Best Farewell 2023 | Metrocenter | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Like a rock band that embarks on multiple farewell tours (we're looking at you, KISS), Metrocenter is now the recipient of two goodbye-themed Best of Phoenix awards. Back in 2020, we gave it Best Sendoff for the epic car cruise around its perimeter, a two-night event that drew thousands of nostalgic boomers and Gen-Xers who spent their adolescence bumming around the west Valley mall. After that, not much happened. But once news of its imminent demolition began to spread this past spring, one final (really final) event was planned to send Metrocenter into the Great Retail Beyond. In May, thousands attended "Metrocenter: A Fond Farewell," an event hosted by the city of Phoenix and the mall's owners. The free celebration included music, food and drink, kids' activities, a car show, photobooths, memory walls and a 1980s costume contest. It was a fitting tribute to a place that meant so much to generations of Phoenicians.

When the sun sets in Phoenix, the city is lit by the glow of neon. And our favorite glowing beacon is the so-called Diving Lady, who plunges nightly at the Starlite Motel in Mesa. Created in 1960, she was destroyed in an epic storm in 2010. The Mesa Preservation Foundation led the charge (and the fundraising effort) to restore the Diving Lady not just to its pre-storm state but to her original midcentury glory. After more than two years and $120,000, the restoration was complete, and the Diving Lady was back to beckoning motel customers. In a town awash with neon, she's certainly the queen bee.

Walking around downtown Phoenix at night, you can find plenty of art to take in, from murals to sculptures. But there's only one gigantic cloud-shaped structure suspended over the city. Since 2009, "Her Secret Is Patience" by Janet Echelman has loomed benevolently over the area now called Civic Space Park. It's constructed from steel, polyester twine netting and colored lights, giving the impression of a glowing cloud formation or perhaps a stationary tornado. It's an impressive enough piece during the day, when the bones of the project are visible, but it's best seen at night, when it lights up the city.

At rush hour, Grand Avenue is often clogged with traffic, from its eastern end in downtown Phoenix all the way out into the far stretches of the city in the West Valley. But there's hardly anything more satisfying than driving this unending boulevard at night, once you're the only car on the road. A trip down Grand Avenue is a trip through all the strange worlds of Phoenix: through the city's sprawling warehouse districts, past towers of rusting shipping containers and austere churches, strip clubs and fading murals. Whimsical art and fairy lights strung from trees mark the bustling Grand Avenue arts hub closer to downtown. On an overpass, for a moment, the Phoenix skyline is visible.

There's no one defining area of Phoenix — all these nooks and crannies we call neighborhoods represent the city's robust multifacetedness. That said, Roosevelt Row (that's Roosevelt Street effectively from Seventh Avenue to Seventh Street) feels like the best-case example for a singular Phoenix experience. That breezy 1-mile jaunt will take you past a slew of art galleries, celebrated venues like The Nash, heaps of bars and restaurants (like Carly's Bistro) and gorgeous historic homes dating back to the 1920s (or earlier). Roosevelt Row is perhaps the best example of what happens when Phoenix's arts, food and nightlife scenes are perfectly united in the most accessible ways possible. Plus, this stroll, paired with the right winter or spring weather, is the best way to experience Phoenix's unique culture and heritage in a way that aligns with whatever your game plan may be that evening. It's a means to feel connected in a very real way and to see the heart of Phoenix that you couldn't get in a full drive across the city proper. So grab your best shoes — be they sneakers or high heels — and get to walking.

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