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Light Rail Phoenix: A Beginner’s Guide

Posted by on May 27, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Mesa light rail station with train

People have asked me how to take the Valley Metro light rail in the Phoenix area, so I made a video guide.

However, if you prefer tips in written form, read on!
Phx light rail station Big map

1. Find where to go.

There’s just one line with 2 directions, Eastbound and Westbound. You can ride anywhere on the line all day for $4.

Westbound train route:

  • begins in downtown Mesa (Mesa Dr./Main St.)
  • ASU Tempe campus
  • Sky Harbor Airport
  • Downtown Phoenix (Phoenix Convention Center, Talking Stick Resort Arena, Chase Field)
  • Central Ave. (turns north)
  • Roosevelt Row/arts district
  • ends at 19th Ave. and Dunlap (near Metrocenter)

Eastbound trains start at 19th Avenue and Dunlap, retracing basically the same route, heading south and then east and ending at Mesa Drive and Main Street.

Phx light rail station At night

Schedule

To find where to get on and off the train and get schedule information, pick up a Transit Book, check the Valley Metro website, download the Ridekick app, or try Google Maps. If you don’t want to bother with the schedule, you can just show up. Trains run about every 10-20 minutes until around 1am.
Mesa park and ride with grid bike

Park-and-Ride

If there’s not a stop near you, you can drive to one of the 11 Park-and-Ride lots, where there’s free parking for people riding the light rail or bus. You just find a spot, lock your car, and head to the station platform.

Phx light rail station On Jefferson

2. Get your ticket.

You can easily get a pass from a fare vending machine at your stop before you leave.

Follow the prompts on screen to select an all-day pass and activate it immediately. Then pay with cash, credit or debit.

Your pass and receipt print from two different places. Make sure to pick them both up!

Tempe light rail station

On the Station Platform

While you’re waiting, check the signs to make sure in the right spot for the train going in your direction.

Stations have…

  • fare vending machines
  • scrolling LED signs that say when to expect the next train
  • seating
  • some shade
  • route maps (simplified to highlight the stops – not to scale)
  • drinking fountains
  • artwork inspired by the local area

Mesa light rail station art - serpentine

Stations don’t have…

  • restrooms
  • food or anything for purchase (except rail passes)

You can bring your own beverage with a lid on it.

On board Phx light rail station

3. Get on board.

Trains stop at every station. You don’t have to flag them down. If one looks like it’s not stopping, Don’t panic! It’s probably just pulling up farther.

When the train pulls up to the station, it will come to a complete stop, the doors automatically open, and you can step into any car. Find a seat or or a place to stand and hold on to the railing. If you are standing, try to move back away from the doors, so people can easily get on and off.

Phx light rail station Art

There’s usually not anyone checking tickets as you get on. It’s kind of on the honor system. Occasionally, though, transit officers in black and white uniforms will come through and check tickets after the train is in motion. Not having one can get you fined up to $500.

Watch and listen for your stop. You can find a route map above some of the doors. And before each stop, a recording will say “approaching station” then the station name and whether you’ll exit the train on the left or right side. The information is also on scrolling LED signs in the middle of the ceiling of each car. Once you arrive, wait for the train to stop and doors to open, and you’re there!
Tempe light rail station art - hands

– More light rail info –

  • Fare details.
  • Make sure you are waiting for the train going the direction you want to go. Most of the platforms are in the middle of the street and trains going both directions share them. However, around downtown Phoenix the line splits. So if you’re at the Phoenix Convention Center for example, the station for westbound trains is at Washington and eastbound trains stop a block south of there at Jefferson.
  • If you’re only going one way (to the airport, for example), you can purchase a 1-ride ticket. Once you purchase it, take your ticket and receipt. You have a two-hour window after purchasing to make your trip in one direction.
  • You may notice that there’s a “buy online” option on the Valley Metro website. This is NOT for last-minute purchases! Since electronic tickets are not accepted, you can order tickets online, and then they’ll be shipped to you via snail mail.
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Lunch Hour Opera

Posted by on Feb 16, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Arizona Opera has this cool concept of a monthly brown bag lunch recital. On the third Thursday of the month, you’re invited to pack a lunch and see a free concert in the atrium of Arizona Opera Center near McDowell and Central (basically across the street from the Phoenix Art Museum).

Arizona Opera

We decided to give it a try this month, and I picked up Phillip on his lunch hour.

The recital was a series of songs introduced and sung by Marion Roose Pullin Arizona Opera Studio soloists accompanied by piano. We saw Katrina Galka and Mariya Kaganskaya.

It was absolutely captivating. While there are no costumes or props, the simplicity of the setup allows you to focus on the music. Even at this recital, the soloists didn’t hold back, launching full throttle into the performance, pouring the emotion of each song out through their posture, expressions, and voices.

Arizona Opera

Things to know about Arizona Opera’s Brown Bag Recitals:

  • The soloists are extremely talented.
  • The place was packed and parking was gone. Cars were even parked along curbs, and we double-parked next to one of them. You may be able to sneak a spot at the Phoenix Art Museum. (No guarantees on availability or legality, though.)
  • There’s a light rail stop nearby at McDowell.
  • Being late is awkward. If people are rushing over during their lunch hour, there are bound to be late arrivals, and the parking lot entrance opens right in the front of the room. (Hi, everyone.) I believe there is another entrance on the street side of the building.
  • You’re encouraged to bring your lunch, but no one was eating.
  • Definitely worth going, if you have a flexible enough schedule to get there early or work in the Arts District/Downtown. (Phillip works in east Phoenix, and even that was cutting it too close.)

Arizona Opera

Phillip and I tested out the being late theory for you. (Yes, it is awkward.) (You’re welcome.) We crept to the back, scanning the room in vain for open seats. We were standing there listening to a song introduction, when a man appeared from a back room to offer to get us chairs, reemerged to set two up, then silently disappeared again, as if riding off into the sunset.

After a duet from Hansel and Gretel, the recital ended with “I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady. There was enthusiastic applause, and then the pianist and soloists remained in the atrium, as the audience spilled out into the parking lot.

Arizona Opera


The next Arizona Opera performance will be a world premiere adaptation of a Zane Grey novel! (A couple photos from the program are above.)

Riders of the Purple Sage Opera –

  • Feb 25, 26: Tucson Music Hall. Tickets $25-120.
  • Mar 3, 4, 5: Phoenix Symphony Hall. Tickets $25-155.
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Phoenix Pizza Festival

Posted by on Feb 9, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

What is “the most perfect food ever”?

Pizza.

Phx pizza fest

At least, that’s according to the (probably biased) organizers of the Phoenix Pizza Festival.

The annual event benefits Downtown Phoenix, Inc. This past fall, it was held at Margaret T. Hance Park in Downtown Phoenix, next to the Burton Barr Library.

Pizza festival

A $10 advance ticket got you in the gate, and then you could wander around sampling pizza for $2-4 a slice, listening to bands, and/or playing a few rounds of cornhole. There were at least a dozen pizza makers, plus beer, wine, lemonade, and gelato.

image

The pizza ranged from high quality, foodie-grade slices to what a friend of ours would affectionately call “emergency pizza.”

My favorites were from Dough Mama and Lacy + Wendy’s Catering.

Lacy and wendys pizza

In the spirit of the event, some people even dressed up. We chatted with DJ and (self-proclaimed) Pizza Expert Mastamonk, who was wearing a pepperoni-patterned pajama onesie, pizza socks, and a cap that said “send pizza.”

Pizza outfit

Later in the afternoon, toppings started to run out and certain items were off the menu – so plan on arriving on the early side for a better selection. On the other hand, vendors got increasingly generous about offering discounted pies or sneaking you extra slices just before they had to pack it up for the day.

image

It was a fun way to discover new Phoenix-area pizzas. So mark your calendar for the 2017 Pizza Festival, tentatively scheduled to be held in the same location (Hance Park) on November 21st.

And, if you happen to have a pizza onesie laying around the house, this would be the place to wear it.




We were guests of the Phoenix Pizza Festival.

 

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The Next Phoenix Fan Fest

Posted by on Oct 13, 2016 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

Phxcc

Whether it’s your favorite lunch spot or a local festival, when something you enjoy goes from niche to well-known, you may feel you miss the “good old days” before the crowds. Of course, those crowds help keep corner cafes in business and sustain community events.

PHXCC

It’s true of Phoenix Comicon. I’ve heard plenty of long-time attendees wax nostalgic about the earlier events with their shorter lines and sense of community, while, of course, enjoying the bigger name guests and programming made possible by the larger numbers.

Enter Phoenix Fan Fest.

phxff

Why Fan Fest?

Meant to evoke the feel of the early days of Phoenix Comicon, Fan Fest is a smaller, more intimate show by design. There are fewer tracks with the focus on artists/comics, costumes, and kid-friendly events.

fan-fest-lego

It’s also more interactive. As one organizer put it, think of Fan Fest as “come and do things” instead of just “come and see things.” You can learn to play Quidditch (adapted for muggles, of course), compete in MS Paint Pictionary, make something with Lego, and even compete in a build-off!

fan-fest-quidditch

At the first Fan Fest, artists, attendees, and the community collaborated to create a crowdsourced comic character, Blaze. Last year, they invented a nemesis for Blaze. This year, you can be a part of brainstorming action sequences for the two, while artists sketch and bring crowdsourced ideas to life!

Blaze phxff

New Time and Place

While the first two Fan Fests were held in Glendale in December, this year Fan Fest is happening earlier (October 23 and 24) and moving to the Phoenix Convention Center.

phxcc-4

According to organizers, the time change is due, in part, to feedback from attendees that it’s difficult to get time off to go to an event in the middle of the holidays. People may also be tight on cash that time of year.

fan-fest-stadium

Attendees had complained about the University of Phoenix Stadium’s location in the West Valley. The Phoenix Convention Center is much more centrally located.

The Convention Center is also built to allow for bigger guest panels, more programming content, and more variety. The stadium only had three rooms for panels (and they were down this weird, dark hallway).

fan-fest-uofp-stadium

One downside is that there won’t be any more free parking. However, there are more transit options, including light rail stops right at the Covention Center, so you won’t necessarily have to drive. Phxcc

Organizers said exhibitors were fans of the changes, and they’re hoping you will be too!


– Fan Fest info –


We’ve received media passes to past events from Phoenix Comicon.

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