Kevin had an excellent post asking the question, “how should a visitor spend a half-day in Phoenix?” I’ve lived in the Valley longer than the other ExLg contributors, so I should be an expert. Still, it was tougher to formulate a list than I had expected.
Phoenix is an odd bird (literally, if you count the myth). The city grew completely inorganically. It would have remained a dusty desert outpost without two crucial technological developments: air conditioning and a macroengineered water supply. No one in their right mind lived here 100 years ago, so nearly all of our current residents are transplants (or their parents were).
How does this affect our culture? Just like in gardening, transplants have shallow roots. When a middle-manager transfers here from Chicago, he buys a decent house in the exurbs, plants a Midwestern-style lawn, and responds to his absent social connections and hot weather by locking himself indoors. Since the exurbs are filled with similar people, the roots often don’t grow too deep. And if Honeywell wants to send him to LA or Minneapolis, there’s little reason to resist.
Why make any contributions to the local art or civic groups if you’re not committed to the area? Why search for great local businesses and restaurants when there’s a Barnes & Noble and Chili’s on the corner just like back home. Frankly, there’s no need to go native. As a result, we have low turnout in local elections and poor support for non-profit organizations such as museums and theaters. Our sense of culture suffers.
But is there any unique activities that the Valley of the Sun can provide? What would showcase the culture we do have to offer? As a teenager I often said, “if you want culture in Phoenix, visit the yogurt section,” but surely that was just adolescent snark. Hm.
I first thought of restaurants since we have the finest Mexican food north of the border (maybe south of the border as well). My recommendations to hungry turistas:
- Los Dos Molinos (S. Phoenix, Mesa)
- Barrio Cafe (Downtown Phoenix)
- Rancho de Tia Rosa (East Mesa)
- Los Sombreros, El Guapo and El Molino (Downtown Scottsdale)
- Frank & Lupe’s (Downtown Scottsdale, Mesa)
- Lily’s Cafe (Glendale)
- Guedo’s Tacos (Chandler)
- El Bravo (North-Central Phoenix) — I just ate here today!
Another unique, food-centric activity would be Vincent Guerithault’s Farmers Market held each Saturday (except during the hot months). You can shop for fresh veggies and breads while feasting on chocolate croissants, duck tamales and Grand Marnier crê
pes. Magnifique!Beyond Faux-Adobe Walls and Red-Tile Roofs.
Our catalog of inspiring architecture is limited to say the least (Wow, Marge! That’s probably the third biggest Applebee’s I’ve seen in the East Valley
!), but any building geek would enjoy Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, Paolo Soleri’s Paradise Valley studio, the amazing Mesa Arts Center or Will Bruder’s Phoenix Central Library. For outdoorsy types, take a hike around Squaw, I mean, Piestewa Peak or drive up South Mountain. And Kevin’s suggestion of the Desert Botanical Garden is excellent.
Of course in the past, one could recommend shoppers visit Mill Ave. or Biltmore Fascist, I mean, Fashion Park. However, like most other shopping areas around the nation, they have become genericized. If one is desperate to shed lucre, hit the massive Scottsdale Fashion Center, but understand that 98 percent of the merchandise will be available at any mall in the nation. You may find better local flavor at the turquoise-laden Fifth Avenue shops in Snottsdale.
There are some faux cowboy-type places, such as Rawhide, Mining Camp, and Goldfield, but you need to drive 30 miles out of town to visit them. And we probably have an above-average number of Country dance bars, but my doctor insists I avoid them lest the seizures return.
Lastly, there is golf. Fine courses are ubiquitous — even our public courses can be awe-inspiring. Marketing 101.
So our hometown does offer several unique sights. But for the nation’s sixth-largest city, there should be many more. Especially since we are the only city located in the uniquely beautiful Sonoran Desert (Tucson doesn’t count because… well, because it’s Tucson
). Sadly our inept city planners think progress equals looking like a pale imitation of every other American city. Let me provide them a grain of free advice.
The fundamental principle of marketing is differentiation. Great brands succeed by how well they separate themselves from their competition. The goal is to stand out, not to fit in.
So please Mesa, take my advice
. It’s not too late.
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March 27th, 2007 by admindude