New Times' Best of Phoenix is out now. Here's our list of the best places for entertainment in the Valley.
Best Casino: Talking Stick Resort and Casino
It's close to 300 miles between Phoenix and the glitzy lights and ringing slot machines of the Las Vegas strip. Sure, some people might think it's worth the drive to be in the heart of Sin City. But we know that you can find plenty of sin, fun, and relaxation by driving across town (if that) to Talking Stick Resort and Casino in Scottsdale. With an award-winning restaurant, Vegas-quality performances in the TSR Showroom, and raging pool parties during the summer, TSR is a top spot for staycationers.
Best Place to See a Comedy Show: Stand Up Live
Part of the same empire that includes the storied Tempe Improv across town, Stand Up Live is located in the CityScape complex in downtown Phoenix, and the club brings in a roster cool enough to justify that whole drink-minimum thing. Featuring acts like Bill Bellamy, the Dan Band, JB Smoove, and podcasting titan (and Barack Obama interviewer) Marc Maron, Stand Up Live is comfortable hosting alternative comedy types and big names alike, and it's not all touring comics: Local up-and-comers also take the stage to work out new bits, refine their craft, and see what jokes fly and which ones sink.
Best Indie Movie Theater: FilmBar
Yeah, there are quite a few places where you can have a beer with your movie. But do those big chain theaters have Prince movie marathons, Four Peaks on draft, lectures from seasoned screenwriters on why Jaws is still legit, and regular local film showcases spotlighting aspiring Scorseses among us? Um, nope. But downtown indie standby FilmBar sure does.
Best Budget Movie Theater: Pollack Tempe Cinemas
Pop quiz: What costs $3? Let's see. Acceptable responses include two sticks of loose gum, a really big bobby pin, or four off-brand crayons. Oh, and also a ticket to see a movie (a real, actual, professionally made film) at Pollack Tempe Cinemas on the south side of the Valley. At Pollack, we slackers who kept meaning to see the latest blockbuster in the Avengers franchise are rewarded for such laziness and poor planning with dirt-cheap tickets, eye candy by way of lobby memorabilia displays, and literal candy at prices that won't have you groaning over how you forgot to sneak in Skittles. Pretty sweet.
Best Luxury Movie Theater: Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square 14
When Harkins finally shuttered its tiny indie Scottsdale outpost Camelview 5 (the property's owners had announced plans to bulldoze the theater for mall expansion), Phoenicians commiserated with both sadness and rage at the Valley's inability to hang on to anything culturally cool. But then we saw the theater that replaced its cozy, five-screen predecessor. Camelview at Fashion Square includes 14 screens, reclining leather seats, and a dedication to screening the arty flicks the 5 was famed for showing.
Best Make-Out Spot: SRP Arizona Falls at G.R. Herberger Park
Found along the Arizona Canal, the SRP Arizona Falls is set in the Arcadia neighborhood at 56th and 58th streets and Indian School Road. The falls are a 20-foot drop created by the canal at that spot, and Salt River Project and the Phoenix Arts Commission have turned it into quite the romantic destination thanks to a few features — including three waterfalls, a viewing room, a pedestrian bridge, and 24-hour access. So whether you're walking or biking along the canal path on date night or just driving around with your new sweetheart, the Arizona Falls may be a good place to stop if you're trying to get to first base.
Best Arcade: Cobra Arcade Bar
Recent years have seen an explosion of the popularity of hangouts that mix drinks and arcade games, and while there have been plenty of cool ones to open in Phoenix in the last year, none have quite matched the vibe of Cobra, located in downtown Phoenix.
Best Bowling: Let It Roll Bowl
An independently owned bowling alley is a rare thing, but it's even rarer for one to be as cool as Let It Roll Bowl in Sunnyslope. You get everything you're looking for in an alley — cosmic bowling specials, funky shoe rentals, and league nights — but you also get a slightly retro, totally charming vibe, with a modern bar and midcentury-inspired decor that evokes the '60s, when the bowling alley was originally built.
Best Go Karts: Octane Raceway
Tires screaming around corners. Cars slamming into sidewalls. The agony of defeat as you see you came in ninth behind a bunch of high-school freshmen. Yeah, that's Octane. Adult sessions are 14 laps, while the slightly slower kids' cars go for 10 laps. It's an addictive experience, despite the roughly $20-per-race charge, not to the mention the battering drivers take from the g-forces in the curves. We usually find a bruise or two after Octane. It's a good pain.
Best Rock Gym: Phoenix Rock Gym
Before the Phoenix Rock Gym opened in 1992, the only "rock gyms" in these parts were the boulders and crags strewn about the desert. Thanks to the PRG, rock climbing in metro Phoenix became something everyone could try. Kids exposed to the sport on the PRG's 30-foot-high climbing walls grew up to conquer Yosemite's El Capitan, and then they began taking their own kids to the gym.
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Best Tourist Attraction: Musical Instrument Museum
Looking for the most legit cultural institution the Valley has to offer? It's a stretch up the Loop 101 and housed in a stately contemporary complex where, if you're into counting, you'll see more than 6,500 instruments on view. Which is why it's called the Musical Instrument Museum. Home to both musical instruments and related objects, the museum's amassed a collection of almost 16,000 things — from Arizona's own rock 'n' roll history to folk and tribal instruments.