Welcome to the Phoenix Bucket List. Robrt Pela and Amy Silverman -- two New Times contributors and longtime Phoenicians -- have put together a list of 100 things to do in this city before you die. Each week we're presenting another 10, and today, Amy Silverman presents the final round; later this week we'll wrap it all up in a cover story in New Times.
Eat Fry Bread When in Rome, eat spaghetti. When in Phoenix -- fry bread. There's debate over just how authentic (or appropriate) a dish Native American fry bread is, but few will argue that it's totally delicious. Most equate it with fair food, but here in the Valley you can get it in a variety of places year-round -- from shacks on reservation land, to the James Beard Award-winning Fry Bread House in Central Phoenix, newly expanded for all your deep-fried, honey-coated, sugar-sprinkled needs. Savory versions served, as well.
See Ballet Arizona's Topia at the Desert Botanical Garden It ran two seasons in a row and there's no word as to whether Ballet Arizona will reprise Topia at the Desert Botanical Garden. But promise me that if Ib Andersen does bring it back, you will buy a ticket and go. Yes, it's held in a parking lot. And yes, it will be the most breathtaking setting in which you've ever seen ballet performed -- the sun will set behind the Papago Buttes, turning them red, as the dancers take the stage and make you forget that you never really liked hoity toity stuff like ballet. This is ballet as it is meant to be -- lyrical, intense, dare I say almost a spiritual experience performed on a stage double the typical length. It's gorgeous. The DBG, which has been rehabbed, manicured and trimmed more than a Housewife of (Fill in the Blank) is a lovely place to stroll with a cocktail in hand, and if Ballet Arizona would only re-launch Topia again while the Chihuly exhibit is still up, it would be a two-fer for any self-respecting bucket list, anywhere.
Party on the Roof of Phoenix Towers Mostly known as "the pink high-rise on Central," the 14-story Phoenix Towers is beyond swank, from its minimalist lobby to a roof with gorgeous city views. Built in 1957 by Del Webb's company, the entire thing is designed like a giant X, with giant, shaded balconies. The location is prime, fronting Central Avenue and nestling up against the Heard Museum. Get yourself a rooftop party invite and be sure to poke around a couple of the condos while you're at it.
Hike "A" Mountain in Tempe What's better than a paved mountain? Don't answer that. "A" Mountain is a perfect pre-brunch (or pre-beer) hike, steep enough to get you winded but only a scramble at the very end. Views are good all the way up, and this cross between a-mountain-and-a-molehill is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Tempe. Check out the namesake "A" when you get to the top.
Drink a Martini and Eat a Steak at Durant's If we were to toss words like iconic around at Phoenix New Times, that's what we'd call Durant's. Flocked red velvet wallpaper? Check. Smoke-voiced waitresses? Got 'em. Leather booths, the original Formica-countered bathroom (last time I checked), and a menu that would give Dr. Atkins the meat sweats? Yep, yep, yep. This Phoenix, old school, and if you haven't been to Durant's, you really haven't been here. If you're a vegetarian, order the iceberg wedge. And if you're a vegan, get a martini. Make sure you get one of those either way, of course, and whatever you do, be sure to walk in through the kitchen, like the regulars do.
See also: Vintage Phoenix -- Durant's slideshow
Line Dance at Cash Inn Country Pull on your boots and head to the Cash on Thursday nights for a night of line dancing that would have the old-timers choking on their chew. Oh, you do need to know that Cash Inn is a lesbian bar -- New Times has given it countless Best of Phoenix awards, as has just about every other award-giving outfit in town. Hang on the patio with a beer or get in on the swing of things -- word is that they offer free lessons.
See a Movie at the West Wind Glendale 9 Drive-In Even for much of the summer, Phoenix has perfect drive-in weather. Spread a blanket on the ground (or wrap one around your shoulders if it's winter), let the kids run and break out the cooler. What could be better? And yet there's a nationwide epidemic of deaths among drive-ins. West Wind is the last man standing in metro Phoenix, so get there quick. Pass the popcorn.
Eat at Chrysa Robertson's Rancho Pinot Chrysa Robertson is a pistol -- if you don't believe me, friend her on Facebook. The woman takes no prisoners. She's also a hell of a chef. You may not have heard of it, but Rancho Pinot was here long before food became the new music in this city -- and I bet it'll be here long after most of the pork-bellied posers have closed shop and moved on. From her limoncello to her apple pie, Robertson incorporates fresh, simple ingredients (often grown in her own garden; she also keeps chickens) and inspired (when she feels like it) by the southwest. The homey, Mexican-inspired decor of her restaurant is worth a stop in and of itself.
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Take a Walk on a Canal I know some cactus huggers who will throw rotten fish at me for saying this, but let's give a round of applause for flood irrigation! It's one of the best things about living in parts of the Valley -- it lowers the temperature of the neighborhood, it soaks the earth and supports the trees, and it conjures childhood memories. Counting the "lateral" ditches, there are hundreds of miles of canals across town that carry that water, and if you are a real nerd you can read about them on the Salt River Project's web site, srpnet.com, but what I really recommend is that you take a walk on a canal instead. As long as the breeze blows in the right direction, you can avoid the smell of (almost) still water and the flat, dirt surface provides wonderful urban "trails" for miles at a stretch, ideal for runners and walkers. Just remember to stay away from the water; it looks still but the current can be pretty mighty. You don't want to get sucked into a grate.
Buy Yourself a Pair of Vintage Cowboy Boots You're here. Dress the part. Don't make your first pair of cowboy boots brand-new, purchased at Kenneth Cole on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. That's not the memory you want. Instead, head to Antique Trove in Scottsdale and find yourself a nice old pair of Frye's. Put them on, kick some ass.
Take It All Off at the Shangri-La Ranch When we began the Phoenix Bucket List, Robrt and I acknowledged that we might be including items that were still on our own personal bucket lists. In other words, roads less traveled. In fact, there are a few on this last installment I have yet to check off. Shangri La Ranch -- a nudist colony (excuse me, naturist community) in New River is one of them. But I've always been curious. Turns out, you can print a guest pass from Shangri La's web site. So before you commit to an RV hook-up or to renting a cabin, check Shangri La out for yourself. The ranch is clothing option, but don't bother bringing your bathing suit. They don't allow them in the pool.
Previous Bucket Lists: Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do in Phoenix Before You Die: The Introduction Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Castles, Crescent, and Really Hot Mexican Food Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Books, Bats, and the Biltmore Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Prickly Pear, Gammage, and Chris Bianco's Mom's Chocolate Cake Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Kiddieland, FilmBar, and Ladmo's Tree Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Late Night Love, the Westward Ho, and Louise Nevelson Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Bikini Lounge, Posh, and the MIM Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Penguins, Peaches, and Celebrity Theatre Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: the Psycho Building, Tea at the Ritz, and Lots of Greek Beer