People & Places

  • Best Urban Legend

    Cake Lady

    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… More >>
  • Best Phoenix Season

    Summer

    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… More >>
  • Best June

    June 2009

    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… More >>
  • Best Map

    Small Wonders

    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… More >>
  • Best Billion-Dollar View

    Metro Tempe Town Lake Bridge

    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… More >>
  • Best Street of Dreams

    Mill Avenue

    We are so over Mill Avenue. We are so over Mill, in fact, that we're even done complaining about it. These days, we're just feeling a little sad over what are becoming such distant memories of the heyday of Arizona State's main drag — just about the only spot in metropolitan Phoenix that ever had hope of hopping. In the past… More >>
  • Best Roundabout

    The Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway interchange at McKellips Road, Mesa

    Driving in the Valley is usually pretty bo-ring, with its straight streets and backdrop of baby-puke-colored strip malls. That's why we're all about cruising the Loop 202, not only for its connectedness to the East Valley and Southeast Valley, but because of something normally not found in the States: roundabouts. We especially like to get our Euro on at the… More >>
  • Best Twist

    Seventh Avenue, between Indian School and Camelback Roads

    In a city built on a grid, it's no surprise that one of the few major stretches of twisty, kooky street is the best block in town. The winding road that is Seventh Avenue between Indian School and Camelback practically foretold this neighborhood's quirky style and severe case of The Funk. When city assessors were scoping out Phoenix and drawing… More >>
  • Best Corner

    19th Avenue and Montebello Drive

    If you doubt that Phoenix has come a long way, baby, check out this winner. Montebello and 19th Avenue used to be a dusty spot overlooking a sketchy mall with boarded-up businesses and a parking lot with more potholes than asphalt. Now, it's prime people-watching for the thousands who park and ride on Metro light rail every day. Naysayers who… More >>
  • Best Strip Mall

    Dana Park Village Square

    Though we'd love to give this category's award to a gorgeous Art Deco plaza or turn-of-the-century Gothic building, we're learning to embrace the realities of our fair city — which often means new construction. The developers of Mesa's Dana Park ventured beyond the modern cookie-cutter plan to create a new breed of strip mall that resembles an upscale Main Street.… More >>
  • Best Home Tour

    The Modern Phoenix Annual Tour

    Fans of old houses and cool architecture have grown accustomed to two types of home tours: those hosted by downtown's historic neighborhoods, like Encanto Palmcroft and F.Q. Story, and those private affairs hosted by snooty-boots homeowners who want to show off the glass-and-cement masterpiece they've just dropped onto the desert of north Scotts­dale. And then there's the annual Modern Phoenix… More >>
  • Best Historic Neighborhood

    Del Norte Place

    In the realm of central Phoenix historic districts, Del Norte Place is flanked by some heavy hitters: Encanto-Palmcroft, Willo, Roosevelt, and F.Q. Story. But this little sleeper of a neighborhood, dating to the 1920s, is an idyllic place. Its broad, tree-lined streets and carefully manicured lawns make you feel you're somewhere else, like Mayberry. People hang out on their front… More >>
  • Best Place to Trace Your Roots

    Mesa Regional Family History Center

    Mormons are proficient at lots of things — Jell-O salads and genealogy, to name just two. If you've ever had an interest in learning about your family tree, they can help you get started, no matter what your religion (or lack thereof). The Mesa Regional Family History Center is affiliated with the Mormon Church but is open to the general… More >>
  • Best Building Restoration

    Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park

    Historically speaking, Phoenix is a young town. There are no Medieval castles or Colonial courthouses, and most of the historic properties that do exist here have fallen into disrepair or been long forgotten. That's why we were thrilled to see the city invest two years and over $5 million in the restoration of Steele Indian School Park's Memorial Hall, which… More >>
  • Best Repurposed Buildings

    PaisleyTown at The Paisley Violin

    Old buildings are torn down all too often in our neck of the woods. It's sad to watch bits of our history razed, especially when what appears in its place is often boring, ugly, or even worse, part of a corporate chain with an outlet on every corner. That's what makes PaisleyTown, the quaint village of outbuildings behind Grand Avenue's… More >>
  • Best Downtown Building to Poke Your Head Into

    Sapna Café at Bragg's Pie Factory - CLOSED

    Remember Sapna's Chillout Café at the downtown Phoenix Public Market? We do, because we'd actually wait in line there to taste an icy Grenada and some takeaway tahini-infused hummus. Now we go to Bragg's Pie Factory Building on Grand for the same tasty bites, but also because we love the funny, wedge-shaped interior of this groovy old structure. Owner Ana… More >>
  • Best Building That Looks Like Baked Goods

    Islamic Community Center Mosque at ASU

    No offense intended, but this place looks like a giant wedding cake. That is to say, a wedding cake frosted in yellow that's been bedazzled and covered in paste jewels. A wedding cake for a drag queen, maybe. Whatever you call it, the Islamic Mosque in Tempe is a favorite among locals who love unusual architecture. The Mosque, established just… More >>
  • Best Post Office

    The Federal Building United States Post Office

    We're in love with the downtown post office, plain and simple. It speaks to our fondness for old architecture, with its wide stone steps leading up to the front door, over which a giant lantern sways in front of an elaborate glass-and-grillwork doorway framed by concrete columns on either side. Inside we can't help but ooh and ahh over old… More >>
  • Best Post Office That Used to Be Something Else

    North Scottsdale Post Office

    It's a Phoenix thing: There are a lot of buildings here that just aren't what they once were. Our personal fave is Breuners. Oops, we mean the Scottsdale Post Office on Scottsdale Road just north of McDowell. Not long after Breuners went belly-up in 2007, the post office moved in and turned this former furniture store into a place where… More >>
  • Best Elevator

    Compass Restaurant, Hyatt Regency Phoenix

    Arizona's best Roald Dahl-style "Great Glass Elevator" is at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix. It whooshes you skyward to the 24th floor, the home of the revolving Compass Restaurant. As you shoot up, it's fun to lean forward and place your forehead against the glass, giving yourself just a drop of vertigo. At the top, if you're feeling flush,… More >>
  • Best Bathrooms

    Liberty Market

    Can't afford that vacation to Italy you've been dreaming of? Us, either. But do you have enough gas money to get to Gilbert? If so, you're in luck. But be sure to guzzle something on the way, so you have a reason to use the loo. Each of the five stalls at Liberty Market — restaurateur Joe Johnston's latest brainchild —… More >>
  • Best Budget Boutique Hotel

    Aloft

    The inclusion of an iPod-ready adapter for an in-room stereo is a hotel convenience not to be underestimated. Taking your iPod to the lobby bar and subjecting guests to your favorite Japanese tracks during Aloft's weekly DJ nights is added value we just can't put a price tag on. That's why we're up for staying at Aloft even though we… More >>
  • Best Bang for the Buck

    Phx Bux

    Waves were made in July when local artist/designer/anti-establishment thinker Joey Grether pumped out a local currency called Phx Bux. The small metal tokens are worth a dollar each and accepted by more than 20 independent businesses. The idea is to keep the money moving locally and draw the attention of consumers who may be tired of shopping at malls and… More >>
  • Best Free Culture

    Culture Pass

    Finally, you no longer have to be rich to feel educated and fancy, thanks to a nifty invention, courtesy of the Valley's library systems and museums, called the Culture Pass. If you're a library cardholder, you can walk into one of six Valley libraries and choose one of 13 Valley museums to visit — gratis. You will get a slip,… More >>
  • Best Free Art in Phoenix

    Phoenix Art Museum, Wednesdays 3 to 9 p.m.

    Now, now. Before you get too excited, we'd like to note that though the Phoenix Art Museum does offer free entry once a week, you are encouraged to make a small donation. So don't be a total freeloader. At least shovel out the change you found under your couch cushions to drop in the box as you take your date… More >>
  • Best Free Art in Scottsdale

    Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Thursdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

    Get your culture free in downtown Scottsdale. Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art offers free entry every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Donations are accepted.) Situated in the Scottsdale Civic Center next to some of the city's hottest spots, including AZ88 and the Mondrian, the museum is one of our favorite stops for contemporary art shows. With just a… More >>
  • Best Free Classical Music

    Glendale Community College

    Every few months, the Glendale Community College Percussion Ensemble holds free concerts in the school's cozy and acoustically awesome auditorium. The programs, which take place a few times each semester, are more experimental in scope (think John Cage and Steve Reich), and sometimes stray away from the classical idiom altogether — one gig featured the music of Mr. Bungle, Frank… More >>
  • Best Way to Hear Phoenix Symphony Members Play on the Cheap

    Downtown Chamber Series

    Can't afford a night at Symphony Hall? Don't fret, because you can catch Phoenix Symphony musicians performing in intimate venues for only a 10-spot. Concerts, which take place every few months, are performed at various downtown art spaces. This rules, because there's always an awesome art backdrop for the music. The majority of the compositions — which are programmed by… More >>
  • Best Stage Bargain

    Actors Theatre Flex Pass

    Times are tough, and nobody knows this as well as your local theater companies. Actors Theatre of Phoenix, one of only a handful of professional troupes in the state, wants not only to stay in business, but wants us to be able to afford to see its often marvelous productions at the Herberger Theater Center as well. Toward that end,… More >>
  • Best Free Outdoor Movies

    Movies in the Park

    One of the reasons we make this place home is the fact that we can be outside at night in November and not freeze our butts off. Not only that — we can watch movies under the stars! Biltmore Fashion Park has a complimentary film series, which runs from October through December. Featuring classic titles and holiday favorites, the series… More >>
  • Best Budget Movies

    Pollack Tempe Cinemas

    We love this little theater for its cheap movies, and even more for the free bonus we get when we walk in the door. Dollar-theater lobbies are often some of the sketchier places you'll find in suburban strip malls, filled with broken arcade games and dirtbag teenagers. Not Pollack Tempe Cinemas. Local real estate tycoon Michael Pollack decided to pull… More >>
  • Best Bake Sale

    Bake for Hope

    There is nothing quite like the feel-good moment of biting into a homemade cupcake, unless it's knowing your sugar rush went to a worthy cause. Bake for Hope organizes weeklong bake sales, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to breast cancer charities. The Phoenix chapter, with only two months of organization this year, sponsored seven sales and raised more… More >>
  • Best Geeks with a Cause

    Arizona Browncoats

    There are a ton of geeks around these days, so this one was tough to narrow down, but when you've got a group whose sole reason for existence is an 11-episode TV series that was axed in 2002, well, maybe it's not so tough after all. These do-gooder space cases reside in a place called the Whedonverse — named for Joss… More >>
  • Best Nerds with a Cause

    Dune Sea Garrison

    If you only knew the charitable contributions of the dark side of the force, you'd know precisely why we've picked the Dune Sea Garrison as the best nerds with a cause. The garrison is the Arizona chapter of the 501st Legion, a worldwide organization of Star Wars costume makers who use their movie-accurate bad-guy outfits to walk for multiple sclerosis… More >>
  • Best Volunteer Gig

    TOPS (Team of Physicians for Students)

    About a decade ago, a veteran Phoenix sports medicine doc named Paul Steingard started this laudable volunteer program hoping to save the lives of young athletes who, unknowingly, are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest and other potentially dangerous medical conditions. This year, more than 2,000 students — eighth grade through community college — went through the free TOPS screenings,… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Help in Tough Times

    Fresh Start Women's Center

    Found yourself thinking, "I need help"? Thought so. That's why we love Fresh Start Women's Foundation. Located in downtown Phoenix, the Jewell McFarland Lewis Fresh Start Women's Resource Center was the first comprehensive self-help center for women in the country. The center is designed for women 18 and older, and with $5 workshops on everything from crisis budgeting, family law… More >>
  • Best Escape Act

    Pamela Slim

    Escape from Cubicle Nation. It's a great name and a great sentiment. And it's just what Pamela Slim helps her clients do everyday — and she does it all from her living room in Mesa. A certified life coach who trained with Martha Beck (of Oprah fame) and a specialist in business and community development, Pam Slim is a bona fide… More >>
  • Best Ambassadors

    Copper Square Ambassadors

    Usually the word "ambassador" conjures up images of overpaid, overindulged, three-piece-suit-wearing foreign dignitaries who don't have to pay their parking tickets. In downtown Phoenix, it means friendly folks who will answer questions, show you around, and even walk you to your car. Dressed in orange shirts brighter than a hunting vest, they're like urban Boy Scouts who are always prepared… More >>
  • Best Small-Business Incubator

    .anti_space

    While big chunks of downtown Phoenix are developing spaces for mega-corporations and ultra-spendy lofts, it seems there's nary a hope left for the entrepreneur who wants to get a business off the ground. That's why we love .anti_space. Located on the corner of Fourth Street and McKinley, this L-shaped conclave is helping the little guy grow his vision and climb… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Street Festival

    Melrose on Seventh Avenue Street Fair

    Now that Melrose on Seventh has emerged as the 'Who's Who' of CenPho shopping districts, what better way to solidify your status as a killer 'hood than a street festival? And when it comes to neighborhood street festivals, no one does it better than Melrose on Seventh. Recently celebrating its eighth year, this annual festival keeps getting bigger and better.… More >>
  • Best Cultural Festival

    Matsuri

    Nothing says spring like a couple of nikku-filled onigiri and a little taiko. Can't understand us? Don't turn on the subtitles, just head to Matsuri for a couple of meat-filled rice balls and a little Japanese drumming. This downtown Phoenix festival celebrates other aspects of Japan, like the humble bento (lunch box) and karaoke (singing like a drunken cow in… More >>
  • Best Music Festival

    McDowell Mountain Music Festival

    Perfect spring and fall weather make Arizona an ideal location for music festivals. There's none better than McDowell Mountain Music Festival. Like any other festival, this smallish hippie gathering at WestWorld in Scottsdale draws acts we love (The Flaming Lips) and acts we're not so crazy about (Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu). But no matter who's playing, it's always a great… More >>
  • Best Fight for the Right to Paaaaarty

    Carrie Schnepf

    We're not sure why anyone in their right mind would try to go up against Queen Creek's most glamorous farmer's wife, Carrie Schnepf, but some politicians and neighbors did just that earlier this year. Schnepf and her husband, Mark, said they needed to host more concerts in their old cotton fields to keep their family-owned plot, Schnepf Farms, afloat in… More >>
  • Best DUI

    Charles Barkley

    Not only did former Phoenix Suns star Charles Barkley blow through a stop sign on his way to a blowjob, he actually bragged about the jobber's skills to the cop who pulled him over. Then Barkley supposedly told an employee at the police station that he would tattoo the employee's name on his ass if he could get out of… More >>
  • Best Way to Avoid a DUI

    Zingo Arizona

    Here's a dollar figure we'd like to throw out atcha: $6,700. It's the estimated average cost in Arizona these days for getting nailed with a first-time DUI conviction, including a slew of fines, court fees, and payouts to the insurance man. (Ouch!) And now, we've got a substantially lower monetary amount for you: $55, which is the average price of… More >>
  • Best Reinvented Police Department

    El Mirage Police Department

    The police department in this tiny (but still growing, even now) town in the far West Valley used to have a reputation among other law enforcement agencies as notably inept, way behind the times, and even, gasp, corrupt. And that was even before the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office contracted to do a lot of the work inside town limits. (That… More >>
  • Best Monthly Coffee Klatch

    Downtown Monthly Coffee with Mayor Phil Gordon

    In other parts of the country, and even the Valley, getting up close and personal with the mayor is limited to pictures in the paper, scathing editorials, and the occasional segment on the nightly news. Thanks to Mayor Phil Gordon's love of coffee and downtown Phoenix — and not to mention the fact that he's one chatty guy — you're… More >>
  • Best Local Blog about Coffee

    Arizona Coffee

    Chris Tingom knows coffee like a veteran barista knows "the shakes." Lucky for us, he's got a steady photo hand, despite all of his caffeine consumption. Tingom brews Arizona's ultimate coffee blog day in and day out: Arizona Coffee. Tingom delicately balances news posts about coffee openings and closings with full-flavored analysis, written with a level of detail and research… More >>
  • Best Bacon Lady

    Heather Lauer

    Heather Lauer wasn't always into porcine belly meat. As the author/blogger told a correspondent for www.mrbaconpants.com last May, her infatuation with the heart-stopping delight began in the summer of 2005, when the then-partner at a D.C. consulting firm and her brothers got drunk, tipsily lit on the subject of bacon, and came up with the appellation "Best Meat Ever." "The next… More >>
  • Best Social Butterfly

    Raven Valdes

    But for her long, black mane and the constant chirping, buzzing, and tweeting of her social-networking accoutrements, you could mistake good-time girl Raven Valdes for a film noir minx. With her exotic dress and carriage, she seems out of another time. The irony, of course, is that she's the very definition of her linked-in age. The 50-year-old divorced mother of a… More >>
  • Best Meet-Up

    The Arizona WineBats

    What? You haven't heard about meetup.com? Let us introduce you. Meet Up is all over the country, including Phoenix — a free Web site where people with all kinds of interests can hook up. We don't mean that kind of hook-up, though we suppose a few love connections have been made this way. The rules are a bit complicated —… More >>
  • Best Tweet-Up

    East Valley Friday Nights

    By now you've heard of Meet Up. And you've probably heard of Twitter, another social-networking site that allows you to . . . Well, so far, all we can see is that it allows you to waste time at work when you've exhausted your options on Facebook. But have you ever heard of a tweet-up? Believe it or not, we had trouble choosing the… More >>
  • Best Shameless Tweeting

    P.F. Chang's China Bistro and "superfan" Adam Aponte

    When we got a press release last summer stating that a self-proclaimed "superfan" of P.F. Chang's China Bistro was about to go on a seven-state road trip in order to eat at as many different (and yet exactly the same) restaurants as possible — all for the sheer joy that Mongolian Beef brings him — we were a little skeptical.… More >>
  • Best Twitter Drama

    RealSheriffJoe versus JoeArpaio

    Though he's since sissied out, changing his handle from "JoeArpaio" to "FauxSheriffJoe" and adding a clear disclaimer explaining that he's "satirizing" our sheriff (who twitters under RealSheriffJoe —or at least, someone on his staff does), for a while JoeArpaio seemed to have some people fooled. Then a local TV station killed the joke, sorting out the whole matter in a… More >>
  • Best Twitter for a History Buff

    @azhistory

    Everyone seems to complain about Phoenix's lack of natives and abundance of out-of-state transplants. And though we love this city, that mix can lead to a shallow sense of history. What a shame. Prideful nostalgia is a crucial ingredient for a sense of place. But in our modern world, the Internet can give us anything we lack, and the tweeter… More >>
  • Best Facebook Update

    Christa Severns

    It wasn't as ill-advised as blabbing about her sex life — or noting something euphemistically suggestive like "Christa is higher than a kite." But Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon's soon-to-be-ex-wife, Christa Severns, certainly touched off a firestorm when she posted this on Facebook last spring: "Christa Severns is thinking of changing careers and taking up lobbying the city of Phoenix. Hell,… More >>
  • Best Old-School Bulletin Board

    Fifth Street Community Board

    In the current hyper-digital age of instantaneous tweets and Facebook status updates blasting out the latest news and gossip 24/7, it seems downright Luddite to use something as lo-fi as a bulletin board to get the lowdown on downtown Phoenix culture. Such is the case with the bulletin board on Fifth Street in front of the Tumbleweed Center's Drop-In Gallery,… More >>
  • Best Lo-Fi Way to Get Answers

    Phoenix Public Library, Telephone Reference Line

    Imagine this: You need answers. But you're not sitting in front of a computer or within reach of an iPhone. Never fear, telephone reference is here. Forget Google, and Wikipedia — at the Phoenix Public Library telephone reference desk, real people are ready to answer your calls and give you useful information. Picture the Katharine Hepburn movie Desk Set, in… More >>
  • Best Stickers

    "Sticker Phiends" Art Show

    Art crimes move from the street and into a legal art space during this yearly exhibit. Curated by graffiti and gallery artist Mad­One, the show showcases adhesive art as well as one-of-a-kind screen prints by urban artists from around the country. The show, which usually hangs in the winter or spring, has exhibited at various downtown spaces, including HoodRide Bodega… More >>
  • Best New Art Gallery

    Alta Space Gallery at Alta Phoenix Lofts

    As high-rise condos and huge developments, like the proposed CityScape, start crowding downtown Phoenix, the arts community is bracing to be overrun with chain stores. That's why we're glad to see places like the Alta Space Gallery crop up in a new condo building. Rather than crowding the bottom floor with a Pottery Barn or an American Apparel, Alta Group… More >>
  • Best Addition to the East Valley Arts Scene

    SunDust Gallery

    Valley residents are tired of hearing how two of their beloved 'burbs (Mesa and Chandler) rated in Forbes magazine's Top 10 Most Boring Cities. So we were thrilled to see Ron Floyd, a well-known art professor and president of the East Valley Art Guild, unveil a new multi-purpose art space in a historic downtown Mesa storefront in mid-September. The SunDust Art… More >>
  • Best Move

    Perihelion Arts - CLOSED

    Just as we were wrapping up our Best of Phoenix issue last year, Perihelion Arts made its move. Literally. The gallery moved from the corner of 15th Avenue and Grand to the north side of Roosevelt, along the same strip as Tammie Coe in the Artisan Village complex. Since then, 2009 has seen Roosevelt explode to full capacity on both… More >>
  • Best Stop on Art Detour

    Studio+

    We reckon Justin McBee must have a third-degree black belt in the skill of combining art and music to create mighty big blowouts. The wacked-out wingdings he and former cohort Scot McKenzie conjured up at .anti_space over the past five years are the stuff of downtown Phoenix legend, like after-hours underground electronic noise fests at the gallery's old home at… More >>
  • Best Place to Be Seen on First Friday

    Fifth Street, between Roosevelt and Garfield

    It's estimated that an average of 11,000 people turn up in downtown Phoenix during any given First Friday. And as far as we can tell, it seems like every last one of these souls is attempting to jam in and around the intersection of Fifth and Roosevelt streets. We're not effing with you, bub. Imagine a cattle call for the… More >>
  • Best Place to Be Seen on Third Friday

    The Firehouse

    We fear the day when downtown's quirky galleries start becoming gentrified in the name of "revitalization." Until then, we'll make sure to spend our Third Fridays people-watching at the most bohemian of them all — the Firehouse, a collective with live/work space for nine artists, and a gallery-slash-retail section in the front. The once unassuming white building now calls out… More >>
  • Best Place to See Photography

    Northlight Gallery at Matthews Hall

    If you're a camera nerd, you'll heart this to-the-point gallery located at the west end of ASU's main campus. Headed by Liz Allen, a university photography professor and killer shutterbug, the space showcases original photography and, sometimes, video installations that are heavy on student work as well as work produced by ASU alums. Themes are wide-ranging — for example, during… More >>
  • Best Place for Culture-Starved Insomniacs

    Phoenix Airport Museum

    What's open in this town 24-7-365 and isn't a convenience store, self-serve car wash, or emergency room? You got it. The airport. At our airport, you can do more than just watch planes taking off and landing. Sky Harbor's Airport Museum is not a museum in the typical sense of the word, but a collection of changing exhibits located in various display… More >>
  • Best Zombie-Inspired Art

    Sock Zombies by Erin Glaser

    In the past year, zombies invaded our movie theaters (Quarantine), our bookstores (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and our clubs (Zombie Prom). Now, the undead have chewed their way into the local indie crafts scene. When her writing prospects dried up, Erin Glaser started making zombie sock puppets for extra cash. The rainbow-colored critters with glittery red dried "blood" and… More >>
  • Best Artist Who Colors Outside the Lines

    Kyle Jordre of Jordre Studio - CLOSED

    Oh, how we envy local artist Kyle Jordre. He stumbled onto his true passion when he decided a large blank wall in his former apartment needed a Jackson Pollock-style treatment. A couple of canvases, brushes, and gallons of home improvement store "oops" paint later, Jordre quit his job teaching sixth-grade social studies to follow in Pollock's footsteps. Now, as he… More >>
  • Best Rapper Turned Preacher

    Ma$e

    Ma$e isn't technically a local boy, but Puff Daddy's former protégé is in town once a week to preach at the church he's starting in central Phoenix. The "Mo Money Mo Problems" rapper converted to Christianity at the height of his popularity and, after laying low for a few years, started a church in Atlanta, which is making its first… More >>
  • Best Place to See Atheists Debating Christians

    Mill Avenue in Tempe

    On any given weekend night on any given corner of Mill Avenue (most often, it’s Fridays on Fifth and Sixth streets), Christian groups gather to preach through microphones and pass out church tracts. They’ve been doing it for several years, but in the past year or so, they’ve been challenged by Valley atheists, who set up microphones on the same… More >>
  • Best Rebel Stickin' It to the Man

    Fronzo "The Fonz" West

    Fronzo West has a rap sheet so big you could tie it around City Hall, like a giant bow. And he has a car emblazoned with the motto he lives by, "Fuck the police." And if you're guessing that the former is caused by the latter, you ain't too far off. He also writes his special message to gendarmes all… More >>
  • Best Power Couple

    Jack and Connie Harris

    They are just about the last people in the Valley who would want such a honor, but Phoenix's police chief — make that public safety manager — and his wife, Deer Valley Unified School District's associate superintendent, are eminently deserving of the phrase "power couple." Jack, of course, has become the devil incarnate to many in the anti-immigration set, the personification… More >>
  • Best Disappearing Act

    Janet Napolitano

    It's not as if things were perfect in 2008. But let's face it: The squabbling we endured at the state Capitol last year was bliss compared to the budget bloodletting that's proved necessary in 2009. We're not accusing of her doing it on purpose, but it's kind of amazing how Janet Napolitano blithely walked away from the governorship, and Arizona,… More >>
  • Best Public Information Officer

    Richard de Uriarte, Maricopa County

    We loved Richard de Uriarte even when he wrote for the Arizona Republic's editorial page. (That's saying something, considering New Times' longtime animosity for the daily rag.) But we love him even more as the public information officer for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. With all the controversy that august body has been embroiled in this year, no one… More >>
  • Best Government Customer Service

    Maricopa County Superior Court records room

    Like just about everywhere else, the staff at the records room in the basement of the Jackson Street parking structure has shrunk in the past year or so. That has meant longer lines and shorter tempers at times. But we would be remiss if we didn't tip our caps to the clerks who quietly labor behind the counter there five… More >>
  • Best Letter

    High school student Ana Garcia to State Senator Linda Gray

    Ana Garcia, a sophomore at a Phoenix-area high school, surely didn't mean to set off a public firestorm when she sent a quick e-mail to State Senator Linda Gray. Garcia was simply asking the Legislature not to cut funds for education. But Gray — who clearly didn't realize she was dealing with a 15-year-old with learning challenges — dashed off… More >>
  • Best Pimp

    Jason Rose

    If we had something to sell, or a position to defend, or an ass to cover, you can bet we'd call Jason Rose. We always feel dizzy when we hang up the phone with the PR exec, but, hey, at least he takes our calls. That's more than we can say for a lot of the cowards in this town.… More >>
  • Best Coup

    The East Valley Tribune's Pulitzer Prize

    It's been an awful year for the East Valley Tribune. The once-venerable newspaper laid off half of its staff and trimmed its publication from daily to four days a week — only to eventually shed even more staffers and cut back to three days. With many of the best staffers gone and the Web site an awful red mess, we… More >>
  • Best News Radio Station

    KJZZ 91.5 FM

    NPR has always been the classiest act on our airwaves. And lately, with more and more radio stations cutting their news staff, it's now also, hands down, the most informative. The morning drive-time show doesn't give us just local headlines at the top of the hour; there's also a good chance we'll get a locally produced feature or two. Later… More >>
  • Best Radio News Reporter

    Jim Cross

    Jim Cross sounds believable and accurate, and with good reason: He is. KTAR's lead news reporter has been telling us important stories from around the state day after day, pounding that rigorous 3 to 11 a.m. shift with the same enthusiasm now as when he was hired in 1999. Cross especially excels during crunch time, when events are fluid and… More >>
  • Best Television Reporter

    Mike Watkiss

    It's downright impossible to find competition for Mike Watkiss in this wrecking ball of a media market. Watkiss, a mighty mite with a big voice and a bigger heart, is definitely old school. (For the record, we consider that a compliment.) The guy literally pounds the pavement looking for lowdown stories about murder, mayhem, and the otherwise seamy side of… More >>
  • Best Television Host

    Ted Simons, Horizon

    Since taking the host's seat at Channel 8's Horizon show a few years ago, Simons has done wonders to spice up a public-affairs show that, frankly, had become as exciting as watching toast brown or water boil. The guy truly is erudite, able to discuss the nuances of Dylan's Blonde on Blonde in one breath and evolving Arizona water policies,… More >>
  • Best Television Show Hyping Local Music

    Indie Music Phoenix

    Shane Matsumoto hates it when people trash the local music scene. "I'm tired of people calling our scene the red-headed stepchild of L.A.," he says. "We're the fifth-largest city in the U.S., and there's lots of good musicians here. People who criticize Phoenix just don't know where to look for it." The 33-year-old co-owner of the Highland Recorders Studio certainly… More >>
  • Best Radio Station for Local Music

    The Blaze 1330 AM

    Okay, first, let's get past the jokes: Yes, ASU's radio station, The Blaze 1330 AM, has an — ahem — limited range. In fact, your signal may start to break up on the south side of campus, which is why most listeners are online. But what the Blaze lacks in speaker-rattling power, it makes up for by being more in… More >>
  • Best Online Music Station That Should Be a Radio Station

    In a just and fair world, the signals of Radio Phoenix would surge across the Phoenix area with 100,000 watts of clarity. Car stereos and hi-fi sets from Surprise to San Tan Valley would broadcast the station’s über-eclectic blend of indie/underground music and community-based talk programming. We know listeners would dig Hip Rawk Nation with Kaja Brown on Wednesdays, which… More >>
  • Best Archive of Old-School Arizona Punk

    Shavedneck

    As groovy as it can be to catch shows at Valley rock clubs like Jugheads and Hollywood Alley, these joints ultimately bow to the awesomeness that was Madison Square Garden back in the day. A scuzzy mecca for punk and hardcore gigs during the early '80s, the defunct east Phoenix gymnasium/nightclub is where both renowned locals (JFA, The Feederz) and… More >>
  • Best Rock Radio Personality

    Tim Virgin

    Tim Virgin isn't the most talkative DJ on Phoenix's rock radio scene, but that's kinda what we like about him. Market-wise, he's no virgin, bouncing all around this great land before landing at The Edge, where he spins a lot of '90s "alternative" rock, mixed with a select number of newer bands, during his afternoon slot. He's got a unique… More >>
  • Best Hip-Hop Radio Personality

    DJ Strawberry, 101.5 JAMZ FM

    Our morning commute just gets longer and longer, but it ain't because traffic's snarled again on the I-10. Ever since the acerbic-tongued jock Strawberry gave up his afternoon drive time shift in favor of urging 101.5 JAMZ listeners to "wake that ass up" from 6 to 10 a.m. every weekday, we've been extending our route to the office, if only… More >>
  • Best Hip-Hop Radio Station

    KNRJ ("The Beat of AZ")

    T.I.'s hit single "Dead and Gone" (featuring Justin "Trousersnake" Timberlake) is an exceptional hip-hop track, one of the best off the Paper Trail disc from last year. But after hearing it five times in the span of two hours, even the pair's prodigious rapping and rhyming talents tend to sound a little weak. Same goes for the Black Eyed Peas'… More >>
  • Best Country Radio Personalities

    Ben Campbell and Matt McAllister

    In Phoenix's topsy-turvy and hyper-competitive country radio scene (dominated by the twin-powers of KNIX and KMLE), one moment you're on top, the next you're out the door, and, before you know it, you're working for the other guy. We're not sure KNIX's Ben Campbell and Matt McAllister were good enough to get their former competitor — the Morning Mayor, Dave… More >>
  • Best Country Radio Station

    KSWG 96.3 FM

    For those of you who have lived here for a while, remember when Phoenix was totally Podunk? Seriously. Back in the day, we remember seeing pickup trucks dragging their back bumpers down the freeway and hearing Southern-like accents at the neighborhood Circle K. The only thing missing was pure country-and-Western music on the airwaves, the kind you'd hear driving across… More >>
  • Best Country Music Pilgrimage

    The grave of Waylon Jennings

    Legendary outlaw country singer Waylon Jennings, the first country musician to ever have a platinum record, wasn't originally from Arizona. Though a Texan by birth, he's tied to the Copper State because he lived here much of his life and resurrected his career here by playing gigs seven nights a week at J.D. Musil's nightclub in Tempe. He also passed… More >>
  • Best Kids Music Blog

    Zooglobble

    A few years ago, Stephan Shepherd's wife was asked to edit the newsletter for her parenting group. She roped her hubby into writing reviews of kids' music — and that, boys and girls, is how Phoenix wound up with the best children's music blog around. Shep­herd doesn't just review music and report on the industry on his blog, he also… More >>
  • Best Place to Take a 2-Year-Old

    The Noodle Forest at the Children's Museum of Phoenix

    Google the words "noodle forest" and you'll find hundreds of hits referring to the groovy play area on the third floor of the Children's Museum of Phoenix, which opened last year. The playground is a rainforest of more than 3,000 lime green and creamy orange polyethy­lene foam tubes. The noodles hang from the ceiling and sway gently as kids chase… More >>
  • Best Place for Kids to Act Up

    Childsplay

    Whether it's their beautifully mounted productions at the still-sparkling new Tempe Center for the Arts, or the classes they teach year-round (including weeklong summer programs) at their nearby Tempe facility, Childsplay is a class act. When it comes to instruction, perfection is not the goal — a welcome relief in this all-too-pushy, test-obsessed culture. Kids can take classes with real… More >>
  • Best One-Man Show

    David Barker's Dodging Bullets

    His sabbatical leave during the summer of 2004 led to a crisis in David Barker's life. Like many artists, Barker, a professor of theater in the Herberger College of the Arts best known for his mime performances, turned that crisis into art. Dodging Bullets details the day that Barker's brother-in-law opened fire on him and his sister, the gunman's wife.… More >>
  • Best Contemporary Dance Company

    Scorpius Dance Theatre

    Lisa Starry gets it. The artistic director/choreographer for Phoenix's 10-year-old, 20-member-strong Scorpius collective understands that the terms "modern dance" and "interpretive dance" are buzz-kills in a society with a crippled economy and a stunted attention span. That's why Starry gives hesitant Gen Xers and Yers — the folks with the disposable incomes — what they want. And that's a little pop-culture… More >>
  • Best Traditional Art-Film Theater

    Harkins Camelview 5

    Though there's still some lingering heat, the summer blockbuster season is over, meaning we can avoid overwhelming explosions, manic car chases, and one-note comedies. That's why Harkins Camelview 5 is our haven year-round. Anytime we want to escape the typical celluloid tedium, we can settle into the last theater that the chain's founder, Dwight "Red" Harkins, opened himself. Camelview has… More >>
  • Best Microcinema

    No Festival Required

    When IFC and the Sundance Channel don't quench your thirst for non-traditional cinema, No Festival Required is your mighty-mite hero. The monthly indie and art film showcase started in 2002, taking up the mantle of microcinema that Jeff Cochran left behind. Microcinema refers only to size of the venues, because No Festival Required has always featured works that are bold,… More >>
  • Best Bite-Size Lecture Series

    Ignite Phoenix at The Tempe Center for the Arts (usually)

    As the saying goes, less is more and Ignite Phoenix, the quarterly series of bite-size lectures, epitomizes the axiom. Modeled after the first Ignite event, held in Seattle in 2006, anyone can submit a presentation on anything — as long as it can be completed within five minutes. The hallmark of Ignite Phoenix is the variety of subjects that have… More >>
  • Best Entertainment on the Light Rail

    The Train Tracks

    Musicians seem drawn to using public transit systems as a backdrop for performances. We've seen many a street rat busking in NYC and D.C. subways while strumming their acoustic gee-tars. Maybe it's the captive audience or Americana's deep-rooted bonds shared by trains and tunes. Either way, we figured that once the Valley's light-rail system launched last December, it wouldn't be… More >>
  • Best Light-Rail Resource

    The Rail Life Web site and blog

    A year ago, Metro light rail won Best Anticipated Ride and, so far, it's lived up to the hype. The light rail has essentially opened up a city within a city, and Rail Life has become its vital guide. The Web site is dedicated to all things related to the light rail, from service changes to transportation meetings. On the… More >>
  • Best Video Magazine

    CenPho TV

    Central Phoenix life moves so fast that the phrase "CenPho" has started to sound normal to even the old guard who use "the 602" and "PHX" as terms of endearment. CenPho TV's weekly video podcast moves just as quickly, with Dave Brookhouser and Jacqui Johnson leading a whirlwind tour — less than five minutes — of the major civic, music,… More >>
  • Best Local Vidcast

    binary-chaos.net

    The Internet is either the best invention ever (YouTube, Etsy, www.catsinsinks.com) or the worst (MySpace, Yoga Kitty, that page with Chewbacca singing "Silent Night"). A Phoenix-based Web site that's definitely hovering around awesome status is binary-chaos.net, an all-local affiliation of creative types and their video art. The Pete Petrisko-run URL features videos starring local artists such as Dena Johnson, Babs… More >>
  • Best Webcast That Should Be a Radio Show

    The Jeff Farias Show

    Actually, by the time this Best Of makes it to print, the title of the show might be Best Web­cast That's Finally a Radio Show. Longtime liberal talk-show host Jeff Farias, who used to park himself behind the mike at KPHX 1480 AM, the former home of the ultra-lefty NovaM Radio network, parted ways with his bosses in 2008, months… More >>
  • Best Appearance in an Australian Bank's TV Commercial

    The Cover Up

    In many ways, The Cover Up are local label Modern Art Records' forgotten band: the hardcore counterpart to indie faves like Miniature Tigers and Back Ted N-Ted. But they do have one distinction none of their peers will likely ever equal, having been featured in a commercial commissioned by Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Their bit was part of a series… More >>
  • Best 'Zine

    hoozdo

    For the second year in a row, hoozdo knocks the socks off any Phoenician able to get an issue in his or her lucky little paws. Equal parts celebration of the urban boom that we're on the cusp of and lamentation of the life of Phoenix natives being lost in supermarkets and strip malls, hoozdo brings them together in a… More >>
  • Best Web Comic

    Monster Commute

    For many Valley suburbanites, there's truly no greater torture than the daily commute. Besides all the anger-inducing congestion, there always seem to be annoying X-factors that make the commute even worse: idiotic drivers and even more idiotic cops, not to mention all the obnoxious drive-time DJs. So how does one cope? Peoria graphic artist Daniel M. Davis and his wife,… More >>
  • Best Comic Relief

    "Arizona State Snubs Obama" on The Daily Show

    If only Michael Crow had eaten some namesake fowl and backed down from his mighty institution's boneheaded decision not to give President Barack Obama an honorary sheepskin. It would have been so simple. And it would have spared ASU from being the butt of endless jokes and the object of scorn and derision on The Daily Show, which famously called… More >>
  • Best Snowman in July

    July 28, 2009

    There's just not enough whimsy here in Phoenix, particularly in the summer, so we took note (and a picture) when — on one of the hottest days of the year — we saw a snowman. It was 7:30 a.m., and there he stood, just outside the door of our favorite coffee shop. Melting. He was about as tall as a kindergartner, equipped… More >>
  • Best Graffiti

    Behind La Piñata

    The word "graffiti" usually conjures up images of property value-reducing scrawls, writ large over the sides of houses, fences, and local businesses. That's tagging, and we're on the phone to the city hotline to get it covered up as quickly as the next guy. But all graffiti isn't vandalism. Sometimes, it's art. And, oddly enough, the best example of graffiti… More >>
  • Best Invasion

    Robots in Flight by Atticus Fraley, at Scottsdale Civic Center Bell Tower

    It became difficult to understand how robots could be portrayed in science fiction as threats after seeing Atticus Fraley's installation. The "Bell'e Art" series, presented by Scottsdale Public Art, rotates art in the Scottsdale Civic Center Bell Tower. We haven't loved every pro­ject (frankly, the bubble fountain was disappointing and smelled bad), but we were delighted in early 2009 when… More >>
  • Best Castle

    Tovrea Castle

    Like so many things in Phoenix, Tovrea Castle isn't what it appears to be at all. This peculiar, turreted house, built in 1928 in what was then literally the middle of nowhere at 50th Street and Van Buren, looks more like an attraction at a miniature golf course than a building inspired by the homes of Italian noblemen. Seen from… More >>
  • Best Public Art

    Her Secret Is Patience by Janet Echelman

    No pun intended, but it's a wonder that Her Secret Is Patience, a massive sculptural installation by Boston artist Janet Echelman that now anchors downtown's new Civic Space Park, ever got built to begin with. Inspired by Arizona's monolithic monsoon clouds and the fleeting flowers of the state's iconic saguaro cactus, Echelman's ethereal creation of free-floating netting and steel, which… More >>
  • Best Performance Art

    "Angela Ellsworth: Underpinnings"

    Phoenix multi-media artist Angela Ellsworth is always coming up with brand-new ways of making salient points about art, life, culture, societal mores, and just plain stuff. She scored again, big-time, with an eminently memorable live piece performed January 8 in conjunction with her exhibition, "Angela Ellsworth: Underpinnings," at Lisa Sette Gallery. As a tribute to pioneering female performance artists of the… More >>
  • Best Craft as Art

    Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project

    Billed as "a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft," April's "Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project" — the brainchild of Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute for Figuring (IFF) — turned out to be so much more than that. The Wertheim twins are not only artists, but scientists and writers as well — who better… More >>
  • Best Street Party

    Martha + Mary Fundraiser

    We always applaud efforts to raise money for arts-related projects in the Valley. And we were especially impressed with a street party-cum-art exhibit sponsored by Martha + Mary, a group formed by artist/real estate developer Sloane McFarland that's dedicated to resurrecting Phoenix buildings from the dead and turning them into ultra-hip urban hangouts, like Lux Coffeebar on Central Avenue. Martha + Mary's April… More >>
  • Best Visionary

    Paolo Soleri

    Sometimes we wonder whether legendary Italian architect Paolo Soleri isn't feeling a little smug these days. All signs point to no: The 90-year-old trailblazer was nothing but gracious during his birthday celebration in Scottsdale in June. He took time to pose for photos with families and fans, sipping water, nibbling on a scone, listening intently, and sitting through the heat… More >>
  • Best-Named Park

    Evelyn Hallman Park

    When we heard there's a park in Tempe named for the current mayor's mother, we rolled our eyes. Nice gimme, Hugh! Then a friend corrected us. Turns out Evelyn Hallman is more than deserving of the honor. Hallman, a seamstress, wife, mother of three, and, at one point, diesel mechanic, still managed to find the time to get involved in local… More >>
  • Best Politician

    Barry Goldwater

    LBJ's people smeared him as crazy. They said he was too far right, that (per that awful "Daisy" ad) he'd usher in World War III, that the stakes were simply "too high" to trust him with the country. "In your guts, you know he's nuts," they chanted. And then Barry Goldwater lost the presidency — the first in a long… More >>
  • Best Goddess of the Sisterhood

    Fatimah Halim

    A writer, a singer, an organizer, a teacher, a storyteller, a dancer, and an activist. Fatimah Halim does it all, and she does it for the girls of the Valley. The founder of GHETTO GIRLS and the president and CEO of Blueprint for Womanhood, this goddess preaches the dignity of the Sisterhood (with a capital "S") and the sanctity of womanhood… More >>
  • Best Landmark

    Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa

    You can talk about the Grand Canyon State all you want, but if you come looking, you'll find us at the lobby bar at the Arizona Biltmore, basking in a different kind of state pride. Designed by disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright (or the man himself, depending on whose account you believe), the majestic stone buildings — with their lovely… More >>
  • Best Second Act

    Gerda Weissmann Klein

    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… More >>
  • Best Modernist

    Will Bruder

    Phoenix would be a very different place if architect Will Bruder had followed his original plans and become a sculptor. Bruder, whose designs include the annex of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and downtown's Burton Barr Central Library, received a degree in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin, and studied art and engineering before apprenticing with Paolo Soleri in… More >>
  • Best Booster

    Phil Gordon

    Legacy-wise, it's been an off year for Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. (How could he accomplish any sort of agenda when there's not a penny in the till?) Personally, too, it's been rough out there. (Gordon didn't just get divorced — a political rival actually spread allegations so odious that the FBI had to get involved.) But Phil's still our guy. ¿Por… More >>
  • Best Salesman for a Good Cause

    Nate Anderson

    Nate Anderson radiates the kind of innate charm and cool confidence that only a natural-born salesman could posses. It's to be expected, considering that the 27-year-old Ohio native grew up in a family filled with charismatic entrepreneurs. The lanky redhead is also a genuinely easygoing cat, whose social rapport and smooth-talking swagger probably proved invaluable after he moved to Phoenix in… More >>
  • Best Street of Dreams Come True

    Roosevelt Row

    Many years ago, we were driving home at night through the mildly mean streets of Phoenix when we noticed something you never saw back then in these parts. On a non-descript building on then-non-descript Roosevelt Street, we saw tiny, white holiday lights. And it wasn’t even Christmas. We asked around, and learned that someone had opened a music space: Modified… More >>
  • Best Dreamer

    Jack Pfister

    If we were tacky, we'd give an award for "Best Place to Hold a Memorial Service," and the winner would be the Orpheum Theater. Restored to its glory, trimmed with gold and capped with a breathtaking deep blue, star-strewn ceiling, it's a great place to see a show and an even better place to remember a dreamer. Fancy-pants elected officials and… More >>

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