Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: the Psycho Building, Tea at the Ritz, and Lots of Greek Beer
The Japanese Friendship Garden near downtown Phoenix.
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.
Check out the Japanese Friendship Garden The waterfall, surrounded by hand-placed boulders from Congress, Arizona, is a must-see. So is the White Heron Castle monument, depicting a Shachi--a mythical fish with the face of a tiger. Ditto the Japanese tea garden (cha-niwa or roji), rightfully billed as "a place for quiet reflection," and the koi pond, full of brightly colored and beautifully shaped fish. No matter what you see there, downtown's Japanese Friendship Garden is a great place to detach from the hectic everyday world, with a tranquil tea ceremony or just a mindful mosy through the cool greenery there.
Sarah Hurwitz's show at Eye Lounge, entitled "Everything I have ever wanted to own," was a favorite during the 2013 Art Detour.
Attend Art Detour This annual walking tour of downtown galleries and artist studio spaces is, after 26 years, a Phoenix tradition. Art Detour is great for suburbanites for whom visiting art galleries is a once-a-year event, and for those of us for whom it's a weekly or monthly pastime. In both cases, ArtLink's big weekend offers that rarest of things: access to artists' private studios, where they toil to make pretty things for the rest of us to look at. In addition, Detour galleries are open all weekend--in this year's case, that's March 8 and 9--some with special events and meet-and-greet receptions to boot. Even more fun is the many "pop-up galleries" that breed like rabbits during Art Detour, allowing rarely-seen emerging artists a space to show what they're up to.
Take a Driving Tour of Downtown Phoenix Movie Locations Head through the west-bound I-10 tunnel that appeared in 2005's Transamerica (watch for the 7th Avenue sign!) and onto Monroe Street to try to pick out the storefront facades that appeared in 1953's War of the Worlds (which also used the east valley's Dysart Road for its several "desert" sequences), then further south to Jefferson to ogle the Luhrs Building that appeared in both Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and its 1998 remake. Head north on Central Avenue to see the mile-wide stretch of downtown that was annihilated in the 1978 cheese-fest Fire in the Sky, about a nasty comet that fell to earth and landed (where else?) on our fair city. Hang a left at McDowell Road and check out the various locations (the Los Olivos hotel; that recently shuttered gas station on Second Street; Encanto Park, which doubled as Mexico City) used by Sonny and Cher in 1969's Chastity.
Tour the Rosson House Built in 1894, this Victorian mansion is among the last glimpses of how the wealthy once lived in downtown Phoenix. Located in what's now Heritage Square, the house is named for Dr. Roland Lee Rosson, who commissioned its design from renowned San Francisco architect A.P. Petit. (Some histories claim that Petit, who was sick and dying during the Rosson house construction, actually lifted the design of the house from George Barber, a prominent builder who published his floor plans.) Whoever's behind the Rosson design, they embellished like mad. The house is a hybrid Queen Anne with international elements grafted onto it: Italianate "hooded" windows; a French octagon tower; an Asian moon gate. After years of being a rental and alter a flop house, the house's oddly international details were all but obscured. Purchased by the city in the 80s and fully restored, the Rosson House is now a local history museum that stands as a reminder of how the better half lived in the late 19th century.
Zinnias: The bounty awaits.
Shop on Melrose on 7th If you're a fan of antique shops with a little thrifting thrown in, this one-mile stretch of road is pretty much all you need for a pleasant afternoon of acquisition. Starting at the southernmost Seventh Avenue and Indian School end of this unique retail trek, there's Zinnias, a premium antiques and collectibles mall (don't miss Antique Sugar, a separate store selling vintage clothing, at the front of the Zinnias building). From there it's Flo's on 7th, perhaps the cleanest and best-organized thrift shop in town, then on to Qcumberz and Charlie's House and Retro Ranch (for mid-century stuff) and on up to Antiques on Camelback, stopping at any of another dozen antique and junk shops along the way. Finish off at White Dove, another super-clean thrift store, just north of Camelback, and then collapse into a post-shopping heap.
Visit Taliesin West Located in the Sonoran desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains in northeast Scottsdale, Frank Lloyd Wright's former winter home was built in 1937 and now houses the famed architect's southwest's education campus. A trip to Taliesin West, which offers several tour packages lasting anywhere from an hour to a weekend, means gaining insight into Wright's thing for integrating indoor and outdoor spaces (check out the Garden Room, which opens to desert flora on the east and to the horizon on the south) and his game-changing use of site-specific, natural desert materials in his work. You'll see the Wrights' living quarters, where they entertained movies stars and presidents, the family's private Cabaret Theater and music pavilion, and even Wright's private office, where he sketched all those famous stained-glass and textile designs. A couple hours with Taliesin West's terraces, gardens, and walkways is a very Phoenix thing to do.
Attend the Annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Community Center Every October since 1960, this annual festival has rocked an entire weekend. Locals of every persuasion enjoy authentically prepared Greek cuisine, sample imported Greek wine and beer, and watch traditional dancers performing in authentic Greek world costumes at this two-day ethnic party. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Community Center (1973 E Maryland Ave, Phoenix, (602) 264-7863) is briefly transformed into Little Athens, where local Greeks pile on Hellenic hospitality and enough baba ganoush to choke a mule. (For people not interested in Greek culture or cuisine, there's usually an inflatable slide. And, again, Greek beer.)
Tea at the Ritz.
Have Afternoon Tea at the Ritz-Carlton Wednesday through Saturday from noon until 3, one can go play Downton Abbey in the cozy lobby lounge of the Ritz. Tea sommelier Jeffrey Hattrick caters to guests as if they're, well, guests, customizing tea and little nibbly things for each Lady Mary and Tom Branson. His selection of seasonal tea blends and tea-infused appetizers and pastries go great with piano virtuoso Nicole Pesci's lively accompaniment. Wear a hat.
See Blaise Lantana Perform As blues singers, go, Phoenix has a handful of local superstars. Tucson-born Blaise, who's played blues with the big guys, is high on that list because she swings classical piano and sings the blues with a voice like sweet brown butter. Some of you think of her as the music director at NPR affiliate KJZZ, but anyone who's heard her sing thinks of her as that cool crooner with the nighttime radio gig. She's smooth.
Drive a Surface Road until the City Stops and the Desert Begins If you take Central Avenue all the way south, you'll eventually run out of city and straight into South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the United States and one of the largest urban parks in the world. If you start far enough north, say at Camelback Road, you can watch suburban Phoenix turn into downtown's business district and then morph into what our town used to look like: sand and Saguaro and the endless desert.
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