Practical Art

Art classes can be intimidating and expensive. But that's never the case at Practical Art, where art classes are casual gatherings without pressure to conform or be perfect. Art should be fun, and your art should be your own. That's exactly what happens at Practical Art, where frequent, affordable classes make it easy to explore making different types of art. They're taught by some of the Valley's best-known artists, including Jake Early, Christopher Jagmin, and Laura Spalding Best. On one occasion, Alexandra Bowers taught a class in woodworking; another time, Ann Morton showed people how to make a bouquet of flowers using only recycled materials. It's an added bonus that you can usually see an exhibit or shop for artist-made designs while you're there.

In school, your teachers probably told you not to throw things, which helps to explain why the city is filled with repressed people who simply can't find fulfillment without throwing an ax or two. Leave it to Lumberjaxes to make throwing things socially acceptable, assuming you're playing nicely and following all the proper protocol. You can throw axes at 16 targets at its Tempe location, which opens up a whole new world of possibility for date night, family time, or co-worker bonding. Walk-in hours every day of the week assure the recreational axes are always there when you need them. And if you're the competitive type, you can try out-axing other ax aficionados. Just tell your former teachers you're working on your upper-body strength. Wink, wink.

Anyone can go to the movies or out to dinner, but you won't find someone named Devotchka DeLarge racing round and round a roller track at a theater or a restaurant. Nor will your favorite eatery offer WhoreChata, who is one of Arizona Derby Dames' superstars and not a spicy condiment, or Nikki BadAzz, who inspires crushes in men and women alike as she whips around in ever-faster circles on a suspended roller track. The Derby Dames used to be a flat-track league, but in 2010 they became the only banked-track team in the state, meaning they play on a curved, elevated surface. And, oh, how they play. When they're not competing, they're training young girls in a junior league called Minor Assault, where girls ages 10 to 17 learn how to compete in this most popular contact sport, because (as the Dames say) it gives them life lessons in how to be strong women who can take charge.

The typical "get locked in with your buddies and solve a bunch of riddles before the time is up" escape room is so last year. At Escape Narrative, it's all about the story. Puzzle-lovers and mystery aficionados alike will enjoy this experience, and will be completely sucked into the storyline in no time. Add activities like searching for clues on the computer and checking your voicemail, and you'll feel like a modern-day detective uncovering some serious secrets. It's lots of fun for a group or even as a date-night activity. If you're not a fan of a scary story, this might not be for you.

Octane Raceway

There's a rule at our house: No one gets their driver's license until they do laps at Octane. And we've stuck to that rule. Once at Octane, no further rules are required, or words needed to describe general success or failure. You either keep your car off the walls or you slam into them. You run with the other bulls, (meaning the Indy 500-aspirants who were typical teens before strapping into one of Octane's dart-like electric race cars), or you're the logjam creating nightmare traffic scenarios. Once the would-be driver manages the basics, which is possible after the first session of 14 laps, a second session will hone driving skills enough to compete and maybe even beat the other drivers. Nobody's saying this is like school: Octane's a place of fun, principally, and offers laser tag, beer and wine in its bar, burgers, and a room full of video games. The races are reasonably priced: $38 for two adult sessions, plus $7 membership fee, and the same price for "junior" sessions, which include two 10-lap sessions in a slightly less powerful car. Good for Saturday thrills, good for a lifetime of safe driving — that's why we love Octane Raceway.

CityScape

Friends in colder climes may tell you that there's a trade-off to spending winter holidays in Arizona. You get the swaying palm trees, but not the joy of outdoor skating rinks. Not so, because CityScape creates an ice rink in the middle of downtown, where you skate under sunny skies, then snap selfies for all those naysayers. The PhxArt Project at CitySkate featured work by several local artists, including Sam Fresquez, whose three-piece, text-based sculpture was inspired by the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Artist Mikey Estes led community members through an immersive art experience exploring the prevalence of screens in contemporary society. In place of a traditional tree, CitySkate installed a 30-foot tensile sculpture with LED lights, topped by a rising phoenix. Created by Walter Productions, it brought a touch of Bonnaroo and Burning Man excitement to downtown, proving that nobody does ice-skating and winter wonderlands quite like Phoenix.

USA's Great Skate

Now that electric scooters are becoming trendy transportation around town, it's hard to believe that people used to roller-skate along city sidewalks. Thankfully, roller-skating is still around, and indoor skating venues have air conditioning. This classic skating rink brings just the right touch of nostalgia to roller skating, through interior design and musical selections. It's a fun place to meet friends or have some alone time when you just need to work out a little something running around inside your brain. Strips of colorful lights cover the ceiling and reflect on the rink below as they elevate your mood and make you believe you can roll victoriously off into the sunset. There's something for everyone in the theme department, from "lit" skate nights with live DJ music to nights focused on a specific decade, when skaters can dress up in their best retro fashion gear. Don't worry about falling on your butt. Just pick up your pride and escape to the cafe or arcade, where you can take a break from being hell on wheels.

Bowling has come a long way, baby. Beige ruled back in the '50s, but now bowling is more like an immersive arts environment filled with music, lights, and color. Bowlero North Scottsdale has 36 lanes where you can bask in the glow of black lights, so if bowling isn't your best skill, just rock your best glow-friendly fashion and go for a bit of beer-pong time instead. You can watch sports, music videos, and films on video walls if seeing balls roll down lanes isn't enough to capture your imagination. There's also a sports bar, where you can rib your friends about all those gutter balls, and an arcade. If you're all about bowling, you can get your drinks and food brought to your lane. But remember to act shocked when the ball slips from someone's hand because you were kind enough to share your saucy chicken wings.

Opened in 2017 by animal fan Melissa Pruitt, La Gattara is home to about 30 felines — and lots more human visitors who can't get enough of this sweet collection of cuddly kitties. All these furballs go directly from foster situations to La Gattara's Tempe storefront, a safe space for cats where people can come unwind and relax, playing with fuzzy friends who love stuffed mice and feathers tied to strings. Visitors who don't want to adopt a friendly feline can leave with a painting of one by local artist Kate Benjamin. Cat-specific events here include decorative sand-carving classes, an occasional evening of drag queen bingo, and a kitty-and-me yoga class called Meowdidation. Where else can you spend $10 for an hour of dangling yarn scraps with a roomful of kittens?

Best Place to Play Twister With Strangers

Snakes & Lattes

So, it's Friday night and you just have to play a couple of rounds of Exploding Kittens, followed by Kerplunk and maybe some Tip It. You're in luck, because downtown Tempe is now home to Snakes & Lattes, where you can pack away a meal or throw back some brews while playing Café Fatal or Pictionary or Battleship with some of your best friends — or with total strangers at one of the communal tables. A six-foot wall of board games is arranged by theme — party, nostalgia, dexterity — and you can help yourself to Telestrations or Clue or Monopoly. Don't know how to play Parcheesi? No problem. On-site game gurus will stop by your table and teach you how — and it's all included in your tiny $5-per-head gaming fee. Game on.

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