People & Places

  • Best Dirt


    Here's the dirt: The soil in Phoenix is made mostly of minerals. That's a no-brainer, to be sure. But consider this. In an era when levels of hazardous pollutants are rising alarmingly worldwide, our Arizona soil continues to maintain a shockingly healthy profile. It must be all that dry heat. Or the fact that the soil in Phoenix is composed mainly of… More >>
  • Best Use of an Empty Dirt Lot

    Valley of the Sunflowers

    One thing downtown Phoenix has in abundance is empty dirt lots. Not for long, if one energetic group of civic-minded garderners has anything to do with it. We love simple ideas — those knock-yourself-on-the-side-of-the-head and say, "Why didn't I think of that?!" ideas that make a big splash. In this case, a big splash of color. A highfalutin-sounding partnership of… More >>
  • Best Place to Dig Up the Past

    Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park

    Right in the middle of metropolitan Phoenix, they've been digging for decades at Pueblo Grande. Usually the cache includes clay pots, shell jewelry, and stoneware — Arizona's alkaline dirt isn't good for preserving centuries-old textiles, baskets or bones, although sometimes the intense heat has preserved impressions of such items (or even the rare footprint) onto rock. In the late 1980s,… More >>
  • Best Digger

    Donald Johanson

    In 1974, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson unearthed a revolutionary fossil in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia: the 3.18-million-year-old remains of a female hominid known today as Lucy. Johanson and graduate student Tom Gray were about to return to their camp after long hours of searching for fossilized remains when, on a whim, Johanson insisted on checking a nearby gully one more… More >>
  • Best Buried Treasure Story

    Buried gold at Sierra Estrella

    What makes the buried treasure story of Sierra Estrella (southwest of Phoenix) so cool is that there's not one, but several buried treasure legends tied to the area. One is the "Montezuma Head" treasure, which was supposedly left in a cave at Montezuma Point by a guy named either Campoy or Ortega, depending on which version of the story you… More >>
  • Best Buried Indian Treasures Best Secret

    Heard Museum

    At the bottom of an elevator shaft at the end of a clean hallway in downtown Phoenix's Heard Museum is a basement full of boxes, tubes, and bags. Take a few (very) wrong turns and press a couple of wrong buttons, and you might end up down there — but don't expect to see anything good without a curator. The… More >>
  • Best Mural

    Blue Ooze by David Quan - CLOSED

    You can call David Quan the guy behind many of the large-scale murals on the sides of buildings along Grand Avenue — but he prefers to stick to the moniker Luster Kaboom. The local artist and comic started his Grand Ave. mural habit on The Trunk Space with the huge green face of a slobbering monster (sporting very sophisticated glasses).… More >>
  • Best Underground Artist


    Ike doesn't consider himself a street artist like Banksy of Exit Through the Gift Shop fame. That film presents street artists as talented, cerebral, invested, politically clever, sometimes disturbed guerillas, and it's brought street art into the public consciousness. Some might argue that these artists do us all a public service. They make us laugh and think. Others, and the… More >>
  • Best Graffiti Artist


    Like any good (and smart) graffiti artist, KENO keeps a low profile — until he decides to put up a piece in one of his signature spots or a huge roller (i.e., a thick tag, literally done with a bucket of paint and standard paint roller). His work is recognizable by clean letters and wild styles, and it's traditional by… More >>
  • Best Place to Spot a Stencil

    Northeast corner of Fourth and Garfield streets

    Sure, there are plenty of sidewalk spots and electrical boxes in Phoenix that are decorated by a few secretive street artists in town. But when we want to see something fresh and impressive, we head to the northeast corner of Fourth and Garfield streets. Just behind reBAR, around the corner from the fading Soldierleisure mural, thereís an abandoned, red-brick building whose… More >>
  • Best Bicycle in a Tree

    10th Street and Farmer Avenue, Tempe

    By day, you'd hardly know it was there. Take a stroll down Farmer Avenue in Tempe after dark, though, and you'll undoubtedly come across a glowing purple bicycle permanently fixed atop a tree. The bicycle, the tree, and the purple string of lights all belong to local Tempe artist Eric Iwersen. Why stick a bike in a tree? Why wrap it… More >>
  • Best Rainbow

    Tempe Light Rail Transit Bridge

    Even if you don't actually ride the city's light rail, we bet you've stopped to admire the public art at light-rail stops from the comfort of your car. One of our favorites is visible not only from the road, but also from the ground and even the sky, as it sits above Tempe Town Lake — right below Sky Harbor… More >>
  • Best Sign of Design

    Phoenix Design Week

    Three years ago, Mark Dudlik wrote an open letter that pissed off the Phoenix design community — he wrote that the local design scene was dead. What the local designer meant was that support for local design wasn't strong enough, and if nothing was done, talented and creative people would inevitably skip town. The community reacted, and Dudlik was ready… More >>
  • Best Letterpress

    gallery HAZEL

    On our to-do list: Learn how to letterpress. Okay, so it's right below organize all the closets and master the KitchenAid — it's going to be a while. That's fine, because gallery HAZEL isn't offering letterpress workshops quite yet. Sign us up when they do! We love to visit this sweet little space on First Fridays so we can behold… More >>
  • Best Letterpress Series

    Home Suite Home: PHX

    In the weeks leading up to Best of Phoenix, our culture blog brought you 100 images of the city. One of our favorites comes from artist Melissa McGurgan, who created a series of letterpress prints in an homage to Phoenix. The prints feature common local descriptors, including Dry Heat, Snow Bird, and even Tent City, but our favorite part is… More >>
  • Best Comic Book Artist

    Shelby Robertson

    You won't find local artist Shelby Robertson's pimpest works on the shelves of your local comic book shop, though he's illustrated for the likes of Marvel, DC, and Verotik. A self-taught artist and founder of independent publishing house American Dischord, Robertson plays with the big boys of the comic industry but still takes hand-drawn pin-up commissions for around 50 bucks… More >>
  • Best Local Comic Book

    John Layman's Chew Series

    Zombies might be the "in thing" in sci-fi and fantasy right now, but there are other ways to get your brain-eating comic quotient in without picking up The Walking Dead. Local author John Layman, former editor for DC's Wildstorm branch and author of the fun Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness crossover, branched out on his own in 2009 with… More >>
  • Best Web Comic

    Epic Tales of the Mundane by Brad Dwyer

    Punk rock has never been particularly kind to the art of growing up. There are few stranger sights than a 50-year-old sporting a Mohawk. But Brad Dwyer, who used to shout in punk band Gary's Agenda and currently performs as Brad the One Man Damned, knows how to tell the stories of an aging punk with charm, tact, and humor.… More >>
  • Best Club for Misfits

    The Dark Ones

    There are the jocks and cheerleaders and tight-assed businesspeople and average Joes of this world, and then there are the folks who just don't fit into one of those stifling categories. Some end up burrowing into hidey-holes with LAN games and bags of Cheetos. Others go the academic route and become experts on deciphering dead languages. But the most intriguing… More >>
  • Best Place to Let Your Nerd Flag Fly

    Nerd Nite, Carly's Bistro

    Nerds of the world, unite! Oh, wait, you already did. From Amsterdam to Austin, self-proclaimed nerds are gathering at bars and restaurants to drink and, as they put it, "learn something." And Phoenix is no exception. The new-ish chapter of this oh-so-informal club meets at Carly's Bistro on Roosevelt Row. Topics so far have included "Dialogues between Science and Literature,"… More >>
  • Best Local Presentation Series

    Ignite Phoenix

    Five minutes. Twenty slides. One passion. That's the formula for Ignite Phoenix, a local version of the presentation series originally developed by O'Reilly Media. For each edition of Ignite Phoenix, several would-be presenters submit talks based on their greatest passions. Eighteen speakers are chosen and stand in front of 800 or so audience members at the Scottsdale Center for the… More >>
  • Best Unofficial Phoenix Historian

    Marshall Shore

    Marshall Shore met his obsession with history in a bag of old slides in a downtown Phoenix vintage store. He bought the bag, thumbed through the transparencies, and projected them in his backyard. Shore says they were more than just old photos — they were forgotten stories, and he was determined to fill in the blanks. Shore grew up in… More >>
  • Best Beer and Wings

    Birds n' Beer

    We love a good lecture series. No, really. Have you been to Ignite? Heard about TED? Infomercial meets stand-up — it's all the rage, and we love to sit back and learn something we didn't already know.Add Four Peaks beer and we'll be the first in line.That's what the smart folks at Audubon Arizona did. They know their subject matter… More >>
  • Best Beer Museum

    Scottsdale Beer Museum

    Bradley Whicker never met a beer can he didn't like. Take a gander inside the garage of his Scottsdale home and you'll see proof of that, as it's filled from floor to ceiling with his ever-growing collection of ale cans and beer memorabilia. It's more than just aluminum castoffs, however. Dozens of bookshelves hold a suds-soaked treasure trove of more… More >>
  • Best Beer Festival

    Strong Beer Festival

    We ruined a pair of shoes at this year's Strong Beer Festival. Naturally, on the February day that Phoenicians had the opportunity to enjoy dozens of heavily fortified brews, the gods saw fit to make it rain in the desert. And what a torrential downpour. Mud was everywhere. Beer was sucked down like a shot before Mother Nature could dilute… More >>
  • Best Culinary Festival

    Devoured Culinary Festival, Phoenix Art Museum

    Run by Local First AZ and presented in the lush courtyard of the Phoenix Art Museum, Devoured manages to hit all the right notes: tons of food, upscale offerings (like Modern Steak's Kobe beef and lobster slider with caviar aioli), copious amounts of local wine, such comfort foods as chili and corn dogs, and cozy seating areas to enjoy it… More >>
  • Best Free Festival

    Certified Local Fall Festival, Duck & Decanter

    Even though all the delicious eats are free, gluttony takes a backseat to community at the annual Certified Local Fall Festival. Created in 2004 by Local First Arizona, the festival boasts a ton of food from independent eateries Green, Spinato's Pizzeria, Postino Winecafe, and more, plus a rock wall, face painting, and booths from local vendors such as Smeeks and… More >>
  • Best Cultural Festival

    Arizona Aloha Festival, Tempe Beach Park

    The annual Arizona Aloha Festival goes beyond big, burly Samoans slapping their chests and sexy hula dancers swinging their hips — though we certainly don't mind either of those attractions. The event has grown in popularity and size since moving to Tempe in 2009 and now boasts a marketplace filled with coconut shell purses, hand-carved mother-of-pearl necklaces, and replicas of… More >>
  • Best Arts Festival

    Crafeteria, Medlock Plaza

    To be honest, we havenít bought a thing at a so-called arts festival in years. In fact, if we never see another ceramic Kleenex box holder or a howling coyote watercolor, it will be too soon. About the only thing art festivals are good for is people-watching and kettle corn. At least, that was our position ítil we hit the… More >>
  • Best Music Festival

    McDowell Mountain Music Festival

    Coined "A Party with a Purpose," this music festival is all about the tunes, but it also has a strong focus on charity. All proceeds raised during the festival are donated to Phoenix Day Family & Learning Center and Ear Candy. This festival packs a punch in the music department, too. Bands come from all over the world to play… More >>
  • Best Theater Festival

    Phoenix Fringe Festival

    We love that this alternative-theater festival spotlights the kind of awesome small-budget gems you'd find showing at a Greenwich Village playhouse, which is welcome relief from the recycled Neil Simon snoozers and jukebox musicals Phoenix is known for inviting. This year's event was also rife with Arizona premières, including Steven Fales' Confessions of a Mormon Boy (originally directed by Tony… More >>
  • Best Music Festival for Kids

    Hoodstock, Hoodlums Music and Movies - CLOSED

    Here's a little secret: The guys who run the music store next to Changing Hands in Tempe call themselves hoodlums — and maybe they look like it, just a little — but really, they're old softies. Just check them out each spring when they throw a weekend-long music festival, aptly named Hoodstock. Fans pack the tiny store to catch local… More >>
  • Best Concert Series

    Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

    Way out in the desert near Cave Creek sits this bastion of the Christian faith and a congregation about 1,400-strong. Sure, Pinnacle Presbyterian offers the usual Sunday-morning fare and other "normal" church stuff. But there's much more: For more than a decade now, the church has offered an annual series of surprisingly eclectic musical concerts that draw a surprisingly eclectic… More >>
  • Best Gospel Treasure

    Reverend Louis Overstreet

    In 1938, Reverend Louis Overstreet heard the voice of God, and it told him to buy a guitar. From that moment on, Overstreet made his way as a gospel singer, belting out heavy, blues-inspired music while preaching on street corners. In July 1961, Overstreet and family found themselves in Phoenix, playing outside a nightclub called Trotter's Inn, on Broadway Road.… More >>
  • Best Obnoxious Display of Patriotism

    KOOL 94.5 FM

    Considering the lack of a serious military presence here, it's sometimes surprising just how enthusiastic Phoenix gets about the good ol' U.S. of A. For a clear example, just tune into KOOL 94.5 FM at noon. For some reason, the station, which plays a classic hits format with a strong '70s bent (think: Phil Collins' "Sussudio") plays "The Star-Spangled Banner"… More >>
  • Best Christmas Spirit

    Sepanek Home

    Phoenix is usually proud of its winter weather, especially on those pleasantly balmy days when the rest of the country is snowshoeing to work. Well, except for a few weeks in December, around the time that elves, failed real estate developers, and their respective guardian angels take over our televisions. That's when you can sense that the city gets a… More >>
  • Best Glimpse of Wonderland

    "Curiouser and Curiouser," Arizona Science Center

    No need to be wary of the large eye watching you walk through the lobby of the Arizona Science Center; the huge lens is the latest collaborative and interactive piece by local artists Mary Lucking and David Tinapple. "Curiouser and Curiouser" borrows its name from Alice in Wonderland. It invites visitors to peer at each other through a giant telescope/microscope… More >>
  • Best Urban Legend

    UFO crash site, Dreamy Draw Recreation Area

    When it comes to Phoenix's best urban legend, folks tend to forget the facts and just love the lore. The lore: In October 1947, there was a UFO crash in what is now the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area. Two men named Silas Newton and "Dr. Gee" claimed to have pulled alien bodies from the wreckage and stored them in a… More >>
  • Best Keeper of Secrets

    Mountain Vault

    Are you a jewel thief or a gold smuggler looking for a hush-hush place to stash your purloined goods? Then steer your getaway car to the Mountain Vault, a high-tech (and super-secretive) storage facility that's drilled directly into the side of a mountain in north central Phoenix. How do we know it's so secretive? Because not only did they refuse… More >>
  • Best Underground Haunting

    Main Street Tunnels in Mesa

    And you thought the East Valley was so staid. Think again. Business owners along Mesa's Main Street have reported knickknacks falling off shelves and mysterious items being found in basement storage areas. The row of vintage brick buildings sits atop a series of tunnels rumored to have been used for bootlegging alcohol during Prohibition. Most of the connecting tunnels have… More >>
  • Best Place to Find Famous People


    It's probably no huge surprise that Ladmo, the iconic host of Phoenix's historic kiddy TV program The Wallace and Ladmo Show, is buried here (at St. Francis Cemetery, 2033 N. 48th St.). Or that country music legend and former Phoenician Waylon Jennings' final resting place is right here in the East Valley (at Mesa Cemetery, 1212 N. Center St. in… More >>
  • Best Place to Urinate in Public

    The Blarney Stone, Casey Moore's Oyster House

    We've all been there. You're at Casey's, drinking what started out as one pint of IPA. It quickly turns to two and, then, God knows how many. What is certain is the raging flood of urine currently threatening to saturate your pants if you don't get up and do something about it. Pushing your way through the throng of bar-goers… More >>
  • Best Way to See the Art You Missed on First Friday

    Third Friday

    Downtown Phoenix's First Friday is the largest self-guided art walk in the country. For some, that is reason enough to steer clear. So, if you are more into the art than the scene, go when the crowds are thinner and the experience is about looking instead of being seen. Visit downtown Phoenix galleries on the third Friday of the month.… More >>
  • Best Stop on Art Detour

    Modified Arts

    During the humid March weekend of Art Detour, Modified Arts was a pretty cool refuge. The gallery's main door led into the main room (containing two artist-made video games) and a smaller room, full of computer-created graphic images by Jon Haddock. Each of Haddock's pieces was unlabeled and left visitors guessing which important moments in contemporary world culture were featured.… More >>
  • Best New Gallery

    Art Intersection

    Oh, how great things happen when creative minds collide. In January, Alan Fitzgerald, with the help of local artists Carol Panaro-Smith and James Hajicek, transformed an enormous dance studio into a gallery/workspace in Gilbert. Yes, Gilbert. They founded the 7,000-square-foot space on photography education and built a number of classrooms for creative workshops and public lab space for alternative and… More >>
  • Best Pop-Up Gallery, Downtown Phoenix

    Poolside Gallery, The Lexington Hotel

    There aren't too many places in town where you can see glow-in-the-dark bikinis and have your jeans splatter-painted and signed by a professional artist. That's the magic of Poolside Gallery, the new pop-up run by Phoenix artists Jenny Ignaszewski and Kyle Jordre. Located on the first floor of the gutted and soon-to-be-remodeled Lexington Hotel and facing the hotel's swimming pool,… More >>
  • Best Pop-Up Gallery, Scottsdale

    Scottsdale InFlux

    It was up for only six short months, but the caliber of artists who showed their contemporary, conceptually based art was high. There are very few galleries in town where artists who do not work in a commercially driven manner can show. So when a pop-up experience like InFlux happens in Scotts­dale, we have to stand up, applaud, and celebrate… More >>
  • Best Underground Museum

    ASU Art Museum

    The ASU Art Museum is hard to miss — and the architect meant it that way. Nestled in the middle of a sprawling, desert-pink complex, the museum was designed by Antoine Predock in 1989. You wouldn't know it from the outside, but the main floor of the museum is underground. Inspired by desert architecture such as the Egyptian Valley of… More >>
  • Best Underground Wardrobe

    Dennita Sewell and the Phoenix Art Museum

    As the story goes, when the family of fashion icon Ann Bonfoey Taylor called the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to try to donate pieces from Taylor's incredible wardrobe, the Taylors were sent packing. To Phoenix. Phoenix? This place is hardly the fashion capital of anybody's world — here we glue crap to T-shirts and… More >>
  • Best First Friday Hangout

    Bragg's Pie Factory

    It's tough to spend a lot of time in any of the galleries along Roosevelt Road or Grand Avenue on any given First Friday — and that's no fault of the artwork. Thousands of Phoenicians travel downtown for the monthly artwalk, and they move quickly through the galleries and streets. If you're looking to find a spot to discuss the… More >>
  • Best Place to See Photography

    Tilt Gallery

    The world may not be a black-and-white place, but when it comes to photography either you've got skills or you're no better than a 5-year-old with a cheap, disposable plastic camera. All the artists at Tilt Gallery fall into the former category. We love that owners Melanie and Michelle Craven (twins who graduated from ASU's fine art program) focus on… More >>
  • Best Art Gallery When You've Gotta Fly

    Phoenix Airport Museum

    So, you've got an hour or three to kill at the damn airport and you're sick of people-watching and drinking yet another cup of coffee. You've hit all the stores in Terminal 4, but you're not quite ready to go toe-to-toe with the TSA. We've got the solution, and it's art. The folks at Sky Harbor really have it going… More >>
  • Best Public Art as Tourist Attraction

    Robert Indiana's Love sculpture, Scottsdale Civic Center Mall

    Who doesn't have a picture of themselves in front of the Love sculpture on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall? Visitors to Scottsdale flock to the sculpture because it is one of only a handful of them in the country. It is large and, unlike most pieces of art, you can touch it and climb on it. This makes for a… More >>
  • Best Latte Art

    Lola Coffee - CLOSED

    Joerael Elliott's well known in the Phoenix area for his incredible large-scale murals on the sides of Way Cool Hair Salon and The Caravan, but his latest (very) small-scale work has us hooked on lattes and cappuccinos at Lola Coffee. Between mural gigs and canvas projects, the local artist has a part-time barista gig on weekday afternoons, when you can… More >>
  • Best Coffee Shop Gallery


    We don't mind the notoriously long lines at Lux Coffee Bar — they give us more time to check out what's up on the walls. The shop's monthly rotating shows have included Hipstamatic photography by Jason Hill, a documentation of train graffiti by Christopher Marks, and a photo essay of Haiti by The Parlor owner Aric Mei. Lux owner Jeff… More >>
  • Best Mall

    Scottsdale Fashion Square

    We are not sure why outdoor malls are so trendy these days, because having grown up in the Valley, we find nothing more comforting than the blast of freezing cold, good-smelling air that greets you when you open the door at Scottsdale Fashion Square. We've been around so long that we remember when SFS was an outdoor mall — when… More >>
  • Best Oasis

    Optima Camelview Village

    It's not often that a building turns out looking exactly like the architectural drawing that inspired it. But somehow, Optima's location just north of Scottsdale Fashion Square materialized into a modern version of the famed hanging gardens of Babylon, chock-full of lush climbing plants and beautiful flowering bushes with blossoms the muted orange and purple colors of an Arizona sunset.… More >>
  • Best Green Building

    DC Ranch

    Manhattan has the Hearst Tower, the first truly green skyscraper in the country. In Los Angeles, it's the Audubon Center at Debs Park, with more than half its materials locally manufactured and the first building in the United States to receive a platinum rating under the renowned Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. Here in the Valley, though, we're greener… More >>
  • Best Home Tour

    Modern Phoenix Home Tour of Sunnyslope

    We don't mind a little history lesson with our home tour, so long as it's fun — and Modern Phoenix always provides a nice mix of both education and entertainment to fans of mid-century architecture from all over the Valley. Last April, Modern Phoenix's Alison King and her many dedicated midcentury cronies threw open the doors on a dozen rehabilitated… More >>
  • Best Hunt for Evidence of an Underground Bowling Alley

    The Gold Spot

    It's our own Bigfoot — or is it? Oh, sure. Everyone's heard about the Gold Spot Bowling Alley. And over the summer, rumors about the long-shuttered underground space grew even louder. We couldn't help obsessing. Local photographer Dayvid LeMmon created a Facebook page for the abandoned spot, across Central from the Westward Ho, a few weeks ago. He checked in… More >>
  • Best People-Watching on a Home Tour

    Willo Historic Home Tour

    Historic home tours have become a tradition in our town, and we love any opportunity to go play looky-loo in the old-time houses downtown. But, by far, our favorite is the Willo Home Tour, on which we get to see a nice mix of early-20th-century custom homes and handsome housing developments built in the '30s and '40s. Tract homes never… More >>
  • Best Downtown Building to Poke Your Head Into

    Westward Ho

    Ah, to have vacationed in the Valley in 1928, the year the Westward Ho Resort opened. The 15-story skyscraper was the height of glamour, the tip-top of the local food chain — and you can still glimpse a bit of that today. Providing you can get inside.The term "flop house" is not a nice one, and we're not even sure… More >>
  • Best Warehouse Face Lift

    Phoenix Seed & Feed Building

    In April, Michael Levine was back at it, cursing and working on the oldest remaining warehouse in Phoenix. The local artist, historic preservation advocate, and operator of Levine Machine Development pulled out his scissor lift and power washer, in hopes of restoring the Phoenix Seed & Feed Building before the national spotlight came with the MLB All-Star Game. With a… More >>
  • Best Swastikas Hidden in Plain Sight

    Arizona Department of Agriculture

    There used to be swastikas all over Arizona. And this was way before neo-Nazi-hugger Russell Pearce became state Senate president. Yep, back in pre-WWII Sand Land, swastikas proliferated: on official state road signs, on gas stations, hotels, maps, Navajo rugs and jewelry, baskets by the Maricopa and Pima Indians, you name it.Though the symbol is thousands of years old, an… More >>
  • Best Haboob

    July 5, 2011

    All summer, all the time, it was "haboob this" and "haboob that" — amazing how a word we'd never heard before (despite having lived in Phoenix for decades) got tired practically overnight. For a while, all the boobie jokes ("I Love Haboobs," written in dust on your back windshield, for example) were funny, but by the end of August we… More >>
  • Best Power Couple

    Larry Black and Joel Fox

    Work hard, play hard. That was apparently the motto of Larry Black, a former top aide to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Black's best buddy, Captain Joel Fox. These tireless public servants slaved for two years over a super-secret project to raise money for their boss' 2008 political campaign, then made an illegal $105,000 donation to the state Republican… More >>
  • Best Right Hook

    Aubry Ballard

    Even Mike Tyson doesn't pack a punch powerful enough to cause someone to lose his leadership position in the state Senate. Aubry Ballard, the former flame of onetime Senate Majority Leader Scott Bundgaard, however, does. Ballard and Bundgaard went a few rounds on the side of a Valley freeway in February as they were driving home from a charity event.… More >>
  • Best Mugshot of the Day

    Jeffery Hendershott

    Quite literally, the food is garbage at Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail. And humiliation is always on the menu. It starts as soon as an criminal suspect arrives, when the obligatory photograph taken during the booking process is posted on the Internet and entered into a taxpayer-funded game called Mugshot of the Day. Like a modern-day version of a stockade, the… More >>
  • Best Jan Brewer Moment

    Challenging the State Constitution

    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's the gift that keeps on giving (for political pundits, anyway). Not much will compare to Jan's epic moment of silence during a 2010 gubernatorial debate, during which she clammed up and giggled like a cheerleader for 20 painful seconds. But this is 2011, and Brewer's boneheaded-ness hasn't changed. Brewer, who's in her second term as governor,… More >>
  • Best Sex Scandal

    The Brock Family Circus

    What do you get when you cross politics, religion, and sex? One of the most bizarre sex scandals in the history of both sex and scandals, that's what. The sex scandal that has plagued the devout Mormon family of Maricopa County Supervisor Fulton Brock is a yarn that needs no embellishment. Over several months, it was revealed that Brock's now-estranged… More >>
  • Best Death Row Pig-Out

    Donald Beaty

    The best part about getting executed by the state of Arizona, as several convicted murderers have found out (the hard way) this year, is the food. But some use their last meal to pig out more than others. Take kid-killing rapist Donald Beaty, for example. Beaty was put to death for the 1984 rape and murder of 13-year-old Christy Ann… More >>
  • Best Naked Meth-Head Story

    Theodore "Come and Suck It" Ruiz

    For whatever reason, meth fiends have a tendency to want to strip naked while in the throes of a binge. Similarly, they also tend to masturbate in public — and nobody did it better than Theodore Ruiz. While naked and masturbating outside a Phoenix hotel, Ruiz was approached by police. "You come back here to suck it," Ruiz told cops… More >>
  • Best Way to Sneak Weed into Tent City

    Over the fence

    If you're forced to call Joe Arpaio's infamous gulag, Tent City, home and you like smoking weed, you might be inclined to try and sneak it in the old-fashioned way: your ass. This is a mistake. For starters, who wants to smoke ass weed? Secondly, who wants to stick weed up their ass? The solution: Have someone toss it over… More >>
  • Best Medical Marijuana Signs

    Man Cave Signs

    Man Cave offers all kinds of signs for garages, pubs, etc., but the store's line of marijuana signs is their most colorful. The store's tin signs for medical marijuana include all sorts of pop culture imagery, from a Bob Dobbs-ish guy asking, "It's 4:19. Got a minute?" to a sign designed like a postage stamp and depicting a raven-haired Statue… More >>
  • Best Place to Find or Become a Medical Marijuana Caregiver


    If you're a valid, card-holding medical-marijuana patient unable to procure your own medication, AzGrowPro has got you covered. This company connects patients with caregivers and has several certified caregivers ready to assist patients in the procurement and delivery of medical marijuana. AzGrowPro says its caregivers have access to "award-winning strains from Europe and California's finest," and it even offers assistance… More >>
  • Best Way to Keep the Streets Safe

    Driving MBA

    Just the phrase "teenage driver" is enough to send shivers up and down our spine. For some kids, getting behind the wheel is akin to another act that also may be fast, exciting, and potentially dangerous. Either way, someone might get screwed. Thank goodness (on one front, anyway) for Driving MBA. We have observed this mom-and-pop local operation in action… More >>
  • Best Real-Life Crime Memoir

    The Two-Edged Sword by Donald W. Tucker

    Donald W. Tucker knows the streets — working as a federal narcotics agent on the streets of Chicago and, later, as a member of the Secret Service. He works as a private dick in Scottsdale now, but with The Two-Edged Sword, he's added an "author" notch to his belt of accomplishments. The book explores his experiences as a black man… More >>
  • Best Strip Mall

    Southwest corner of University Drive and Ash Avenue, Tempe

    We'll admit, the gray complex with its drab green trim isn't much to look at, but you know what they say: You can't judge a book by its cover. Even with the death of the beloved Eastside Records, the University and Ash strip mall is home to just about everything we need. Cartel Coffee Lab's iced toddy? Check. Otto's pizza… More >>
  • Best Cop Shop

    Phoenix Police Museum

    This young museum (founded in 1993) is run entirely by volunteer staff, many of whom are family members of police officers, past and present. They love having visitors to the museum and will gladly take you on a tour of the museum exhibits and enthusiastically share all they know about the history of law enforcement in Phoenix. And there's plenty… More >>
  • Best Cop

    Robert Taylor, Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy

    As the career (and credibility) of former Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy Louie Puroll went down in flames this year, an actual hero has emerged from the PCSO: Deputy Robert Taylor, who saved two lives — in two separate incidents — in less than 45 minutes. The first was a choking infant, on whom Taylor performed CPR before getting the girl… More >>
  • Best Intern

    Daniel Hernandez

    While most interns spend their time filling Starbucks orders and finding ways to screw up making photocopies, Daniel Hernandez goes above and beyond. On January 8, Hernandez applied pressure to the entry wound on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' forehead after she was shot through the brain during the Tucson shooting rampage. The quick thinking of Hernandez, whose internship with Giffords started… More >>
  • Best Politician

    U.S. Senator Jon Kyl

    We are quite certain that Jack Kennedy is rolling around in his grave knowing that Jon Kyl — bedrock of the far right, champion of all things conservative — now occupies his old Senate office on Capitol Hill. But even JFK would have to admit that Kyl's a hell of a politician. Earlier this year, Kyl stood on the floor… More >>
  • Best Public Information Officer

    Cari Gerchick

    Vivacious, personable, and brilliant, Cari Gerchick, Maricopa County's primary spokeswoman, makes her job look easy — when it most definitely is not. Having accurate facts at your fingertips when commenting on the business of government in the nation's fourth most populous county is a daunting task, one she does daily with aplomb. Now throw in the fact that she has… More >>
  • Best TV Host

    Ted Simons, Horizon

    If Ted Simons were a jazzman, he'd be Paul Desmond, the longtime alto saxophonist for pianist Dave Brubeck and a master of the melodic and understated amid the tumult. Simons is so well informed about local politics and Issues with a capital (and Capitol) I that it's scary sometimes. Maybe he forgets stuff as soon as he's done with an… More >>
  • Best TV Newscaster

    John Hook

    Plastic hair, shiny suits, lackluster "reporting," and corny jokes: That's what you can typically expect from a local TV news guy. KSAZ's John Hook is the exception to that rule. While KPHO ends every spoon-fed segment with a reporter squawking about how he's "telling it like it is," John Hook actually questions what politicians say to him. For example, when… More >>
  • Best TV Journalist

    Mike Watkiss

    This mighty mite stands out as a welcome dinosaur in an ugly biz that favors the young and the pretty, the easy soundbite, and the superficial. Watkiss sure knows how to sink his teeth into a yarn and not let go until he's good and ready. Case in point has been his obsessive coverage of polygamist pervert Warren Jeffs and… More >>
  • Best Spanish-Language Journalist

    Valeria Fernandez

    Valeria Fernandez is not just the best Spanish-language journalist in Arizona, she's one of the best reporters in the state, bar none. Originally from Uruguay, this tough-as-nails Fourth Estater was once a staff reporter for La Voz. Now she freelances for outlets worldwide and works regularly for CNN Español, La Opinion, New America Media, and Inter Press Services, among others.… More >>
  • Best Underground Radio Station

    KCDX 103.1 FM

    There are no DJs to muck up the proceedings, there are no commercials, and there's almost no information given as to who is behind the AOR sounds of KCDX 103.1 FM. You get the call letters every few songs, and a mysterious radio voice identifying the 2,700-watt station as being broadcast from Florence and Phoenix. KCDX plays tunes from the… More >>
  • Best News Radio Station

    KJZZ 91.5 FM

    We have always loved public radio, so tuning the dial to 91.5 is a no-brainer. But lately, KJZZ and National Public Radio have really kicked it up a notch with coverage from their "Changing America" desk. Usually, names like that make us gag a little, but in this case, these journalists are more than living up to it, providing coverage… More >>
  • Best Hip-Hop Radio Station

    The Beat 92.7/99.3/101.1 FM

    According to the Kool Herc's 2005 tome, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, the crackalackin' urban genre has been around since way back in the 1970s, when street hustlers like Kool Keith and Grandmaster Flash started spitting out songs on NYC street corners. You wouldn't know it by listening to some of the other hip-hop stations… More >>
  • Best Jazz and Blues Radio Station

    KJZZ 91.5 FM

    During the day, you tune into KJZZ 91.5 FM for the news, but at night, the station turns all manners of blue — playing classic and modern jazz, and devoting Sunday night to Those Lowdown Blues with blues impresario Bob Corritore. On weekday evenings, DJ Blaise Lantana brings the music of artists like Chet Baker, Art Tatum, and Oscar Peterson… More >>
  • Best Alternative/Rock Radio Station

    KWSS 106.7 FM

    It's cool enough that independent radio station KWSS 106.7 FM is commercial-free (excluding the on-air plugs during programming for "underwriters"/sponsors), but it's the station's lack of rigid format/computer-generated playlists that really sets it apart. While tuning into any advertiser-driven rock radio station in the Valley guarantees you'll hear the latest hard rock "hits" everybody else is playing, you get no… More >>
  • Best Country Radio Station

    KMLE 108 FM

    Yeah, we're a little more partial to classic country like George Jones, Willie Nelson, and Loretta Lynn, but you've got to hand it to KMLE 108 FM for bringing the newest and hottest country pop to the airwaves. You'll hear all the hits from well-known acts like Rascal Flatts and Tim McGraw, as well as newer breakout stars like The… More >>
  • Best Old-School Radio Station

    KAJM 104.3

    We're all for getting into new music, but there are times when you don't feel like checking out hot new artists, and you just want to jam to something you know. Mega 104.3 FM brings the goods, spinning classic old-school jams like "Car Wash" by Rose Royce and "Genius of Love" by Tom Tom Club. Best of all, Mega 104.3… More >>
  • Best Morning Radio Show

    Holmberg's Morning Sickness

    Modesty and tact aren't two of John Holmberg's better virtues. As the titular host of rock radio station KUPD's a.m. drive-time program Holmberg's Morning Sickness, the 39-year-old attempts to both entertain and offend as many listeners as possible. Same goes for the rest of his kooky cadre of sidekicks, which includes madcap man-child Brady Bogan and the show's long-suffering producer,… More >>
  • Best Indie Radio Personality

    Beef Vegan, The Morning Fidelity

    KWSS morning man Beef Vegan has a gravelly baritone that sounds a lot like a young Wolfman Jack. It's doubtful, however, that Jack would push things quite as far as Beef does — even during his outlaw years in Mexico. Accompanied by a pair of sidekicks known as Big Buddha and Shorty, Beef mans the morning show on a low-power… More >>
  • Best Rock Radio Personality

    Westley Allen,

    "My name is Westley Allen, I think — let me check my notes." That's a direct quote from Westley Allen, who hosts Erratic! Radio each Tuesday night on KWSS 106.7 from 8 to 10 p.m. Allen plays the best in garage, punk, and crude-ass rock 'n' roll, spinning tunes from all over the map, like garage-rock stars The Black Lips… More >>
  • Best Ancient Chinese Secret

    Opium dens in Downtown Phoenix

    The next time you walk around US Airways Center, consider this: An underground neighborhood — Chinatown or "China Alley," as it was once referred to — was centered right at Madison and First streets. Census figures from 1890 put the number of Chinese people residing in Phoenix at 200, though given that many were single men living in boarding houses, the… More >>
  • Best Country Radio Personality

    Jacy Shepherd, KSWG 96.3 FM

    Jacy Shepherd mans the boards at Wickenburg's Real Country 96.3 FM (you can pick up the station here in the Valley, no worries) from 4 to 7 p.m., and her sultry, smooth voice works wonders toward easing the pain of afternoon rush-hour when paired with modern country hits from the likes of Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins and classics like… More >>
  • Best Grassroots Political Movement

    Marijuana Policy Project

    Medical marijuana in Arizona went from pipe dream to reality, thanks to the grassroots movement by the pro-Prop 203 Marijuana Policy Project and its leader, Andrew Meyers. Meyers and MPP collected about 250,000 signatures last year to get the initiative on the November 2010 ballot. The measure passed by a narrow margin thanks to countless hours of campaigning by Meyers… More >>
  • Best (Worst) Lie by a Political Candidate

    Gary "Gaby" Whalen

    We've heard a few whoppers from politicians in our time, but none tops what onetime Phoenix City Council candidate Gary Whalen told a New Times staffer earlier this year. It was discovered that Whalen, a Tea Party Republican, had been in a scuffle with his live-in boyfriend. The cops were called and a report was written stating that a drunken… More >>
  • Best Corporate Cellar

    Chase Tower's Underground Concourse

    Tucked beneath the lobby of the tallest building in the state, this sprawling underground atrium originally served as a mini-mall for the building's 2,100 employees. Recently remodeled as part of this 40-story skyscraper's $14 million upgrade, most of the stores are long gone, but in-the-know downtowners still ride the escalator down to hidden gems like the Coin Room cafeteria. More… More >>
  • Best Activists

    The Puente Movement

    In Spanish, puente means "bridge." And the peace warriors of the Phoenix-based Puente Movement are building a bridge to an Arizona future free of nativism, bigotry, and hateful anti-immigrant laws pimped by the likes of state Senate President Russell Pearce. Yeah, they're nonviolent, but they kick much nativist hiney and have fun doing it. Their leader Sal Reza, can put… More >>
  • Best Anarchist

    Drew Sullivan

    Burly and bearded with an elbow ever ready to bend, Drew Sullivan is a committed anarchist who can discuss the relative merits of the black bloc (where anarchists don black clothing and hide their faces during protests) or hold forth on the theories of Hakim Bey and Mikhail Bakunin while sucking back his sixth pint of Guinness and ordering six… More >>
  • Best Underground Missile Site

    The Titan Missile Museum

    Yes, we know this museum is closer to Tucson than Phoenix, but the bottom line is that the Titan Missile Museum is the only missile site in the nation that the public can actually visit. So if you think in terms of the entire country, this missile museum is right in our backyard. And this place is like nowhere else… More >>
  • Best Bigot

    State Senator Lori Klein

    It's bad enough that a gum-smacking idiot like Anthem Republican Lori Klein is a state senator, but then, Arizona's Legislature is filled to the brim with lightweights who've never evolved emotionally or intellectually past the eighth grade. She is also a class-A bigot and Mexican-hater, yet even that is fairly common these days in Sand Land's highest deliberative body.A water-carrier… More >>
  • Best Pain in the Ass to Local Politicians

    Carlos Galindo

    Does anyone like Carlos Galindo? Well, he is happily married. And the sometimes abrasive talk-radio host can boast a loyal listenership for his various radio shows for different outlets. But he doesn't play well with the other immigrant activists in town. And he likes to pick verbal fights with those on the right and the left, even though he often… More >>
  • Best Attempt to Arrest a War Criminal

    End the War Coalition's attempt to "arrest" Karl Rove

    Iraq war. Ring a bell? The second one, we mean, under Bush II. Cost nearly a trillion dollars (at last count), more than 4,400 in U.S. military lives, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, and we still have freaking troops there. So what was that all about? Cheap oil? Sheesh, look at the gas pumps, boyo. Weapons of mass destruction?… More >>
  • Best Sissy Preacher

    "Pastor" Steven Anderson

    Faithful Word Baptist Church "Pastor" Steven Anderson's fear of faygelehs is well documented. He's perhaps best known for praying that President Barack Obama would die of cancer because he "has wrought lewdness in America." Anderson's highway of hate recently led him to teen pop star Justin Bieber, whom Anderson recently compared to a "sissified, effeminate twinkie." Anderson's got a problem… More >>
  • Best Tribune of the People

    Stephen Montoya

    Stephen Montoya is a throwback to the Clarence Darrow days of lawyerin', when attorneys (or at least some of them) stood up for the oppressed and battled injustice with a combination of skillful oratory and brilliant legal maneuvering. As a kid, Montoya considered becoming a doctor or a priest. Instead, he ended up a civil rights attorney. And whether he's… More >>
  • Best Local Lefty Icon

    State Senator Kyrsten Sinema

    Kyrsten Sinema, a state senator from Legislative District 15 and formerly a state House Representative for the same liberal enclave, is perhaps best known for being the foil for state Senate President Russell Pearce, opposing him in committee and on the House and Senate floors on a host of issues, the most notable being Pearce's dreaded breathing-while-brown statute Senate Bill… More >>
  • Best Voice Against Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Hatred

    Bill Straus

    Bill Straus can talk. And what he says is worth listening to. As regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona, he's the media's go-to guy when it comes to discussing the ever-broiling ethnic strife here in Sand Land, hate crimes, Senate Bill 1070, neo-Nazis, or the latest anti-Latino antics of state Senate President Russell Pearce and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.In… More >>
  • Best Pro-Civil Rights Pastor

    Dr. Warren H. Stewart Sr.

    The Book of Matthew tells us, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Every time we hear that passage of scripture, we can't help but think of Pastor Warren H. Stewart Sr. of Phoenix's First International Baptist Church. A doctor of divinity, Stewart thirsts for righteousness like no one else we know, calling… More >>
  • Best Street Chalker with a Social Conscience

    Peggy Plews

    Margaret "Peggy" Plews has devoted her life to advocating for the plight of Arizona's incarcerated. By her lonesome, she maintains the Prison Abolitionist website, dedicated to the eradication of the "prison industrial complex." To this end, she maintains correspondence with prisoners in the Arizona Department of Corrections, who tip her off to untimely deaths, abuse from guards, systemic neglect, and… More >>
  • Best Eyes on the Street

    Phoenix Copwatch

    Who's watching the detectives? And the patrol cops, and the highway patrol, and the sheriff's deputies? Phoenix Copwatch, natch. Started in 1998 by ostensible anarchists, Copwatch trains observers to monitor the po-po and videotape them as they pull over cars or stop folks on foot. The Copwatchers are there to "stop police brutality," and it's notable that Officer Friendly tends… More >>
  • Best Keeper of the Peace

    Sergeant Al Ramirez

    Sergeant Al Ramirez is the coolest kind of cop: He prevents bad stuff from happening, all while protecting your First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. A good day for him is not arresting anybody. His mission is making sure people on opposing sides of an issue holler and fuss at each other, but never come to blows… More >>
  • Best Political Transition

    Bill Montgomery

    Talk about an easy act to follow! Andy Thomas quit his gig as Maricopa County Attorney to run for higher office (and lose) after laying waste to the concept of dispensing justice equally during his six years at the helm. Hell, the demagogic Harvard law school grad is probably going to lose his ticket to practice law, at the very… More >>
  • Best Example of a Last Laugh After a Public Humiliation

    Jack Harris, Phoenix's ex-"public safety director"

    Jack Harris was a Phoenix cop for nearly 40 years who rose through the ranks to take the helm for six years. He spent a few decades in "motors," patrolling the mean streets on his trusty motorcycle before landing as a top administrator for his agency. A likable and straight-talking fellow, Harris retired as "police chief" for about a minute,… More >>
  • Best Underground Escape Route for the Mayor of Phoenix

    Tunnel under City Hall

    Get this. An underground tunnel runs beneath Phoenix City Hall, connecting City Hall with other city buildings, including the Calvin Goode Building on the south side of Washington Street. Accessed by a freight elevator, the passage is used by city workers tending to underground equipment. But in a pinch, it's also regarded as an emergency escape for the mayor during… More >>
  • Best Way to Humiliate Arizona

    Representative Carl Seele's "Birther Bill"

    Arizona has been referred to as the "meth lab of democracy." One look at some of the asinine legislation that passes through the state Legislature and you'll know why. Picking the most humiliating of the droves of embarrassing bills our leaders waste their time — and your money — considering is no easy task. However, a clear winner has emerged:… More >>
  • Best Big-City Tunnel

    Camelback Pedestrian Underpass

    Even when it's not 115 degrees out, we like to head underground to our favorite secret subversive hideaway, where we can relish the big-city vibe of an underground tunnel while also enjoying live music and public art, besides. And even though the Camelback Pedestrian Underpass isn't exactly a secret (it would be hard to hide a much-publicized passageway that runs… More >>
  • Best Place to Find a New Friend

    Maricopa County Animal Care Control

    People can be lame, so the next time your best friend has a make-out session with your boyfriend or your friends draw on your face after you accidentally pass out with your shoes on — ditch 'em and pick up a new best friend from Maricopa County Animal Care Control. If you're looking for loyalty, companionship and unconditional love, puppy… More >>
  • Best Government Customer Service

    Maricopa County Vital Records

    Every now and then, everybody needs a birth or death certificate. However daunting the task, this office's staff (who are somehow both blazingly efficient and reassuringly motherly) will help you get it done. Normally, we never say this about the bureaucracy, but call first — you'll get a human being who'll make sure everything's in place before you show up… More >>
  • Best Do-Gooders

    Arizona Coalition for Military Families

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to take their terrible toll on Arizonans. So many loved ones have died while serving our country, or have been injured on the battlefield (or wherever), or simply have been separated from their families for years on end. In generations past, military veterans and their families often had nowhere to turn but to… More >>
  • Best Theater for Adults with Disabilities

    Detour Company Theatre

    Detour Company Theatre provides an arts education and performance opportunity for adults with developmental challenges — including deafness, blindness, and autism — through theater. Detour is all about fun, companionship, and celebrating each individual who makes each production happen. The end result is pretty terrific, too. Sam, the founder and creative director, leads the annual productions on a shoestring to… More >>
  • Best Children's Theater


    Childsplay has done it again — scored another unsurpassed season of fun and fancy. And it's not as if they don't have competition; there are several other children's theater venues in town that are quite good. But no one comes close to Childsplay for a finer mix of good scripts, delightful acting, and fun times for kids and adults alike.… More >>
  • Best Community Theater

    Stray Cat Theatre

    Reviews were mixed for their season-ending Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party, but that show — as well as so many others offered by this smart, talented troupe of community players — was sold out. So who cares what critics say? In a town overrun with little theaters (most of them a revolving door for would-be thespians that offer nothing… More >>
  • Best Equity House

    Actors Theatre

    We don't have a lot of professional theater companies here, but the handful we do have are pretty amazing. We're particularly fond of Actors Theatre, a resident company at the Herberger Theater Center and one of the most diverse theaters in the state. This past season, they kicked off another stellar season with Sarah Ruhl's The Vibrator Play (which is,… More >>
  • Best Tunnel Vision

    The Chandler Aqueduct

    In 2004, the Arizona Department of Transportation was in the process of building the San Tan leg of Loop 202. As workers dug in the Ocotillo area of Chandler, near Alma School and Pecos Roads, the crew lowered a video camera into one of the abandoned wells on the land formerly belonging to A.J. Chandler. As the camera descended, the… More >>
  • Best Arts Center

    Tempe Center for the Arts

    This metallic Mont Saint-Michel, a neighborhood asset that doesn't even have a neighborhood, rises from the west end of Tempe Beach. Its parking, art gallery, and bar are primo, but the vibe, in particular, is unrivaled — from the waterfront patio, where the fountain seems to disappear into Town Lake, to the countless cozy conversation areas in the undulating lobby,… More >>
  • Best Theater Venue

    Kax Stage, Herberger Theater Center

    We've seen a lot of nice plays and musical revues in this dark, compact space, once used exclusively for rehearsal by the likes of Arizona Theater Company and Actors Theatre. Its new renovation includes a Van Buren Street canopy that beckons passersby to drop in for weekday Lunch Time Theater, courtesy of drama doyenne Judy Rollings and a revolving cast… More >>
  • Best (Dramatic) Ghost Story

    The ghosts of Phoenix Theatre

    When you've been around as long as Phoenix Theatre (founded as Phoenix Little Theatre in 1920), you're bound to be haunted by something. In the case of the theater, that something is a cast of five distinct ghosts. The best-known is dubbed "Mr. Electric." He's described as an old man who sits on the pipes that hold up the theater's… More >>
  • Best Actress

    Shari Watts in Grey Gardens: The Musical

    Shari Watts had big, dirty shoes to fill — and fill them she did. Her turn as Big Edie Beale in Tempe Live! Theater's Grey Gardens: The Musical last April was a stunner. The ability to truly enjoy this camp musical depends on one's knowledge of (and affection for) both of the women it portrays as well as the documentary… More >>
  • Best Actor

    D. Scott Withers in Hairspray: The Musical

    D. Scott Withers did the unthinkable: He trumped Divine. In Phoenix Theatre's Hairspray: The Musical last December, he created an all-new take on the late cross-dressing actor who first played Edna Turnblad in John Waters' Hairspray, the movie on which this Tony winner is based. Withers' Edna was an entirely new creation, one that may not have eclipsed Harvey Fierstein's… More >>
  • Best Improv Collective

    The Torch Theatre

    The improvisers who make up The Torch Theatre prove comedy isn't just about making you laugh — it's about making you think. The actors take a theatrical approach to their on-the-spot scenes, injecting emotion and strong characters into the humorous vignettes inspired by audience suggestions. They've been doing it for more than a decade, and now after four years as… More >>
  • Best Contemporary Dance Company


    Ballet eludes us, and we don't think we really dig jazz or tap or interpretive dance, either. But we're feeling braver about checking into these and other forms of dance, because CONDER/Dance combines these traditional forms in such quirky, entertaining performances, and now our interest is piqued about dance in general. Most contemporary dance companies leave us confused (were we… More >>
  • Best Independent Film Theater

    The FilmBar

    Somebody, quick, pinch us! We can't believe our dream (well, one of our dreams) has come true. Phoenix has its own indie movie theater. With a bar. And it's downtown, right off Roosevelt Row, making it one more piece of the puzzle in what may eventually come to be a real city instead of a few scattered outposts of cool.… More >>
  • Best Luxury Movie Theater

    iPic Theatre

    With the economy the way it's been for a while (read: lousy), we wondered aloud about the possible bad timing when this high-dollar movie joint opened at the Scottsdale Quarter. But we gave it a shot one night and got hooked. It's like being on a first-class flight, what with the comfy suede recliner seats, even a pillow and blanket… More >>
  • Best Salt Mine

    Morton Salt's Glendale plant

    Admit it. You've said it; we've all said it: "Well, time to go back to the salt mines." But did you know there is an actual working salt mine here in metropolitan Phoenix? It's true: An enormous salt deposit — we're talking 15 to 30 cubic miles of salt — makes up the Luke Salt Body, which runs under the… More >>
  • Best Budget Movie Theater

    Pollack Tempe Cinemas

    There is only one way to describe the lobby of Pollack Tempe Cinemas: jacked-up. Michael Pollack (you might recognize his name, since it's on practically every strip mall from here to Tucson) has a big, odd collection of movie memorabilia and life-size figures, and it's on display for all to see. If you can get past it, you'll also get… More >>
  • Best Basement

    Robrt L. Pela

    Harder to find than a shaded parking space in July, the Phoenix basement is a rarity. The story goes that, because the ground here is typically so hard, digging into it is costly and difficult. (In colder parts of the country, the foundation of a house is set below the frost line; digging a few more feet to provide room… More >>
  • Best Horror Movie Show

    Dr. Zombie's Movie Lab of Terror

    The flicks that Dr. Zombie screens at his occasional Movie Lab of Terror aren't actually scary. It's tough to get terrified by old-school movies like The Brain That Wouldn't Die, The Evil Brain from Outer Space, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians when we live in an era of ultra-dark, violent and disturbing cinema. But modern horror is rarely as… More >>
  • Best Haunted Basement

    Hotel San Carlos

    From the rooms named after famous former guests like Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart to the Hollywood-style stars embedded in the exterior sidewalk, the Hotel San Carlos is proud of its past. But these days, the 83-year-old landmark in downtown Phoenix is probably best known for the various guests who may have checked out — but never really left. Yes,… More >>
  • Best Place to Find New(ish) Homes with Basements

    Mesa's Grove District

    Here in the land of endless suburban sprawl, you can find pretty much any style of home, from traditional adobe to super-sleek glass and steel. That said, there's one staple of suburban living that is darn near impossible to find in the Valley of the Sun: homes with basements. They do exist, if you know where to look. Mesa's Grove District… More >>
  • Best Nightlife Videos

    Pheosia Films

    Francis Lazaro is one of those fortunate few who don't have to endure the usual 9-to-5 grind to make his living. He spends most of his daytime hours catching some winks, in fact, probably because the filmmaker spends most evenings at local clubs recording footage of DJs, followed by all-night editing sessions crafting energetic videos. Check out the Vimeo page… More >>
  • Best Underground House

    Earth House, Cosanti

    Most people who want a glimpse into futurist Paolo Soleri's vision hoof it north an hour to his Arcosanti, when a good feel for the guy is available right here in town. Soleri lived and worked in Paradise Valley from the 1950s on (not far from Taliesin West, where he studied). Today, his disciples are still hard at work, casting the… More >>
  • Best 'Zine

    Tempe Starving Artist

    When Robbie Pfeffer started Tempe Starving Artist a little less than two years ago, he had no idea his little 'zine would last beyond the first issue. But Pfeffer, who started TSA just to entertain himself and his friends, has watched it grow from a dinky, photocopied pamphlet to a thick booklet with color covers and advertisements from local businesses.… More >>
  • Best Dirty 'Zine

    PoolBoy Magazine

    The ladies behind PoolBoy Magazine, a.k.a. Phoenix's newest (only?) hipster porn rag, say they joined forces because they wanted to give women something fun, classy, and local to read in public places. After a year of blogging, raising awareness, and hunting for the right male candidates — male, mid 20s, early 30s, good-looking, but also normal, and, of course, well-endowed… More >>
  • Best Dance Music Blog

    The Get Downnn

    If the diminishing interest in radio stations, the fallow state of the recording industry, and the death of CD emporiums both big (Tower Records, Sam Goody) and small (Eastside Records) aren't enough indication that the music biz has forever changed thanks to the web, take a gander at the ever-growing prominence of the audio blogosphere. This online taste-making brigade, particularly… More >>
  • Best Indie Music Blog

    Waved Rumor

    Don't get us wrong — local blogs like Electric Mustache and So Much Silence kill it, but in terms of pure bonkers passion, Dave Murrow, the brains behind Waved Rumor and garage-pop band Dfactor, blows everyone else away. He covers it all — punk, garage, classic rock — with a zealous glee, riffing on everything from Paul McCartney setlists to… More >>
  • Best Food Blog

    Pen & Fork

    It's not hard to believe that Pen & Fork editor Gwen Ashley Walters is a professionally trained chef, given the nonchalant way in which she tosses around words like "quenelles" and "aperitif," and her knowledge of what happens when you crossbreed a Fortunella margarita with a citrus aurantifolia (you get a limequat, as it turns out). Her food blog is… More >>
  • Best Secret Treasures at the Library

    Burton Barr Central Library

    Pssst. There's secret treasure at the library. And you don't even have to leave your house to find some of it. No, really. You can, thanks to the nice folks at the Phoenix Public Library, take an online class from the comfort and convenience of your own home. You can choose from aromatherapy, digital photography, book publishing, Buddhism, freshwater fishing, criminal… More >>
  • Best Secret Bathroom

    Four Peaks Brewing Company

    Many have gone in search of the secret bathroom at Four Peaks in Tempe. Most have failed. Worry not, though; they were really drunk. Should you find yourself adventurous (and needing to release the floodgates), the entrance to the secret bathroom might be yours. Look first for the beaded curtain leading seemingly to nowhere. Behind this tacky cover is the… More >>
  • Best Style Blog

    Kitten Paws Vintage

    In 2009, little Miss Tiffany Egbert started Kitten Paws Vintage as a mere Etsy store. Thankfully, it has evolved into an online store and fashion blog. Mama cat Egbert's website and blog is effortlessly charming and impeccably put together, reading more like a Southwest-themed Anthropologie catalog than a hipster-tastic fashion blog. We love that Egbert embraces her unique Phoenix style… More >>
  • Best Underground Water Delivery System

    Salt River Project's Canals

    For many suburbanites, they're as close as the Valley gets to a natural water feature. But Salt River Project's canal system isn't a series of lushly planted swimming holes; it's a man-made network of several connected bodies of water that run in an underground network through much of the southern half of the Phoenix metropolitan area, helping to distribute water… More >>
  • Best Place to be at Sunset

    Knight Rise

    You have to know to look for it. Enter the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art — and you can walk straight ahead to the current exhibits, or turn right into the gift shop. Both wise options. Or, if it's close to sunset (hint: the museum is open late on Thursdays — and admission is free), take an immediate sharp left.… More >>
  • Best Place to Chase Fireflies

    You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies at Phoenix Art Museum

    In this year's Best of Phoenix we are taking you underground, but here's a hidden treasure you'll find on the top floor of the Phoenix Art Museum. We admit we're guilty of neglecting our city museum's permanent collections — we're more likely to hit PAM or the Heard Museum to see a blockbuster show. But this year we had occasion… More >>
  • Best Place to Catch a Meteor Shower

    ASU's Astronomy Open House

    You don't have to know the difference between a comet and a meteor to climb up to the rooftop of the Bateman Physical Sciences wing for a killer show. Each month (during the school year), graduate students at ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration open their laboratory doors to the public for planetarium shows, informational sessions, and, our favorite,… More >>
  • Best Time Capsule

    The Golden Jubilee Capsule at Theodore Roosevelt Dam

    On March 18, 1961, the Roosevelt Dam (on the Salt River northeast of Phoenix) had its Golden Jubilee (50th anniversary). As part of the celebrations, a copper time capsule was placed in the dam. The capsule was removed — but not opened — in 1984 (when Roosevelt Dam was modified) and placed in the Roosevelt Lake Visitor Center. On March… More >>
  • Best Underground Parking

    Scottsdale Fashion Square

    One of the things we like about Scottsdale Fashion Square is that so many of its parking garages open right onto high-end department stores: Like Dillard's men's store, which has an entrance in one of Fashion Square's big, shaded parking garages, just like Nordstrom's does, up the street. We think it's awfully civilized. But not as cool as one particular… More >>
  • Best Underground Cool

    NRG Energy Phoenix

    Stepping inside NRG Energy's underground cooling plant in the heart of downtown Phoenix, you feel a little like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. One minute you're standing outside an anonymous metal door next to the Phoenix Convention Center, and the next you're three stories underground, walking across a metal bridge suspended over a massive holding tank filled with bubbling,… More >>
  • Best Abandoned Transit Project

    Papago Intermodal Transfer Station

    Next time you're driving down Interstate 10 in Phoenix — approaching the Deck Park Tunnel — take a quick look at the center median. Did you notice anything odd, like a fenced-off passageway slicing right through the middle of the larger tunnel? That, friends, is Phoenix's infamous Papago Intermodal Transfer Station — a.k.a. an underground bus station that was started… More >>

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