 
Go to the Deer Dance in Guadalupe
□ 
Go to a Phoenix Suns game
□ 
See a show at Crescent Ballroom
□ 
Spend a day at the spa at the Camelback Inn
□ 
Camp out at the annual VNSA 
book sale
□ 
Eat penuche nut ice cream at 
Mary Coyle’s
□ 
Ogle a Vietnamese Catholic church
□ 
Hear a diva sing outdoors at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts □ 
Take the Winnie Ruth Judd tour
□ 
Watch the bats take off at 40th Street and Camelback
□ 
Hang out in the lobby at the Arizona Biltmore
□ 
Drive through the Encanto/Palmcroft neighborhood
□ 
People-watch at Metrocenter
□ 
Catch a wave at Big Surf
□ 
Eat mole at Barrio Café and tour the Calle 16 murals
□ 
See a show at Gammage Auditorium
□ 
See a spring training game
□ 
Harvest prickly pear fruit
□ 
Spend the morning at Lux Central
□ 
Spend the night at Arcosanti
□ 
Hike Camelback Mountain
□ 
Eat Chris Bianco’s mom’s flourless chocolate cake
□ 
Shop at Last Chance
□ 
Give yourself a walking tour of the Orpheum Theatre
□ 
See something arty at FilmBar
□ 
Ride the light rail
□ 
Ride the rides at Encanto Kiddieland
□ 
Talk to Beatrice Moore
□ 
Ice skate at CityScape
□ 
Drive out to Boyce Thompson Arboretum and look for 
Ladmo’s tree
□ 
Take a walk down Architecture Row
□ 
See an art exhibit at Phoenix College’s Eric Fischl Gallery
□ 
Go watch giant planes fly overhead
□ 
Sneak into a hotel pool
□ 
Drive by Lee and Patricia Sepanek’s holiday light display
□ 
Go to a reading at Changing Hands Bookstore
□ 
Stick your head Inside the Westward Ho
□ 
Get some late-night food at FnB
□ 
Go to the Parada del Sol parade
□ 
Attend a Detour Company Theatre performance
□ 
Eat a Sonoran hot dog at Nogales Hot Dog
□ 
Check out Windows to the West by Louise Nevelson in Scottsdale
□ 
Drive to the top of South Mountain and park
□ 
Go to Bikini Lounge with a 20b-something
□ 
Have a dining adventure at Posh
□ 
Listen to a street musician in the Biltmore Tunnel
□ 
Walk through the Exhibitions Rooms at the Arizona State Fairgrounds
□ 
Visit the Musical Instrument Museum
□ 
Attend Jeff Kennedy’s holiday cabaret
□ 
Visit L. Ron Hubbard’s House
□ 
Visit Phoenix Art Museum on Free Wednesdays
□ 
Ride Bike Trail 100 on Tatum Trailhead
□ 
Spend a night at the Hotel 
San Carlos
□ 
Wander around Cosanti
□ 
Go out on a First Friday
□ 
See a ’70s-era band perform at Celebrity Theatre
□ 
Pick peaches at Schnepf Farms
□ 
Shop at Crafeteria
□ 
Visit the Heard Museum
□ 
Eat sticky buns at El Chorro
□ 
Go to Lisa Sette Gallery, walk around Old Town Scottsdale
□ 
Eat at Kai
□ 
See the penguins at Wildlife 
World Zoo
□ 
Check out the Japanese Friendship Garden
□ 
Attend Art Detour
□ 
Take a driving tour of downtown Phoenix movie locations
□ 
Tour the Rosson House
□ 
Shop on Seventh Avenue
□ 
Visit Taliesin West
□ 
Attend the Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Community Center
□ 
Have afternoon tea at the 
Ritz-Carlton
□ 
See Blaise Lantana perform
□ 
Drive a surface road until the city stops and the desert begins
□ 
Eat fry bread
□ 
Party on the roof of 
Phoenix Towers
□ 
Hike “A” Mountain in Tempe
□ 
Line fance at Cash Inn Country
□ 
See Ballet Arizona’s TOPIA at the Desert Botanical Garden
□ 
Eat at Chrysa Robertson’s 
Rancho Pinot
□ 
See a movie at the West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In
□ 
Drink a martini and eat a steak 
at Durant’s
□ 
Take a walk on a canal
□ 
Buy yourself a pair of vintage cowboy boots
□ 
Take it all off at the Shangri-La Ranch
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