Richard White April 7, 2014
We started the day in downtown Tempe (thanks to the Red Lion Tempe's free shuttle). As not much happening here, we hopped on the Metro (light rapid transit) for downtown Phoenix. After jumping out at the Central Avenue Station, we started to flaneur.
We were immediately attracted to the huge Janet Echelman's 145 foot tall artwork that looks like a tornado floating over Civic Space Park. Then soon we found architect Richard Meier's striking Federal Courthouse building which we were allowed to wander the lobby after getting security clearance.
As we continued to wander, we found City Hall, the Sports & Entertainment District (convention centre, performing arts centre, baseball stadium and basketball arena, with the associated bars and restaurants) and the uber cool Klimpton Hotel. However, what we didn't find was any street life i.e. retail or cafe animation. To be fair, it was Cesar Chavez Day so city employees had the day off . Nonetheless, you would expect to see some street life. Checking with the locals and found out there is no department store, nor indoor or outdoor retail complexes and not much in the way of a cafe culture.
Approaching the he Klimpton as it seemed the most artsy, hip place on the edge of downtown, we were advised to walk about a mile up Central Avenue to the Roosevelt Arts District. We did and still no luck. So we continued past the Phoenix Arts Museum, past the Central Library, still nothing other than more office buildings and a few condos and apartments. Central Avenue is like one long linear office park. Later we discovered most of Phoenix is like one giant office park with all of the main streets lined with office buildings of various shapes, sizes and designs.
Finally, we did find a hidden gem - Heard Museum with its lovely cafe, museum and museum shops. We stopped for lunch and to regroup and have lunch - had a great chestnut soup (a first), pork posole and pork tacos (with a nice zing). We decided we'd get back on the train and see if could spot anything at one of the 29 stations - luckily, we had the $2 all day pass.
Once on the train, the passengers quickly realized we were tourists. Soon, a young man started asking us questions and giving us ideas on where we should and should not go . We were soon calling him the "Train Concierge" to the amusement of his friends.
We jumped off at the 7th Avenue and Camelback Road station based on information that there were some antique and vintage stores nearby. Once off the train, a woman who had obviously been listening to our train talk started walking with us and sharing what might be open and worth visiting. It definitely looked promising.
While the sidewalks were deserted, the street had a hipster look to it with no new buildings, no offices, mostly a hodgepodge of older, small retail spaces. Unfortunately, several were closed on Monday. However, soon we came upon Modern on Melrose and finally we were in flaneur heaven - a 16,000 square store with tons of mid-century modern furniture, home accessories and a salvaging yard in the back.
Below are some photos from our 3-hour exploration of 7th Avenue which, we later found out known as the Melrose District.