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.
University of Arizona College of Medicine
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.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
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.
Tempe Marketplace
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?
Tempe Town Lake
"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.
Dick's Hideaway
Patricia Escarcega
When word spread in the summer of 2009 that our beloved Richardson's had been destroyed by fire, we had one question: What about Dick's? Over the years, we loved Richardson Browne's New Mexican cuisine, served with his own brand of fire and, thankfully, very good margaritas to wash it down. But our true love is Dick's. The speakeasy-esque spot around the corner from Richardson's survived intact, and it's still our favorite spot to grab a bar stool for an after-work drink or gather folks for an intimate nosh in the comfy private dining room. Among the quirks of this place is a shower, conveniently located in the dining room's private bathroom. We're not sure why it was built or how often it gets used, but it's nice to know it's there if we ever need it.
Modern Steak
Courtesy of Modern Steak
When Valley designer Catherine Hayes created a steakhouse to look like a jewelry box, we knew there had to be a killer bathroom. Behind an unassuming door with a frosted window — right next to the Dorothy Draper-style dresser — is a fabulous backdrop for a mid-meal photo shoot. Pepto-pink wallpaper, gracefully lit vanities (we all know the effects of poor bathroom lighting), and a pair of retro-chic couches create a convenient getaway from an awkward date, a family reunion — hell, even a friendly lunch. Baskets of powder-room necessities can be found near the vanities, because a quick powder might be necessary after that T-bone steak. Hayes says she wanted to create a place for women to feel comfortable and have the chance for a quick chat. Little did she know she left their dining partners waiting and wondering just where their ladies went.
So what if it's essentially an advertisement for the hundreds of local and national companies that gather to show off their wares and designs. We've always gotten a kick out of the salespeople trying to outdo each other's exhibits, displays, seminars, demonstrations, and contests. The Home Shows happen several times a year around the Valley, but we are partial to the one at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, 19th Avenue and McDowell, because everyone seems, well, at home there. The how-to seminars usually are winners. We even learned a lot about how to get the clutter out of our homes and offices (not that we've put it into practice). Now, if we only had the coin to buy any of that newfangled home-improvement stuff that we surely can't live without another second.
Sometimes we'll skip the Encanto or F.Q. Story home tours, but we never miss the Willo neighborhood tour, which usually falls on a weekend in February each year. Willo — bounded by Central and Seventh avenues and McDowell and Thomas roads — is one of the largest historic neighborhoods in Phoenix, with nearly 700 homes built between the 1920s and the 1940s. For us, it's like a holiday to wander through Willo's wide variety of architectural styles — 1920s bungalows, 1930s Spanish Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Greek Revival, American Colonial Revival, and Pueblo Revival homes. We even like the mid-century ranch houses. And after we've wandered through a dozen or so cool old houses, checking out the rehabbed kitchens and the neatly period-correct moldings and doorframes, we like to grab a quick bite and do a little shopping at the Willo street festival that's one of the best parts of this fun-filled event.
This 75-year-old neighborhood offers a glimpse of what tony downtown residential districts once looked like. Encanto/Palmcroft is home to some of the loveliest older architecture in the Valley: Tudor Revivals and American Colonial and California Craftsman homes, all situated on generous lots, nearly all of them restored or maintained, and each one a glimpse of beautiful bygone days. A tight, friendly neighborhood association and close ties to the Historic Preservation office have kept Encanto's charm intact. The folks on these blocks — 15th to Seventh avenues, north of McDowell Road and south of Encanto Boulevard — are proud of the hard work they've done to maintain both their beautiful buildings and the nifty neighborhood spirit they've developed. Even if you don't live there, you can enjoy this 'hood.In a city of grids, Encanto/Palmcroft offers walkers an alternative to the straight line. Curved streets lined with old, lushly landscaped Period Revival homes set the stage for an out-of-Phoenix experience (even the temperature is purported to be a few degrees lower in this unique urban ecosystem). The Encanto Circles offer myriad route possibilities, and when you've exhausted those (or yourself), you can always head to Encanto Park, bordering the north side of the neighborhood.

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