Best Film Festival 2022 | Indie Film Fest | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Let other cities have glitzy film festivals filled with celebrity sightings and movies by big-name directors. Here in Phoenix, we have a hometown festival that makes it easy for anyone to experience an eclectic array of films that reflect the diversity of human experience and give us pathways for forging fresh conversations and collaborations. The Indie Film Fest gives voice to local talent, while expanding our vision beyond the Valley of the Sun. We're never sure what creative community-based activities the Indie Film Fest organizers are going to come up with, but they always add another layer of fun. With shorts, documentaries, music videos, and more, the festival mixes it up to remind us that there's true movie magic beyond our favorite couches and streaming services.

When was the last time you spent just $3.50 on a movie ticket? Ticket prices keep rising, but you'll always find a movie bargain at Pollack Tempe Cinemas at McClintock Drive and Elliot Road. The theater plays second-run movies (those no longer showing in regular cinemas) in addition to classic features such as The Breakfast Club and Friday Night Lights. Pollack Tempe Cinemas an old-school, Hollywood-meets-Disney vibe replete with life-size displays of characters from Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, and Superman. Head to the snack bar for popcorn, Blue Bunny Ice Cream, or a Hebrew National Hot Dog to accompany your flick, then sit back and enjoy the show knowing that you snagged a great deal.

If your idea of being pampered is having someone else fetch your beer while you sit on the couch watching movies from your favorite '80s franchise, it's probably time you step it up a notch. There's luxury to be found at AMC Dine-In Esplanade 14, where you can order appetizers, burgers, flatbreads, salads, bowls, snacks, and more on your phone and get them delivered to your seat. You can also spend some time at the bar before or after the flick to enjoy beer, wine, or cocktails. The theater is surrounded by luxurious shops, so you can enjoy a little walking and window shopping on either side of your movie time. While you're there, you can typically choose from classics, new titles, and artisan films. Special Fathom Events screenings from anime films to opera performances take you beyond the ordinary movie lineup, and you can bring a touch of class to your next party by booking a private screening. Just be sure you don't show up in your tattered Big Lebowski bathrobe.

For local cinephiles who are tired of watching classic films on the small screen, the Majestic Neighborhood Cinema Grills are your huckleberry. The three east Valley locations regularly screen repertory films alongside new releases. Where else in the Valley can you see Robocop on 35mm one week and then catch a restoration of Lost Highway the next? The Majestic team has done a great job in catering to both arthouse and grindhouse audiences, screening horror cult classics such as Blood and Black Lace and Texas Chainsaw Massacre alongside film canon staples including Rear Window, Wings of Desire, and The Seventh Seal. They've also had special guest Q&As, film and meal pairings, and other fun events. If you've ever wanted to drink a beer and eat a cheeseburger while reclining in a comfortable chair with Richard Elfman's deranged Forbidden Zone playing in front of you on the big screen, they're the only game in town.

Walking into the McKinley Club near a strip of Grand Avenue renowned for its offbeat arts scene, you hardly feel like you've entered a working space. When you see oodles of plants, hanging chairs, and a geometric mural by local artist Danielle Hacche, you get the vibe of your favorite home decor show where it's all about combining comfort and urban chic. The club has private offices in various sizes, plus dedicated desks in shared spaces, and open space memberships, too. Check out the roster and you'll see a compelling mix of Phoenix thinkers, makers, movers, and shakers — each bringing creative flair to their own projects and their conversations with other great minds working in various ways to help the city, and those who live and work here, move forward.

Dominique Chatterjee
Desert at Lux

Most bars in the evenings are starting to get rowdy. At Lux Central, a coffee bar on Central Avenue, the music is always blisteringly loud, and the space is usually packed — and yet most customers are deep in a book or clacking away on laptops. For those that enjoy getting work done in bars and cafes, Lux is simply the ultimate choice. Its counters are stocked with mouthwatering pastries. It has big tables and comfy pink armchairs. It serves both espresso and stylish cocktails. The jalapeño bacon mac-and-cheese is to die for. Working late in the evening here, you feel productive — and still cool, because you made it out, at least, to a place like Lux.

They don't call it Central Avenue for nothing: As metro Phoenix sprawls endlessly every which way, the thoroughfare continues to mark the boundary between the east and west sides of town. And a drive from its northern terminus to the southern end (or vice versa) provides a vibrant look at the heart of the city. You can start in Sunnyslope, where Central dead-ends near North Mountain Park. Take it south and admire the historic, upscale neighborhoods that line Central from Northern to Missouri avenues. This section boasts the historic Murphy's Bridle Path; no longer used by horses and the people who ride them, the tree-lined path is often filled with pedestrians out for a little fresh air. Head a little farther south, and you're into central Phoenix proper. Check out Midcentury Modern architectural gems such as the Phoenix Financial Center, stop for a bite at popular eateries including Clever Koi and Forno 301, or get some culture at the Heard Museum or Phoenix Art Museum. Keep going, and you'll cross the trendy Roosevelt Row arts district before finding yourself entangled in the mess that is downtown Phoenix construction (a low point on our tour while the streets are still torn up). Make it through downtown, and you're now in south Phoenix, where the buildings are shorter and you'll see much more Spanish on the signs of the businesses. This stretch of Central has its fair share of work going on (they're building a new section of the Valley Metro Light Rail), so consider pulling over for some shopping or a meal to support the local businesses who have seen their revenues drop because of the construction mess. Finally, just as it began at a mountain, Central Avenue ends in South Mountain Park. Pull over to stretch your legs and contemplate the slice of urban Phoenix life you've just experienced.

Jennifer Goldberg

It's ironic that the southern end of Central Avenue, the urban heart of Phoenix, is the beginning of one of the most gorgeous scenic drives in the city. Located in the South Mountain Park and Preserve, the road to the Dobbins Lookout starts off gently as you travel through visitor checkpoints and parking lots. Then, you begin to climb. Gentle twists, turns, and switchbacks are the name of the game as you ascend the mountain on a well-maintained paved road. It's hard to decide what's better: gazing at the majestic South Mountain close up or watching the city fall away behind you. After about five miles, you'll make it to Dobbins Lookout at 2,330 feet. The altitude makes for spectacular views of the entire Valley; you can try your hand at identifying landmarks with the compass on the observation tower, or you can get out of the sun in the stone ramada. On your way back down, before you leave the park, make sure to stop at what remains of Scorpion Gulch, a neat little house and store that was built in the 1930s.

All holidays are commercialized these days, it seems. Valentine's Day candy shows up by New Year's. Days of remembrance like Memorial Day and Veterans Day are excuses for stores to hold sales. And don't even get us started on Christmas. But amid the winter holiday consumption extravaganza, there's one local Christmas tradition that's light on the commercialism and heavy on the, well, lights. Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden has been going on for more than 40 years. Picture it: the lovely, serene paths of the DBG lit with hundreds of luminarias. Wander around the garden, and you may find a string quartet playing Christmas music, or a small stand selling hot beverages of the alcoholic and nonalcoholic kind. The crowd isn't loud, the lights are gentle and unobtrusive, and the only things for sale besides food and drink are the usual stellar offerings of the garden's gift shop. Las Noches de las Luminarias, which runs through most of the month of December, is an oasis of peace and holiday magic in the midst of Christmas madness.

There's no shortage of places to take out-of-towners whether they're into nature, sports, or cultural activities. But sometimes you just want to show off the fact that Phoenix has a particularly rare type of museum, where visitors can see musical instruments and artifacts that deepen their knowledge and appreciation of global culture. We love watching out-of-towners find instruments, artifacts, and videos that reflect their own cultural heritage — and seeing their eyes light up when they discover a piano or guitar played by a modern music legend. It's a plus that you can treat them to a meal at the museum cafe, shop for souvenirs in the museum store, or even get tickets for a concert inside the museum's own theater. Exploring the museum will take you at least half a day, and you'll never be bored going back with visitors because every time you're there, you'll discover something intriguing that you hadn't noticed before.

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