Best Anime Event 2023 | Saboten Con | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Weebs and otaku of Phoenix, rejoice. It's a great time to be a fan of anime and manga. Interest in the Japanese-born art forms is at an all-time high nationally and locally, and the number of cons in Arizona has tripled in the last three years. At the forefront of the anime boom in the Valley is Saboten Con, which serves up four days of vendors, artists, voice actors and cosplay over Labor Day weekend at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Since launching in 2008, it's become Arizona's largest and longest-running anime event and has been synonymous with both local anime fandom and inclusivity. Organizers Greg and Stacy Fennell eschew gatekeeping at their event, welcoming casuals and newbies eager to embrace, explore and experience their newfound anime obsession. It helped Saboten Con's turnout swell, particularly this year when a record-setting 29,000 people swarmed the Sheraton and the nearby Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. There was also a new gaming and esports side event called SaboSlam, which Greg says is aimed at making the convention even more all-encompassing. "If you're into any part of [anime] culture at all, you're going to find something to do over the weekend," he says.

Not even Pollack Tempe Cinemas is immune to the evils of inflation. You'll be shocked to know that in the last half-decade, ticket prices have risen from $3 to a whopping $3.50 per show, which of course means that the Tempe theater is still the best deal in town. Pollack Tempe Cinemas shows second-run movies (meaning the ones that have already been in theaters for several weeks or longer), plus a selection of popular modern classics such as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the original animated version of "The Little Mermaid." And the movies aren't the only great thing about the theater. Concession prices are similarly affordable, and owner Michael Pollack has tricked out the lobby with a fun assortment of cinematic memorabilia, including a number of life-size statues of beloved film characters. Let's all go to the movies.

It's been a tough few years for movie theaters. So, Harkins — the largest independently owned theater company in the U.S. — did what you might expect from a plucky Arizona-based favorite: Wrap their future around a Sonoran hot dog. It takes Best Supporting Actor on the menu of Ciné Grill, the company's first foray into dine-in movie theaters that debuted at Lake Pleasant Towne Center in July. Besides the tasty menu — yes, there's booze, mocktails and seltzers, too — there are plush recliners, personal tabletops and call-to-order push buttons in case you forget to add a side of crispy roasted Brussels sprouts to your movie-going meal. Ciné Grill delivers the luxe that movie nights have needed. If Peoria is too far of a drive, Harkins plans to open a second Ciné Grill in 2024 at the former Paradise Valley Mall site near Cactus Road and Tatum Boulevard.

When we're in the mood to catch classic films on the big screen, it's hard to beat the diverse selection being screened at the Valley's three Majestic Neighborhood Cinema Grills. Sure, your neighborhood theater might have multiple showings of "Barbie," but how about showing more than one or two older movies a week? The folks at the Majestic mix the old and the new, programming a curated lineup of cult classics, arthouse fare, grindhouse flicks, anime imports, all-time favorites and even celluloid oddities ("Reefer Madness" anyone?) to complement their slate of the first-run releases. There are also weekly series like the horror-focused Cinematery Tuesdays and monthly 35 mm screenings of repertory films. And you won't want to miss lively events like movie parties featuring singalongs, interactive props and special food and drink pairings. Each Majestic location also has a full bar, in case you'd like some suds or spirits to enhance your cinematic experience.

Correct us if we're wrong, but the point of a staycation is to get away from regular life and pretend that we're on vacation and not just a few miles from our dentist's office. It's hard to do that if we're out and about in the city, so when it's time to take a staycation, we opt for Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows, where there's plenty to keep us busy. Besides the understatedly luxe rooms, Andaz offers guests three pools, one of which is adults only, plus complimentary activities like a nightly happy hour, yoga and meditation classes and more. And those are just the things that are included in your stay; paid experiences include spa treatments, mixology classes and of course dinner at Weft + Warp, Andaz's award-winning restaurant. We recommend taking the pasta class, a fun and interactive hands-on experience. A staycation at Andaz is enough to make you forget you're still in town.

Is The Egyptian Motor Hotel the most luxurious hotel in town? Nope. Is it the most fun? It's a strong contender. Part of Best Western's BW Signature Collection, The Egyptian opened to much fanfare in January after many years of lying in disrepair and several more being renovated. The result is a boutique hotel that's as much fun to hang out at as it is to stay. The rooms are music-themed and come with cute and thoughtful touches like Bluetooth speakers, Brita water pitchers and smart TVs that allow you to log into your streaming services and watch your shows. Around the property, you can cool off in the shallow lounging pool, play some foosball and catch some of The Egyptian's live entertainment — which includes DJs, live bands, karaoke and more — while enjoying a drink at the outdoor bar. The popular Chilte restaurant is there for your dining needs, and if you want to leave for a bit and come back to your room later, you're quite close to the excitement of downtown Phoenix.

Although watching people drunkenly stumble down Roosevelt Row on a Saturday night is always an enjoyable people-watching experience, nothing beats Phoenix Fan Fusion. This annual celebration of inner geekdom is nothing short of a visual feast. Scantily clad anime characters come-to-life mix with oversized furries throughout the halls of the Phoenix Convention Center. Batman and the Joker call a temporary truce from their battle royale to ride the escalator together, while horror characters like Pyramid Head perform a hauntingly beautiful musical routine as part of Dragstravaganza. Outside the walls of the convention center, the vibrant cosplayers hop on the Valley Metro Rail, blithely unaware of stares from the normies. For three full days each summer, the city is overtaken by people proudly showing their authentic selves, and it's nothing short of glorious. Let that geek flag fly, Phoenix.

A garden in the middle of Phoenix? It's hard to believe a mini-waterfall, small ponds and dense greenery exist in the desert, but the Japanese Friendship Garden (also known as Ro Ho En) is a memorable oasis in the hottest city in the country. As you walk through the almost-4-acre grounds, it's hard to miss the intersection between tranquility, the Japanese landscape design and the bright orange koi fish swimming in the water. For those who want an immersive experience, regular tea ceremonies are held daily. This mini-oasis is simple, but offers a welcome refuge from the desert landscape and the noise of the city. You can sit in a quiet spot to meditate or snap some photos to prove to others that the desert can also be lush in certain places.

Phoenicians are lucky to experience a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the foothills of the McDowell Mountains. The legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright made Taliesin West his home until 1959. The buildings overlook a vast landscape, and visitors can view the interior, admiring the office space, a private home theater and Asian art. Docents offer a 90-minute walking tour across the property, allowing attendees learn about Wright, his architecture and his life. Tours are offered during the day and night. Taliesin West was built almost 80 years ago, and touring the property means taking a look at how architecture takes shape in the middle of the desert. Wright's ultimate goal was "to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in and to give reason, rhyme to the meaning of life." For those who want to do a deeper dive into Wright's philosophy, special workshops and exhibitions are offered throughout the year.

When it comes to gonzo events, absolutely nothing in the Valley is like the Phoenix Idiotarod. On one chaos-filled Saturday each February, gangs of self-proclaimed "idiots" dress in costumes and race custom-decorated shopping carts around downtown Phoenix in a massively madcap competition. Naturally, alcohol is involved. Equal parts urban prank, bar crawl, art spectacle and IRL episode of "Jackass," the Idiotarod is organized by the Arizona Cacophony Society and is the most drunken fun you can have in costume outside of a wild Halloween party. Here's the setup: Teams of five or more choose a theme inspired by pop culture or other subject matter and gear up both themselves and their cart. Hilarity ensues, as do inebriated antics. Over the next several hours, teams race to nearby bars and checkpoints, sabotage competing teams and engage in challenges like limbo dance-offs or dueling with inflatable penises. Is it scandalous and shocking? Frequently, but it's all in good fun. If you'd like to join these idiots in action, registrations open in January via the Society's website. Athleticism is optional, but enthusiasm, a warped sense of humor and a strong liver are all useful.

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