Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Kiddieland, FilmBar, and Ladmo's Tree
The Orpheum, circa 2008.
Welcome to the Phoenix Bucket List. Robrt Pela and Amy Silverman -- two New Times contributors and longtime Phoenicians -- have put together a list of 100 things to do in this city before you die. Each week we're presenting another 10; in March we'll wrap it all up in a cover story in New Times. For now, stay tuned to Valley Fever for more installments and be sure to share your suggestions in the comments section. Today, Robrt Pela presents the next 10 items on the list.
Give yourself a walking tour of the Orpheum Maybe you're one of those people who like to pretend it's a long time ago, when things were "better." Or maybe you love yourself some Spanish Revival architecture. Whatever. Take yourself to this gorgeous Baroque building, with its intricate murals and moldings, where all the big names played live in the '20s and '30s. The Orpheum became The Paramount movie house in the '40s and a circuit playhouse in the '60s before falling into disrepair. A 12-year-long renovation has restored it to its former glory, and it's been waiting, ever since its reopening in 1997, for you to come ogle it.
See something arty at FilmBar We've finally got a downtown revival house that shows honest-to-gosh art films, cool old movies, and stuff that you're just plain not going to see at any of the local chains. And this one offers not just popcorn and soda pop, but a cool beer-and-wine bar besides. Just three years old, FilmBar is a great neighborhood bar and a worthy cinema that hosts independent and foreign films as well as new stuff from local up-and-comers.
Ride the light rail Valley Metro is working on a pair of $300 million extensions to its light rail that will link downtown to the east valley and northwest Phoenix. In the meantime, our newest reason to be hopeful about Phoenix offers spotless trains and modern-art-rich stations that scream "Big City!" More practically, light rail is an eco-friendly way to get from A to B while catching up on your email -- or taking a nap!
Ride the rides at Encanto Kiddieland Okay. So it hasn't been called that in a really long time. But for those of us of a certain age, the Enchanted Island Amusement Park at downtown's sprawling Encanto Park will always be Encanto Kiddieland. Launched in 1948, this smallish amusement park is geared for kids under 10, its rides and attractions designed for tykes 42 inches tall and shorter. You don't have to be "this tall to ride this ride" anywhere on the Enchanted Island, where teacups and Whirligigs rule. There's a shaded arcade where you can -- just as in days of yore! -- play coin-operated games, and a snack bar where people of any age can dig some cotton candy.
Talk to Beatrice Moore She's the maven of the Phoenix downtown art scene, and boy, does she have stories! Having co-founded ArtLink in the late '80s, run various galleries and art spaces here, and met or worked with every notable local artist you can think of, Beatrice Moore is a fascinating storyteller. Determined that downtown will have an arts district, she went on to buy up (with her partner, artist Tony Zahn) a pile of Grand Avenue real estate that's now home to various galleries, artist studios, and cafes. Drop in at Moore's Kooky Krafts boutique, where you can score doll heads and bump chenille and a ton of beguiling stories about downtown's arty past and present.
Ice skate at Cityscape Yeah, it's no secret: A lot of the fun stuff to do in Phoenix involves pretending you're somewhere else. Like the 120-foot long, 40-foot wide downtown ice skating rink that pops up every year in December. Essentially a big frozen bathtub, CityScape's faux winter wonderland requires a giant industrial hockey-league chiller to freeze enough water on which desert dwellers (particularly those who have been recently transplanted from places that actually have winter) can make like Sonia Henie. "CitySkate" (ouch) typically draws more than 100,000 people each year and is worth a spin, even if you're only sitting on a man-made snowdrift, watching.
Drive out to Boyce Thompson Arboretum and look for Ladmo's tree It's a pistachio tree, and it's kind of hard to find. It was planted in the memory of Ladimir Kwiatkowski, known to legions of local fans as Ladmo, our very own boyhood hero and co-host of The Wallace and Ladmo Show, which for 35 years entertained Phoenix kiddies with cartoons and comic sketches that taught local little ones the joys of sarcasm and political satire. Ladmo died in 1994, and the arboretum honored him with this now-20-year-old desert planting. And if you spend an hour wandering around, looking for Ladmo's tree (it's unmarked and off-trail, about 10 yards west of the herb garden), you'll do so in a gorgeous setting. This, the largest botanical garden in the state, is tucked just off Highway 60 and is always blooming with desert plants from around the world alongside native Sonoran Desert vegetation. Check out the cactus garden and take one of the staff-organized guided nature walks through one of the coolest (literally!) and most lush spots in the desert.
Check out the cool architecture of St. Francis -- and maybe grab a bite to eat.
Take a walk down Architecture Row It's enough to make you stop complaining about mid-town Phoenix: The row of gorgeous office buildings along the north side of Camelback Road between Central Avenue and 3rd Street, created in the mid-'50s by several renowned local architects. There's the Ralph Haver-designed Friedman Office building, formerly Butler Homes and now Red Modern Furniture; Harold Ekman's design offices, rehabbed by architect Wendell Burnette and now home to St. Francis restaurant, and Fred Guirey's former office, currently an accounting concern. Wind up your tour at Trails, a head shop that used to be a porno store and which, in all its guises, is beautiful. (Some of the more gorgeous buildings among these now are gone, or sadly transformed: Haver and Nunn's own office building was near Ed Varney's, and is no longer there; a little further along, a genuine Al Beadle building had its facade scraped in 2011.)
See an art exhibit at Phoenix College's Eric Fischl Gallery The well-loved gallery, located in Phoenix College's contemporary Fine Arts building, hosts some of the best downtown exhibits in Phoenix. Last year's exhibits included work by Anthony Pessler and Henry Leo Schoebel, and Chris Jagmin, Mimi Jardine, Saskia Jorda, and Sherrie Zeitlin have also shown there. Its wide-open floor plan and delightful outdoor patio are home to student talent and local artists alike, and events like the annual holiday art sale and the Western Eye Student Photography Competition have helped put both Fischl and gallery director Timothy Hernandez on the map. Get down there!
Go watch giant planes fly overhead One of our best-kept secrets (well, for people who like this sort of thing) is the big dirt lot at I-10 and the Sky Harbor Circle intersection, where you can park and watch as jet airliners pass overhead. These monster machines are so close, it appears you might reach up and touch them as they take off and land. It's a great way to spend an hour with your airplane-enthused kids, and not a bad place for parking-and-necking with that special someone, besides.
Previous Bucket Lists: Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do in Phoenix Before You Die: The Introduction Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Castles, Crescent, and Really Hot Mexican Food Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Books, Bats, and the Biltmore Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Prickly Pear, Gammage, and Chris Bianco's Mom's Chocolate Cake
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