Things to Do

The Best Things to Do in Metro Phoenix This Week

Dressed for success.
Dressed for success. Benjamin Leatherman

Your plans have arrived. This week, you can celebrate the late rapper J. Dilla at Beats, Rhymes, and Donuts, find exactly what you're looking for at VNSA Annual Used Book Sale, or get lost in a multitude of microbrewed and craft beers at Arizona Strong Beer Festival 2019. For more things to do, visit Phoenix New Times’ calendar.

click to enlarge Maybe leave the spurs outside. - COURTESY OF WILDE MEYER GALLERY
Maybe leave the spurs outside.
Courtesy of Wilde Meyer Gallery
There’s plenty of new art on view in Old Town Scottsdale, where you can explore contemporary art while embracing a bit of western spirit. The city’s Thursday night ArtWalk is getting a Wild West twist on Thursday, February 7, when you can stroll streets decked out with zigzag swags of little white lights signaling the arts district. It’s centered around Marshall Way and Main Street near the intersection of Indian School and Scottsdale roads. Head over between 6:30 and 9 p.m. to enjoy gallery exhibitions, sidewalk performances, and conversations with local artists about their work. The event is free. Visit Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge Kodo is coming to Arizona - TAKASHI OKAMOTO
Kodo is coming to Arizona
Takashi Okamoto
Maybe you’ve experienced Japanese drumming around the Valley, at the Musical Instrument Museum or the Fushicho Daiko Dojo on Grand Avenue. Now you can explore traditional Japanese drumming at Mesa Arts Center, 1 East Main Street, with a performance by Kodo. Based on Japan’s Sado Island, the professional drumming troupe is working to popularize the art form through international tours. Their Mesa performance is being presented in the center’s Ikeda Theater, named in honor of Janet Michiko Ikeda, a Mesa Arts Center supporter who died in March 2018. The performance is happening at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 7. Ticket prices range from $31 to $51. Visit Lynn Trimble

Madeline Albright
Having served for four years as our nation’s 64th (and first female) United States Secretary of State, it is safe to say that Madeline Albright knows how current global events are leading us down a tyrannical road. The fight against democracy is the basis of the groundbreaking diplomat’s latest book Fascism: A Warning. Presented by local bookstore Changing Hands, Albright will talk about and sign her latest work onstage at the Orpheum Theatre.

The discussion will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 7, at 203 West Adams Street. Ticket packages range from $24.54 to $40.40 and include a signed copy of the book. For more information, visit Jason Keil

click to enlarge Checking out last year's festival. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Checking out last year's festival.
Lynn Trimble
Chinese Culture and Cuisine Festival
Celebrate the Year of the Boar as community members converge on Hance Park, 1202 North Third Street, for the Chinese Culture and Cuisine Festival. The three-day festival kicks off on Friday, February 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday’s lineup includes exhibits, performances, demonstrations, and hands-on activities for children. While you’re there, check out koi fish and dragon boat displays, the city’s giant panda sculpture, and a lovely tea garden. Or try your hand at the chopstick challenge. The festival continues through Sunday, February 10. It’s free, but bring money if you want to enjoy authentic Chinese cuisine while you’re there. Visit Lynn Trimble

DJ Fact 135
John Carbis
Beats, Rhymes, and Donuts
This year would have been J Dilla’s 45th birthday. A party for the late rapper and beatmaker titled Beats, Rhymes, and Donuts is being thrown to mark the occasion. Presented by The Blunt Club, there will be performances by Elzhi, Bronze Nazareth, and DJ Reflekshin, to name a few. Since this is also the 13th anniversary of the Detroit-born hip-hop producer’s landmark album Donuts, there will be samples of the doughy breakfast food served courtesy of Welcome Chicken + Donuts.

Dilla says go at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 8, at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue. Tickets are $15 to $20. For more information, visit Jason Keil

click to enlarge Leslie Nielsen - NBC
Leslie Nielsen
Leslie Nielsen: From the Flies of Leslie Nielsen!
Before establishing his slapstick acting style in the classic comedy Airplane!, Leslie Nielsen was an accomplished Canadian actor who starred in everything from the ’50s science-fiction classic Forbidden Planet to the disaster epic The Poseidon Adventure. Dan Stone of The Unfathomable Film Freakout has captured the thespian’s finest moments — everything from his numerous television guest appearances to playing a villain opposite Barbra Streisand will be included in this collection of clips titled Leslie Nielsen: From the Files of Leslie Nielsen!

The show will surely begin at 10 p.m. on Friday, February 8, at FilmBar, 815 North Second Street. Tickets are $9.95. For more information, visit And don’t call us Shirley. Jason Keil

click to enlarge All smiles at last year's Phoenix Idiotarod. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
All smiles at last year's Phoenix Idiotarod.
Benjamin Leatherman
Phoenix Idiotarod
Supermarket managers of the Valley, don’t be surprised if a shopping cart or two has gone missing from your store recently. There’s a chance they’ve been, um, borrowed by the racers of this year’s Phoenix Idiotarod. Don’t worry, though, they won’t be destroyed, just redecorated and put to good use during one of the Valley’s more gonzo outdoor events.

The Phoenix Idiotarod is an urban shopping cart race that’s equal parts bar crawl, cosplay fest, and countercultural event (with a bit of Cannonball Run and Jackass thrown into the mix). Teams of costumed pranksters will pilot colorfully modified shopping carts around the downtown Phoenix area, hitting up several bars and pit stops along the way. Each five-person squad features a different theme riffing on pop culture and there are plenty of shenanigans involved during the race.

This year’s Phoenix Idiotarod happens on Saturday, February 9, and will start off at Trans Am Cafe, 1506 Grand Avenue, with 20-plus teams participating, including some inspired by Bird Box, David Bowie, and GLOW. Check-in is at 11 a.m. and the race kicks off at noon. It’s $50 per team to participate or free to spectate. See to sign up or for more info. Benjamin Leatherman

click to enlarge The cactus is always greener... - COURTESY OF MCDOWELL MOUNTAIN PRESERVE
The cactus is always greener...
Courtesy of McDowell Mountain Preserve
Nature as Therapy
People have mixed feelings about green, especially when it comes to kale, shower tiles, and ugly Christmas sweaters. But nearly everyone appreciates the chance to get outdoors to experience the calming effect of nature. Head to the Gateway Trailhead at the Sonoran Mountain Preserve to see for yourself at a 90-minute Nature as Therapy walk is happening from 1:45 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 9. You’ll cover about 1.5 miles, surrounded by fellow nature lovers who’ve also decided to forgo screen time for sunshine. The free walk starts at 18333 North Thompson Peak Parkway in Scottsdale. Visit Lynn Trimble

D-backs Fan Fest
It hasn’t been easy being an Arizona Diamondbacks fan lately. The team finished last season at 82-80. Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock are both gone. And, for all intents and purposes, it looks like the D-backs are headed into a rebuilding period.

All that said, there’s reason to be excited about this year. Players like Zach Greinke, Eduardo Escobar, and David Peralta are all coming back, so there’s always the possibility the team could have a great year.

The D-backs faithful can get hyped for the upcoming season on Saturday, February 9, at Salt River Fields, 7555 North Pima Road in Scottsdale, during this year’s D-backs Fan Fest. The afternoon-long event, which runs from noon to 4 p.m., will offer the chance to hobknob with players, coaches, and team personnel, as well as get autographs and photos with them. Baseball activities, batting cages, face painting, and an Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation yard sale are also planned.

Admission to the event is free. Call 602-462-3378 or see for more details. Benjamin Leatherman

VNSA Annual Used Book Sale
Did you know that over 7,300 boxes of books, albums, magazines, maps, and DVDs are unloaded one week before the VNSA Annual Used Book Sale? Now in its 63rd year, it takes a legion of volunteers a week to unpack and organize the massive inventory of the biggest secondhand sale in the Southwest. This means you will easily find what you are looking for, whether it is a used copy of your favorite Michael Crichton novel or the season of Frasier that is missing from your collection, with books starting at $1.

The sale runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 9, and from 8.a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 10, at Arizona State Fairgrounds’ Ag Center, 1826 West McDowell Road. This is a free event, but there is a cash-only fee to park. For more information, visit Jason Keil

Arizona Strong Beer Festival 2019
For fans of malt and hops concoctions, it’s one the most wonderful times of the year. The annual Arizona Beer Week is on tap from February 7 to 16, offering local brew-lovers the chance to wet their whistle at a large variety of events across the Valley.

The centerpiece of the week is the Arizona Strong Beer Festival 2019, on Saturday, February 9, at Steele Indian School Park, 300 East Indian School Road. More than 130 breweries will serve a multitude of microbrewed and craft beers, all of which will offer stronger flavors and a serious kick, including several created just for the event. Live music, food vendors, and other beer-themed activities will take place.

Tops will pop from 1 to 5 p.m. General admission is $60 and includes 40 tasting tickets; VIP admission is $80 and features early-bird entry at 11:30 a.m., 40 tasting tickets, access to a private area, a food voucher, and swag. Designated drivers can get in for $10. See for complete details. Benjamin Leatherman

click to enlarge Do good. - COURTESY OF DT PHX INC
Do good.
Courtesy of DT PHX Inc
Phoenix Volunteer Fair
Despite living in the sunniest state, the shorter days can cause seasonal affective disorder in Arizonans, symptoms of which include fatigue and depression. To those feeling the gloomy effects, doctors recommend getting lost in charitable work. The Phoenix Volunteer Fair is one way to get matched up with the local causes you care about. Over 100 nonprofit organizations will be there, including the American Humane Society, Phoenix Center for the Arts, and the American Red Cross.

You can find your next charitable opportunity from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 10, at The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street. This is a free event. For more information, visit Jason Keil

Sausage Fest
If you’ve been through Arcadia lately, you know The Porch, with its casual mix of comfort food, games, and cocktails, is the perfect addition to one of Phoenix’s most posh neighborhoods. The restaurant is partnering up with its neighbor Arcadia Meat Market and Huss Brewing Company for their first Sausage Fest. Pours of Orange Blossom and Koffee Kolsch will be paired with various cased meats for a delicious afternoon prepared by Executive Chef Paul Lindsay.

Grind out some fun from noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 10, at 4017 East Indian School Road. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit Jason Keil

click to enlarge A beautiful day in the neighborhood. - ALEX RENTZIS
A beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Alex Rentzis
Willo Historic District Home Tour
Saunter your charming self over to the Willo neighborhood on Sunday, February 10, if you want to check out a dozen charming homes during the Willo Historic District Home Tour and Street Fair happening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can get advance tickets online, or buy a ticket at Third Avenue and Monte Vista Road on tour day. Advance tickets are $18 a person or $50 for two (that last option also gets you four drink tickets). The tour also includes a historic firehouse, and more than 100 vendors are expected to share the local love that day. Bring cash for lunch, because 20 food trucks are showing up at lunchtime. Visit Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge Throwback to the 2017 championship. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Throwback to the 2017 championship.
Lynn Trimble
World Championship Hoop Dance Competition
Most of us struggle with keeping a hula hoop from falling to our feet. Imagine the agility and athleticism it must take to perform complex hoop dances with up to 50 hoops arranged in intricate patterns. Some of the finest American Indian and Canadian First Nation hoop dancers, whose performances reflect unique variations in tribal cultures, are taking part in the Heard Museum’s two-day World Championship Hoop Dance Competition. Grab your lawn chair or blanket and head over to the museum, 2301 North Central Avenue, on Sunday, February 10, when competition hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dancers will be judged on showmanship, creativity, speed, and more. Single-day tickets are $18, which includes museum admission. Visit Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge So many elaborate costumes. - COURTESY OF ARIZONA RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL
So many elaborate costumes.
Courtesy of Arizona Renaissance Festival
Arizona Renaissance Festival
The Arizona Renaissance Festival has undergone a lot of changes over the past 30 years. What started out in 1989 as a quaint event in the far reaches of the East Valley in 1989 has become an annual attraction that’s both massively popular and just plain massive. The festival, which re-creates a 16th-century Tudor village, now spans more than 30 acres and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. And its mix of revelry, artisans, entertainment, and memorable characters is just as colorful and fun as ever.

Experience it for yourself when the Renaissance Festival kicks off its 31st season this weekend. As always, there will be jousting, rides, games, feasting, feats of skill, and more merriment than you can shake a giant turkey leg at.

The festival is located at 12601 East US Highway 60 in Gold Canyon and runs every weekend, rain or shine, starting Saturday, February 9, through Sunday, March 31. Hours on Sunday, February 10, are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is available online for $25 for adults, $23 for active duty military and seniors, and $15 for children ages 5 to 12. (Kids 5 and younger get in free.) Call 520-463-2600 or see Benjamin Leatherman

Only Lovers Left Alive
Indie director Jim Jarmusch turned the whole vampire legend on its head with his film Only Lovers Left Alive at a time when the Twilight films were giving teenage girls skewed ideas about the bloodsuckers. Tom Hiddleston is a Nosferatu living in Detroit who has influenced art for centuries but has become reclusive as human society and pop culture continue to decline. His wife, played by the androgynous Tilda Swinton, arrives to show him there are things still worth living for.

Bite into this cool movie at 7 p.m. on Monday, February 11, at FilmBar, 815 North Second Street. Tickets are $9.95 with discounted admission for Zia Z-Club card holders. For more information, visit Jason Keil
Every night should be movie night. - MELISSA FOSSUM
Every night should be movie night.
Melissa Fossum

Drink and Draw
When in doubt, head to your local bookstore. It’s always fun to stroll aisles filled with books and little luxuries like sketch books and colored pencil sets. Sometimes it takes a little motivation to actually open those sketch books and get drawing. That’s where Drink and Draw night, happening from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, February 11, comes in. Head over to Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 West Camelback Road, to give it a try. Bring your own supplies, then plop down at the First Draft Book Bar, where there will be a live model. The event costs $8, but you’ll want to bring money for beer, wine, or coffee. Visit Lynn Trimble

Before there was Black Panther, there was Blade. The 1998 film stars Wesley Snipes as a vampire-human hybrid seeking to save mere mortals from evil vampires. It’s being shown at FilmBar, 815 North Second Street, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12. Vampires weren’t invited, but ASU will be in the house. Michael G. Bennett, an associate research professor for ASU’s Center for Science and Imagination, will be there to lead an introductory discussion of the film, which runs 121 minutes. His insights should give you plenty to talk about with fellow film buffs. It’s an added bonus that you can belly up to the bar while you’re there, to exchange whatever great thoughts the flick inspires. Tickets are $9.95. Visit Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge Design meets desert. - COURTESY OF FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT FOUNDATION
Design meets desert.
Courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Design in the Desert: Function + Form in Arid Climates
What’s the functional impact of sun or water on form? That’s one of many questions you can explore during Design in the Desert: Function + Form in Arid Climates, a panel discussion being presented at Taliesin West, 12621 North Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard in Scottsdale. The panel runs from 7 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 13. Your $25 ticket will also get you into the 6:30 p.m. reception, plus a Q & A and post-panel reception happening at 8 p.m. Five panelists experienced with designing for desert environments hope to bring that perfect balance of information and entertainment. Let your inner architect be the judge. Visit Lynn Trimble
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.
Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil
Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble