Best Arts Festival 2015 | Grand Avenue Festival | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Usually when we hear the words "arts festival," we think of ceramic tissue boxes and metal wine racks — and not in a good way. But Grand Avenue has stamped its own brand of quirky onto the concept of an arts festival and come up with a much better way for you to spend a Saturday afternoon. Past festivals on Phoenix's infamous diagonal drag have included sculpture shows hanging from trees, a recycled fashion show, neighborhood tours, open artist studios, and, yes, plenty of art for sale. We can't wait to see what's on the agenda this year.

Readers Choice: Tempe Arts Festival

Georganne Bryant has the best taste in town, and she's kind enough to share it with the patrons of her boutique, Frances. She commandeers the parking lot at Medlock Plaza, where Frances is located, for Crafeteria on the first Friday in December. For us, it marks the beginning of the holiday season in Phoenix. With live music, food trucks, and the best craft purveyors in town, you're sure to make a dent in your shopping — and run into just about everyone you know.

For people who are really into beer, the problem with beer festivals is that the offerings are usually a bit pedestrian. Sure, an event can boast a selection of 500 different ales, but if it's all stuff you can buy at Safeway, what's the point? Real, Wild and Woody is a beer geek's beer fest — every single beer poured by the 65-plus invited breweries is either cask-fermented (real), sour (wild), or aged in barrels that once held bourbon, tequila, or some other tasty spirit (woody), and many are so rare they're only available at the event. Admission ain't cheap — $57 for 20 tasting tickets — but it's a small price to pay for any beer connoisseur looking to spend four hours ticking rarities, meeting brewers, and throwing around terms like "horse-blanket aroma" and "creamy mouthfeel" with people who actually understand what the hell you're talking about.

Readers Choice: Tour de Fat

Cocktail pilgrimages. They're a real thing. Booze enthusiasts have been known to squeeze them into two-day business trips or sneak away from family vacations to pay homage at whatever can't-miss bar they might be within reasonable distance of. This insatiable need to experience the hottest cocktail offerings from around the country is what makes Top Bars of America so appealing. For this annual event, part of Arizona Cocktail Week, some of the best bars in the country and world come to Phoenix to pour drinks. This year, we got to sample cocktails from bars including the Dead Rabbit and Death and Co. from New York City and Herbs and Rye in Las Vegas. It's not exactly the same as visiting the destination, but it does cost significantly less.

The Devoured Culinary Classic has been the hottest food event in the Valley for some time, but the organizers aren't sitting back on their laurels and enjoying the ride. This year, they expanded the festivities to include four events over several weeks. In addition to the two-day Devoured Culinary Classic on Saturday and Sunday, the celebration of local food and drink included the Devoured Bartending Competition and Palette to Palate, an evening that brought together local artists and their culinary counterparts. The weekend tasting events are still the centerpiece of the shebang with tickets selling out months in advance, and once you've attended it's easy to see why. Many of the top local chefs and restaurants pull out all the stops for the Devoured Culinary Classic, splurging on ingredients such as oysters and foie gras and even serving their fare in photo-worthy style — think, miniature milk bottles and faux wooden plates. Every year, we eat so much we think we'll burst, but as soon as we leave, we start counting down to next year's gluttony.

Readers Choice: Scottsdale Culinary Festival

In the past two years, Bite Magazine has gone from digital to print and back again. Though you no longer can pick up a copy of this locally produced food- and beverage-focused magazine, you certainly still can ogle the impeccable photography and find great food and drink content in digital form. From trend pieces about the local coffee scene to barbecue-based infographics that will make your mouth water, Bite gives a completely fresh look at the Valley's food scene. Publishers Michelle Jacoby and Mark Lipczynski have excellent eyes for design, giving this publication a fun, modern sensibility that's as entertaining to simply look at as it is to read. Some of our favorite pieces have included an eight-page spread about perfect food pairings featuring macro-size photos of locally made food products (can we get posters, please?) and a photo essay showcasing the beauty of Arizona's desert landscapes.

In the wake of Serial, podcasts — a platform that allows in-depth conversations, longform storytelling, and no-holds-barred comedy — are all the rage. Jason Allen, Anthony Sandoval, and Tim Rutherford are the hosts of The Naked Yak, a Phoenix-based culture podcast that finds the three seeking out "artists, comedians, and musicians to help them take back the desert night." Featuring interviews with local musicians like Danny Torgersen of indie prog band Captain Squeegee and rapper Mouse Powell and comedians like John Higbee, Ali Masa, and Matt Micheletti, the conversations are freewheeling and often hilariously candid, full of regional flair and references, and the trio's relaxed style brings out the best in their guests.

Finding the right balance of news, music, humor, pop culture, and personality is a challenge for any morning radio show, but Lady La and her sidekicks get as close as possible for the local radio waves. There may be more established radio shows out there, but La and her crew put forth energy and realness on their show rather than constantly rely on cheap jokes and shots at celebrities. No morning host represents the Valley as well as Lady La does, and she doesn't shy away from putting herself out there at local gatherings, including parties, First Fridays, culinary tastings, and charity events.


The dedicated staff at KJZZ makes it easy to mostly leave the FM radio dial alone while driving in the Valley. The home of NPR programing, BBC World Service Newshour, and PRI's The World, the station also features programs grown right here. Whether tackling big concerns like Arizona's use of the death penalty and Governor Doug Ducey's education policies or lighter topics like Arizona pop culture history and audio tours of Phoenix's Central Avenue, shows like Here and Now and The Show inform and entertain.


Local Republican blogger Barbara Espinosa is a colossal pain in the Arizona GOP's butt, a role she enjoys immensely. Whether she's openly supporting Democrat Fred DuVal in the 2014 general election against fellow Republican and Governor Doug Ducey, or lambasting the state GOP's miserly approach to funding education, she drives Sand Land GOPers bonkers with her blog, American Freedom by Barbara. Indeed, Espinosa's ideological heresy so unhinged former Maricopa County Republican Committee Chair A.J. LaFaro that he sought to strip her of her voting rights as a precinct committeeperson. (He ended up having her and some other rebel Rs censured, instead.) A month later, LaFaro ran for GOP State Party chair, and lost big-time. Guess he didn't figure on karma — or on Espinosa, who became his deadly enemy and helped dig his political grave. A Texan by birth, a lady, and a longtime GOP activist and donor, Espinosa blogs lightning bolts daily. Mess with her at your peril.

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