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.

BEST PLACE TO GET COFFEE WITH A POLITICO

Starbucks

Starbucks
Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot has long been seen as a civic booster, advocate of the local arts scene, and patron of mom-and-pop businesses. So why the heck does the friendly official, who represents Phoenix's District 4, regularly grab a mid-morning java jolt at the Starbucks outlet located in Park Central Mall? Don't worry, Simplot hasn't sold out to the corporate coffee-house chain (at least not yet) in exchange for a year's supply of Frappuccinos. In reality, he's there to grip 'n' grin with numerous local pols who've also come for some overpriced Joe. While waiting in a lengthy line for a straight-up cup of decaffeinated coffee, Simplot conducts unofficial business with folks like former state attorney general Grant Woods (we think this place is Woods' official business address -- quick, someone check his card) and state Senator Ken Cheuvront. He also gets a few words in with officials from the Phoenix Unified school district who've stopped by. "This place is great," Simplot says. "I return 10 calls just by coming in here."
At $179 for a year's subscription, former state senator Stan Barnes' biweekly newsletter is no bargain. But the deftly titled West Washington is a good source for inside-the-statehouse gossip, particularly if you're looking for the skinny on Barnes' GOP pals and the political minutiae of who voted which way, and why. Barnes, who most recently lost a bid to take out fellow Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, currently runs the Copper State Consulting Group, which means lobbying for everyone from the Southern Arizona Homebuilders Association to Philip Morris. And while his newsletter occasionally strains a bit too hard to crack wise, considering the tedious political coverage we're used to, that's something we can forgive. We've also gotta give the guy props for his Q&As: Somehow, he makes our state legislators sound human.
Ra Sushi Bar & Restaurant
Hey, you! Yeah, we're talking to you. You got a Godzilla-size appetite? Then get your fill of Japanese food and stiff cocktails during Tokyo Tuesdays at Ra Sushi Bar. From 8 p.m. to midnight, Ra serves up monster-themed drinks and menu offerings while screening classic Godzilla and martial arts films. Come give your best impersonation of those cheesy voice-overs and catch a Godzilla flick and a variety of Sonny Chiba kung fu movies. Get tipsy off seven specialty drinks, including a Skyy Spice and Kahlúa concoction known as the Smog Monster that will leave you roaring for more. Among one of the four menu items honoring the amphibious creature is the Mega Monster Sampler, which comes with chicken skewers, two varieties of won tons and lobster spring rolls, and is perfect to share with friends.

There's no cover charge, so what are you waiting for?

Susie's Mexican Cafe
We've had a long, hard day of keeping our noses to the grindstone, but now it's quitting time and we're plenty parched. We need a place to quench our thirst and drown our sorrows, cheap. While nearly every local bar, tavern and saloon offers the ubiquitous happy hour, few are as inexpensive as this popular cantina-style Mexican eatery located on University Drive near Loop 101. We're familiar with the joint, having spent many a noontime hour enjoying its dozen or so $5 lunch specials as well as its penny beers. But now we're making the trip out to east Tempe every weekday from 4 until 7 p.m. to whet our whistle with 95-cent pints of Miller Lite, Budweiser, Bud Light, and Michelob Ultra. We're not the only ones looking to satisfy our dual cravings for refreshment and savings, as plenty of cotton-mouthed ASU college kids and businessmen are also in the house, both drinking it up and yukking it up. With apologies to the people at Circle K, Susie's offers the best thirst buster in town.
Sure, we've picked on Governor Janet in the past, but only because we have such high expectations for our favorite daughter. The 47-year-old University of Virginia law school graduate is on track to become the next major national political figure to emerge from our fair state. She's already served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona and was elected as Arizona Attorney General in 1998. Last year, she scored points with Senator John Kerry during the presidential campaign. Since she was elected governor in November 2002 -- no small feat for a woman with a D after her name -- the maven of moderates has made mincemeat of the state's GOP-ized Legislature. Her supercharged intellect, quick wit and take-no-prisoners style has scared off any serious contender to challenge her bid for reelection in 2006. We won't be surprised to find her in the U.S. Senate one day soon. With Sandra Day O'Connor retiring from the Supreme Court and Senator John McCain entering into the twilight of his career, Napolitano is Arizona's best bet to carry forward the Grand Canyon State's long and impressive performance on the national political stage. Go, Janet! We'll be watching.
Find a penny, buy a drink: Every Friday and Saturday night, Blaze hosts "1 Cent Night," where lushes can enjoy penny U-Call-Its from 8 to 11 p.m. The special includes top-shelf liquors like Hennessy, Hypnotiq, and Kahlúa, so your dates will think you're spending lots of moola for them to imbibe, when you're really not spending any more than you would spend on, say, one of those "prizes" from the quarter machines at retail stores. So bring a dime, have 10 drinks, and be a dancin' fool. At the end of the night, you should have more than enough to spring for a cab ride home.

Best Of Phoenix®

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