Last Saturday was Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day. The weather was too good to be inside, but they count the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) as a museum, so we took advantage of the free admission and spent the afternoon walking garden paths.
I guess a botanical garden is kind of like an outdoor museum with living plants and animals.
We saw a hummingbird and bees buzzing around the Garden’s flowers and a big lizard was just hanging out on a rock next to the bench where I was sitting.
Since the DBG no longer allows picnicking, we ate our lunch at a nearby picnic area in Papago Park and were entertained by ground squirrels scurrying around and birds attempting to carry off pieces of a pizza someone had left behind.
Maybe they’re the reason DBG banned picnicking. You really don’t want grackles flying through your museum and dropping half-eaten pizza slices.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
fare vending machines
scrolling LED signs that say when to expect the next train
route maps (simplified to highlight the stops – not to scale)
artwork inspired by the local area
Stations don’t have…
food or anything for purchase (except rail passes)
You can bring your own beverage with a lid on it.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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.
The next Arizona Opera performance will be a world premiere adaptation of a Zane Grey novel! (A couple photos from the program are above.)
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.
The pizza ranged from high quality, foodie-grade slices to what a friend of ours would affectionately call “emergency 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.”
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.
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.
The multi-colored lights shining on the cactus outside the Phoenix Art Museum caught my eye.
Before posting the photo, I messed around with the saturation until the cactus started to look like a 2-dimensional tangle of colors. Maybe it was the colorful paintings we had just seen, but it somehow felt like the way it was supposed to be.