4306 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix
8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday; 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Rickety Cricket Brewing
312 E. Beale St., Kingman, Ariz.
• Phoenix Chinese Week Celebration: Feb. 16-18, Hance Park, 1134 N. Central Ave., Phoenix; phoenixchineseweek.org
• PHX Vegan Food Festival: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 24, Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix; phxveganfest.com
• Melrose on Seventh Avenue Street Fair: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. March 3, on Seventh Street, Phoenix; streetfair.com
• Superstition Kennel Club Dog Show: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. March 2-4, Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 W. McDowell Road; azstatefair.com
• Night Nation Run: 4:30 p.m. March 24, Arizona State Fairgrounds, 1826 W. McDowell Road; azstatefair.com
If you’re looking to squeeze in a lot during a short time, a jaunt to Phoenix might be in order. A few weekends ago, I jumped in the car with my husband to drive down to a convention in the city. We planned a few stops along the way to maximize our fun.
Drive times to Phoenix vary; it’s about 300 miles and anywhere from four and a half to six hours in the car. Another good option is to hop on a plane; it’s only an hour’s flight.
Kingman, on U.S. Highway 93, has a couple of breweries and a wine bar. Rickety Cricket Brewing features a huge dining room and bar, craft beers on tap, plus a menu with brisket-blend and black bean burgers (emblazoned on the menu: “Swap your meat for something neat”).
From Kingman, you’ll wind your way through lower hills on the Joshua Tree Scenic Parkway until you get to Wickenburg; it’s an Old West-style town with a museum and downtown. Be sure to head the right way on the roundabout here (to U.S. 60), or you’ll be going downtown whether you want to or not. It’s an hour to the outskirts of Phoenix.
Phoenix has a network of freeways and highways that are easy to navigate. The city of approximately 4 million people in the metro area and suburbs gives visitors and residents a range of activities, from Diamondbacks baseball games to high-end shopping and golfing. There’s even a light rail system and bike share program.
Depending on the time of year, the Arizona State Fairgrounds is a good place to spend some time. The state fair is in October, but there are events throughout the year. In December, there was a huge light show and a gun convention; in March, there’s a dog show and a music festival. Other venues in central Phoenix, such as the Phoenix Art Museum, offer cultural programs.
Downtown is chic and modern — the financial center of Phoenix — with eateries, museums and the Diamondbacks field. During the week, it’s a bustling area, but it’s much quieter on weekends. I cruised up Seventh Street through the residential side streets. The architecture and quirkiness of the homes and businesses is worth a slow drive or a quick stroll. The homes on those streets range from mid-century modern to cottage-style, many customized through the years. If you’ve ever visited older neighborhoods in Anaheim or San Francisco, you’ll get a feel for what can be found here.
Farther up Seventh Street is the Melrose District, an LBGT-friendly area that specializes in quirky coffee shops, diners and vintage stores, such as Zinnias at Melrose and Melrose Vintage. In early March, you’ll find a street fair with food, art, a car show and a children’s area.
Past the Melrose arch is Melrose Kitchen, one of the neatest diners I’ve seen. The exterior beckons, with colorful flags and bright chalkboards hawking the daily specials. The restaurant serves classic diner dishes and Mexican specialties.
Inside, it’s a magical place that the owners, Martha Mendoza and husband Boonchai Siriswangporn, preside over. Mendoza decorated the place with an array of whimsical, vintage thrift finds. The dining room is cheerful and vibrant with artistic touches on the walls.
Over a door to the back hangs a sign that reads “Secret Garden.” Walk through and you’ll see why.
The dog-friendly patio divides into two areas. In the beach-themed space, there’s a piano. In the garden-themed space, colorful patio umbrellas. It’s peaceful and energetic, yet full of riotous color; like Disneyland for the vintage soul.