Frances

When most people picture holiday shopping, one of two things come to mind — either the impersonal experience of ordering online or the massive crowds that fill mainstream shopping venues. For those who like their shopping to inspire a feeling of community and support local businesses, we submit Crafeteria. The December First Friday tradition, held in the Frances parking lot, brings together dozens of local artisans and their handmade wares, which range from creative buttons to custom jewelry. In 2019 alone, we picked up ceramic ornaments by Her Name Is Mud, stamped metal jewelry by Bezel and Brass, and Peabo Pots' iconic zombie baby head pots. Add in live music, snacks and sale prices at Frances, food trucks, and a lively atmosphere, and you've got an event we look forward to every year.

Here's a pothead pro tip: Next time Sky High is having one of its storewide sales on 4/20, 7/10, and other big occasions (cannabis-related or otherwise), drop your doob and head for any of its locations. We're not just blowing smoke. You'll find deep discounts on many of its bongs, bubblers, pipes, grinders, and other hardware, allowing you to save some scrilla for sensimilla. It's enough to bring a tear to one's bloodshot eyes. Given Sky High's vast selection of gear and supplies for any sort of vaping, dabbing, and smoking — from high-end and hand-blown glassware to grinders, wraps, and rollers — you'll find an excuse to visit on any other day of the year. They also stock tobacco, CBD, kratom, and nitrous, if those are your mind-altering substances of choice, and have racks of candy, in case a sugar rush is the only buzz you're after.

The specials are hot, the staff is friendly, and the medicines are potent and diverse at Mint Dispensary in Guadalupe. Finding the right stuff is no problem here, with Item 9, Timeless, Baked Bros., and other big-name brands represented, in addition to a fresh array of flower strains. Yes, it gets busy here, as any good pot shop does. But making the wait easier is the visual effect of the large, always-busy kitchen behind Plexiglass next to where patients line up for the budtenders. The chefs make pizza, salads, and all kinds of goodies with infused THC products that create a virtuous (sinful, really) cycle of more munchies. If you had to pick one dispensary to be trapped in during an emergency, it would be this one. You don't even have to go in to shop: In September, the Guadalupe location opened a drive-thru. The small Mesa location doesn't have a kitchen, but even on its own would get a rave review for service and selection — and, bonus, your customer points work there, too.

Butt Out

Vapeheads of the Valley, we feel your pain. This past year was a major buzzkill, thanks to a series of vaping-related illnesses and deaths that led to increased scrutiny by federal officials, public bans, and the closure of numerous shops and suppliers. Local vaporium Butt Out had to snuff out its downtown Tempe location in February, but its original shop at Seventh Street and Virginia Avenue is still around, offering a curated selection of reasonably priced juices, hardware, and other supplies. The staff is always accommodating — just as eager to help hobbyists assemble their perfect rig as they are to assist newbies picking out a starter kit. Butt Out will also deliver, if, in these strange times, you prefer puffing away in the privacy and safety of your personal vaping den at home.

You know a product is good when criminals take pains to make a fake version of it, as happened with Select Elite cartridges last year. (Just make sure you're at a valid retailer, and you should have no trouble avoiding the counterfeits.) Select Elite used to be one of our go-to carts because of its potency ratings and smooth draw. Then, it upped its game and made a live resin version that tastes even better and has a noticeably stronger kick. These cost a few extra bucks — $80 a gram, not cheap — but they're totally worth it. Every time you hit these dab-like cartridges, you know it's the real thing.

Gummy candy? Delicious. Gummy candy that gets you high? Even better. Which is why we love Baked Bros., which combines our favorite genre of sweets with our favorite way to medicate. The Arizona-based company sells five varieties of gummies, each of which comes in two strengths. We're partial to the peach rings, but the Sour Kush Kids, which won Best Product at the High Times Cannabis Cup several years ago, are no slouches, either. Baked Bros. also sells gummies that offer a mix of mostly CBD with a lower dose of THC, and a line of gluten-free, vegan THC syrups in flavors like strawberry kiwi, pineapple, and cherry. You can find the products at dispensaries around metro Phoenix.

It's hard to predict what exactly you'll find when you stop in at this self-described "fine science and natural history emporium for all things fantastic and strange." Curious Nature's best known for its collections of bones and taxidermy, but the shop's "Wet Specimens" are also a source of endless fascination. Species suspended in glycerine or isopropyl alcohol solutions include everything from the sorts of things you might see in your high school science lab (preserved fish, centipedes, and frogs) to colorful art-science blends (dark red diaphonized frogs, iguanas, and snakes) to mad-scientist or sacrificial-ritual level items like octopus, dissected half-pigs, feral sheep and sheep brains, and turkey heads. Truly a shop of horrors, this place — and we mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

If you're not well-versed in the ways of santeria, voodoo, hoodoo, root magic, and other related spiritual practices, you may feel intimidated stepping into the small storefront of Zombi World Market. But you don't have to be. If you're new to these belief systems, or you're just curious about what the store is all about, the staff is welcoming and happy to answer questions about how to use items like hoodoo oils and crystals. There are candles, jewelry, used books, ritual items like powders and roots, and things our uninitiated eyes can't even identify. We feel very confident stating that this is one of the most interesting shops in all of Phoenix. You won't regret stopping in.

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