Best New Museum 2010 | The Musical Instrument Museum | People & Places | Phoenix
Aptly billed as the world's first global history museum, the MIM is a rare example of something or someone's living up to its hype and then exceeding expectations. The beautifully open and inviting space opened in April with a collection that includes instruments from literally every nation on the globe — no small feat. That makes for quite a day at this privately funded gem in the desert. We were entranced by the myriad sounds pulsating through our wireless headsets as we spent time with the 300-plus exhibits, and we learned so much more than we had expected. We got a special charge out of the klezmer exhibit (covering music dedicated to preserving the Jewish heritage), and we tripped out on handcrafted instruments from such exotic locales as Nepal, Ghana, and Mali. And, for you foodies, the eats at the MIM are terrific, with global cuisine and local/regional dishes available for a fair price. This museum is a must-visit.
Yes, we know, there's another children's museum in town. And we've been there, and it's cool. But this year, we want to make sure you know about the Valley's original museum for kids, Arizona Museum for Youth. In our estimation, this is what a children's museum should be. There are some play elements, which we think is terrific, but there are also engaging, educational exhibits. Our kids are still talking about the Jim Henson-inspired exhibit AMY brought to town years ago, and they almost jumped out of their skin when they heard about the current show, "Jump to Japan: Discovering Culture Through Popular Art." That exhibit, sponsored by the Minnesota Children's Museum, incorporates interactive displays involving everything Japanese, from kimono to formal tea to comic books, as well as special events including Japanese swordsmanship, calligraphy, and origami demonstrations. Such methods teach kids about another culture in a way they won't soon forget. Now, that's a fine art.

Best Chance to Revitalize Downtown Phoenix


It's almost too good to be true, but there it is, towering over us at Central and Washington. Cityscape is a reality, threatening to energize downtown Phoenix, once and for all. This multi-use destination is making it harder for critics to claim there's still no reason to linger downtown after work, what with its blending of residential, retail, dining, and office space. Its planned open spaces (Cityscape is still being born; Phase Two of its massive complex will be completed in early 2011) aren't what we hoped for, but they will provide a park-like setting for shoppers and students of ASU, whose downtown campus will spill over into Cityscape. Two city blocks in the heart of downtown between First Avenue and First Street, Washington and Jefferson streets, have been given over to this project, which we hope will result in our city's long-awaited critical mass. In the meantime, there's the big, glittering glass tower that's already the home of some prestigious law firms, and the retail section that's bustling with action from the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley and Gold's Gym. We get it: There are haters. But we are ready to give Big City Life a chance. Look for us at Cityscape!
We know, we know: It is so not cool to party at a Sheraton. Except, strangely, it is! We're perpetually stunned when we walk into District, the sleek bar at Phoenix's newest downtown hotel, and see that it's packed with revelers. At first, we thought it must merely be conventioneers, dorky out-of-towners with tube socks and nametags. Ha! On one recent Saturday, we stumbled into an eclectic crowd of genuine downtown Phoenix types: black, white, Latino, funky-haired, coolly shod, and artsy. On a recent Tuesday, while sipping our martinis, we saw beautiful people: attractive older men in suits, chic Scottsdale ladies in halter dresses. In downtown Phoenix! At the Sheraton! So get over your prejudices already. The party is happening, whether you're there or not. And as for us, we're popping by so often, we're becoming regulars. At a Sheraton!
This stunning Spanish Colonial Revival building is home to a clinic named for Lois Anita Grunow, who died in 1929 at the age of 7 from a ruptured appendix. Her well-to-do parents built the clinic, recognizable by its distinctive bas-relief façade etched with elaborate stone carvings. Its two-story open lobby, though, is really worth a peek: all stonework and wall murals and high-up windows that let in some lovely, late-afternoon light. Appointed with period-correct furniture, the lobby still sports a series of paintings — one of them a portrait of little Lois — commissioned by Maximilian Aurel Reinitz Rasko, a noted artist popular at the time of the building's dedication in 1931. Check it out!
Ever hear the story about an abandoned underground bowling alley between Matt's Big Breakfast and The Westward Ho? Turns out it's totally true. As weird as it is to believe, a subterranean bowling alley called The Gold Spot existed at Central Avenue and Pierce Street up until about 1950. Look closely and you can still see glass blocks on the otherwise abandoned lot, which allowed sunlight to filter through to the bowlers below. According to a 2003 story in the Arizona Republic, it's now "little more than a cellar held up by concrete columns," though the words "Please Stay Back of Foul Line" are painted on one of the support beams, while a bowling-pin graphic is painted on another beam. So, yeah, it's definitely not worth risking life, limb, or legal trouble to see for yourself — but feel free to pass on the legend, now that you know it's actually true.
We discovered this historic gem when we attended a vocal recital in the Virginia G. Piper Auditorium (which is neither the Virginia G. Piper Theater at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, the Virginia G. Piper Repertory Theater at Mesa Arts Center, nor the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU Tempe) at the University of Arizona — but not in Tucson. The 1912-vintage auditorium, originally built for the first Phoenix Union High School, has been preserved and spruced up, along with its two lovely siblings from the old campus, as part of the UA College of Medicine, Phoenix. Part of the facelift (okay, more of a lipo) installed a breathtaking collection of Phoenix Union "stuff" in dignified glass cases downstairs in what is, yes, the restroom corridor — but it's way cool. Fascinating old trophies, photos, athletic equipment, uniforms, yearbooks, and other treasures going all the way back to those early 20th-century school days will make you forget what you actually came downtown for. During docent hours (call to check), you can even page through some of the annuals and pick the brain of a cheerful volunteer.
Sky Harbor's Terminal 1 shut down a long time ago, so technically Terminal 2 should be called Terminal 1, but they still call it Terminal 2. We don't know why. But we do know that Terminal 2 is number one in our book, and we've been known to spend extra on plane tickets to ensure flights in and out of there. When it was built in 1962 for a mere $2.7 million, Terminal 2 was lauded as one of the nation's most modern facilities. Even with a 2007 facelift, it doesn't look so high-tech today, but that's fine with us. What it lacks in fancy, Terminal 2 more than makes up for in simple convenience. It's a teeny-tiny terminal in comparison to Terminal 4, which means the lines are shorter, the hassles fewer. There's covered parking just a crosswalk away, and once inside you don't have to sprint across a moving sidewalk just to reach your gate. Makes us want to book a flight just thinking about it.
Seriously. If you have not been to Tempe Marketplace, you might think we are making this up. But it's true. We've been there; we've seen it. We've even enjoyed it. Year-round — like, even on a day when the temperature hits 115 degrees — the super-size mall on the edge of Tempe keeps a gas fire roaring. And get this: It's actually comfortable. It's pleasant, sitting outside on an overstuffed couch in the heat of the Phoenix summer, by a fire. The misters are always blasting, which we know contributes to the lower temp, but we have a theory that Tempe Marketplace also pumps air conditioning into the outdoor mall area. We've considered calling to ask, but if it's true, even we — as pale a shade of green as we are — won't be able to enjoy a nice August evening by the fire any more. So selfishly, we'll stay ignorant. And blissful. It's just one of those bizarre things about living in Phoenix that we have to admit we love. Anyone want to meet by the fire for a Mojo fro-yo?
"Look!" our kid said, as we drove across Mill Avenue Bridge. "It's the Town Puddle!"Indeed it is, but not for long, we hope. We still think the idea of putting oversize balloons up, letting water out of the dams upstream, and calling it a lake was ill-conceived on some levels, but once we had that lake, we didn't want to let it go, a fact driven home by this summer's disaster. If you build it, people, please maintain it. Jeez. We're just glad no one died — and that no dead bodies were found (that we heard about, anyway) when the thing drained itself. Now we've been looking forward to November, when officials have promised to fill our little lake back up again.

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