Let's face it: Given the state of journalism these days, any reporter worth his or her salt has a plan B. And ours follows our raging thirst, all the way to one of the nine Total Wine megastores in the Valley. After all, we already spend an inordinate amount of our copious free time trolling the aisles, perusing the 8,000 wines, 2,500 beers and 3,000 liquors from all over the world. And though the prices are lower than just about any retail shop, dropping wads of cash on a push-cart full of booze can get habit-forming, not to mention drinking the stuff. Then there are the wine classes, the tastings, the on-tap beer bar, the variety of noshes on sale, and a humidor with a fine selection of cigars. Imagine waking up every day and getting to spend eight hours in such a place. And they pay you. Which is a good thing, because we'd almost work there for free.

Top's Liquor

Locally run liquor stores are usually known for poor service and a small Bud Light-dominant stock housed in a sketchy, possibly drive-thru atmosphere. However, downtown Tempe's Tops Liquor fights every small liquor store stereotype. It took us years of satisfied drinking to taste-test the regular roster of hundreds of beers at Tops. From stouts to hefes and even mead from all over the world, it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll find at least one beer that you like. Best of all, the knowledgeable and friendly staff is always quick with a great recommendation if you can't pick, or you can just meander through the east wall to Taste of Tops to try one out before you buy a pack. We recommend snagging any case of craft brew from their sale section for the best deal. The liquor department is equally well stocked.

Ye Olde Pipe & Tobacco Shoppe

After a long day wading the mire of Arizona politics, sometimes a cigar is in order — or, perhaps if we're working a story that calls for a more sleuthing style, a good ol' Sherlock Holmes-style pipe. Which is why, when we want tobacco, we visit Ye Olde Pipe & Tobacco Shoppe. The shop has a huge humidor for those premium cigars we crave, and bundled grab bags for the smokes we can actually afford. There are couches and a smoking area if you feel like hanging out with other aficionados. If you're new to the scene, the staff is knowledgeable, genial, and are typically gumming or puffing a cigar of their own. But if pipes are your calling, they've got starters, estate pipes and handmade Italian Savinelli pipes. If you can't find it at Ye Olde Pipe & Tobacco Shoppe (or if they can't order it for you), then you probably can't smoke it.

Blaze Tobacco & Gifts

Blaze loves glass. Other bong shops lay claim to quality; some can even back it up with what's on the shelves. Blaze is different. Its two locations, in Tempe and Phoenix, carry a shit-ton more varieties of waterpipes, bubblers, and pipes than your run-of-the-mill head shops. And it has better prices, carrying California-made glassware by companies such as Illusion and Sillica. One piece we took home was easily two-thirds the price of similar items we've bought elsewhere, with a thick sturdiness that means it won't break when we're feeling too loose and set it down too hard. The stores don't fix waterpipes anymore, speaking of broken smokin' devices, but they still seem to be friends with talented glassmakers who spin funky shapes and colors. If you must spend $900 on a bong, you need to at least take a look at Blaze's stock. No matter your budget, it's got shelves of hookahs, plastic bongs, and anything else a fashionable toker needs.

Fashion by Robert Black

book by its cover. In the case of the elegant, simple White Hogan building in Scottsdale, it wouldn't be wild to assume its innards reflect the shell. It wouldn't be incorrect, either. (The typically drool-worthy window displays might tip you off, too.) That's because the building houses Fashion by Robert Black, where you'll find the best selection of vintage clothing the Valley has to offer. With fab jewelry, sunglasses, hats, and wearables that date anywhere from the 1920s to the '80s, there's no way to not find something that's wish-list-worthy — particularly if you have a yen for well-made dresses and/or luxury brands. Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Pucci are just a few of the designers you'll find gracing the racks and mannequins. Feel free to judge them by their cuts and colors — we'll be gawking right there with ya.

In addition to being a serious art form, circus acrobatics has become a trendy way to stay fit, and in downtown Phoenix, this total-body practice is made accessible for both athletes and fitness newbies alike. Class levels start with beginner aerial yoga, practiced in a safe, comfortable hammock to encourage development of basic strength, flexibility, and spatial awareness. To get a feel for flight, introductory series in acrobatics help students get comfortable on performance apparatuses like silks, rope, and trapeze. And, for those who dream of running away to join a traveling circus show — dancing high above the cheering crowd, suspended on a spinning metal hoop — Altitude offers higher-level instruction to fine-tune acrobatic technique and learn daring mid-air drops. Director Nicole Crist has a background in jazz and modern dance and first took to the sky in 2005, studying with top performers in NYC. She returned to Phoenix last year to bring aerial acrobatics to Arizona and teach, collaborate, and choreograph this exciting movement art in her safe, supportive studio.

GROWop is a group effort. The RoRo-adjacent shop's owners, Josh Hahn and Kenny Barrett, work with local designers and makers to stock the plaid-painted bungalow storefront. That means it's a great place to discover up-and-coming Phoenix-area creatives alongside Hahn and Barrett's handpicked vintage pieces, like plaid button-ups, kitschy home décor, and patterned skirts. The pair also works with national brands like Pendleton's The Portland Collection to keep ultra-fresh finds in stock. Between the vintage goodies, local wares, and über-new clothing, there's always something worth toting home.

Bob and Mandy Russell are the father-daughter team behind online luxury fashion exchange Klury. The pair set out to make designer fashions accessible for folks on any kind of budget, and with their online storefront, they succeed in spades. They'll buy items directly from people's closets through an e-mail and mailing system that guarantees quality and label authentication. Phoenix-area fashionables looking to consign items can set up an in-person appointment to have their pieces listed. Buying takes less effort, though, as Klury boasts such stylish stock as Miu Miu purses, Elizabeth & James pumps, and Oliver Peoples sunglasses. So chic. So cheap. Definitely worth freaking out over.

Zinnias at Melrose

When we hear the term "antiques mall," we expect to be overwhelmed — a wide selection, numerous vendors, and the potential to spend at least an hour browsing. Luckily, Zinnias at Melrose delivers. With roughly 30 vendors, this mall offers an expansive selection of retro, modern, industrial, and the increasingly popular grandma chic. Like an everyday garage sale, this Seventh Avenue warehouse includes aisles of midcentury Pyrex dishware, vintage suitcases, discarded mannequins, commercial signage, and an endless sea of tchotchkes — souvenir cups, porcelain figurines, you name it. Of course, while Zinnia's at Melrose is a great way to save time and money in your antique shopping adventures, a good thrifter should always proceed with a keen eye — because while one man's trash is another man's treasure, it can easily end up the other way around.

Burlesque queen Kitty Victorian is on a quest to transform the mousy wallflowers of the Valley into empowered va-va-voom vixens of stage. And she's doing it one tassel twirl at a time via her Burlesque University. Based out of its studio within the historic Laird Apartment building near Third Avenue and McDowell Road, the school offers a pair of six-week courses of study to instruct women interested in embracing their more sensual side, learning the art of the tease, or joining the ranks of professional dancers. The first, Burlesque 101, sees Victorian teach would-be peelers how to shake their lovely lady lumps, put together a routine, and assemble costuming (among other topics). It all leads up to a graduation performance at the school's ongoing Birthday Suit Burlesque revues. Students can continue their training in Burlesque 201, which tackles the business end of the trade (like learning how to market yourself or applying to festivals) and teaches how to accentuate one's burgeoning talents through various drop-in sessions concerning fan-dancing or pin-up modeling. For those who aren't trying to become the next Dita Von Tease, who are more interested in overcoming shyness or spicing up their relationships, the school also offers fun one-off sessions with subject matter ranging from "How to Strip For Your Lover" to "Confidence for Curvy Girls."

Best Of Phoenix®

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