Best Of 2023 | Phoenix | Phoenix New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Phoenix, Arizona
Tom Carlson
We get about 93 days of summer each year, the experts say. But if you live in Phoenix, you know that our temperatures heat up in the spring and stay toasty well into fall. (They don’t call us the Valley of the Sun for nothing!)

On those searing days, we desert-dwellers often wait for the sun to set before venturing out into the city. What do we find there? A place that, unlike the Phoenix of even a decade ago, is a hot commodity in the nighttime, a city full of cutting-edge theater, nationally recognized restaurants and bars, exciting sports, moonlit hikes, exciting music, fresh art and so much more.

Not that you can’t find all that during the day – the Valley is a hotbed of activity when the sun’s up, too. Which is why New Times' Best of Phoenix® 2023, Hot Desert Nights, celebrates the best of what the city to has to offer, night and day, and this year, we’ve got more than 400 categories we’re excited to share with you.

There’s something magical about a warm evening in the city. Come with us to explore Phoenix under the moonlight with Hot Desert Nights.

Frances again tops our list because the boutique continues to effortlessly curate a selection of goods that are perfect for gifting or shopping for yourself The shop is never too narrow or niche in its offerings and yet manages to maintain a cohesive vibe with its eclectic, retro-leaning collection of wares. Inside Frances you'll find clothing for the entire family and everyday home goods, along with unique gifts for any occasion. Heading to a baby shower and a housewarming party? They've got a cute roadrunner emblazoned-onesie and a set of cactus-shaped shot glasses coming right up — and they'll even handle the gift wrapping for you.

With more than 42% of the population of Phoenix identifying as Hispanic or Latino, there's never been a time when Latino arts and culture have been a more integral part of the essence of the city. Founded in 2009, the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center's stated mission is to "celebrate and promote the Latino presence in Arizona through arts, education and advocacy." How do they pursue that mission? Through events like dance performances, art exhibitions, street festivals and more. You can take an art class or make a purchase at the center's La Tiendita gift shop, but if you really want to support ALAC, you can vote yes in November 2023 on a $500 million general obligation bond program, $21 million of which is set aside for a building for the nonprofit organization, giving it a long-overdue permanent home from which to continue its essential work.

Rusty Spur Saloon
Nature's AZ Medicines

Nature's Medicine began as a medicinal dispensary in 2014 under the watchful eye of former pharmacist Jigar Patel. With a keen focus on providing patients with the best of the best cannabis, the brand rose to prominence in Arizona. But just because Nature's Medicine is no longer strictly medicinal, that doesn't mean it has slacked off when it comes to lining its shelves with great products. In fact, with over 400 products to choose from, Nature's Medicines has everything to cater to both the medicinal and recreational toker. Pick up prerolls, flower, concentrates and edibles of every type, from beverages and chocolates to gummies and syrups.

Arizona's first Voodoo Doughnut is finally here. The internet erupted with happy reactions when the Portland, Oregon-based chain known for its over-the-top creations announced that it would finally open a store on Rural Road in Tempe. The store was the first to land in the Grand Canyon State, joining Voodoo's empire that spans Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Florida. Favorites on the menu include the sweet-and-sour Grape Ape, Oreo-encrusted Dirt Doughnut and the namesake Voodoo Doll Doughnut, filled with raspberry jelly and stabbed with a pretzel stake. The signature pink boxes have already started popping up around town.

The death of Paul "PC" Cardone in November 2022 shook the Tempe music community. The bassist, who played in dozens of bands over the years, was a fixture of the scene for decades, but more than that, he was a connector, a mentor, an encourager and a friend to pretty much everyone he ever met. His friends and fellow musicians quickly decided that the only possible tribute was a memorial concert, which took place in January on two stages at Tempe's Yucca Tap Room. The show will go down in local music history as one of the scene's greatest events. The lineup was a who's-who of 30 years of Tempe music, including Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms, Dry River Yacht Club, Satellite, Ghetto Cowgirl, Banana Gun, Wyves, The Sugar Thieves, Dead Hot Workshop, Chocolate Fountain, Walt Richardson and many more. Friends and family came from around the world to cry and sing, dance and drink, reminisce and reconnect, and celebrate Cardone's inimitable life and legacy. In April, the city of Tempe honored the concert's organizers with an award for the Neighborhood Event of the Year, a fitting tribute for a man whose nickname was the "Mayor of Tempe."

We're spoiled when it comes to places to enjoy the sunrise after a long night out. Heck, you can stand on any random corner and still get a primo view. But for our money, the best choice has to be Hole in the Rock. The decidedly novel geological formation is found at Papago Park and requires a mere 10-minute hike from the parking lot. (It's not overly strenuous, and you may find that it helps burn off some of those bad decisions from the prior evening.) It's hard to describe the sheer beauty of this spot in a way that captures the quiet awe of it all. The rocks themselves seem to extend the deep hues of red and orange, making it seem like the earth and sky are nearly one for a brief moment. The shape of the hole almost feels like a stage backdrop, and that adds even more power and emotionality to what's an otherwise hugely stirring moment. It's easy to get jaded with this town's accessibility to great nature spots, but Hole in the Rock is a reminder that these places have to be revisited as we maintain a connection to our surroundings.

Remember the feeling of excitement as you'd wait for your friends to come over for your birthday party? That's what it felt like to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Valley for Super Bowl LVII. We spent months or longer sprucing up the town — revitalized parks, new murals and such — and when the first arrivals showed up, we were ready to party. We don't know many people who were able to actually attend the big game, but we know plenty who checked out the Super Bowl Experience or hit up one of the dozens of parties, concerts, festivals and events that dotted the city. And in case the Super Bowl wasn't exciting enough, that weekend was also the culmination of the annual Waste Management Open, which is always one of the crazier events of the year. Sure, the traffic was terrible and there was nary a restaurant reservation to be found, but we've never had more fun.

For businesses selling products often associated with chill, happy vibes, dispensary waiting rooms can be a major drag. Of course, waiting rooms make sense from a security standpoint, but as a customer, having to play a game of musical chairs while waiting for your name to be called can be a buzzkill. That's why The Flower Shop in Ahwatukee took a different approach to designing its dispensary. The moment you walk into The Flower Shop, you're met with a visual feast of weed-themed dioramas everywhere you look. From the hyper-girly display cases for the brand's female-centric line Ladylike, to the wanderlust-inducing cases featuring High Variety products, it's impossible not to be entertained. The dispensary's open-concept design means you can freely explore the products without being confined — or pressured — to order from a paper menu without seeing the actual product.

Best Of Phoenix®