People & Places

  • Readers Choice

    BEST PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE Randy Johnson BEST TOURIST TRAP Rawhide Wild West Town 23023 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale 480-502-1880 BEST POLITICIAN John McCain BEST USE OF TAXPAYER MONEY Freeways BEST TV NEWSCASTER Brad Perry BEST NEWS STATION KPNX Channel 12 BEST ART GALLERY Phoenix Art Museum 1625 North Central 602-257-1222 BEST THEATER TROUPE Phoenix Theatre's Little Theatre BEST PLACE TO ACT LIKE A NATIVE PHOENICIAN Bank One Ballpark 401 East Jefferson 602-462-6000 BEST LOCAL HERO Azpunk.com… More >>
  • Best Politician

    Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio

    How could one guy hurt so many people and maintain the highest approval rating of any elected official in the county? We've gotta hand it to you, Sheriff Joe: You are one fine politician. We'd like to bottle the sheriff's elixir and sell it for those interested in doing good, rather than evil, but for now we'll applaud Arpaio for… More >>
  • Best Name For a Lawyer

    Court Rich

    Really, we're not making this one up. Court Rich is a first-year associate at Nearhood Law Offices in Scottsdale, and a recent graduate of Arizona State University's law school. Since he'll be specializing in business litigation, he may even see the inside of a courtroom -- a rarity for a lawyer these days. But will he be rich? Remains to… More >>
  • Best Power Couple

    Cindy Dach and Greg Esser

    So often, people in our (un)fair city use their power for evil. We're happy to celebrate a couple of powerful Phoenicians who, as far as we can tell, do nothing but good. Instead of building skyscrapers, Cindy Dach and Greg Esser are busy constructing culture. Dach is director of events for Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. Esser runs the public art… More >>
  • Best Refuge From Urban Chaos

    Cathedral Center for the Arts

    A few blocks north of Phoenix's business district sits Trinity Cathedral, the 82-year-old Episcopalian church that houses the perfect getaway for those looking for some artistic time off. Between the cathedral itself (surprisingly modern and warm inside) and Bishop Atwood Hall you'll find the Cathedral Center for the Arts show space, a light, narrow gallery that makes for the perfect… More >>
  • Best Lawn Art

    Sunnyslope Rock Garden

    The Sunnyslope Rock Garden is actually the yard of a private home in a modest neighborhood in north Phoenix. But what a yard. Grover Cleveland Thompson began constructing the odd assortment of windmills, concrete figures and fountains in 1952. Current owner Marion Blake purchased the property in 1979, and vowed to keep the odd sculptures intact, which she has, for… More >>
  • Best Place To See Superstars

    Casino Arizona

    You'll never guess who we ran into the other night. Donna Summer! Yes! But that's not all! We also met Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan, the Four Tops and Elvis. It was so cool. It was also so fake. The artists -- impersonators, of course -- are part of the Showstoppers Live performance at Casino Arizona. They play Sundays and… More >>
  • Best Place To Cop Out

    The Phoenix Police Museum

    One day we wandered into the Phoenix Police Museum, and we were charmed by the experience. It's like a little Disneyland for cops, complete with faux streetscapes. Artifacts date from the late 1800s, when officers patrolled the 3.1-square-mile city on foot, and the patrol wagon was pulled by a horse named Old Nelly. We can climb in and around a… More >>
  • Best Place To Get Down-Home

    Historic Sahuaro Ranch

    Until NASA perfects time travel, we'll travel to this 17-acre park to get a glimpse of the good ol' days. This home, home on the range, where the peacocks and bunnies do play, ranks among the West Valley's prettiest places. The ranch's original buildings, open for tours, are oldies but goodies -- the Main House Museum dates back to 1895,… More >>
  • Best Chinatown Substitute

    COFCO Chinese Cultural Center

    We long for our days spent wandering deep into New York's and San Francisco's Chinatowns, always surprised by the constant discovery of new sights, smells and sounds. But let's face it -- Phoenix can't compete. Instead, we'll just be happy that we have COFCO, the only place in town where we can gorge ourselves with Chinese culture. Granted, it's still… More >>
  • Best Way To Catch the Holiday Spirit

    Las Noches de las Luminarias

    Every year, volunteers at the Desert Botanical Garden add to the glow of this favorite holiday event with more luminarias (brown paper bags filled with sand and a lighted candle) and more musical acts. The foliage is barely visible as you wander the brick paths through the garden, guided by the light of hundreds of luminarias, but there's more to… More >>
  • Best Unexpected Place To Find Inspiration

    The Ladies' Room at Postino

    We love Postino for the $5 glass of Merlot at lunch and the comfy couches at happy hour, but we never expected to find inspiration at a trendy wine bar -- let alone in the ladies' room. But there we sat, in a beautiful rest room big enough for a table of six, admiring the candles and the deeply hued… More >>
  • Best Place To See a Peacock West of Central Avenue

    Wildlife World Zoo

    Heading west from Phoenix, there's not much between Luke Air Force Base and the state line. But we were delighted to find a funky oasis full of creatures you'd never expect to see in these parts. The Wildlife World Zoo has the requisite lions and tigers and giraffes (we didn't see any bears), but we were surprised to see a… More >>
  • Best Little Playhouse That Could

    Is What It Is Theater

    Phoenix is lousy with little theaters, and most of them are a revolving door for would-be thespians who aspire to community productions of Neil Simon comedies. These petite playhouses cater to theatergoers who'd just as soon rent videos and don't want to be troubled with shows they haven't already seen. Then there's teeny Is What It Is Theater, a group… More >>
  • Best Place To Take A Bite Out Of Drama

    Lunch Time Theater

    Some ideas need a long time to gestate, and maybe the idea of spending your lunch hour watching live drama was just one of them. But this year did mark the return of Lunch Time Theater, an elegant little plan to coax office-workers into a theater with the promise of short, entertaining plays and cheap, crunchy lunches. Actors Theatre of… More >>
  • Best Classical Theater Troupe

    Actors' Renaissance Theatre

    It's not easy getting an audience for Shakespeare in this town. And no one knows that better than Actors' Renaissance Theatre. This truly local troupe started (and still exists) on a shoestring but is held together by strong performances, well-planned seasons, and the passion of its founders, husband-and-wife team James and Ashley Barnard. ART offers up the classics of Austen,… More >>
  • Best Comeback By A Local Theater Troupe

    Phoenix Theatre's Sophisticated Ladies

    After several consecutive seasons of mostly ill-conceived dreck, the Valley's oldest theater company rebounded with what was arguably the best show of the year. Phoenix Theatre's production of Sophisticated Ladies was so letter-perfect in performance and execution, it was nearly enough to make us forget the same company's laughably awful take on A Streetcar Named Desire of two seasons ago.… More >>
  • Best Performance In An Otherwise Mediocre Production

    Michael Sherwin in Nearly Naked Theater's The King of Infinite Space

    With a single exception, the acting in Nearly Naked Theater's The King of Infinite Space was unexceptional. But Michael Sherwin's performance in the title role of Andrew Ordover's obscure morality play was so dazzling, it appeared to belong to another production. Red-faced and shrieking one moment, eerily calm the next, Sherwin delivered Ordover's lines with a riveting blend of chutzpah… More >>
  • Best Place To See A Play

    Orpheum Theatre

    There are only a handful of theaters in the Valley of the Sun that were originally meant to be theaters, and even some of those have the acoustics of a dank cave. But the historic Orpheum Theatre, with its majestic proscenium, cloud-painted ceiling and rich red velvet seats, puts everything else in the state to shame. After a citizen-led battle… More >>
  • Best Art Museum

    Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

    In the past couple of years, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art has hosted some impressive shows of cutting-edge stuff, like the mind- and space-bending work of James Turrell and the contemplative conceptual work of German artist Wolfgang Laib. Sure, we wouldn't mind seeing more work by local artists and fewer of those stitched-together theme shows, but by our reckoning, SMoCA… More >>
  • Best Museum Store

    Museo Chicano - CLOSED

    At the city-supported Museo Chicano downtown, the gift shop is just about as big as the gallery space itself -- and for good reason. The wares on sale are oftentimes as gripping (sometimes more so, actually) as what's on display. Flashy fiesta flags hang overhead. Cigarette-chomping sugar skulls line the shelves. And dioramas of canny calaveras are the order of… More >>
  • Best Open Road

    Sun Valley Parkway

    Where else can you drive 35 miles on a four-lane, divided parkway in the middle of the afternoon and see only six other vehicles? Long ago dubbed the "Road to Nowhere," the Sun Valley Parkway was built in the mid-1980s as the centerpiece of a real estate development project that collapsed in typical Arizona fashion. The only thing that has ever… More >>
  • Best Professional Athlete

    Craig Counsell
    Infielder, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Amid talk of strikes and steroids, there are still a few baseball players you can hold up as shining role models to your kids. Craig Counsell is the shiniest role model of the lot. Undersized and undertalented, Counsell seems to have nothing going for him except heart, an undying work ethic and an exceptional understanding of the subtleties of baseball. There are… More >>
  • Best Stadium

    Sun Devil Stadium

    Despite all the complaining and groaning about Sun Devil Stadium generated primarily by the hapless Arizona Cardinals, the facility remains one of the finest football venues in the country. Yes, the toilets are old and concessions stands are limited, but for pure football fans, the proximity to the field and clean site lines can't be beat. When the fans are fired up,… More >>
  • Best Television Sports Interviewer

    Todd Walsh
    KTVK

    "Walshie," as former Phoenix Coyotes captain Keith Tkachuk used to call him, has a sports nut's dream job: He gets to wander around America West Arena and Bank One Ballpark during professional hockey and baseball games, eyeing the action while hunting for the odd and colorful situation and character in the crowd on which to report. Immediately after the games… More >>
  • Best Indie Movie House

    Madstone Theater and Lounge

    Okay, so it's in Chandler. But Madstone Theaters -- a national chain of 20 cinemas that play predominantly independent and foreign films -- is a godsend in any neighborhood. Until last month, the Valley had gotten by with precious few full-fledged art movie houses, and if it weren't for Harkins Valley Art or Camelview, we'd never see a foreign or… More >>
  • Best Saturday-Night Date For Classical Music Lovers

    Robert Moody
    Associate conductor, Phoenix Symphony

    As the Valley's arts organizations struggle for economic survival, we hold up associate conductor Robert Moody as a compelling reason to support the Phoenix Symphony. Were his orchestra reduced to a tin whistle and a secondhand set of bongos, we'd wager that Maestro Moody still could conjure an inspired performance to delight the most discerning listener. With eloquence and humor,… More >>
  • Best Radio Personality

    John Holmberg
    KUPD's "Morning Sickness"

    DJ John Holmberg, along with his sidekicks, Brady Bogen and Beau Duran, have more or less saved KUPD from its longtime creep toward becoming WKRP. Luckily for listeners, KUPD's management got bored with Dave Pratt too. In early September, they replaced him with the relatively young, inexperienced DJ from the floundering sort-of-alt-rock station The Zone. The show started slowly thanks to… More >>
  • Best Place To Be Entertained

    Peoria Sports Complex

    Not every Valley municipal project is a boondoggle. In its eight years in existence, the sprawling Peoria Sports Complex has become the northwest Valley's magnet for an incredible array of events. One weekend, you can see the Goo Goo Dolls, the next you can watch Japan's best professional baseball players duking it out on the Complex's numerous state-of-the-art baseball diamonds. Because… More >>
  • Best San Diego Substitute

    Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort

    It feels like everyone is cutting their vacation budget. If the kids are bummed because you aren't going to San Diego to escape the heat of summer, take heart. Try the Sonoran Splash plan at the très luxe Scottsdale Princess. The promotion features Dive-In Movies on a 12-foot-by-16-foot screen mounted at the pool, which is filled with inner tubes for… More >>
  • Best Spot For An Impromptu Wet Tee Shirt Contest

    Vista del Camino Park's sprinkler playground

    For those of us forbidden to run through the sprinkler when we were children (for fear that -- heaven help us -- we'd smush up the lawn), this small playground on Scottsdale's greenbelt, just northwest of the Hayden-Roosevelt intersection, is the stuff of wet dreams. Sundry streams shoot from the trunk of a plastic palm tree and from a fish… More >>
  • Best Ivy League Wanna-Be

    City of Tempe Parks and Recreation

    Sculling calls to mind images of dear old Oxford across the pond, or even rowing upon the Charles River in Boston. Now you can join the sport of English gentry and New England Brahmins right here in the desert. Don't let the artificial lake distract you. The City of Tempe offers classes in team rowing or individual sculling (providing you've mastered… More >>
  • Best Place To Relive Your Brooklyn Childhood

    Beyond Bagels

    Beyond Bagels has all the stuff you expect to find these days at a deli that claims New York roots: an American flag prominently displayed; a giant photo of the now eerie-seeming Old New York skyline; cartoons by the cash register about kicking bin Laden's ass. And bags of Wise potato chips. But where this place really turns the corner… More >>
  • Best CD Release Tie-In Event

    Haggis Listening Party
    June 20
    British Open Pub

    In any local music scene, a band announcing a new album with a CD release party is like somebody celebrating a bowel movement. Everybody does it, some several times a week. However, when the band known as Haggis wanted to draw attention to its latest CD, Karma Suits Ya, it did so with a stylish sense of the occasional that… More >>
  • Best Place To Feed The Need For Speed

    Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving

    Living under the watchful eye of the Valley's radar-patrolled freeways and red-light cameras has our inner speed demons so pent up that we could get a Hyundai-manufactured golf cart with two flat tires to exceed 50 mph. Seems it's high time we took a day off from traffic school to spend a day at Bobby B.'s school adjacent to Firebird… More >>
  • Best Place To Feel Home On The Range

    OK Corral

    Ever wanted to say something like, "Get along, little dogies," or "Howdy, partner," and have it be somewhat appropriate? We suggest you try a horseback trail ride with the folks from OK Corral, the oldest pack station in the Superstition Mountains. Summer rides are up through Payson and the Mogollon Rim, and regular-season rides take you all over the Superstitions,… More >>
  • Best Place To Break Up With Your Lover

    Carlsbad Tavern

    We're not vindictive, really. We wish the best for that yellow-bellied, sneaky, lying hunk of flesh we've been dating. We certainly don't want to hurt anyone's feelings with a breakup. So we'll let Carlsbad do the talking. We'll bring our loser, er, lover in for dinner. A romantic evening out, we'll say. Don't bother with a menu, we know exactly what… More >>
  • Best Place To Eat With The Animals

    Farrelli's Cinema Supper Club - CLOSED

    So we're not kid people. So shoot us. Or better yet, shoot the kids. No, really, we think kids are okay; we just don't understand how people can have them and hope to have any chance of a normal life afterward. Farrelli's feels our pain. And so, in a stroke of genius, this feeding/film house offers family festivals, offering dinner and… More >>
  • Best Place To Be A Jerk

    Callaloo

    One of the things we love about hanging in the Caribbean is the laid-back attitude. No pretension, just cool. At Callaloo, owner Michael Washington-Brown keeps the spirit. If we want our food spicy (and we do), we don't ask politely. We bluntly tell our waiter to "Jerk This!" That's the signal to pile on the killer Jamaican spice called jerk.… More >>
  • Best Use Of An IRS Refund

    Fighter Combat International

    The folks at Fighter Combat International use flyers from the Top Gun program to offer you everything from dogfights to acrobatic stunts. Using laser weapons mounted on the spectacularly agile, German built, Extra-300 L, experienced pilots take you up for aerial combat against other professionals. Or maybe you don't want a dogfight. Maybe you just want to strap on a… More >>
  • Best Private Room Party

    Dick's Hideaway

    We love hanging out in nice places with our friends. The trouble is, nice places usually don't want us. Dick's Hideaway has become our personal haunt when we've got a group of up to 25 party pals. There's a $500 minimum to use the room, but divided among our cohorts, that comes to only $20 each, and the money is applied… More >>
  • Best Pool Hall

    Pool & Brew

    You go to an aquarium to see sharks swim around and eat little guppies, not to jump in the tank with them. So when you want to see the game of billiards executed as nature intended, go to where the real sharks swallow up the competition. It is said that the Hustler himself, Paul Newman, has frequented the Pool &… More >>
  • Best Game In Town

    Cholla
    in Casino Arizona

    When we go to Las Vegas, it's to eat at the world-class restaurants that suddenly have populated the once buffet-for-a-buck town. When we go to Casino Arizona, it's to eat at Cholla, an amazing upscale restaurant that's completely isolated from the clinging clanging sounds of machines sucking money. Cholla is a sure bet, though, for exemplary dinners showcasing regional and Native… More >>
  • Best Soar Spot

    Turf Soaring School

    We've fallen for more "you can fly" gimmicks and contraptions than Wile E. Coyote, but with Turf, we think we're finally onto something. The school offers sightseeing rides, flight instruction, and soaring and aerobatic sailplane lessons -- and falling anvils are almost never involved. Want to fly the friendly skies without the deafening engine noise? Take a spin in a… More >>
  • Best Song To Request From A Mariachi That's Not "Guantanamera"

    You're feeling no pain from all of the margaritas you just drank. The mariachi is blaring song after song in a language you don't understand. But you enjoy the music and even recognize some of the songs. ("Wow, I like that one," you think as you hum along.) And the more you drink, the more you want to participate. Finally,… More >>
  • Best Place To Shoot Something

    Ben Avery Shooting Facility

    Seldom does the thought of camping conjure up images of submachine guns, unless you're camping at Ben Avery Shooting Facility, where nothing says "outdoor fun" like the sound of full metal jacket shells clinking on the pavement. Covering 1,650 acres, Ben Avery is touted as "the country's largest public shooting facility," with 16 competitive rifle and pistol ranges, as well… More >>
  • Best Place To Confront Entomophobia

    Katydid Insect Museum

    Excited about collecting all 50 state quarters? Screw that. Nedra Soloman has a state-centric collection with some bite. Inside her Katydid Insect Museum -- reputedly the only such establishment west of the Mississippi -- is a display case with space allotted for an insect from each state. (Should you find yourself in North Dakota anytime soon, perhaps you could pick… More >>
  • Best Place To Expect The Unexpected

    Hamburger Mary's

    As its name implies, it's a hamburger joint. But what other burger-n-bun shack offers Saturday afternoon tea (Long Island, though), a champagne Sunday brunch, prickly pear margarita parties, Sex and the City viewing parties, service-industry happy hours, karaoke, dollar disco daze, gay lifestyle festivals and fashion shows? Only the same place that, alongside its certified Angus beef burgers, proudly serves… More >>
  • Best Fall Family Day Trip

    Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

    The 1.5-mile hike through the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is gorgeous and deeply informative any time of the year. But only in fall, as you walk down through the steep-walled Queen Creek Canyon, do you pass through hundreds of different tree species from ecosystems around the world changing colors together. It's a palette seen in few places on Earth. And surprisingly,… More >>
  • Best Summer Golf Day Trip

    Apache Stronghold Golf Club

    Apache Stronghold Golf Club is becoming the hot summer golf spot for Phoenix golfers looking for something very different -- and a little bit cooler. Part of the Apache Gold Casino/Resort complex east of Globe on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Apache Stronghold is probably best enjoyed by the under-10-handicap crowd. Not only is it long -- more than 7,500 yards… More >>
  • Best Cheap Golf

    Bear Creek Golf Course short course

    Recession, overbuilding and 110-degree heat can be good things. In south Chandler, they'll allow you to play a Nicklaus Design golf course on a weekend for $9. That's if you're willing to walk the short 18 at Bear Creek, which can be a bear in the heat. But just get there early and it's a piece of cake. The Bear Creek short course… More >>
  • Best Place To Spend A Day With The Dog

    Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

    We had to rub our eyes when we read that Boyce Thompson welcomes quadrupeds (at least on leashes). But it does! We can take our pooch into Arizona's oldest historical arboretum and botanical garden without any fuss. Mining magnate Colonel William Boyce Thompson founded his arboretum in the roaring 1920s, to imbue in people an appreciation of plants. And while… More >>
  • Best Place To Go Nuts

    The Orange Patch

    The expansion of the 202 Freeway east is a good thing. It allowed us to empty our car into uncharted territory in Mesa, and, as we drove around lost and clueless, to come across the Orange Patch. We were immediately taken with the farmhouse shop, surrounded by more than 200 acres of tree-ripened citrus. This is a store straight out… More >>
  • Best Place To Listen To Music And Eat Chinese Food

    Lucky Dragon

    Johnny Chu has mastered the art of multitasking, and we're grateful as we sip hot tea over a plate of beef and broccoli, listening to live jazz. Chu doesn't only make great Chinese food with a French flair (the portobello dishes are superb) and book all kinds of music into his hole-of-a-strip-mall venue, he offers up the walls to local… More >>
  • Best Place To Feed Your Lover

    Palm Court

    So many restaurants these days are so, well, hot. Loud music, a crush of fashionably dressed bodies, edgy service, blaring decor, and a menu that takes an Atlas and foreign dictionaries to decipher. How are we to focus on our special someone under these conditions? We go to Palm Court to whisper sweet nothings. This intimate space speaks of yesteryear, a… More >>
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