Things to Do

The Best Free Things to Do in Metro Phoenix This Week

Explore watercolor artworks at ASU Gammage.
Explore watercolor artworks at ASU Gammage. ASU
Is your wallet still recovering from the holiday season? Have no fear. This week, you can exchange philosophical musings with like-minded peers during Get Lit, watch your favorite drink creators battle it out at Battle of the Boba, or enjoy a diverse poetry reading during Friday Poetry — all for free. For more things to do, visit Phoenix New Times’ calendar.

Contemporary Watercolor Artists of Arizona

You expect to see fabulous Broadway shows at ASU Gammage, 1200 South Forest Avenue in Tempe. But the performing arts venue can color your world beyond musicals like The Color Purple, thanks to rotating exhibitions of artworks by Arizona creatives. Artworks line several walls inside the theater’s lobby, and you don’t have to see a show to explore them.

Currently, they’re featuring works by artists in a group called Contemporary Watercolor Artists of Arizona, which was founded 50 years ago. The exhibit includes both realist and abstract works. Expect landscapes, portraits, and other artworks created with transparent watercolor paint, acrylics, gouache, and colored inks. See the exhibit between 1 and 4 p.m. on Monday, December 30. Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge
Checking out art along Mill Avenue.
Lynn Trimble

Self-Guided Walking Tours

Walk off a few holiday pounds while you learn more about the local arts scene by hitting the streets of Tempe on Wednesday, January 1. The city publishes online maps for two different self-guided walking tours of art in public spaces, which means you can head out any time you like in search of unique artworks from sculptures to painted utility boxes.

One map will guide you through the art offerings around Tempe Town Lake, which include poetry by Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Rios. Another will guide you through downtown streets, where creatives are making their mark in diverse ways. You’ll spot the works of Andy Brown, Danielle Foushée, John Randall Nelson, Lucretia Torva, and Frank Ybarra. Lynn Trimble

A great place for conversation.
Valley Bar

Get Lit

Centuries before the advent of social media, there were salons. They were informal gatherings that gave people a place to exchange ideas and wax philosophical. Here in metro Phoenix, the Get Lit series puts a modern twist on salons, bringing them from the 18th century into the present day. Every session explores a different topic, which is introduced by an expert, then discussed by those who’ve come together for a night of intriguing conversation in a fun setting.

Local literary voice Kelsey Pinckney is leading the next salon, where the topic will be writing about trauma. It’s happening from 7 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 2, inside the reading room at Valley Bar, 130 North Central Avenue. The event is free, but you have to be at least 18 to attend. Seating is limited to 24 slots, so it’s wise to hop online and RSVP before attending. Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge
Prepare to be dazzled.
City of Scottsdale


With a punny name like Scottsdazzle, you should’ve already left a person-shaped cloud of dust on your way out the door. Each year, the best parts of Scottsdale are transformed into a veritable winter wonderland, complete with live music and entertainment, “unique events,” festive decorations, and, of course, ample opportunities for celebratory eating, drinking, and shopping. Because who says Christmas has to end in December? Quitters, that’s who.

Scottsdazzle runs until January 4 throughout Old Town and downtown Scottsdale. Chris Coplan

click to enlarge
Let the boba battle begin.
Robrt L. Pela

Battle of the Boba

Who makes the best boba in the Valley? We find out this week as the Japanese Friendship Garden and Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce host the Battle of the Boba. Vendors will throw down with patrons judging based on the menu, “Japanese-specific” flavor, and tent decorations. Eight quarter-finalists are vying for the ultimate prize: Mochi Fresh, Tastea, Aloha Tea & Coffee, Boba Tea House, Mango Rabbit, Tea Swirl, iTea, and Rapha Tea. And when you’re not busy slamming gallons of boba, there’ll also be live music and a slew of Japanese sweets.

The competition runs from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, January 3, at 1125 North Third Avenue. The event is free. Chris Coplan

click to enlarge
Poetry time in Tempe.
Changing Hands Bookstore

Friday Poetry

Fiction writer and poet Roxanne Doty will be reading a selection of her works exploring a wide range of topics from people observed on the streets of Phoenix to life in the desert borderlands during the next Friday Poetry event at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 South McClintock Drive in Tempe. Doty was nominated in 2019 for the prestigious Pushcart Prize, which recognizes literary works by American authors published in small presses.

Following her reading, others are free to read their poetry. The free event will give you a chance to meet fellow literature lovers and help get your New Year off to a smart start. Lynn Trimble

Kahau Kones

If you weren’t there to watch the Moon landing, or experience the fall of the Berlin Wall, don’t feel left out. You can still see history in the making. Scottsdale’s own Kahau Kones is attempting to shatter the Guinness World Record for largest shaved ice — now sitting at approximately 3,400 pounds — by crafting an ice-cold treat weighing some 5,000 pounds. Could a joke be made here regarding ice in the desert? Sure. But we should all focus instead on finding stretch pants and crafting large enough spoons.

History will (hopefully) be made from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, January 4, at The Pavilions at Talking Stick, 9180 East Indian Bend Road in Scottsdale. The event is free, but be sure to reserve a spot. Chris Coplan

Taiko Drumming

The folks at Guitar Center don’t generally like it when you try and barrel through a Neil Peart solo on its drum sets. Luckily, Fushicho Daiko Dojo provides a free space to jump headlong into the world of taiko drumming. For those unaware, taiko is the musical equivalent of a “full-body workout,” with the style often exemplifying “teamwork and cooperation.” So, exercise, socialization, and creative expression all in one? You can’t beat that.

The event is set for 5:30 to 11 p.m. on Friday, January 4, at 925 Northwest Grand Avenue. It’s free to the public. Chris Coplan
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble