Gila River Arena
Andrew Marshall

There might be only a few places to catch arena headliners like Aerosmith, Madonna, and Justin Bieber in Phoenix, but if we had our choice, they'd all come through Gila River Arena, the most music-friendly extra-large venue in town. Chase Field is far too boomy; Talking Stick Resort too impersonal; University of Phoenix Stadium way too big; Ak-chin Pavilion too spread out. But Gila River Arena is Goldilocks' third bowl of porridge; it's just right. Somehow, the sound manages to reach all corners of Gila River, and the structure of the seats around the arena means that the stage is always easy to see. And leaving the concert is great as well — concertgoers are greeted by a fantastic fountain that makes the shops and restaurants of Westgate Entertainment District an enticing sight.

Back in the early-to-mid '70s, New Jersey songwriter Bruce Springsteen couldn't muster up national traction. His records had garnered some critical support, but rock 'n' roll stardom eluded the scrappy guitarist/singer. Except in Phoenix. The Boss was a big deal here in Arizona before most anyone outside of his Jersey/NYC stronghold got hip. The love here has always stuck with Springsteen, who brought his The River tour to Talking Stick Arena this spring. Celebrating the release of that classic double album, Springsteen brought a boatload of warm feelings for his Phoenician crowd, digging into a marathon set (more than three hours) and offering up the entirety of The River, along with some of his biggest hits. The highlights were many, but it was hard to beat Arizona-based guitarist Nils Lofgren's fiery solo on "Because the Night," or when the E-Street band eulogized the departed saxophonist Clarence Clemons on "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out." It was one for the history books, and made it clear that the Boss loves Phoenix, and Phoenix loves the Boss.

Found along the Arizona Canal, the SRP Arizona Falls is set in the Arcadia neighborhood at 56th and 58th streets and Indian School Road. The falls are a 20-foot drop created by the canal at that spot, and Salt River Project and the Phoenix Arts Commission have turned it into quite the romantic destination thanks to a few features — including three waterfalls, a viewing room, a pedestrian bridge, and 24-hour access. So whether you're walking or biking along the canal path on date night or just driving around with your new sweetheart, the Arizona Falls may be a good place to stop if you're trying to get to first base. Two aqueducts surround the viewing room, making it feel like you're actually inside the waterfall, which most importantly means all the make-out sounds will be drowned out. Just don't go spoiling the mood by spewing factoids like how the plant was originally built in 1902, and it now generates 750 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to power 150 homes.

Talking Stick Resort

It's close to 300 miles between Phoenix and the glitzy lights and ringing slot machines of the Las Vegas strip. Sure, some people might think it's worth the drive to be in the heart of Sin City. But we know that you can find plenty of sin, fun, and relaxation by driving across town (if that) to Talking Stick Resort and Casino in Scottsdale. With an award-winning restaurant, Vegas-quality performances in the TSR Showroom, and raging pool parties during the summer, TSR is a top spot for staycationers. But the fact that TSR features one of the largest casinos in Arizona elevates this place beyond the other resorts in town. So grab your chips and poker face, and get ready to hold 'em.

El Chorro

Some people see Thanksgiving as a wonderful opportunity to gather together with cherished relatives; others are just thankful that this day of familial torture only comes once a year.

Both types will enjoy pre-gaming Turkey Day at El Chorro in Paradise Valley. The night before Thanksgiving, the bar/restaurant is packed to the rafters with an upscale 30s to 50s crowd. Food is available, but most people are there to imbibe. Revelers can explore the nooks and crannies of the historic building (El Chorro was built in 1934 as the Judson School for Girls) or enjoy the mild weather and lovely mountain views of the expansive patio area. If you're driving, get there early — parking fills up fast. But since the Paradise Valley Police Department camps out at the entrance to make sure everyone gets home safely, we recommend an Uber. Whether you'll be toasting to the joy of the holiday, or just girding your loins before mandatory family togetherness, there's a spot for you at the bar.

Rips Ales & Cocktails
Lauren Cusimano

No offense to the many great acts, bands, and DJs whose names are listed on the Rips Ales and Cocktails marquee, but that's not what you notice driving by. Nope, it's that angular sign that grabs your attention, all jagged arrows and bright red contrasted against pale blue. Maybe there's a little sun bleaching at work, but no matter: There's a Space Age elegance to the Rips sign, conjuring up surf-rock guitars, standup bass, and thumping drums. It's arresting, and that big arrow practically invites you in. Turns out, the whole place is just as sharp as the sign.

Look, there's no sugar coating it. The closure of the Trunk Space earlier this year was a major bummer for the Phoenix arts community. There are plenty of places to see shows in town — great places, in fact — but the Trunk Space was a special case, a place for sometimes unrefined creativity, open to all ages, and catering to the far out, weird, and earnest. While there's hope that the venue will relocate from its Grand Avenue digs, in the meantime the Trunk Space staff has dedicatedly hosted pop-up shows at places like 51 West, the Newton, and the Coronado. The roving shows have helped keep the spirit of the Trunk Space alive, but luckily its legacy extends beyond even those gigs, apparent in the vibrant work of bands like iji, Dogbreth, and AJJ, all of which got their start at the Trunk Space, where they developed, grew, and learned lessons which are now registering on a national stage.


They've never topped the charts like the Supremes or the Spice Girls, and they're definitely not going to play Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville — no matter how much you beg after tossing back too many tequila shots. But Mariachi Pasion, a 13-member girl band that mixes strength with femininity, is a local legend. With hot pink sashes, bow ties, and flowers in their hair, these musicians and vocalists are energetic evangelists for traditional mariachi music played with guitar-like stringed instruments, violins, trumpets, and a flute. Founded by Betty Duarte in 2002 during her days as a student at Arizona State, Mariachi Pasion has played gigs from museums to backyards, and even performed during a posthumous quinceañera — all the while infusing their music with the powerful emotionality at the heart of this Mexican art form.

Priscilla Rodriguez is a Nogales-born bilingual rapper, currently living in Mesa and performing as independent hip-hop artist Nefftys. She is a deft lyricist who grew up very much on both sides of the Arizona and Mexico borders. Nefftys' artistic expression manifested over rhythms and rhyme patterns at a young age, and she has recently started making a more concerted effort to incorporate a mix of English lyrics and songs in her work. She is fresh off of a seven-song release called The Natural Series, Vol.1. Her beats are decidedly hip-hop, but she flexes a more melodic tone in tracks like "Writer's Block" and "Truly Live." Like a lot of Latinos in Arizona, she moves seamlessly between English and Spanish without missing a beat.

Danny Torgersen is the quirky frontman of local psychedelic rockers Captain Squeegee, but he has been touring a lot lately with the Phoenix-based reggae/Latin rock outfit Fayuca. Torgersen's a crazy character who has been lending his trumpeting talents to the band on their album recordings and on tour. He may speak the universal language of music, but his pasty skin and red hair make it impossible to not notice that he is a very white dude, performing with a bunch of brown bros. That hasn't stopped him from mingling at shows across the border and during the band's Spanish-language television spots. He has since rightfully earned the new nickname "El Capitan," and his honorary "Latino Card." Bienvenido, compadre.

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