By Josephine Matyas

Many times neighbours get along just fine, helping each other out when needed, but at the same time appreciating the ways in which they are different. With cities it can be much the same – and that’s what you’ll find in the Valley of the Sun in central Arizona.

Look at Phoenix – the state’s largest city exudes its own personality and style that make it stand out from the neighbouring communities. Explore Phoenix and you’ll find an avant-garde pull, a big city that appreciates all that is hip, progressive and innovative.

This setting – a place where the experimental is appreciated and encouraged – has become a magnet for young artists who tend toward the cutting edge both in the arts and in the restaurant kitchen. As a result Phoenix’s arts and foodie scene has exploded. So, fasten your seatbelt and we’ll show you what’s new!

desert botanical garden
Credit: Greater Phoenix CVB/Adam Rodriguez

The Arts Scene

Contemporary studio glass artist Dale Chihuly brings his whimsical and colourful works of glass fine art to Phoenix with an exhibition at Desert Botanical Garden. The exhibit of artistic glass sculptures will be installed throughout the gardens until May 18, 2014, including during the museum’s annual Las Noches de las Luminarias celebration.

In the heart of downtown Phoenix, art with an urban edginess is making its mark. These days, some of the city’s most interesting art is found outside museums, in alleyways and on buildings used as gigantic canvases. Downtown is developing a positive reputation for murals and the street artists who make spaces pop with their messages. Places to explore are Roosevelt Row, 7th Avenue Streetscape, Metro Light Rail stations and the alleys along 16th Street. Many of the city’s talented Latino street artists contributed to the city’s Calle 16 mural project with a goal to build pride and to showcase their talents. Self-guided tours trace the city’s public art projects and can be reached by car, bicycle, on foot and, sometimes, on horseback.

The world-class Heard Museum is a showcase of traditional and contemporary art spotlighting the culture of American Indian tribes native to Arizona and the Colorado Plateau. A not-to-be-missed event is the 56th Annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market (March 1 to 2, 2014). The fair attracts more than 700 of the nation’s most outstanding and successful American Indian artists, from grand masters to contemporary artisans who have mastered artwork like jewelry, pottery, baskets, katsina dolls and textiles.

The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is showcasing Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power, an exhibition created by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on display at the MIM through April 20, 2014. The show highlights how women have been the engines of creation and change in popular music. On display are instruments, original handwritten lyrics, stage outfits, concert posters and videos from more than 70 iconic female musicians including Janis Joplin, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and Carrie Underwood.

Those who love the silver screen should include a trip to the Phoenix Art Museum for Hollywood Costume – Celebrating More than 100 Years of Cinema Storytelling, an in-depth look at how costume design plays a key role in cinema storytelling. This major multimedia exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London explores the essentials of costume design and the creative process, bringing together more than 100 of the world’s most iconic costumes from a century of filmmaking. Displays include clothes worn in films such as The Wizard of OzMy Fair LadySupermanTitanic and many others. This is the first public display for many of the costumes. Event opens March 26, 2014 and requires special ticketing.

Artlink hosts First Friday, the nation’s largest self-guided art walk held on the first Friday monthly through downtown arts’ districts. On the third Thursday monthly, the expert-guided Collectors Tour explores some of the city’s most exciting galleries and studios.

Foodies Rejoice

It’s official! Accolades have been pouring in for the gourmet pizza scene in Phoenix. TripAdvisor recently compiled a list of America’s Top 10 Cities for Pizza and Phoenix made the list of must-try destinations for pizza aficionados looking for their cheesy fix. Where to find that perfect combination of chewy crust, bubbling cheese and rich tomato sauce? Gourmet pizza places have been sprouting up in downtown Phoenix.

Best known is Pizzeria Bianco. The food website The Daily Meal named Pizza Bianco one of the three best places to eat pizza in the entire country. Their Neapolitan-inspired creations are an irresistible combination of homemade dough, toppings like wood-roasted sweet onions and mushrooms, house smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage and even Arizona pistachios.

Pomo Pizzeria is one of only two Phoenix-area restaurants to receive the stamp of approval as a True Neapolitan Pizza. Their delicious pizzas are made using traditional methods from Napoli, Italy – the birthplace of pizza – and topped with ingredients like fresh basil, fresh garlic, Italian sausage and imported buffalo mozzarella.

A restored 1913 house in the heart of the downtown Roosevelt Row District is home to Cibo, urban pizzeria and wine bar. Cibo is known for hand-tossed pizzas, made to order and topped with imported Italian tomato sauce, prosciutto, salami and organic produce like red peppers and artichokes.

La Piazza Locale – one of the city’s two Napoletana-certified pizzerias – is a wood-fired, brick oven pizzeria specializing in pizza made using traditional Italian methods. The award-winning pizzas are all made using homemade dough, homemade mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy, and topped with the freshest of ingredients such as Mozzarella di Bufala, fresh basil, speck and arugula.

The Arizona Biltmore is having a little fun with its Mystery Room, a speakeasy-stylebar in a hidden room actually used for that purpose during Prohibition. Back in the 1920s there was a well-stocked liquor cabinet that converted into a bookcase in the event of a raid and resort staff kept a close watch for police. These days, the Mystery Room is totally legal, but it’s only open Sunday evenings and it requires a password (check the Biltmore’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaBiltmore).

Credit: Desert Splash Adventures

You’ve heard of ballooning and brunch? Try a Desert Splash Adventures’ seaplane excursionover the Superstition Mountains and the Salt River canyons and lakes followed by a gourmet brunch prepared by a locally celebrated chef.

Taste it Tours offers walking food tours that delve into the downtown food scene, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. The Original Downtown Tour explores the history of the state’s hottest culinary scene. The popular Evening Dine Around focuses squarely on the food and restaurants included in the stops.


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