Exploring Phoenix Without A Car!

Richard White, June 20, 2014

One of the things that has discouraged us from visiting Phoenix is that we thought you had to have a car to explore the city.  First off, we are thrifty so adding hundreds of dollars per week to a vacation is something we avoid. Second, we love to walk and take transit when we travel as it allows us to to see more and experience the city more like a local. (Blog: Everyday Tourist Transit Tales)

But our recent stay at the Red Lion Inn and Suites in Tempe (RLIST) proved us wrong - in fact you don’t need a car to explore Phoenix’s many attractions.  “How could that be you ask?” 

Red Lion provides an airport shuttle service that will pick you up at the airport and take you back.  And, while you are staying there, two vans are available to take guests to anywhere within a five-mile radius. What a great amenity!

Five Mile Zone

Within the five-mile zone of RLIST, you can get dropped off and picked up at the following places:

  • Arizona State University campus (a great place to explore and during football season, you have easy access to college football games.
  • ASU Karsten, Pagao, Rolling Hills, Rio and Coronade golf courses
  • Old Town Scottsdale (where you can shop ‘til you drop).
  • Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix Zoo, Tempe Beach Park
  • Tempe Marketplace and Tempe Mill Avenue District
  • Gammage Memorial Auditorium, the last commission of Frank Lloyd Wright.  
  • Downtown Tempe where you can catch the LRT train to downtown Phoenix giving you access to baseball and basketball games and the Science Center. Or, stay on the train to Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Art Museum (great gift shop and restaurant) and the hipster Melrose district.
  • During spring training you can get dropped off at the Cubs’ Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, the A’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium and the Giant’s Scottsdale Stadium.
  • Popular festivals include: Arizona Renaissance Festival, Great Arizona Beer Festival, Scottsdale Culinary Festival and Tempe Festival of the Arts. 
  Riding the LRT to downtown with the students and cyclists was a much more urban experience than we had anticipated. 

Riding the LRT to downtown with the students and cyclists was a much more urban experience than we had anticipated. 

Phoenix's downtown wayfinding sign lists many attractions. 

Theatre/Performing Arts Centre 

Heard Museum's lovely patio restaurant. 

Modern On Melrose is just one of several antique and second hand stores that make for a fun place to explore.

Papago Golf Course is just minutes away from RLIST. 

"Her Secret is Patience" by Janet Echelman is just one of many public artworks in the downtown. 

Exploring the Desert Botanical Garden was one of the highlights of our visit. 

ArtWalk in Old Town Scottsdale is a 30-year tradition.  Dozens of galleries open their doors to locals and tourists to browse the galleries every Thursday from 7 to 9 pm.  Old Town is several blocks of restaurants, bars, shops and galleries.  Not far way there is Scottsdale Fashion Square a two million square foot mega luxury shopping centre with flagships stores like - Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Nordstroms, Microsoft and Banana Republic concept store. 

Extended Stays

RLIST in its former life was an apartment complex, making the suites more like comfortable, and one-bedroom apartments. With Food City within walking distance, you can easily walk to shop for ingredients to make dinner or lunch. (Note: the hotel provides a complimentary hearty breakfast).

The lobby, with its soft seating has a café-like atmosphere for those who want to read or take their laptop to do some work or surf the net.

The Inn also has an attractive outdoor pool area if you want to relax poolside or enjoy a refreshing swim. There’s even BBQs so you can grill up your favourite food to enjoy poolside just like home.

And for golfers who want to work on their putting, they have a carpeted putting green.

RLIST's very functional living room, kitchen, bedroom layout. (Photo credit: Red Lion) 

Large bedroom with space for chair and desk. (Photo credit: Red Lion).

Your own private putting green....12+ on the stimpmeter. 

Footnotes

 If you need a car for a day or two to travel further afield, the shuttle can also drop you off at several car rental offices within the five-mile zone. We’d recommend checking out the Frank Lloyd Wright campus and the Musical Instruments Museum if you decide to rent a car.

The advantage of the RLIST shuttle for couples is that you can go off in different directions in the morning and meet up later for your own poolside Happy Hour chat to share stories.  

We are definitely rethinking Phoenix as a potential winter getaway next year.

P.S.  If you do have a car, RLIST has great free parking that makes it easy to drive to some activities and take the shuttle to others (perhaps you want to enjoy an adult beverage or two). 

If you like this blog, you might like:

Postcards: Musical Instruments Museum 

Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesen West: A must see

Melrose: Phoenix's emerging vintage district

Flaneuring the Fringe: 19th Street NW

By Richard White, March 10, 2014

For Calgarians and tourists alike, exploring Calgary’s urban “street life” all too often means we head to the same places – 17th Avenue, Inglewood, 4th Street, Kensington, the Design District or maybe Stephen Avenue. This is the second of a three-part look at “street life” on the fringe of Calgary’s city centre. 

19th Avenue NW from Nose Hill Park to the Bow River is a popular bike route from the northwest into the downtown.  Along this corridor are two urban hubs, one in West Hillhurst from 1st Ave to 3rd Ave NW and another at 20th Avenue in Capitol Hill.  Neither are presently on the radar of urbanists, but they should be.

Main Street West Hillhurst, (aka 19th Street NW)

West Hillhurst is one of Calgary’s most active infill communities with construction of new homes on almost every avenue. And now the under construction four-storey Savoy condos at Kensington Road and 19th St corner will bring urban living a step closer to reality for this community.   Rumour has it the Savoy developers are courting Phil & Sebastian for one of its retail spaces.  Another rumour has Starbucks moving into a former restaurant space on 19th Street.  Even without these cafes, Main Street West Hillhurst has all the makings of a great community hub with its dry cleaners, hair salon, florist and hardware store and office spaces.

Dairy Lane (391 - 19th St NW)

Dairy Lane has been a fixture on 19th Street since 1950.  If you like omelettes, burgers and milkshakes, this is the place to go.  Dairy Lane has strong connections to 20 different farm-to-table suppliers.  A very popular breakfast spot; don’t be surprised if people are eating on the patio even in winter as they provide heaters and blanket.  They also provide coffee to those who have to wait in line to get a table either inside or out.  Dairy Lane proves that good things really do come in small places – seating capacity inside is about 20 people. 

Central Blends (203 - 19th St NW)

This is my favourite place in the city for muffins – they are chock full of fruit and fresh out of the oven every morning at 7 am.   And Central Blends is more than just a café; it is also an art gallery with revolving exhibitions of local artists/artisans - you never know what you are going to find here.  This is where both hipsters and GABEters chill in West Hillhurst.

Amato Gelato Café (2104 Kensington Rd NW)

The local retailer for Mario’s Gelati traditional Italian ice cream, Amato Gelato offers over 50 varieties of gelato, sorbetto, yogurt, tofulati and specialty desserts.  Open year round, it becomes especially animated in the summer, when it becomes one of the city’s best places for people and dog watching.

SA Meat Shops (106 - 2120 Kensington Rd. NW)

Located in the strip mall next door to Amato Gelato, it offers authentic home-cured South African sausages, dried meats and groceries. Its Piri Piri chicken was cited in Avenue Magazine’s top 25 things to eat in Calgary.  Looking for a snack? Try the dried beef or buffalo sausage sticks or chewy dried beef biltong (a cured meat that was originated in South Africa, similar to beef jerky but thicker).   

West Hillhurst Recreation Centre (1940 - 6th Ave NW)

For those into vintage, you may want to slip into the West Hillhurst Recreation Centre.  This recreation block dates back to the ‘40s when “The Grand Trunk Hot Shot League” needed some playing fields.  In 1951, a clubhouse was built on this corner, the arena followed in 1971.  On hot summer days, the adjacent family- friendly outdoor Bowview Pool is a welcome throwback to the ‘50s. 

  One of literally thousands of new infills that are redefining urban living in West Hillhurst and all communities north of the Bow River within a 45 minute walk, 20 minute cycle or 10 minute drive of downtown Calgary. . 

One of literally thousands of new infills that are redefining urban living in West Hillhurst and all communities north of the Bow River within a 45 minute walk, 20 minute cycle or 10 minute drive of downtown Calgary.

  Bowview Pool is part of West Hillhurst's recreation block which includes the pool, arena, playing fields, playground, gym, squash courts, tennis courts and meeting rooms.  

Bowview Pool is part of West Hillhurst's recreation block which includes the pool, arena, playing fields, playground, gym, squash courts, tennis courts and meeting rooms.  

  Amato Gelato Cafe is popular with the young families who are moving into West Hillhurst. 

Amato Gelato Cafe is popular with the young families who are moving into West Hillhurst. 

  Central Blends Cafe has an "everyday" Mexican charm to it. 

Central Blends Cafe has an "everyday" Mexican charm to it. 

  Dairy Lane is very popular summer or winter. 

Dairy Lane is very popular summer or winter. 

Capitol Hill Corner, (aka 20th Avenue at 19th Street NW)

 Just up the hill from West Hillhurst, across the TransCanada Highway (aka 16th Avenue North) at 19th Street and 20th Avenue is Capitol Hill Corner – a collection of old and new shops and small offices buildings for various professional services and a drug store. 

Edelweiss Village (1921 - 20th Ave NW)

Edelweiss is like entering a little European village complete with café, cheese shop, butcher shop, bakery, grocery and gift shop all under one roof. Though not very big, it packs a lot of product on it shelves with food and home accessories from Swiss, German, Ukrainian and Scandinavian suppliers – only in Canada!  

Weeds Café (1902 - 20th Ave NW)

Established in 1964, this bohemian corner café serves a wide selection of handcrafted food, beer, wine and 49th Parallel coffee.  The walls are covered with local art and there is live music on weekends.  It is a “chill space” for many students from University of Calgary, SAIT and Alberta College of Art & Design.

Ruberto Ostberg Gallery (2108 - 18th Street NW)

It’s one of Calgary’s best-kept secrets with its eclectic exhibition schedule of local artists’ work on the main floor and artists’ studios in the basement.  Exhibitions change monthly featuring everything from glass and ceramics in various genres realism and expressionism.  Kitty-corner to Weeds and just a block east of Edelweiss, it’s worth checking out.

 

  Edelweiss Village is a bit of Europe in the middle of Capitol Hill. 

Edelweiss Village is a bit of Europe in the middle of Capitol Hill. 

  Weed's Cafe is a charming bohemian hangout.

Weed's Cafe is a charming bohemian hangout.

Glass work by the Bee Kingdom collective at Ruberto Ostberg Gallery.

  Bee Kingdom's opening night at Ruberto Ostberg Gallery in early March. 

Bee Kingdom's opening night at Ruberto Ostberg Gallery in early March. 

Last Word

While the City of Calgary officially considers Calgary’s City Centre to be on the south side of the Bow River i.e. downtown and the beltline I think it is time to rethink those boundaries. 

In reality our City Centre should encompass the north side from 20th Avenue south to the Bow River and from 19th Street NW east to at least 11th Street NE in Bridgeland. 

Doing so would include Kensington, Edmonton Trail, Centre Street and Bridgeland, all of whom offer local residents a walkable urban living experience with their cafes, restaurants and shops. 

Calgary's urban experience is more than just downtown and the Beltline.

Readers comments re: Need to learn to share the road & sidewalks!

By Richard White, February 21, 2014 

Over the past week I have received numerous comments to my blog “Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians needing to learn to share.” Some thought I was advocating that “bike lanes area a bad idea,” which I didn’t intend to do; rather I just wanted to point out that perhaps we should experiment with some of the ideas before we invest in the most expensive option - separate bike lanes. I also wanted to point out that we should experiment with seasonal bike traffic on Stephen Avenue as a means of adding more vitality to the area in off peak hours.

Here are five comments that I think reflect the diversity of opinions that Calgarians have towards how we share the roads and sidewalks in our city.

#1 Black Hole 

GG writes: “I think a concern can be raised that the cycling improvements are being sucked up by the inner city ‘black hole.’  Is there an appropriate focus on cycling improvements around other major employment hubs – the universities, Foothills Hospital, the new South Hospital (before the road system is fully developed), hubs like Quarry Park? The majority of employment is outside of downtown, that is where the focus should be.”

  An illustration of how Councillors voted on the proposed City Centre Cycle Track Plan.  The Councillors in red voted against the plan and the ones in green for. The inner city might better be described as a "green hole."  As the Calgary grows the four quadrants of the city have less and less in common with the inner city; perhaps the unicity model doesn't work as a city gets larger? (credit: @BlairClagary)

An illustration of how Councillors voted on the proposed City Centre Cycle Track Plan.  The Councillors in red voted against the plan and the ones in green for. The inner city might better be described as a "green hole."  As the Calgary grows the four quadrants of the city have less and less in common with the inner city; perhaps the unicity model doesn't work as a city gets larger? (credit: @BlairClagary)

#2 Can't look after what we have

JR writes: “Why does the City keep investing in new infrastructure projects when the can’t look after what they already have.  It is very disappointing to see the city invest millions in Memorial Drive and 16th Avenue streetscape improvements where there is little to no street life, while the streetscapes of high traffic pedestrian areas like 4th Street, 17th Avenue and Kensington are at or nearing the end of their lifespan. Now we are going to invest in cycling infrastructure - the city know how to build things, but not how to maintain and upgrade them.”

17th Avenue and Calgary's other inner city BRZs (Downtown, 4th Street, Kensington, Inglewood and Victoria Park) all have streetscape improvement programs that are underfunded.   These streets are used by thousands of Calgarians very day.  Perhaps we do need to rethink about where we invest in public space improvements. 

#3 Stop the silliness 

DW writes: IMHO, distraction is the biggest threat. Like a disease, when only a few people have it society manages, but when everyone has it we call it an epidemic. Distraction is epidemic and the best vaccine is to make yourself aware and eliminate them. I assume that everyone is distracted and I am invisible to them whether I am driving my car, riding my bike or walking.

We live in a time where everyone is in a hurry, brains are saturated with too much information but they crave more, we're disconnected and want to use technology to connect and we don't feel safe but we put others at risk with our behaviours. Our brains don't multitask but we have systems set up to give us more tasks. Stop the silliness and enjoy a bike ride with friends.

This is an early 20th century downtown Calgary street.  Interesting to see how full the sidewalks are of people and how the road is shared by streetcars, cars and horse and buggies.  I realize this was a  slower time, but it does how how in the past we shared the road. Note how pedestrians had to walk into the middle of the street to get on the streetcar.  Urban vitality and animation allows for integration not segregation. 

Cyclist in Portland not paying attention.

#4 Get on with it

RZ writes: Of course no route will satisfy everyone. But the designs, I think are pretty uncontroversial. They’ve already been worked out in other cities, they’ve been hugely successful there, we’ve tried it ourselves on 7th Street – also successfully. There is no reason to wait.

This is a diagram of the proposed cycling infrastructure improvements planned for the City Centre. The green lines are the proposed new cycle tracks or separate bike lanes.  The yellow line is the 8th Street Master Plan Corridor Study which is more comprehensive than just bike lanes. The brown arrow is the proposed Stephen Avenue Bicycle Study and the blue is the new 7th Avenue Cycle Track that exists now. 

This is what a cycle track looks like. This is the new 7th Street SW cycle track in downtown Calgary that has become very popular for both commuters and recreational cyclers. (Photo credit: City of Calgary).

#5 Pop-up Bike Lane

TH sent me a link to the Tree Hugger website and their blog $600 pop-up protected bike land gets Minneapolis residents excited, & me too.”  In this blog Zachary Shahan tells the story of how a community group called Bikeways for Everyone used makeshift planters to create a temporary bike lane on a suburban street for one block.  While this is an interesting experiment, it is not the same as creating a separate bike lane on a busy downtown street.

Simple plywood planter were created with plants as the barriers between the road and the bike lane. (Photo Credit: Tree Hugger). 

While the pop-up bike lane was fun, it is not a real test of how this would work with road traffic as this was more of a festival activity than a true bike lane. But fun, funky and quirky none-the-less and worth the experiment. (Photo Credit: Tree Hugger). 

You can read my original blog at: “Drivers Cyclist Pedestrians need to learn to share.”

 

Other related blogs, that you might be interested are:

Is Calgary too downtown centric?

Calgary: Canada’s bike friendly city.