Things to Do

The 10 Best Free Things to Do This Week in Phoenix

Wear your best outfit for the Selena Dance Party.
Wear your best outfit for the Selena Dance Party. Michelle Sasonov
Looking for something fun and free to do? You're in luck. This week, you can overwhelm your eyes and ears with all things jazz at Beyond Jazz, treat your inner child at Drag Story Hour Arizona, or start celebrating Halloween early during the Haunted Swap Meet. For more things to do, visit Phoenix New Times’ calendar.

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Checking out Saskia Jorda's work in a previous exhibit.
Lynn Trimble


Typically, people think of “hanging by a thread” as a bad thing. But the phrase gets a new twist in the “Threaded” exhibit that opened this month inside the art gallery at Mesa Community College, 1833 West Southern Avenue, in Mesa. The free exhibit includes works by 34 contemporary artists working in the eclectic, evolving field of fibers, including several based here in metro Phoenix.

Highlights include works by Saskia Jorda and Ann Morton, artists who’ve been featured at Lisa Sette Gallery in Phoenix. Jorda’s work has been exhibited at Phoenix Art Museum and the biennial ArtPrize competition in Michigan. Morton has created several significant public artworks around the Valley, but we’re particularly fond of her biting Proof-Reading series inspired by awful Trumpisms. Check it out on Monday, September 23, when gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lynn Trimble

Checking out the collaborative "Water Is Life" exhibit in Phoenix.
Lynn Trimble


Water issues have made a lot of headlines in recent years, from Flint, Michigan, to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Now, there’s a local platform for people who want to address water issues that hit close to home. Sonoran Desert Water Awareness is working to highlight indigenous experiences and perspectives on water, as well as issues that affect environmental justice – including water quality and access, and the criminalization of humanitarian efforts to help migrants obtain water in the borderlands.

Learn more when it partners with Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, 1738 East McDowell Road, to present a free community water event called ¡Aguas! It’s happening from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24. The evening will include art, food, music, poetry, and speakers — plus time for crafting a community vision around water. Lynn Trimble

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Beer pairs perfectly with sustainability.
Lauren Cusimano


You’re in luck if your twin passions are beer and sustainability. They’re both top of mind for Local First Arizona, which is getting ready for its first event focused on the sustainability of local beer. They’ve convened a panel for a lively discussion, which will include folks from the Nature Conservancy, Sinagua Malt, Rhiba Farms, and AZ Wilderness Brewery.

They’ll be sharing ways they’ve collaborated to save millions of gallons of water, support a circular economy, and minimize greenhouse-gas emissions. It’s fascinating stuff, especially when you can listen while enjoying sustainable beer. The free SustainaBREW event happens from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 25, at AZ Wilderness, 201 East Roosevelt Street. Register online before attending, and bring money if you want to enjoy a brew or two. Lynn Trimble

‘Growing Up With Marty Robbins’

Don’t waste your precious time off on doctor’s appointments or attending some bland children’s recital; save it for an event like “Growing Up With Marty Robbins.” Culling from conversations with the singer’s twin sister, Mamie, journalist Andrew Means delves into Robbins’ rich life, painting a portrait from his beginnings in Tucson to the stages of Austin City Limits and beyond. You could read Means’ book by the same name, but this is a tale worth hearing firsthand, especially when you’d normally be hard at work on spreadsheets.

The talk is free and takes place from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Thursday, September 26, at the Sunnyslope Historical Society, 737 East Hatcher Road. A short lunch and listening party will follow, so that’s even more reason to attend. Chris Coplan

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Checking out the detail in one of Abe Zucca's paintings.
Nicole Underwood

Beyond Jazz

Expect plenty of jazz music in Roosevelt Row during a four-day event called Beyond Jazz, which celebrates the 80th anniversary of Blue Note Records. The lineup includes an exhibition featuring album cover designs spanning eight decades, plus jazz-inspired works by several local artists, including Tato Caraveo, Danielle Hacche, Joe Hunsacker, Holly Pyle, Eunique Yazzie, and Abe Zucca.

The opening reception takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, September 27, at Evolve Gallery, 918 North Second Street. The exhibit was curated by Nicole Underwood and Mike Pfister, and the opening will also include live listening stations and music spun by DJ Mitch Freedom. The show continues through Friday, October 4. Lynn Trimble

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Long live Selena.
Michelle Sasonov

Selena Dance Party

For residents of the Southwest, the late ’80s and early ’90s teen pop of Tiffany and Debbie Gibson always came second to another superstar: Selena. Whether she was singing in English or Spanish, her charm and effervescence drew in listeners hook, line, and sinker. Given that most folks in these here parts need little reason to celebrate her rich legacy, why not spend a Saturday night honoring the Queen of Tejano by dancing the night away? Don’t have any rhythm or just an abundance of left feet? Who cares — just smile and shimmy accordingly.

This totally free, 21-and-over dance party runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday, September 28, at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue. Chris Coplan

Drag Story Hour Arizona

Asides from Pixar films and the occasional episode of Doc McStuffins, there’s a dearth of great entertainment options that engage kids and adults alike. Unless, of course, you’ve ever attended a reading by Drag Story Hour Arizona, in which fabulous and fantastic drag queens delight young and old alike with tales of whimsy and magic before leading groups through arts and crafts and song and dance. Sure, it’s early on a Saturday morning, and you’ve got to get the kiddies some costumes, but consider the wonders it’ll do for both your inner and actual child.

Storytime is from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 28, at Bookmans, 1056 South Country Club Road in Mesa, with this month’s event focused on banned books. Chris Coplan

Haunted Swap Meet

It’d be easy to mourn the loss of Metrocenter as a once-proud center of local commerce. But if it’s going to become a desolate ghost town, better to make the most of it with a haunted swap meet. For the uninitiated, it’s like a regular swap meet, only all the trinkets, wares, clothes, home goods, and other delights are all Halloween themed. And if that weren’t enough to pull in spirits faster than one of those traps from Ghostbusters, there’s also a raffle, live entertainment, and a genuine hearse display.

The haunting happens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 28, at Metrocenter, 9617 North Metro Parkway West. Parking and attendance are free. Chris Coplan

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Sometimes you just need a little nature time.

Night Walks

Maybe you love the idea of exploring nature after dark, but you’re not a big fan of hiking off the beaten path. Check out the Night Walks hosted by the South Mountain Environmental Education Center, where you can spend some stress-free time strolling along a mile-long sidewalk amid all sorts of desert plants. They’re doing a walk from 6 to 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, September 28. It starts at the center, which is located at 10409 South Central Avenue, and it costs $4.

The center will provide the flashlights for the walk, and park rangers leading the walk will also have UV flashlights on hand to help illuminate scorpions located off the trail, as well as scanners to help pick any bat activity. You might even hear a coyote howling in the distance. Wear comfortable clothes and closed-toe shoes, and bring plenty of water. It’s best to register online before you go, so the center knows how many people to expect. Lynn Trimble

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Getting that mythical vibe from Yuko Yabuki's artwork.
Lynn Trimble

Storytelling: Myths, Maps, and Legends

Mythic scenes painted by Tempe artist Yuko Yabuki anchor a new exhibition inside The Gallery at Tempe Center for the Arts, where the mythology-infused art show inspired an event called Storytelling: Myths, Maps, and Legends. That’s where Joe Ray, Kyle Mitchell, and Marilyn Torres will be sharing legends and cultural mythologies starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 28.

The center is located at 700 West Rio Salado in Tempe, where you’ll find plenty of inspiration for thinking about the ways mythologies have informed your journey, from the tranquil waters of Tempe Town Lake to artist Jen Urso’s complex map exploring the many facets of Phoenix life. The free event is part of the center’s Edge Happy Hour series. Arrive by 5:30 p.m. to sign up if you have a story to share. Lynn Trimble
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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