Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2009

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  • + Anthem
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  • + Avondale
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  • + California
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  • + Central Phoenix
  • + Central Scottsdale
  • + Chandler
  • + East Phoenix
  • + El Mirage
  • + Fountain Hills
  • + Gilbert
  • + Glendale
  • + Goodyear
  • + Higley
  • + Laveen
  • + Litchfield Park
  • + Mesa
  • + Nevada
  • + New River
  • + North Phoenix
  • + North Scottsdale
  • + Out of Town
  • + Outside the Valley
  • + Palo Verde
  • + Paradise Valley
  • + Peoria
  • + Queen Creek
  • + South Phoenix
  • + South Scottsdale
  • + Sun City
  • + Surprise
  • + Tempe
  • + Tolleson
  • + Unknown
  • + Waddell
  • + West Phoenix
  • + Youngtown
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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Second Act

The story of Scottsdale resident Gerda Weissmann Klein proves that America is, indeed, the land of second acts — F. Scott Fitzgerald be damned. Born in Poland in 1924, Klein survived labor camps, concentration camps, and death marches to marry one of the American G.I.'s who liberated her — Kurt Klein, a German-born Jew whose own parents had been murdered at Auschwitz.

The tragedy of her first act is matched by the triumph of her second: Her multiple awards include an Oscar, for the documentary One Survivor Remembers (based on her memoir All But My Life) and a lifetime achievement award from the American Immigration Law Foundation. In 1998, the Kleins established The Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation, to provide educational tools that promote tolerance and community service, in partnership with organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In 1999, Gerda traveled to Colorado to help the students at Columbine High School heal after the murder of their classmates. And this March, Klein celebrated the completion of the pilot program of Citizenship Counts, a non-profit she founded to educate middle school students about citizenship and civic responsibility. The program involved 100 seventh- and eighth-graders from Phoenix and Scottsdale who helped plan a naturalization ceremony for 50 new U.S. citizens from around the world; Klein spoke at the ceremony, as did retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Not bad for someone who had everything, short of her life, taken away and had to start over from scratch in a new language and a new land. What a country. What a woman!

Best of Phoenix 2009 In Photos

Best Urban Legend

Though nobody knows her real name, "Cake Lady," as downtowners have affectionately dubbed her, continues to contribute to central Phoenix lore. In short, there's a woman about town who occasionally shows up at gatherings (a music performance, an art exhibit) looking for free stuff, especially cake. The consensus is that she reads New Times (a smart woman, indeed) and then calls ahead to inquire about the possibility of free goodies. She's been spotted only a couple of times, including years ago at a birthday party at the now-defunct Paper Heart, where she briefly showed up, then dashed out the door with a bunch of cake to go. Hey, Cake Lady, share some next time!

Best Phoenix Season

Yes, you're reading that right. No, we're not heat-addled.

Summer in Phoenix rules.

We first noticed this seeming contraction one day several years ago when all the traffic on Indian School Road dried up. Poof! It was like a scene from I Am Legend or Vanilla Sky. And it made us ponder the other positives of a season in which temps can hit the 120s in the shade and you can get a third-degree burn on your butt just by getting in your car.

The sunsets. The storms. The long light of evenings. The short lines at our favorite hangs. The full-moon hikes. The abundant parking at Piestewa Peak. The pool parties. The misters. The cheap resort rates. The free Sunday-afternoon films at the Phoenix Art Museum.

More than specific pleasures, though, our late-blooming appreciation of Phoenix summer has to do with the sense of inclusion we feel from Memorial Day through late September. For 120-odd days, it's our town — not the fifth-largest city in America. It feels like a community.

It's hot, but it's home.

Best June

It was weird, right? This year, summer didn't really start 'til July. Sure, we had a hot day here and there, but any true Phoenician knows to brace for the heat starting in, oh, March. Not so in 2009, and June was particularly balmy. If you don't believe us, check out the stats: We haven't had this many days under 100 in the month of June (only 13!) since 1927. Which only made July the cruelest month — when, as if on cue, the temperature soared.

Best Map

Here at New Times, we know maps. We've spent countless hours trying to assemble them for our own various purposes. That's why we have such an appreciation for the Small Wonders map, published by Local First Arizona, designed to promote local businesses in both central/downtown Phoenix and Tempe. Consider this our thank you note for the labor of love it took to create these fold-out, easy-to-use, eye-pleasing guides to our favorite stuff in the city. It was surely no small feat to produce them.

Best Billion-Dollar View

Depending on whom you ask, the year-old Metro light rail may or may not be the most over-hyped project in Phoenix history. But no matter what you think of the billion-dollar (and counting!) project, you have to admit the view of the Phoenix skyline from the bridge going over Tempe Town Lake is pretty amazing, especially at dusk. From the confines of the always overpacked or nearly empty train car, you get a glimpse of Phoenix at its best. The downtown towers reach ever higher, their steady ascent seemingly fueled by the mysterious desert waters around you, but they never quite catch their backdrop, South Mountain. As the copper-colored star fades into the purplish haze of an Arizona sunset, even the most curmudgeonly rail-hater has to be impressed by the beautiful scene framed through the windows of this ambitious transportation project.

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Best Second Act: Gerda Weissmann Klein

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