It was once the lair of Walter Bimson, the late Valley National Bank president and philanthropist whose love of money was equaled only by his love of art. And, beginning this fall, the penthouse at the top of the 77-year-old Security Building will be ground zero for Arizona State University's Phoenix Urban Research Lab (PURL), filled with busy minds looking to redesign Phoenix's core, with the interests of commerce, higher education and creative types at stake. Owned by Maricopa County, the space -- featuring exposed brick walls and tiled terraces -- will be used as offices for ASU faculty and researchers, including two representatives from the Morrison Institute, and as a hub for issues related to the design of ASU's downtown campus. From its grassy (okay, it's Astroturf, but it looks pretty) and lengthy rooftop patio, PURL visitors chatting it up with ASU prez Michael Crow can see clear past the Westward Ho all the way to Cave Creek. But, more important, they've got a great front-row seat for downtown's transformation. Below, on the eighth floor, an old ballroom has been transformed into a work and meeting space, its old wood floors buffed and painted, crumbling ceilings complemented with steel pipe and modern lighting -- a reminder of the need to preserve the old while racing toward whatever's new.
Wrigley Mansion
There's a lot to love about the Wrigley Mansion, built by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. for his wife, Ada, and now owned by Phoenix's own jazz-playing recluse Geordie "Son of Spam" Hormel, heir to the meatpacking fortune. The interior of the regal mansion is a little dusty and threadbare in places, but the patina only adds to the place's old-school charm. First, there's Geordie's restaurant and bar at the Wrigley Mansion Club, which offers tasteful live music on select evenings. Once in a great while, the hippie-fied Hormel himself plays jazz piano there. The bar features several rooms with plush Victorian furnishings; it's the perfect place for a glass of good port or cognac. And the restaurant offers a terrific nighttime view. But the best thing about the mansion, in our humble opinion, is that, once you've finished din-din, you can wander without escort through the rooms, drink in hand, eventually landing on a set of over-the-parking-lot balconies facing the Phoenix skyline. What happens on those balconies, stays on those balconies. Trust us, the views are great.
Downtown Phoenix Public Market
This new public market offers an eclectic and always-changing range of Arizona-grown products. Choose from foods such as organic fruits and veggies from Queen Creek's One Windmill Farms, cactus jellies over at Cotton Country Jams, and diabetic-friendly sweets from TJ's Good Cookie -- and that's just a start. Navigate around dog owners and mothers pushing strollers to the beat of a rotating cast of musicians and check out a number of booths offering handcrafted jewelry, photographs and ceramics. Lisa Takata is just one artist who has offered original art prints and other unique items each week. Other tables feature flower arrangements from Maya's Farm, on-the-spot customized leather belts, and the occasional specialty product such as handcrafted cigar box purses. Tents shade a majority of the blacktop parking lot, and giant coolers are brought in during the summer. It's a breeze to create a morning full of activities with Circles Records and Matt's Big Breakfast nearby. Hours are every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, and from 4 to 8 p.m. during First Friday's cooler months. Parking is plentiful, and admission is always free.
This tiny parking lot market closes during the hot months (June through September), but when it's up and running, it's one of the best reminders of why we live here. Where else in the country can you relax outside on a sunny morning in, say, March, contemplating the state of the world over coffee and some chocolate soufflé, or a glass of wine and a pesto-drenched panini? Camelback Market capitalizes on simple pleasures, with a handful of vendors peddling all the necessities of the good life: gorgeous, ripe produce; a strong selection of imported cheeses; some well-priced, good wines; and more varieties of olives and honey than you'll find in almost any gourmet shop. A big highlight is the homemade crepes -- savory ones with veggies, chicken or shrimp, or sweet ones with Nutella -- that are cooked to order and big enough to share. Just don't party too hard the night before you go; the market only runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Az 88
Natalie Miranda
When the weather's just right, we like to sip a vodka martini on the perfectly appointed patio at AZ 88, with the rest of the beautiful people. When it's too hot, we'll crowd up against them at the bar. Last time we were there, it drizzled, but instead of ushering the B.P.s indoors, the staff handed out black umbrellas, a charming touch, and not surprising, given that attention to detail -- from the ever-changing art to the coffee bean in the espresso martini -- is a hallmark of this Scottsdale establishment. We held our breath, hoping no one skidded on high heels or leather-soled loafers on the slick marble floor. But everyone glided.
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa Hotel Review
Every year, the sunsets in the Valley just seem to get better and better. We'd tell you that's because of the increase in pollution, which, at twilight, lights the sky on fire with pinks and oranges. But that would be a buzz kill. Better to simply send you over to the jade bar -- the bar adjacent to elements, the restaurant at Sanctuary -- and let you ponder your existence over a cantaloupe martini and the prettiest sunset view in town. From the patio of the jade bar, you can see Mummy Mountain and the twinkling lights of Paradise Valley. That's right, Paradise.
Thousands of people head to Tempe each year to learn. Arizona State University's campus is a hotbed of artistic and engineering ingenuity. Just think, you can even learn something new on the free ride around campus. The Tempe Free Local Area Shuttle (FLASH) is the perfect spot to get an education on ligers. Now, during the time it takes you to travel between University Drive and Apache Boulevard, you can learn that the cross between a lion and a tiger is renowned for its skills in magic -- or so says Napoleon Dynamite in the film of the same name. The FLASH is the ideal place to make commentary on cult films and hit it off with other Napoleon aficionados. After all, everyone knows a liger is just about Napoleon's favorite animal ever, but you're so smart you probably knew that.
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
For a first date sure to set you apart from every other yahoo who attempted to impress your paramour before you, hook up with the concierge at the ritzy Westin Kierland Resort in north Scottsdale for a semi-guided ride on the hotel's fleet of $5,000 Segway scooters. Merely stepping on the high-tech gyroscopic "human transport" devices is instant fun -- the space-aged machines respond to your slightest touch, zipping off on two big wheels in whatever direction your mind seems to suggest. After a short lesson from a hotel staffer, you'll be free to zoom about the sprawling grounds like a New Age George and Jane Jetson. Don't stop this crazy thing!
The Clarendon Hotel
Downtown Phoenix's answer to Scottsdale's James Hotel snags the above category not because you might get busted by the po-po if you have one too many of Carson Quinn's martinis at the Camus bar/restaurant and then try to drive home. There's another reason. In the lobby of this newly renovated, baby-blue boutique hotel is a lifelike bust of AZ's legendary journalist-martyr Don Bolles, whose white Datsun sedan was torn apart by six remote-control-detonated sticks of dynamite on June 2, 1976, while parked in the Clarendon's lot. Bolles was in the car, and died from his wounds 11 days later. The crusading reporter was at the hotel to meet a source for one of his many exposés of the corruption in Arizona business and public life. The meeting never took place. It was a setup to draw Bolles away from his car while the bomb was planted underneath. To this day, questions linger about the assassination and who was involved, but there's no question about Bolles' bravery and his doggedness as a reporter. So the next time you stop by the Clarendon for a drink, pause a moment at the Bolles bust and raise a glass to a reporter who showed us what journalists should be like, even if they rarely live up to the standards Bolles set.
Roaring Fork
Courtesy of Roaring Fork
What's that sexy look in Roaring Fork proprietor/chef Robert McGrath's eye? Yeah, baby, Chef Robert knows what you want and just how you like it: His signature 12 oz. Big Ass Burger with roasted green chiles, long horn cheese, bacon, grilled onion, and fries, served only at the restaurant's saloon. That burger alone would be enough to net McGrath top honors in this category, but McGrath slays us with the other items on the bar menu, like the Green Chile Pork Stew with jack cheese and buttered flour tortillas, or the "Frito Pie," consisting of "Buzzard Breath" chili, diced onion and Cheddar over Fritos corn chips. Robert, if you think you can serve food like this at your bar and then have your way with us, you're . . . you're absolutely right. We surrender! As long as you give us one more burger for the road, and let us come back whenever we want, we're all yours, bubba.

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