Best Library 2019 | Burton Barr Central Library | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

The best libraries lure readers not only with books, but with a profound sense of community. That's exactly what happens at this flagship branch of the Phoenix Public Library. Community members gather for lively discussions of civic issues inside the auditorium; for art exhibits featuring works by emerging and established artists; and for shared experiences in spaces focused on topics ranging from maker culture to workplace skills. Children have their own cheerful space, where books provide solace and a sense of wonder. Teens have an area for self-expression and conversation. For people who love history and literature, the Rare Book Room is a welcoming space. And the annual used-book sale is one of the community's best-loved traditions. Throughout the library, Will Bruder's designs assure that visitors are enveloped in light and soaring architectural elements that reinforce the primacy of learning in the course of human civilization.

Miss the days of your parents giving you $20 before dropping you off to hang out at the mall with your hooligan friends? Imagine if you saved that money — let that thought haunt you before you go to bed tonight. Anyway, the mall used to be the spot: always bustling with families on shopping outings, teens hanging out, everyone with a pretzel in their hands. The days of a busy mall probably are numbered. Though you can still get a buttery pretzel, you'll just be walking around a nearly empty mall. But there's beauty in the emptiness, and Retail Archaeology explores just that. The man behind the camera, Erik Pierson, started documenting dead and dying malls almost three years ago on YouTube. In his videos, Pierson gives life to malls around the Valley, like Fiesta Mall and El Pedregal, by walking around and narrating with facts, architectural observations, and personal anecdotes.

Best Memory for the Way Things Used to Be

Alison King

Alison King planned to be a high school art teacher, but academia's loss is Midcentury Modern architecture's gain. King is the queen of all things built in the Valley before 1980 or so; since 2004, she has documented mid-20th-century buildings and building trends on her Modern Phoenix: The Neighborhood Network site. King grew up in Scottsdale and attended Saguaro High School, where she met her husband, Matthew. The pair went on to create and host an annual Modern Phoenix Week, with tours, talks, and public events aimed at design professionals and midcentury enthusiasts. She's documented modernist influences and helped revive the reputation of architect Ralph Haver, whose distinctive 1950s tract homes lately have become so sought after. King has made a name for herself among the best Phoenix historians.

Spanning over 26 miles across multiple city borders, a ride on the light rail provides a brief window into so many of Phoenix's unique neighborhoods. One guarantee that is included with your light rail pass is the fact that you will be sharing the experience with a wide array of Phoenicians. People-watching is all about variety, and taking a ride on the light rail, you'll get a glimpse into the lives of Phoenix residents from every walk of life. Whether you're on your way to a sporting event or concert downtown, or commuting to work to avoid the nuisance of rush-hour traffic, save for staring down at your phone, there's really not much else to do on the light rail but to observe the people getting on and off at every stop. As usual, Phoenix never disappoints.

This giant, drivable holiday amusement was built for fans of twinkly lights and loud, festive Christmas music. Folks come from far and wide to visit two drive-thru play parks, where giant snowmen flash, colossal Santas flicker, and cutie-pie elves glow in time to music piped directly into car radios. Billed as a "family holiday driving experience with synchronized Christmas lights," Illumination claims to be the world's largest animated holiday show — and it's certainly more than just a bunch of lights plugged into an extension cord. Shiny Yuletide features include a 100-foot-wide nativity scene and something called Santa's Portal, a 500-foot-long sonic tunnel filled with just some of the attraction's 1.7 million pixelized lights. Illumination will be held this year at Tempe Diablo Stadium and Westgate in Glendale. Just look for a gigantic glow in the December night sky, and start driving toward it.

Phoenicians wait all year for the chance to don flannel shirts for just a few days of chilly weather, defined as anything below 70 degrees. On New Year's Eve, fabulous flanneled folk descend on Roosevelt Row for an evening filled with live music and art, culinary fare, and a host of creative activities that help to cultivate the community spirit that continues long after flannel and boots get replaced by tank tops and flip-flops. This year's event will take place near Second and Roosevelt streets, where neighbors, tourists, and the hipster crowd unite amid the city's exciting cultural and culinary landscape, launching each other into another year of urban adventures.

We love Bird scooters because they have good brakes and are easy to steer. And because you can actually find one in downtown Tempe. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the concept of the scooter dates back to 1817, when Germans first used the handy mode of transportation. The super-portable vehicles have been controversial ever since (they've been long loathed by the cycling community), but perhaps no more so than when the electric scooter hit cities in the last few years. Thanks to technology, you can easily rent a scooter using a credit card, and no one but your mom cares if you wear a helmet as you zoom around town. In Tempe, electric scooters have become such a menace to pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers that the city has introduced pretty onerous rules regarding liability. Earlier this year, Lime pulled its scooters from Tempe, and Razor has threatened to do the same. But Bird signed up for another round, and it's Bird we patronize when we want to ditch the car and take a more enjoyable, and environmentally cleaner, romp around town. Sorry about the helmet thing, Mom.

Phoenix parks aren't just about grass. One of the best city parks in town features a building erected in 1935 to house the then-decade-old Pueblo Grande Museum and adjacent park. According to city staff, during the Great Depression, Phoenix's archaeologists used to love to brag that the city only had to pay for a box of nails — the rest of the materials for the adobe were scavenged. Today, you'll see signs of ingenuity from much further back in time — and more recently, too. Scientists and historians estimate that the Hohokam settled in the Valley of the Sun before 500 A.D., and by 750 had everything from houses to cemeteries. Pueblo Grande gives visitors a glimpse into the awesomeness that were the Hohokam, whose actual name is lost to history. No one knows what they called themselves or what they dreamed about while not digging canal ditches, but these were some of the hardiest, most ingenious people ever to have lived. What we do know is that while Euro-migrants have been at this Sonoran Desert-living thing for a couple of hundred years, the Hohokam plowed the ground here for 1,000 years before vanishing for reasons that are still mysterious. You can put your hands on remnants of their civilization at the museum and park, which features an "interpretative agricultural garden" with cotton, corn, and other crops grown way back when. If you haven't been here yet, you don't know your home's history.

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