The Duce
Where do we begin? That's the problem we have when we visit The Duce, and it's our problem now, as we try to figure out how to describe it to you. Trust us, it's the kind of problem you want to have.Steve and Andi Rosenstein ditched Chicago for Scottsdale, only to realize once they'd arrived that, um, there's not much to do in these parts. Enter The Duce, a ginormous old warehouse in what was once the produce district in what is now largely abandoned South Phoenix. The Rosensteins treat the warehouse as their playground and have created what Steve describes as a city block under a historic roof. We have to admit that a year ago, when we described the vision in our "Best Retail Vision" entry in the 2009 Best of Phoenix, we never imagined they'd make the dream come true. But they have, and it's even better than we hoped for, with a funky vintage retail space, bar, soda fountain, restaurant, and trees literally growing through the roof. There's a charm to the hands-on approach Steve Rosenstein is taking. He sends out e-mails himself about musical guests, lunch specials, and delivery options, and literally sends out a refurbished school bus on First Fridays to take folks to his new spot in style. He's just as excited about The Duce as we are.
There is so much to love about POOL, a retail co-op just getting off the ground in a former Mervyn's. The floors are concrete, the ceilings are high, the lighting's groovy, the garage-style windows even groovier. There's a coffee bar with a horchata latte and a florist next door and a farmers' market on Thursdays. And then — well, then, there's work to be done. The booths are mostly occupied, which is good, but we'd frankly like to see fewer electronics and carved wooden giraffes and more handmade goods like the cute baby clothes made from upcycled T-shirts. This place has so much potential, but we wish someone's grandma had bequeathed him the Mervyn's at 20th and Camelback in Phoenix, rather than the one at Main and Stapley in Mesa. This is a tough neighborhood — not even particularly close to downtown Mesa. Home, frankly, to nothing cool. Except POOL. Hey, no one ever thought Marfa, Texas, could be hip and happening. If you build it — and lose some of the tacky imports — we just might come back.
Historic Downtown Glendale
Walk into an antique store to check out some vintage dishes, jewelry, and furniture. Then pop into a fashion boutique for 20-something women that's filled with hot pink tulle, bedazzled skulls, and roller derby-like attire. Feeling hungry? Roll into a burger joint and chow down on some American fare. Then get through the digestion drowsiness by walking down the street to a world-renowned museum. Sounds like San Francisco or New York, right? Wrong. It's Downtown Glendale. We're talking about antique stores like Granny G's Shady Nook or Strunk's Hollow; restaurants like A Touch of European Café or Haus Murphy's; and, of course, the Bead Museum. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to historic Glendale. Oh, yeah, believe it.
Scottsdale Civic Center Library
In a world of electronic communication, libraries are feeling the pinch. But Scottsdale Civic Center Library has figured out a way to move gracefully into the Digital Age while maintaining a healthy respect for the printed word. This airy, modern building hosts a broad spectrum of events, from opera-appreciation groups to an after-hours battle of teen bands. Charitable programs benefit local food banks while helping you work down your library fines. The courteous librarians give the impression that you are checking into a swanky Scottsdale resort, a feeling that continues as you settle into one of the many comfortable seating areas. And did we mention that they have books?
If we were asked to describe a perfect day in Tempe, it would start and probably end in the strip mall at Ash and University. We'd grab a recyclable cup of iced toddy from Cartel Coffee Lab and leisurely sip it while reading through a haul of comics from Ash Avenue Comics. Our eventual hunger pangs would be satiated by a couple of slices from Otto Pizza. Then we'd move on to Buffalo Exchange to try on some funky fashions. Hell, we've got to look good before we end the evening at Casey Moore's Oyster House.
The Clarendon Hotel
There's a lot to love about this trendy, neatly decorated hotel, but our fave amenity here is the rooftop deck and lounge, where we like to sip a Mai Tai and gaze out at the amazing views of the Phoenix skyline and nearby mountain ranges. When we're able to tear ourselves away from this panorama, we like to head down to the swanky lobby, where we can grab another quick cocktail before heading into Gallo Blanco, a pretty cafe where we've had some of our happiest lunches and dinners in recent months. If we didn't already live in Phoenix, we'd want to spend the night here, in one of the handsomely decorated rooms (okay, we admit it — we got the manager to show us around!) complete with wet bar and designer draperies and hyper-thread-count bed linens. The rooms are cool, but where we really want to live is beside the hotel's Oasis pool, which features an underwater sound system, scalp-and-shoulder massaging water jets, a ginormous Jacuzzi that holds up to 50 of our friends, and a multicolored Italian tile mural that's illuminated by — get this — a thousand points of light at the bottom of the pool. Amazing.
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa Hotel Review
We believe risk-takers should be rewarded, even if their gambles don't pay off. Luckily for Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, their choice to spend millions of dollars on renovations in a down economy was worthwhile. The revamped hotel became even more breathtakingly gorgeous with the addition of a state-of-the-art gourmet kitchen space for celeb chef Beau MacMillan and Praying Monk, a glass-walled dining area with a view of its rocky namesake on Camelback Mountain. The desert landscape views from anywhere on Sanctuary's property are spectacular, whether you're staying in one of the plush spa casitas or springing $950 to $3,000 a night for a private home. Add luxuries like silken Mascioni linens, goose-down feather beds, and spa treatments — including the two-hour luk pra kope herbal massage — and you'll never want to leave this Sanctuary.
The Boulders Resort & Waldorf Astoria Spa
The Golden Door Spa has day rates, sure, but why do that when you can take advantage of cool summer rates and escape the city for a getaway in a place called Carefree?Room rates run as low as $119, and the mandatory $27 "resort fee," for once, is totally worth it at The Golden Door. It includes all of your tipping, valet parking, Internet access, and, most importantly, admission to the Spa.Take a desert drive out to Carefree in the afternoon and enjoy a night in one of the Boulders' spacious, luxurious casitas. Then head over in the morning to the Golden Door Spa for a yoga class, work out in the gym with a gorgeous view of those gigantic signature stones, have a healthful lunch by the pool, pop in the Jacuzzi, contemplatively walk the labyrinth, relax in the Ofuro soaking tub, check out the steam room/sauna, have a shower in one of the huge spiral "snail" stalls, stretch out with tea and snacks in the relaxation room, groom with the provided toiletries and take a big sky drive home back to the hot city. All (except the lunch) for the price of your overnight stay at the resort.
Even if you can't afford their to-die-for letterpress invites and other lovely goods, you can still live in high style, because the ladies of Scottsdale's SeeSaw design are giving it away for free, so to speak, on their beautiful blog. Angela Hardison, Raquel Raney, and Lindsay Tingstrom share "daily inspiration" — basically, just design images cherry-picked by women with really, really good taste. The images aren't necessarily Arizona-based, but a potpourri from across the web — recent pickings came from the likes of Elle Interiors, HGTV, and Stylepark. Sometimes the SeeSaw-ers will feature picks from their etsy shop, also linked from the blog and a place to get deals on their best thrifting pickings. (Well, maybe not the best — sometimes they keep those for themselves, but trust us, there's still good stuff on there!)
When it comes to local music blogs, we're sorta partial to our own, Up On The Sun. However, if your computer won't pull up our page for some reason, or when you want to read even more indie-rock news, you should definitely check out Electric Mustache. We love the brother-in-law team — primary writer Mike Escoto and primary photographer Shawn Anderson — so much that we've hired them to contribute to our blog with the express directive that they cannot — they must not — stop doing their own blog. Electricmustache.com has a great feel, with witty, quick-hit posts and tons of embedded music and videos. Oh, and there are rants, too, like the time Shawn (a west-sider) let a reportedly douche-y Scottsdale crowd have it with both barrels. The 'Stache tends to focus primarily on indie rock, which is nice for anyone who can't stand, say, to read even one more effing word about that talentless strumpet Miley Cyrus. Personally, we just love all the new music we've been able to hear on the site.

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