Phoenix Bucket List: 100 Things to Do in Phoenix Before You Die

A funny thing happened in 2013. Both of us -- two curmudgeonly writers who between us have lived in Arizona way closer to 100 years than either would like to admit -- came to a shared conclusion.

We like Phoenix.

That's funny because for years we've loved to hate this place -- even as we wrote dozens of entries for Best of Phoenix, reviewed plays, covered the art scene, and investigated politicians. (True, Amy's always maintained there's nothing more fun than picking the low-hanging fruit at the Arizona Legislature.)

See Also: Bucket List: 20 That Got Away
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But last year, there was a lot of talk about leaving the Valley, and somewhere in the midst of the conversation, we each decided that we actually don't dislike Phoenix anymore. The city has grown up; or we have. Or both.

That's why we both jumped at the chance to write up our bucket list for Phoenix -- 100 things to do in this metropolis before you die. Most we've actually done ourselves. A few are still on the "to do" list.

Turns out, we had no trouble getting to 100. The challenge was cutting it back. Enjoy our list.

Amy Silverman
Knight Rise by James Turrell
Visit James Turrell's Knight Rise at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Internationally acclaimed artist James Turrell has created dozens of his skyspaces since 1975, and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art's sculpture garden is home to one of only 14 of them that are open to the public. Knight Rise frames the sky and captures the desert sky's changing light, allowing us to see both sunrise and sunset in a most refined way. It's all about the perception of light and color, according to Turrell, "at the bottom of the ocean of air." It's also cool as heck, and worth a trip to one of the Valley's best museums.

Chow Bella
Mrs. White gets a kiss from her grandson, Larry, whose Lo-Lo's serves some pretty great chicken and waffles, too.
Eat fried chicken at Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe
The menu is scrawled in magic marker on the wall of this downtown favorite, known and loved by anyone with great taste in wonderful soul food. And what a menu: juicy chicken-fried steak, Southern fried chicken, smothered pork chops, and catfish, of course, a house specialty since Mrs. White threw open her doors in 1964. All meals are $13 apiece, a smoking deal when you consider that a Mrs. White's lunch will stay with even the heartiest eater well past dinnertime.

See a Nearly Naked Theater performance
Your life may not be changed by sitting through a play or musical presented by this quirky community theater, but you'll almost certainly be wildly entertained. Phoenix has been home to several offbeat theater companies over the years, but Nearly Naked, dreamed up by and managed by artistic director Damon Dering, has raised the bar by maintaining high quality and creating distinctive productions. Past huzzahs have included a stunning Equus; a near-perfect Blood Brothers, and a whole slew of plays that other theaters would never be brave enough to bring to their stages.

Tour Cerreta's chocolate factory
Located in downtown Glendale, the Cerreta Candy Company is a point of local pride, even among those who don't especially care for chocolate. This fifth-generation family-owned business offers a particularly thrilling free half-hour tour of the various kitchens that create the high-quality chocolates and candies that have wowed the nation. Dig the caramel kitchen, the room where cream centers are inserted into bon-bons, the chilling room, and the candy-wrapping stations. On your way through, check out the big wall murals depicting various aspects of candy-making by real live Cerreta's employees.

See a New Wave band perform at a reservation casino
Actually, it sounds kind of pathetic: A bunch of 50-somethings, bouncing up and down while a once-popular, now-long-in-the-tooth New Wave band that hasn't had a hit since 1983 runs through a set of synth-driven oldies. But for people of a certain age, Arizona's casinos are a gold rush of post-punk bands and solo performers whose signature songs (and obscure album tracks!) bring back fond memories of frat houses and water bongs. You haven't lived until you've seen the B-52s doing "Rock Lobster" on a double bill with the Go-Go's, who can still rock "We've Got the Beat" like it was the summer of '83.

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Thank you for this, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though my one kid moved to Charlotte three years ago and the other is moving to Seattle this summer and couldn't/can't get out of here soon enough, I adore this city. (I couldn't get out of my hometown of St. Louis soon enough, either, and that's when I moved here.)  I am ashamed to say, as a Phoenix urbanite, that I've not even done half of these things, and some of them were so long ago that I don't even remember them clearly. Taliesin West was a favorite and my boyfriend-who-would-turn-husband and I used to go out by Luke and park in an empty lot to watch/feel the jets take off. Can't do that, anymore. We just had fried chicken at Mrs. White's, today, which is where we saw this article. Anyway, lots of food for thought. Have you had a soda or some Thrifty Ice Cream at McAlpines? Sat outside at the Coronado Cafe and dined on their "famous" and most delicious crab cakes? Had dinner at Tuck Shop on Locals' Thursday? Gone to a free concert on First Tuesdays at the Musicians' Union Hall? Done the Coronado or Willo Home Tour? Walked an historic neighborhood, saying hi to all of the dog-walkers and people sitting on their porches? Been to Young's Farm to pick pumpkins? (my son made 11$ in tips when he was a kid one year, hauling those pumpkins to people's cars, haha)

Those are just a few of the delights I've found in my own neighborhood (Coronado). And things just keep getting better every year!

The Arizona Biltmore was not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright it was designed by Albert Chase McArthur who was a student of Wright's from 1907- 1909.


#1 .. Get out of Phoenix

Mike McAuley
Mike McAuley

Thanks for these ideas, I did a few while in the valley over mid winter.

Michael Ellenby
Michael Ellenby

Andrea Reckdahl Sweeney this is for your friends. Lots of things to do here.


I hope it counts if I saw a 70's band at Celebrity Theater in the 70's.  Specifically, Cheap Trick in 1979....

And what about a Monster Burger from Petes Fish and Chips?  New Times fast food critic ( circa 1986 or so) "Can'n Dave" called it "a perfect third pound  of mystery meat wrapped in a sheet of greasy wax paper...."  ....or something to that effect.....

Maritza López
Maritza López

You forgot, go to Filberto's, get diarrhea and die

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