Depending on your passion, there are plenty of places to geek out in Phoenix.
Whether you're addicted to comic books, are working on your next hack project, or revel in the opportunity to use a laser cutter, this town has more than a few places where it's encouraged to let your flag fly.
Here are our favorite 10:
Ash Avenue Comics' big strength is their selection of indie comics. They have an abundance of issues of classic indie favorites like Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve, plus local comics like Russ Kazmierczak Jr.'s Amazing Arizona Comics, back issues of defunct indie hits like The Fart Party, and hardcovers from publishers like Fantagraphics. The store also carries new mainstream releases, but sometimes not enough, as they tend to sell out of the latest hot title not long after national new comic release day (Wednesdays).
The Local Motors' micro-factory landed in Phoenix based solely on the design of its Rally Fighter. The slick black, all-terrain vehicle was the winner of a design contest is now the result of a combined car fanatic effort. To buy one, you have to build one -- the business plan of Jay Rogers and his team from literally all over the world. Their Chandler factory gives engineering and car geeks alike a chance to participate in the car-building process and to get their hands on some pretty heavy machinery ... not to mention the chance to talk shop.
Sometimes it's hard to break away from the daily grind of being huddled up in a work cubicle. Gangplank, which offers free workspace, mentoring, and workshops Monday through Friday, dedicates each Wednesday night for the tech community to connect and create.
Geeks and fanatical collectors of designer vinyl figures got another reason to go to downtown Mesa with the opening of Lulubell Toy Bodega. The designer toy boutique relocated from Tucson's Fourth Avenue, and we've been drooling over their niche nerd culture that arrived in Mesa a year ago.
Four years ago, HeatSync started as Arizona's first hackerspace, and joined the growing number of similar groups popping up around the country -- mostly as a way for post-graduate students to continue researching and working with sophisticated machines, computers, and equipment that might be hard purchase and maintain as individuals. Today, HeatSync holds regular meetings, open to the public, to provide workspace, equipment, and resources as well as technological tutorials.
This is the place to go if you want to drink some caffeine (either the store's potent house blend coffee or an energy drink), chat with fellow comic fans, and play some video games. Yes, there's a decent selection of comic books, graphic novels, action figures, and comic-themed paintings by local artists, but this is primarily a hangout place. There are plenty of couches, chairs, and tables in which to sit and read your latest purchase, or watch some anime on the televisions. The gaming room in the back features rows of comfy black leather chairs, flat screen TVs, and X-Box gaming systems, and there's a wide selection of games to choose from, too. Oh, and did we mention there's a big Batman mannequin?
Mesa's Main Street welcomed a spooky newcomer in October. Monsterland, a combination haunted house and horror film museum, is open year-round so horror buffs and monster lovers can get their fill long after the holiday has passed.
Tempe's Maker Bench hosts workshops, seminars, and creative nights for members that make use of the space's 3D printer, 1909 Singer industrial sewing machine, a 220-watt laser cutting tool, woodworking and metalworking tools, and a full set of electronic equipment. Geek out, indeed. Members pay monthly subscriptions starting at $45 and are allowed to use the equipment (after some safety classes, of course) during shop hours, which start at 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.
If you're home for summer without a science kit or out of baking soda for your homemade volcano, head downtown to the Arizona Science Center the first Friday of each month for Adults' Night Out. The activities kick off at 5:30 p.m. and additional exploration (for a fee, of course) can happen through the center's IMAX movie or planetarium presentation.
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, a view of the stars through their telescopes. The open house runs from 8 to 10 p.m. and is free to the public. No reservations are required.
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