Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Penguins, Peaches, and Celebrity Theatre
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.
Wander Around Cosanti The late Paolo Soleri -- onetime Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice, longtime Arizona (by way of Italy) architect and artist -- is probably best known for Arcosanti, his futuristic housing development off I-17 north that never quite was. And it's true, you can actually stay at Arcosanti; it's even on the Phoenix Bucket List. But equally awesome is a trip to Cosanti. If you grew up in the Valley, chances are good that your mom dragged you here at least once so your great aunt from Chicago could bell shop. The place is frozen in time, a bell foundry that supported Soleri's efforts (and housed him) and continues to operate. The fact that Paradise Valley mansions surround this hippie haven only makes a visit more fun.
Frontal Lobe Gallery's "Pseudo Science" recently offered a range of colorful, science-inspired works -- one of about a zillion things you might see on a First Friday in downtown Phoenix.
Go Out on a First Friday If you want to see art -- I mean, really stop to contemplate the good stuff -- check out the permanent collection at Phoenix Art Museum or catch a show at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Or head to Roosevelt Row on a Third Friday, when galleries hand out drinks and snacks and you can actually see what's on the walls. But if you want to see a hunk of downtown Phoenix going absolutely nuts -- something many have never witnessed -- head to Roosevelt Row (epicenter: Roosevelt and 3rd streets) on a First Friday, from dusk on. Any First Friday. In July they call it "Naked First Friday" because it's so hot outside (you do the math), and the crowds will have dispersed -- but only slightly. For years, now, thousands of people have descended on Roosevelt every First Friday, not just to walk through several galleries but to partake of food trucks, art sales and bands that literally play from the rooftops. Admission is free (and you might even get a free hug -- there's a woman who stands on the corner, offering them) just be careful not to trip the guy walking by on super high stilts. What began on a couple blocks of Roosevelt has literally branched off to 5th and 6th streets and all kinds of spots around the neighborhood. The biggest challenge: seeing it all before it's time to go home. You might even catch some good art among the good people watching.
See a '70s-Era Band Perform at Celebrity Theatre I've seen everyone from Cake to (Elvis) Costello play onstage at the Celebrity, but the best concert I ever saw there -- one of the best I've seen anywhere -- was KC and the Sunshine Band. It was the early '00s in reality, but inside the theater it was the '70s all the way. There are newer, more comfortable music venues in Phoenix, but Celebrity Theatre, circa 1964, is packed with memories, not to mention this is theater in the round, complete with a rotating stage. You'll have to provide your own go go boots.
Pick Peaches at Schnepf Farms Pack the sunscreen and take your Allegra -- come May, it's peach picking time. It's the perfect Mother's Day gift, smack dab in the middle of Schnepf Farms' multi-week festival. Take Mom with you or spare her the heat, pick peaches yourself and bake her a pie. The farm, on the southeast tip of town, is friendly, dusty and sweet. And you can even buy a pre-made pie.
Crafeteria -- it's the most wonderful time of the year.
Shop at Crafeteria The first Friday of each December, Medlock Plaza in central Phoenix turns into my idea of a winter wonderland. Frances owner Georganne Bryant brings the good taste she uses to run her popular independent boutique and spreads the wealth in the form of a curated indie craft fair. Crafeteria has become a holiday must-do alongside "buy a tree" and "attend the Nutcracker" -- and with Short Leash hot dogs, live music and a sense of community, it's not only about the retail opportunity.
Visit the Heard Museum Whether or not you kneeled in the pretty courtyard and pretended to grind corn as a kid on a field trip, you'll want to pay a(-nother) visit to the Heard Museum. This internationally renowned museum has been celebrating Native art and culture since the 1920s, and even today still retains that feeling through architecture and the museum's location in one of Phoenix's prettiest historic neighborhoods. The permanent collection is amazing and as a wonderful complement, curators and museum staff are devoted to continuing to accurately portray -- finding creative ways to do so -- American Indians through art. Also: The gift shop is amazing.
Eat Sticky Buns at El ChorroThere is something very decadent -- and very old school Phoenix -- about sitting on the patio at El Chorro, snarfing down the signature sticky buns. A few years ago the longtime steakhouse/bar/brunch spot was completely remodeled (now it's less falling-apart-cowboy and more matchy-matchy-society-girl) but the view of the north side of Camelback Mountain remains the same -- drop dead gorgeous. Hit El Chorro on a Sunday morning or a weekday happy hour. Cocktail up and order the sticky buns. Enjoy the view -- and the sugar.
Go to Lisa Sette Gallery, Walk Around Old Town Scottsdale In a metropolis with very few walking districts, Old Town Scottsdale actually predates many of us. Once home to the first local iteration of Trader Vic's (and later the second), the windy shopping and entertainment area is home to souvenir shops, nightclubs and some of the finest dining in town. Best of all: You can walk around down here. Make Lisa Sette your first stop. In recent years, the downtown Scottsdale art scene has flagged; some of the best galleries have closed, but the very nicest one remains: Lisa Sette Gallery. Sette has incredible taste, evident in her flock of artists, who hail from all over the world, including metro Phoenix. A Thursday night opening at Sette is a must; be sure to stop by Art One (featuring student art at a high calibre) as well -- then walk to dinner. A local luxury.
Eat at Kai Kai is the state's only five diamond/five star restaurant, and one of the few to truly celebrate Native American cooking at the highest level, in this case flavors inspired by the Gila River Indian Community. If for nothing else, go for the service -- and find yourself literally surrounded by wait staff who circle the table and place dishes before you with incredible precision. The food's not bad, either.
See the Penguins at the Wildlife World Zoo You might think it'll be a cold day in hell before you see a penguin in Phoenix -- but the truth is that you can see them (literally) any day of the year at the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium in Litchfield Park. The zoo has a collection of African black footed penguins and they are cute as can be. Don't worry about them in the summer; the zoo kindly provides A/C.
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