Originally run by the Arizona Record Collectors Association, this vinyl swap meet has been a mainstay among platter fanatics for more than 20 years. Originally organized by record whiz Sam Hill, the convention — where you'll find mint and still-sealed albums by everyone from ABBA to Frank Zappa — lately has been a project of Tracks in Wax shop owner Timmy Stamper, who has moved it to the much-roomier Arizona American Italian Club. There, several times a year, some 60 vendors offer boxes and boxes of rare and hard-to-find albums, singles, and CDs to hundreds of collectors. You think you'll never find a VG+ copy of Lou Reed's Growing Up in Public or a decent copy of the Life With Mikey soundtrack. But that may be because you haven't yet hit this groovy record swap meet.

Where, we wondered, could we find that super-hard-to-score arrangement for the Maureen McGovern version of "The Carioca," published in 1973? Then, we remembered that we're within driving distance of Central Music, one of the best sources in the Southwest for old, obscure, and up-to-the-minute sheet music. Need a lead sheet for Sammy Fain's "I'll Be Seeing You"? You'll find it here. Think you'll never find a simplified version of Schumann's "Im Wunderschonen Monat Mai" for violin? You're wrong. Central Music will have it, or it'll get it for you if it doesn't. The staff here is always friendly and seems to actually want to help you track down print music spanning every genre — rock, blues, country, sacred, classical, opera, jazz, and folk. This place has always been a great resource for music teachers, professionals, and amateur musicians alike. Here's hoping it always will be.

It would have been better for our savings accounts if we hadn't hopped on the vinyl bandwagon, but we're record collectors now, and we're not stopping anytime soon. As a result, we find ourselves at The 'In' Groove a couple of times a month surveying the selection. Owner Mike Esposito has created an environment welcoming to both vinyl newbies and seasoned collectors. We like to hit the bins of recent used arrivals first, then scan the rest of the store, which is heavy on pop and rock of today and yesteryear, but also has strong sections of jazz, hip-hop, and soundtracks. Everything is fairly priced (like the gorgeous vintage copy of Led Zeppelin's first album we scored for under $20 the other day), which isn't to say cheap — there are some real vinyl gems under glass at the store, with prices to match their rarity and condition. The folks at The 'In' Groove are friendly — but they ain't dumb.

Yes, we still listen to CDs. Quite a bit, thank you very much. And the best place to buy them is at Zia Records. The esteemed local chain celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, and indeed, we've been hitting up Zia stores for CDs since high school. They carry new and used copies of rock, hip-hop, country, etc., plus imports, rarities, local stuff — they've got it all. Everything is inspected at the buy counter, so getting a scratched-up used disc is unlikely. Of course, once you've got your CDs picked out, it's time to explore everything else Zia has to offer, like clothing, video games, books, comics, records, and toys. It's one-stop shopping for everything entertainment-related.

One day, you might feel like painting the flowers in your garden. The next, maybe learning to sculpt your pets out of soapstone. It's all possible — well, you'll find all the physical tools to do so — at Blick, which has a huge selection of art supplies that allow you to experiment your little heart out. Everyone's welcome here, from college art students to crafting enthusiasts to professional artists. Blick's got kilns for your new pottery studio and lights for your professional photography setup. It's got origami paper, stained-glass materials, and kids' easels for your budding artist. The store even offers art classes and kits. At Blick, the only limit is your imagination.

At the family-owned Fantasia Crystals, visitors get a warm welcome from an attentive staff well-versed in numerous spiritual traditions and practices. The store, open since the 1980s, provides a safe space for people to explore multiple avenues of belief without giving one particular perspective more validation than the others. Fantasia Crystals offers classes on metaphysical, occult, and spiritual topics, and carries a wide range of items used by individuals who embrace these traditions. Everything you need for your metaphysical practice (or to start a new one) is here: books, tarot cards, small sculptural deities, candles, sage, and much more. There are also lovely gifts like jewelry, journals, and trinket boxes. In need of guidance? Fantasia has psychic readings on the weekends. If you've got an open mind, you'll learn a little something every time you pay a visit.

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.

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