The Bicycle Cellar

Tucked into the Tempe Transportation Center, the Bicycle Cellar is both an easygoing, friendly place for the local Arizona State University crowd, and a facility for hardcore bicyclists. It's not just a store, it's a way to boost public transit, enabling cyclists to more easily hook up with light rail and the Valley's bus system. For less than the cost of a gym membership, bicyclists can sign up for nearly 24-hour access to the Cellar's secure bike lockup and showers. Visitors looking for a quick jaunt to Tempe Town Lake can find a decent rental here. Wait, there's more: The store's stock of bikes and components would make Floyd Landis reach for a syringe. But what's really neat is the relatively low-cost repair shop. We got our iron steed tuned up and outfitted with a new chain and handlebar grips for less than the cost of just the tune-up at the last place we visited. The general manager, Tom, actually talked us out of the new rear-wheel cassette we said we'd been considering, saying it wasn't necessary. Honesty is the best policy: He caught us looking at a fancy new Surly mountain bike, and knows we'll probably be back someday.

Butt Out

Quitting cigarettes is no easy feat, friends. Believe us, we're not just blowing smoke. Patches, pills, and good ol' fashioned willpower will only get you so far. Some try vaping in order to get over the hump and on the path toward a tobacco-free lifestyle. And if you choose that route, take a deep breath and calm your jittery nerves, then head for either of Butt Out's two locations. The staff at these mom-and-pop vape shops are extremely personable and helpful, whether you're a former two-pack-a-day smoker, a hobbyist, or a total noob wanting to see what this whole vaping thing is about. They're also extremely knowledgeable and can recommend the perfect mod, atomizer, and juice (including their delicious in-house brands) from their well-stocked selection to suit your needs. And they do so with a minimum of snobbery, unlike clerks at other vaporiums who fume if you don't know the exact wattage to yield the perfect pull. Thankfully, that's not Butt Out's style. You swing by, gear up, gab about metal (a favorite topic at both locations), and kick back in their lounges and vape to your lungs' content. Basically, it's never a drag shopping at Butt Out.

Walking into Zerona is kind of like realizing maybe you shouldn't have had that second brownie — a bit overwhelming. On the larger side for a Phoenix smoke shop, Zerona is coked to the gills with a fine selection of glassware, including from local bong-maker Rotten Pricks. The typical head shop ware here includes several brands of kratom, nitrous oxide, and CBD products. It's also a full-service tobacco shop, whether you're a home-roller, pipe user, or hookah party genie. For reasons we've never quite been able to understand, Zerona provides one-stop shopping for graffiti artists with its colorful array of spray paint and markers. If Zerona doesn't have it, you don't want it.

Arizona Organix
Leafly
Arizona Organix

First isn't always best. But sometimes it is. That's the case with Arizona Organix in Glendale, which in 2012 became the first state-licensed medical cannabis dispensary in Arizona. Besides making history, the store has made thousands of loyal customers since that time. Patients from all over the Valley make the trip to Glendale to take advantage of Organix's competitive pricing and high-quality medicine. Great prices on tasty, top-notch shatter and other concentrates are standard at Organix. For instance, shatter, including popular favorites Bruce Banner and Deadhead OG, go for just $15 a gram. The store also boasts high-quality flower, a solid offering of edibles and other products, and a friendly staff. Five years strong, Organix continues to lead the way.

Bud-Tender at White Mountain counter
Nate Nichols
Bud-Tender at White Mountain counter

You want to get high? We're talking higher than SpaceX flies. You know, to take your mind off the pain? Book your flight with medicinal brownies by Amy & Al's. Affiliated with White Mountain Health Center, a dispensary in Sun City, Amy & Al's cooks up a range of tasty morsels infused with THC for qualified patients. There are different-flavored truffles, hard candies, chocolate-chip cookies that might knock out a Keebler elf, and, reigning supreme, their high-potency, 400-milligram brownies. They're not for beginners. If a 10-mg THC lemon drop makes you feel like you went past 420 to about 840, don't contemplate the 400-mg brownie unless you're not busy for a week. These mega-dose, yet surprisingly delicious, brownies are for frequent fliers or those naturally resistant to the effects of THC. If a nibble of this will do, all the better, because the 400-mg brownie can be found for $37. That's about 10 mg per dollar — one of the best values in edibles on the market.

Huxton is a local product to be proud of, like Raytheon missiles or the latest TGen drug. Remember when marijuana used to come in a baggie? Huxton's about as far from that era as it comes in 2018. They specialize in higher-grade cannabis that's cultivated, trimmed, and cured by people who care about the results — or, at least, care that consumers notice the difference. Yes, their strains Rise or Wonder Woman are potent, with high levels of THC that remind you this is medicinal-level stuff. It tastes as good as you'd expect boutique weed to taste — maybe better. But to be blunt, where Huxton really "rises" is in the presentation. This stuff simply looks fabulous. The buds are sparkling with crystals, and are compact and aroma-heavy. The new BLCK line unveiled this year takes three of its best-selling strains and cures the dried flower for a month in glass cases, later transferring the product to small glass jars topped with the Huxton label. Is medicine supposed to make your mouth water?

So long as you don't mind being stared down by a giant elk's head, this cozy mahogany-shelf-lined emporium of taxidermy and other exotica will make your day. Curious Nature calls itself a "fine science and natural history emporium," but we call it the only game in town for ethically sourced taxidermy, skulls, and bones. Museum-quality oddities found here include professionally cleaned skulls from chickens, squirrels, giraffes, and zebras. Nicely framed butterflies, grasshoppers, and moths can be yours, as can cool occult items like Ouija boards and post-mortem photography. Seriously, what are you waiting for? You won't find this stuff at Crate & Barrel.

American dollar stores are pretty much all the same — if you've seen one, you've seen them all. That's not the case at Cutie, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it storefront in north Phoenix. Full disclosure — the goods at Cutie are all $1.50, but don't let that extra half a buck deter you. You'll notice that most of the merchandise here is Daiso brand products; that's a Japanese discount store chain that's really popular overseas, yet only has a limited presence in the U.S. The selection here is weird and wonderful and usually pretty good quality for the money. They've got a little bit of everything, from lucky cat figurines, sheet masks, and socks to cleaning products, art supplies, and kitchen knives. There's also a fantastic selection of snacks, beverages, and other consumables (including some great ramen). New items arrive on a regular basis, so we recommend repeat visits to check out all Cutie has to offer.

True crime is having a moment. From My Favorite Murder to Forensic Files to The Staircase, it seems like the public can't get enough of unlawful acts and the people who bring the culprits to justice. If you're ready to take your love of cracking cases to the next level, we suggest a visit to Crime Scene, a central Phoenix shop whose inventory is a blend of legit forensic supplies and crime-themed gifts. Luminol tablets to detect traces of blood? Check. Evidence markers and fingerprint kits? Absolutely. A Crime Scene Gift Bundle that includes caution tape, a UV light keychain, assorted evidence labels, and a coffee mug that says "Detective"? We can think of several people who'd be delighted to receive it. Now, we'd be remiss if we didn't say it: Please leave the actual crime-solving to the law-enforcement professionals. But Crime Scene is the best place in town to find some cool stuff to release your inner Gil Grissom.

Chalkboard Nails is a nail-art blog and website based in Phoenix and packed with DIY tutorials and impressive shots of nail art. Phoenix native Sarah Waite, a licensed nail technician, is the editor and creator of Chalkboard Nails. You could spend hours on Chalkboard Nails checking out pictorials, video tutorials, reviews, and posts allowing beginner to advanced nail artists to try their own designs at home or wherever. Think nails with ice cream cones, cactuses, pineapples, stars, stripes, Star Wars characters, and even Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Waite is also a contributor to NAILS Magazine and even co-authored a collection of tutorials called Pretty Hands & Sweet Feet. Her work has been featured on the Today show, Nail'd It on Oxygen, and in Redbook magazine.

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