Best Escape 2015 | The Llamas | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

We'd like to think that someday Arizona will declare February 26 "Llamas on the Loose Day." Because who, after all, can forget the afternoon earlier this year when two of these giant furry creatures escaped from their Sun City home and tore through the streets of the West Valley, overturning cars and starting trash-can fires and riots? Okay, so maybe the llamas didn't terrorize the quiet streets of Sun City, but given the viral attention they received, you'd be forgiven for thinking they had. Within minutes of their escape, the two became a global Internet sensation. People across the country stopped whatever they were doing and watched the live-stream feed with bated breath. They inspired hashtags, GIFs, even a Buzzfeed quiz. Sheriff Joe's men put up a good fight, but they were no match for the llamas, who managed to run across busy streets uninjured for an hour. When the smaller of the two was finally lassoed, the larger one darted away. She evaded capture for another 15 minutes before finally succumbing, sadly ending what arguably was the most exciting event of the year. Follow them on Twitter: @SunCityLlamas.

When Tania Katan left her museum gig to go to work for a tech firm in North Scottsdale, there was a lot of head-scratching among members of the arts community. What was the writer/playwright/funny girl/creative dynamo going to do at a tech firm? Turns out, a whole lot. Within her first year, Katan had launched a simple but incredibly effective campaign called "It Was Never a Dress," turning the ubiquitous ladies room icon on her ear, explaining that her dress is really a cape and encouraging girls to consider a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Demand for stickers and T-shirts was immediate, and social media gobbled up the whole thing, millions of times over. We can't wait to see what Katan has up her sleeve, er, cape next.

THEMIS, or, as its creators at Arizona State University call it, the Thermal Emission Imaging System, made its 60,000th trip around Mars this year. The infrared camera, which has been hitchhiking aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey since 2001, has taken nearly 400,000 images of the Red Planet. In the process, it has saved a landing rover from dashing to pieces in a field of giant boulders by finding it a safe place to set down, and it has helped scientists discover old lakes and gullies carved by melting snow, among other things. You can see what THEMIS sees in real time on ASU's website. Watching the cratered landscape roll by is surreal.

201 East Orange Mall, Tempe

May 2015 will go down at the wettest month on record in the United States, and the second-wettest for Arizona, with well over an inch of rainfall recorded. Here in Phoenix, we just called it heaven — a month filled with wind, rain, and unseasonably cool temperatures. By the end of May, temperatures in the Valley were well over 100 degrees, but given that summer typically starts in March around here, we were okay with that.

It's the line reporters had itched to write from the time the Phoenix Open was renamed. "There was a waste management problem at the Waste Management Phoenix Open," belted out a lede in the Arizona Republic. Ick. Apparently, a porta-potty leaked raw sewage in puddles near the "Fry's Fan Zone" at Arizona's signature annual golf event, one of the largest in the country. It smelled, people walked through it, and it took hours to clean up. Not exactly a hole-in-one from a public relations standpoint or a fun time for event-goers. But a great lede.

Heather Hoch
Apricot Glazed Chicken from Liberty Market

The experience of using the bathrooms at Liberty Market starts before you even set foot in the communal washroom. First, you have to walk by the giant window into the market's kitchen. If you don't get distracted by watching the cooks and chefs preparing customers' food, you'll wend your way down a hall and into the restrooms. Now, you have a choice to make. There are five private stalls, and each has been custom-designed by one of the founding partners of Liberty Market. Everything from the floor tile to the music playing inside was specifically designed for that one stall. Exit your chosen stall, and spruce yourself up a bit in the wall-size mirror that will greet you. We're not saying you should make your way out to Gilbert just to see this bathroom; we're just saying you wouldn't be disappointed if you did.

The David and Gladys Wright House is the recently rescued and controversial "round house" designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright toward the end of his life, in 1952, for his son David and daughter-in-law Gladys. The couple lived in the home until their deaths — David at 102 in 1997; Gladys in 2008 at age 104. It was one of Wright's last designs, completed when he was 84. Surrounded by McMansions, the 2,500-square-foot concrete house features a spiral design and a curved entry ramp, as well as other traditional Wrightian design elements such as built-in seating, Cherokee red floors, and low ceilings.

Recently saved from demolition by a group that plans to restore the home, adding a subterranean education center, a cafe, a bookstore, and a Wright archive on the land, the facility will host public events and school field trips, as well as house Wright researchers and scholars-in-residence — sort of a mini-Taliesin. In the meantime, Sarah Levi, Frank Lloyd Wright's great-great granddaughter, lives in the house as its first scholar in residence and gives tours of the home, pointing out its architectural anomalies, its structural strengths, and the swimming pool where actress Anne Baxter taught her to swim.

They say home is where the heart is. Well, if that's the case, Phoenix's heart is full of midcentury love. Midcentury architecture is everywhere around this town, and Phoenix gets to boast it was the home of Ralph Haver, one of the coolest Midcentury Modern residential architects ever. You know, not like we're biased or anything. There's so much Midcentury Modern everything around the Valley, it'd be nearly impossible to see it all. But our favorite way to get a good sample is the Modern Phoenix Home Tour. As part of Modern Phoenix Week, the tour allows participants full access into several neighborhoods and dozens of modern homes. During the sold-out 11th installation of the event, modern enthusiasts explored neighborhoods in South Scottsdale, including Town and Country, HyView, and Sherwood Heights. And with the self-led model, you can ogle all the slanted roofs and cinder block buildings at your own pace.


Readers Choice: Roosevelt Historic Home Tour

Driving through Windsor Square feels a bit like traveling through a time machine on the fritz. The uptown Phoenix neighborhood is one of the city's oldest suburbs, and it's home to an array of architectural styles. Along its curving streets you'll find homes ranging from 1920s Craftsman-style bungalows to 1950s ranches. That's because construction of the homes stopped and started surrounding the Great Depression and World War II. It makes for a lovely history lesson, and in addition to being picturesque, the 'hood is close to a cluster of Upward Projects restaurants, as well as the Medlock Plaza shopping strip, home to indie shopping standbys Frances and Stinkweeds.

Central Avenue to Seventh Street and Camelback Road to Oregon Avenue

West Phoenix is on the way up. As the light rail makes its way, slowly but surely, up 19th Avenue and to the West Valley, the little neighborhoods along the route are looking more and more adorable. Washington Park, in particular, is home to a slew of mid-century slump block ranches (some with weeping mortar still intact) that with a little care and elbow grease could be the making of the next "it" neighborhood. Home to a stellar dog park, lively activity center, and a totally renovated Phoenix Tennis Center, it seems primed to be just that.

Bethany Home Road to Glendale Avenue and 19th Avenue to 25th Avenue

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