Sure, it might seem like the Valley Metro light rail system has been around forever, but it’s really only been a decade. Back in December 2008, the now-iconic transit system began gliding across the Valley, and despite what a small group of vocal naysayers might claim, it’s actually been a pretty handy thing to have.
If you feel the same, consider attending Railversary on Thursday, December 27, outside of Talking Stick Resort Arena, 201 East Jefferson Steet. The event, which will take place in the arena’s outdoor plaza and pavillion, will include an exhibition of light rail-inspired artwork and photography, an interactive “Ride & Seek” digital scavenger hunt, and such family-friendly activities as magicians and stilt walkers. Climb aboard from 5 to 10 p.m. Admission is free. Visit valleymetro.org/railversary. Benjamin Leatherman
Put down those devices for just two hours. You’ll have more fun by far at FilmBar, 815 North Second Avenue, where they’ll be showing the local love for Phoenix-based filmmakers during the Fun Fun Fenix Film Festival, happening from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, December 27. The lineup features seven short films with different genres and styles, created by emerging to experienced filmmakers. “The festival was created for the underdog,” says creator Grant Poley. “This festival is for filmmakers that want to see their stories and hard work given the pomp and circumstance of the big screen.” Tickets are $10. Visit thefilmbarphx.com. Lynn Trimble
As anyone who’s taken music lessons can tell you, it takes dedication and practice and keep improving your skills. Turns out, there’s a group of volunteer musicians doing just that. They’re members of the Tempe Symphony Orchestra, who don’t get paid for their performances, but still love playing their hearts out for an audience several times a year. Reward their commitment to the arts by attending the symphony’s Winter Concert, happening at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 27, at Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 West Rio Salado Parkway. They’ll be performing work by Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Get a free ticket, while they last, after doors open at 6:30 p.m. Visit tempecenterforthearts.com. Lynn Trimble
Blockbuster Scores: Music from TV and Film
What makes a great television show even better? A memorable theme song definitely helps, especially one that you’ll be humming long after you’ve left the theater or finished binge-watching. This weekend, you can hum along with these themes when the Phoenix Symphony presents Blockbuster Scores: Music from TV and Film. Led by conductor Stuart Chafetz, the musicians of the PSO will perform legendary themes from a variety of popular television shows and flicks, including House of Cards, Downton Abbey, Wonder Woman, and Lost. Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 28, and Saturday, December 29, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 30, at Phoenix Symphony Hall, 75 North Second Street. Tickets are $30 to $108. Call 602-495-1999 or see phoenixsymphony.org. Benjamin Leatherman
You’ve raced all over town looking for those perfect gifts. You’ve showered love ones with attention. You’ve cooked (or eaten) all your holiday favorites. Maybe you’ve even invented a festive cocktail or two. But, there’s one more thing you can do to make the season bright. Head over to the Saguaro Branch of the Phoenix Public Library, 2808 North 46th Street, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, December 28. That’s where you can participate in an American Red Cross blood drive, so people who need blood due to accidents or health conditions won’t have to go without. Think of it as the perfect red bow to top off your holiday season. Visit phoenixpubliclibrary.org. Lynn Trimble
In a perfect world, we’d all have a warm place to sleep at night. But homelessness persists, and big solutions are hard to come by. Do what you can in little ways, like attending Year in Review Trivia at Valley Bar, 130 North Central Avenue, where admission is a $35 donation and proceeds benefit Central Arizona Shelter Services. Solo competitors or teams of up to six people can participate. Just show up and sign up starting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, December 28. The 20-question competition starts at 6:30 p.m.
Pro tip: Brush up on your 2018 pop culture, music, film, politics, sports, business, and newsmaker facts before you go. Visit valleybarphx.com. Lynn Trimble
Die Hard Movie Party
We’re sure you’re sick of hearing about how no, really, it’s actually a Christmas movie, but nevertheless, Die Hard is still a sick flick, pitting Bruce Willis’ iconic hero John McClane against the late Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber in a skyscraper showdown. Film buffs will be converging on Alamo Drafthouse in Tempe, 1140 East Baseline Road, for a Die Hard Movie Party at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 28. Expect theme props like cap guns, lighters, and Twinkies – plus people way too skilled at delivering their Yippie-Ki-Yay tributes.
Tickets are $12.98. There’s no extra charge for all those memories of 1988 that might come flooding back. Visit drafthouse.com/phoenix. Lynn Trimble
There’s no shortage of holiday lights this time of year. But sometimes you long for a more creative twist. Enter Lights of the World, which is presenting a Lantern Festival at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 West McDowell Road. The festival couples fresh technologies with Chinese lantern traditions, and displays spotlight diverse civilizations and global cultures. The festival also includes carnival rides, games, crafts, music, and dance performance. You’ll also have plenty of food options to choose from, and unique backdrops for festive holiday photographs.
The festival happens from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, December 29. Tickets are $19. Visit phoenix.lightsoftheworldus.com. Lynn Trimble
Need to share a little romance with the light of your life? Or impress your holidays guests with some local flavor? Take them along for the Night Lights Tour at Taliesin West, the winter home and desert laboratory for famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which is a national historic landmark. Established in 1937, it’s located at 12621 North Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard in Scottsdale. The tour is offered from December 26 through 29 at 5:30, 6, and 6:30 p.m. It’s designed for visitors ages 13 and up, and reservations are required. Tickets are $50. During two hours, visitors see some of Wright’s most personal spaces, from garden room to cabaret theater. Visit franklloydwright.org. Lynn Trimble
Shiny objects abound in Old Town Scottsdale, where holiday celebrations share a Scottsdazzle theme. For localists, the brightest lights belong to area artists and small business owners. Turns out, you can explore both thanks to public art installations collectively called Local Light. Scottsdale Public Art commissioned local artists to create works for eight sites around Old Town, including several concentrated near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Marshall Way. Featured artists include Mike Butzine, Casey Farina, Lynn Gustafson, Lisa Von Hoffner, Michelle Meyer, Mike Miller, Craig Randich, Lily Reeves, Eli Richard, Jenny Willigrod, and Danielle Wood. Head over after dark on Sunday, December 30, if you want to stroll around and take them all in. There’s an online map that makes finding the artworks easy. Visit scottsdalepublicart.org. Lynn Trimble
Noon Year's Eve
Whoever said you’re obligated to stay up late on New Year’s Eve? If you’d rather be in bed by midnight but still want to party it up, the Phoenix Zoo, 455 North Galvin Parkway, is putting on a Noon Year’s Eve party that’s fun for the whole family. From 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, December 31, you and your too-young-to-stay-up-late kids can have fun with party games, dancing, a “dung beetle ball drop,” and 30 tons of snow to play in. Get there before the hot Arizona sun melts it all, maybe?
Access to Noon Year’s Eve events is included with zoo admission, which is $24.95 for adults and $16.95 for children ages 3 to 13. Tickets are slightly cheaper online. Call 602-286-3800 or visit phoenixzoo.org. Douglas Markowitz
New Year's Eve 2019 Block Party
It goes without saying that there’s an excess of big parties and celebrations happening on New Year’s Eve. One of the biggest in the Valley happens each year at the Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue, when the downtown Phoenix venue and the surrounding area transforms into a massive fiesta. This year will be no exception when the Crescent hosts its New Year’s Eve 2019 Block Party on Monday, December 31.
The streets on either side of the venue will be shut down and will each host different stages, art cars from Walter Productions, multiple bars, heated tents, and more. Second Avenue will have a “classic ’70s get-down” with the members of the Hi-Dreams DJ Collective and local soul/funk band Calumet while Third Avenue will see Sean Watson and the DJs of Drip Drop Records dropping beats. Meanwhile, Crescent’s main room will boast a Studio 54-style “drag disco dance party” emceed by the always entertaining Pandora DeStrage.
The party starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance. Call 602-716-2222 or see crescentphx.com. Benjamin Leatherman
Think the craze for flannel and beards is played out? Think again, baby. Here in Phoenix, we don’t even pick up on fashion trends until they’re at least five years old in New York — just to make sure they’ve aged well — and with all those mountains and forests up north near Flagstaff, why would we just let go of dressing like lumberjacks all of a sudden?
Can you relate? If so, we have the perfect New Year’s Eve party for you. The Flannel Ball is taking over Roosevelt Row from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Monday, December 31. Centered around the Roosevelt Growhouse, 1025 North Second Avenue, the party will feature games, art, food trucks, live music, and a craft beer garden. Don your sharpest tartan shirt and don’t get too wasted before the all-important New Year’s toast. Tickets are $20 now and $25 on the night of. Visit flannelball.com.? Douglas Markowitz
The 2019 Playstation Fiesta Bowl is dedicated to all you folks who have done everything possible to succeed in life and still feel like you got screwed by the Man. The University of Central Florida Knights, who will play the LSU Tigers at on New Year’s Day at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, have won 25 consecutive games over the past two seasons, yet were once again shut out of the college football playoffs. The playoffs invite only what its committee deems are the top four teams in the country, and since UCF doesn’t play in one of the major conferences, the committee doesn’t consider it worthy of championship consideration. How rigged is that? Needless to say, whomever wins the championship, we’ll all know who the real victors are. Kickoff for the Fiesta Bowl is 11 a.m. and ticket prices begin at $95, but look for better deals online. Visit fiestabowl.org. Stuart Warner
Looking for an offbeat way to ring in the New Year? Head over to Great Skate, 10054 North 43rd Avenue in Glendale, where you can party like it’s 1999. Cosmic Skate, complete with colorful lights and upbeat tunes, happens from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 1. It’ll only set you back $5, but bring extra cash if you need to rent skates ($3.50) or rollerblades ($4.50). Show up between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. if you’re not feeling cosmic. That’s when $8 gets you admission, regular skates, a slice of pizza, and a drink. No worries if you’re a late riser. From 6 to 9 p.m. you can get all that, but with unlimited pizza, for just $12. Visit greatskateglendale.com. Lynn Trimble
Have the Phoenix Suns stopped Dyin’ for Zion? After a 4-24 start, it seemed like the Suns were going all out to win the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft again, which would likely be Duke’s superstar freshman Zion Williamson. But then, almost like a holiday miracle, Devin Booker and this past year’s No. 1 draft pick, Deandre Ayton, led the Suns to four victories in a row for the first time since 2015. In other words, they won as many games in a week as they had in almost two months. We’ll see if they can stay hot in 2019, as the Philadelphia 76ers and Ayton’s Twitter nemesis, Joel Embiid, come to town at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 2, at Talking Stick Resort Arena, 201 East Jefferson Street, assuming owner Robert Sarver hasn’t moved his team by then. Just kidding. Tickets start at $18. Visit nba.com/suns. Stuart Warner
The Arizona Coyotes have ascended to mediocrity, and that’s cause for celebration in this sports town. The team has been flirting with a winning percentage of .500 most of the season, mostly on the strength of its goalkeepers, who are among the stingiest in the NHL. Unfortunately, their offense is among the most anemic in the league, so don’t expect a lot of goals when the Edmonton Oilers, who also aren’t very productive with the puck, visit Gila River Arena, 9400 West Maryland Avenue, Glendale, at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 2. Tickets start at $34. Visit nhl.com/coyotes. Stuart Warner