Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Late Night Love, the Westward Ho, and Louise Nevelson

Pool hopping is a Phoenix bucket list must.
Pool hopping is a Phoenix bucket list must.
Katie Johnson

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, Amy Silverman presents the next 10 items on the list.

Sneak Into a Hotel Pool Now, I'm not going to tell you which pool to sneak into, or just how to make it happen -- but I will say that there's a wide selection here in the Valley of the Sun. It may not make for the most relaxing experience, and the nicer the pool the better the chance you'll get kicked out, but it's the definition of a cheap thrill. Pass the sunscreen.

See also: 10 Best Pools in Metro Phoenix

The Sepanek house -- you can't miss it.
The Sepanek house -- you can't miss it.
Benjamin Leatherman

Drive by Lee & Patricia Sepanek's Holiday Light Display Metro Phoenix is a mecca for holiday displays. Theories abound -- perhaps it's because the temperate weather makes it easier to put up and take down tens of thousands of lights. Maybe it's the fact that we don't have a lot of traditional Christmas cheer dotting the landscape. So let's drape a cactus in lights -- or turn our entire front yard (and sometimes even the interior of the house) into the electric company's idea of paradise. You can drive all over town looking at displays -- people rent limos and make a night of it -- or you can do what I do and satisfy your Christmas cravings in one fell swoop with a drive-by of the home of Lee and Patricia Sepanek. The trees are so tall, the lights so bright on this Arcadia house, you can see it from 44th Street. Be prepared to wait in line. It's worth it, trust me.

Go to a Reading at Changing Hands Bookstore I'll never forget the first time I saw David Sedaris live. It was before he commanded large spaces like Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts or Gammage Auditorium. It was, of course, at Changing Hands. A young woman with dark curly hair stood up to introduce him and brought down the house when she presented Sedaris with an ashtray and an invitation to smoke in the store. Today Cindy Dach is one of the store's co-owners. Real locals still pine for days when CHB was on Mill Avenue, but if you've never been to the location at Guadalupe and McClintock, you need to go. Check out the schedule at -- it includes writing workshops, book discussion groups and live readings. The central Phoenix location of Changing Hands is slated to open this spring, featuring a bar called "First Draft." Best name ever, right? And no, you can't smoke there. Unless you're David Sedaris. (Maybe.)

Stick your Head Inside the Westward Ho You won't get to see the now-closed underground bowling alley that used to be accessible from the Westward Ho -- a hotel turned home for seniors and the disabled in downtown Phoenix. In fact, you probably won't get much farther than the lobby, unless, like Robrt Pela, you get an a call from an unofficial tour guide. But even the lobby is worth it, particularly if the staff is distracted and you can slip past the front desk and cruise the main floor, taking in the tin ceilings and gorgeous floor tiles. After all, you've been staring at the outside of the iconic building for years, right? Slip inside -- and back in time. Just be ready to be escorted out by a security guard.  

We're beginning to wonder if Charleen Badman of FnB ever sleeps.
We're beginning to wonder if Charleen Badman of FnB ever sleeps.
Nikki Buchanan

Get Some Late Night Love at FnB We love Charleen Badman's cooking any time of day, but there's something extra special about the lure of Late Night Love. Most Saturdays (call first to be sure it's going on) the chef prepares a limited menu available from 10 p.m. on. It might be her special shrimp fried rice, or maybe Badman's kale-spiked take on falafel. The dining room's cozy, the wine is flowing and the company's always friendly. This is a Phoenix (well, Scottsdale) food ritual well worth staying up past your bedtime.

Go to the Parada del Sol Parade When my father's family moved to Scottsdale in the 1950s, ranchers herded their sheep down Scottsdale Road. That doesn't happen anymore -- make way for the Mercedes and Sprinkles cupcakes -- but you can still attend the Parada del Sol parade. You'll have to wait till next year, since the 61st annual parade took place Feb. 8 in Scottsdale, but you can still catch some rodeo action this year and you can always outfit yourself head to toe from the shops in Old Town Scottsdale, even though the Wigwam -- where my teal and white, second grade Parada outfit came from -- is sadly long gone. Get more Parada del Sol details here.

Attend a Detour Company Theatre Performance Detour is not like any other theater company in the Valley. Comprised entirely of adults with developmental disabilities, this is a performance experience you won't ever forget. Led by Sam (just Sam -- like Madonna) these actors are accompanied onstage by an incredible group of coaches who work to make sure that each participant feels safe onstage, allowed to perform to the best of his or her abilities. This makes for a touching experience, an entertaining show and, often, an emotional audience. Admission is free but you'll want to make a donation.

See also: Hero Worship: An Interview with Sam of Detour Company Theatre


A bacon-wrapped hot dog? Yes, please.
A bacon-wrapped hot dog? Yes, please.
Heather Hoch

Eat a Sonoran Hot Dog at Nogales Hot Dog Phoenix doesn't have an "official" food and neither does the state of Arizona, which has struggled for years to come up with something better than the chimichanga. For an authentic local experience, try a Sonoran hot dog. Wrapped in bacon and available with an assortment of topics (don't skimp on the jalapeños), Nogales Hot Dog serves a delicious, reliable (lots of other hot dog stands in town come and go) version of the decadent dog. Pair it with a Mexican Coke.

Check Out "Windows to the West" by Louise Nevelson in Scottsdale Robert Indiana's Love sculpture is front and center, the one most people will mention when you ask them about Scottsdale's public art collection. But my favorite is the Louise Nevelson. The late sculptor hailed from Russia and Scottsdale's 1972 acquisition marked the first significant Nevelson sculpture in the southwest. Today you can still find it at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. Here's a self-guided tour of Scottsdale's public art.

Drive to the Top of South Mountain and Park South Mountain Park is an amazing city preserve -- filled with bike, horse and hiking trails. There's also a road that leads all the way to the top. Cha-ching! Grab your honey and the car keys and check out the amazing views of the city. Just be sure you head out by 7 p.m., because that's when the gates close.

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 Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Kiddieland, FilmBar, and Ladmo's Tree

Use Current Location

Related Locations

Lee & Patricia Sepanek's Holiday Lights

4415 E. Calle Tuberia
Phoenix, AZ 85018

Changing Hands Bookstore

6428 S. McClintock Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85283


Westward Ho

618 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

FnB Restaurant

7125 E. 5th Ave.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251


Detour Company Theatre

4614 N. Alta Hacienda
Phoenix, AZ 85018


Nogales Hot Dog

1945 E. Indian School Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85016


South Mountain Park and Preserve

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