We took up knitting when someone told us it was a good way to relax. We're not quite there yet (perhaps we have to be good at it to find it soothing), but we still love browsing the colorful shelves at Tempe Yarn and Fiber. You'll find everything you need to be a great knitter, crocheter, or what have you, from needles and patterns to seriously, so much yarn — yarn in every color, material, and texture. And if you're looking to take your skills up a notch (or several), Tempe Yarn and Fiber offers classes in knitting, crochet, spinning, and weaving for various skills levels and ages. We'll see you there.

Spotting a little wheeled bookshelf packed with used books on Mill Avenue can be a welcome change to the rowdy clubs and weirdly lit women's clothing shops. It means you've reached the entrance to Old Town Books — a classic Tempe bookstore around since the 1980s. It's a cash-only operation run by an incredibly friendly older couple, and is jammed with used books and periodicals from floor to ceiling. The shop is general-interest in nature, but has expansive sections in Arizona, Native American, and Old West history. Old Town also carries vintage, first edition, and out-of-print books, along with the more familiar used books you'd expect to see.

Changing Hands Bookstore

In the long-ago time, there were lots of bookstores dotting the Valley — mostly chains, but it was easy to find a place to pick up something to read. Even then, we still made our way to Changing Hands, an institution since 1974, because of the diverse selection of books and other merchandise; knowledgable, friendly staff; and the cool neighborhood vibe. Today, most of the chain stores are gone, but Changing Hands has stood the test of time (and with a second location to boot). From signings with prominent authors and a packed event calendar that includes workshops and children's activities, to the Phoenix location's hip First Draft Book Bar and an ongoing commitment to being a community-minded business, there is plenty to love about Changing Hands.

All About Books and Comics

All About Books and Comics has been around for over three decades in the Valley. That's a hell of a lot longer than the tenure of most of the creative teams who make the comic books they sell. The staff at All About Books and Comics are knowledgeable and passionate about their stock. And there is a lot of it. Home to a dizzying array of single issues, graphic novel collections, toys, and other geeky paraphernalia, All About is a one-stop shop for any fan of four-color culture. And if you're looking to stock up comics on a budget, All About has a discount comic hub just four doors down from their "superstore." An added bonus that makes All About Books and Comics: It's right next door to game bar Bonus Round. Swing by to load up on graphic novels, then head next door to drink some sweet cocktails and play Ms. Pac-Man until the wee morning hours.

Arizona State Fairgrounds

Once a year, bibliophiles and bookworms across the Valley congregate for a long weekend of standing in lines and rifling through stacks and stacks of books. Like the pilgrims heading to Canterbury, devoted readers converge on the Arizona State Fairgrounds, to score some sweet finds at the annual Volunteer Nonprofit Service Association book sale. VNSA virgins will be surprised by the shockingly long lines that snake around the parking lot. Folks line up way before sunrise for a chance to get a first crack at a huge warehouse full of books. The VNSA collects book donations year-round, amassing a huge collection of works — everything from best-sellers to rare, one-of-a-kind volumes. Most of these books are priced to move, so a frugal book fiend can walk away with a shopping cart jam-packed with goodies. And if you can stand to wait until Sunday, the already low prices will be slashed in half.The 2019 sale is scheduled for February 9 and 10. Mark your calendars, stash some cash, and get ready to line up at the crack of dawn.

Bizarre Guitar & Drum

A more fitting name for this shop would be "Bazaar Guitar." Like a bustling marketplace in some ancient city of brass, Bizarre Guitar is home to all kinds of stringed wonders and oddities. Founded by Bob Turner in 1976, the shop has grown to fill a warehouse. Specializing in buying and selling vintage guitars, Bizarre Guitar is a likely spot to find the sweet ax of your dreams. In addition to selling guitars, the shop also offers a variety of maintenance services (including restringing, truss roots adjustments, reheading, tuning, cleaning, and pickup installation). They also service drums and amps. And while selling classic gear is their schtick, they do sell brand-new gear as well (including PA systems).

The Ghost of Eastside Records

Vinyl use is still on the rise (except watch out: Tapes are hot, and even CDs have been in the spotlight this year), but record stores are not. That's why it's important to support your local strip-mall record shop, and Ghost of Eastside Records is a good example of this. Tucked between the famous Yucca Tap Room and the coffee-shop-meets-music-venue FiftyOne West in Tempe's Danelle Plaza, Ghost of Eastside Records is a packed room of alternative, punk, pop, rock, and country records, plus most everything else you can think of — including vintage clothes from Double Nickels Collective, shop pups, and friendly people. And be grateful: The original Eastside Records shut down just north of Arizona State University in 2010, and a temporary pop-up/reboot opened and shut down by 2012. Now we have kind of a Ghost of Ghost of Eastside Records, and let's hope there's no further need for a reincarnation.

Revolver Records

We're on a vinyl budget, but we don't have the patience to slog through piles of ruined records at local thrift stores. Revolver Records, on the other hand, offers us the chance to expand our music collection — and our musical knowledge — for pennies on the dollar. Box after box of $1 LPs line the shop, and we recently came away with nice copies of old wax by Glen Campbell, Patty Duke, Nellie Lutcher, and the Ink Spots. Revolver's downtown location also offers a fine (and fair-priced) selection of artists from the '40s through just last year. Counter help will look up a record, or even play it for you, if you ask real nice. Talk about a bang for your buck.

Reports of the CD's death as a format have been greatly exaggerated. There are still plenty of places in town that stock and buy used and new CDs. Although some stores offer a well-curated selection of titles, Zia Records stands out for having damn near everything. Looking for soundtracks or exotica? Eager to stock up on Numero Group reissues? Interested in filling the gaps in your doom-metal collection? Zia locations have wide-ranging, well-stocked sections. And while the big indie rock and rap titles are well-represented, there are tons of neat obscurities to be found (from Madchester to avant-classical CDs and beyond). The best part is that most of the used CDs are priced on the low end, so for $10 to $20, you could walk away with a few choice discs. And an added bonus of visiting Zia: You can get your used CDs refurbished. So if there's a cherished disc you've been holding onto with a few scratches, you can bring it in and get them smoothed out.

For 21 years, Cowtown Skateboards has been at the heart of Arizona skateboarding. You can stop in to any of the four Valley locations to find a wide variety of decks, trucks, wheels, tools, apparel, shoes, magazines, DVDs, and great employees who are willing to help share their passion for skateboarding with anyone who walks through the doors. Besides having a great selection of skateboarding goods, Cowtown also brings the skating community together by organizing several events a year, including the annual Go Skate Day event, locals-only contest the PHXAM, and several other smaller events like video premieres and art shows.

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