Metro Phoenix got some impressive new murals this year, including large-scale works by brothers Gabriel and Isaac Fortoul, a pair of creatives who call themselves the Fortoul Brothers. They're still finessing the year's best mural on two long, adjoining walls at Garfield Elementary School, which is located in the Garfield neighborhood where they live and have an arts studio. The mural, which spans more than 200 feet, was commissioned by the Mollen Foundation, which works to promote healthy eating habits in children. It's a bold backdrop for garden beds where students and other community members grow and harvest food. The mural features the artists' characteristic imagery,formed with simple shapes and lines. Its themes include nature, sustainability, and growth — reflected in images such as the sun, trees, and assorted plant life. The mural is a testament to connections forged between artists and community members, and the importance of childhood time spent with nature and art.

Metro Phoenix has no shortage of eye-catching murals by talented artists. Meet Me at Daley Park by Tempe artist Jake Early is a mural masterwork. Its size alone is worth the drive over to Daley Park, near 15th Street and College Avenue, for a visit. Coming north on College, just north of Broadway Road, you won't miss it. After a design competition, Tempe Public Art awarded Early the job of painting a wall 400 feet long and 8 feet high. The wall borders a city facilities yard next to a railroad easement. Early managed to turn the stark, industrial area of the railroad tracks and easement into something visually appealing. The colors are vibrant, dominated by light green that symbolizes the area's agricultural past, and an 8-foot rooster near the wall's corner. The mural can't be taken in at once — it has to be toured to be fully appreciated. It's like an outdoor history museum, displaying scenes that encompass Tempe's past and present as well as college students on bicycles. The real Arizona State University students who bicycle to school on College Avenue can see themselves in the mural and know that they, too, are larger than life, connected to Tempe's past, but representing the hope of a better future.

Harkins Scottsdale 101

Every year, you can expect nothing but the best from Phoenix Film Festival at Harkins Scottsdale 101. In its 2018 edition, the festival screened over 250 films — everything from local movies to indies from Jason Reitman and Bo Burnham to documentaries about Mr. Rogers and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There is something for everyone in its 10 days of screenings. There's also no better place to showcase how great the local film scene is, both on the big screen, or in the audiences filled with enthusiastic film fans across metro Phoenix and the state.

Pollack Tempe Cinemas

If you missed your chance to see a recent big release in theaters, don't stress: It's almost certain that it'll end up at this east Valley hot spot. But Pollack Tempe Cinemas is more than just a place to see newish movies on the cheap. If you take a spin around the theater before finding your seat, you'll discover a cinephile's heaven with movie props and memorabilia sprinkled all over. Take a selfie with some life-size Star Wars characters, and if you get there with enough time before your show begins, you can hit the game room for a bit of fun. And don't forget about their Wednesday Classics, when you can watch films from long ago for the same price as any other film they screen — $3.50. Who said going to the movies wasn't affordable?

FilmBar

It's pretty common now to have a beer or cocktail while watching a movie, but nine times out of 10, that movie probably isn't something that came out before you were born. FilmBar is the one other time. But it's not just classics; FilmBar screens newer indie films only released in select cities, Big Gay Sing-A-Longs, documentaries, and anything else you wouldn't typically find at a chain theater. FilmBar is where you will find the most passionate cinema fans, but also those looking to see a movie they may never have heard of before. It's where you go to fall in love with film.

The future of cinema involves in-theater service where people bring you food, drinks, and snacks directly to your seat while you're watching the movie. If you can do that, while keeping ticket prices competitive with places that don't deliver food — you're doing it right. And if you add in all-local craft beers, food named after popular films and celebs (like the Robert Brownie Jr. Sundae, Home Alone Pizzetta, and Glazed & Confused popcorn), and fully reclining seats? You're the best. Not to mention the food isn't your typical theater food: RoadHouse Cinemas has made-from-scratch burgers, pizza, pretzels, four flavors of free-refill popcorn you can mix and match, and gelato. Show up too early? There's a full bar with TVs to watch a game, a lounge to hang out, and a patio with fire pits for when it's nice outside.

Frances

As holiday stress looms and people start wondering whether they're too busy for December First Friday, Frances Vintage gives them a reason to venture out, where they discover that it's better to undertake holiday tasks together in a space filled with merriment and creativity. Dozens of artisans converge on the Frances parking lot each year to sell their wares in a casual, friendly setting that transforms shopping obligations into opportunities to support local businesses, makers, and entrepreneurs. Everything at this holiday arts and crafts festival is handmade and local, so shoppers know they're supporting creatives in their own community, and don't have to worry that they're choosing gifts that anyone could buy with just the click of a computer key. By creating a sense of community, Crafeteria reminds participants of the everyday gifts that never get wrapped, but still warm the cockles of our heart.

Among the mainstays in our Phoenix Public Library chain, Yucca Branch manages to maintain its old-timey charm and combine it with state-of-the-art features that make checking out a book or researching a term paper a real pleasure. Friendly and helpful staff are on hand to cheerfully renew your library card, help you find the best popcorn movie, or recommend nice new fiction based on what you like best to read. Lots of comfortable seating and a fast auto-checkout are among Yucca's newest features — two more reasons why, when it comes to multimedia borrowing, this place is the best.

As kids, we used to dream about secret passageways that connected the far-flung corners of our surroundings, allowing us to travel from one place to another at astonishing speeds. As adults, our dream comes true every time we drive the 143 from the east Valley to central Phoenix. Dubbed the Hohokam Expressway, this 3.93-mile freeway might just be the best-kept secret in Valley commutes. Originally designed in 1957 as a collector road for traffic from the east side of town, the current freeway also serves to connect Interstate 10 in the southeast Valley to Sky Harbor International Airport and the Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway — both of which can be accessed without having to get too close to the dreaded mini-stack or Durango curve thanks to this small-but-significant route. Traffic? What traffic?

There are historic downtown neighborhoods, and there's Palmcroft, one of the oldest and grandest collections of midcentury homes in the city. That's because Palmcroft, roughly bounded by Seventh and 15th avenues between Thomas and McDowell roads, is something other than a mass-planned subdivision. Both Palmcroft and its nearest historic neighbor, the Encanto neighborhood, are examples of the Garden City design principle, a comprehensive approach to suburban planning that includes a unification of architecture, community planning, and landscape design. It's an approach that has its roots in 19th-century suburban planning, which typically included innovative street plans, superior landscaping, and ornamental light fixtures — all combined in this single square mile to absolute perfection.

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