Where’s the best place to see a movie? Who puts on the East Valley’s greatest plays or musicals? See your picks below.
The five-gallery museum space at Mesa Arts Center topped readers’ picks not only for its intriguing and ever-changing art exhibitions but for the aesthetic appeal of the subterranean venue. Surprisingly light and bright for being underground, it features a below-street-level patio with a waterfall wall. One more thing to love? MCA’s annual “10 X 10 Benefit Show & Sale,” a casual art party with food, a cash bar, live music and a smorgasbord of original art works priced at $100 a piece.
1 E. Main St., Mesa
“Great exhibits and gorgeous spaces!”
“Beautiful and interesting art.”
“It has very diverse and thought provoking art in a beautiful location.”
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The sixth-largest theater chain in the nation has Arizona roots dating back to 1933. Harkins keeps that feeling of community going strong with a customer loyalty program that voters made note of (the Harkins Loyalty Cup or T-shirt; buy one and you get $1 pop refills and a free medium bag of popcorn for the rest of the calendar year) and by hosting the annual Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sedona and Jewish film festivals.
“Stadium seating, $1 drinks and free popcorn with a (Loyalty) shirt.”
“Because Dan Harkins is a true film lover and dedicates some of his venues to art films, and because he is truly a local success story.”
“Best value, student discount and comfortable seating for large bottoms.”
There’s only one place in the East Valley where you can watch a flash flood cascade past moving, noise-making dinosaurs on a three-story mountain -- and voters can’t get enough of it. They loved this museum’s Dinosaur Hall, authentic territorial jail cells and do-it-yourself mining operations.
53 N. Macdonald
“We love the dinosaurs and digging for gold.”
“Most engaging learning-by-doing experiences for kids and adults alike, and animated dinosaurs!”
You probably expected to find "pub," "tavern" or "bar" in the name of this pick.
But who wants to endure another half-drunk signer who stumbled onto the stage and wrested control of the mic? When you're ready for a break from the bar, Blackbird Music & Art Center is worth checking out.
The cool digs are welcoming. And the places embraces music for all ages. There's private lessons, group sessions and even rock band gatherings for young musicians.
The family-run Blackbird brings students and professionals together, which makes for a better open mic night than a place known for its drink specials. Open mic nights start at 7 p.m. on the first Friday of each month.
You might see us there next time, but don't worry. We won't grab the mic. You deserve better than that.
Location: 18911 E. San Tan Blvd., Queen Creek
Contact: (480) 677-4159
You don’t spend $99.2 million building a brand-new arts facility and wind up with a bad place to see (or hear) a live show. At least, not if you’re Mesa Arts Center. The crown jewel of its four-theater complex, the 1,600-seat Tom and Janet Ikeda Theater, features four levels of seating, walls that conjure the eroded sandstone of desert canyons, and an acoustic system designed to bring the audience close to the stage.
“I like the intimacy of the smaller theaters, and the acoustics in the large theater are outstanding.”
“Great shows and a beautiful facility.”
“Amazing accoustics, and the sight lines are all pretty great.”
“It’s an under-used venue but a great place to see musical acts. Two of the best concerts I have ever seen were there: Steve Perry and Sammy Hagar!”
No two shows at the National Comedy Theatre are ever the same, thanks to a completely improvisational comedy competition format where the audience shouts out suggestions, challenges the performers and decides which team of comedians is funniest. Random bonus factoid NCT’s Facebook followers already know: You’ll soon be able to order an NCT-themed sandwich at Dilly’s Deli, based on the “brown bag foul” in the group’s comedy shows.
1111 S. Longmore, Mesa
“I love, love, love the hilarious games they play. They are sooo good!”
“The shows are always high energy, the content is family friendly and gosh darn it, I like them.”
“I’ve never laughed so hard.”
From a polar bear and her cubs to a giant pink armchair, the 30-plus sculptures keeping silent watch over Mesa’s walkable downtown square mile touch on abstract modern art, wildlife, whimsical characters and an array of human likenesses inspired by real people who lived and worked in the city. You can find the story behind each sculpture and a map for a self-guided tour online or at the Downtown Mesa Association’s Center Street office.
Main Street in downtown Mesa
“I love Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall in front of Il Vinaio.”
Jackson Pollack -- the temperamental expressionist painter famous for chain-smoking while splashing color on canvas -- would love the Vision Gallery in Chandler. The gallery features the Art-O-Mat, which dispenses art from an old cigarette vending machine.
The original machine at the gallery was so popular that a second dispenser was placed in the Chandler Center for the Arts.
Artists from around the world are featured in the machine and each piece costs $5.
This corner bar known for friendly staff and affordable prices hosts karaoke starting at 9 p.m. every night but Monday and Thursday. Drink specials abound, and the kitchen stays open late -- or should we say early? Either way, we’re talkin’ 2 a.m.-ish.
940 N. Alma School Road, Chandler
“Mike Henry does an amazing job dj-ing! Never a dull moment, and his selection of music is fantastic!”
“Fun! Great people, and good food reasonably priced.”
“The bar is small so you don’t have to be nervous about singing in front of a crowded room of a lot of people. And Bob is the best host ever!”
Think you can't afford original art? Think again.
SunDust Gallery's Basement Art Outlet is exactly that. A basement full of original artwork for sale at savings up to 80 percent off retail prices.
Framed prints and painted canvases line the brick walls. Sculptures and small prints fill tabletops. And better still, the work is from local artists.
Want to start your collection of contemporary acrylic paintings? How about a series of metal sculptures? Or one-of-a-kind photographs of the Arizona desert?
The basement carries hundreds of original pieces, with prices starting at $5. Nothing is more than $250.
Located in downtown Mesa, SunDust Gallery features work from more than 130 Arizona artists in over 4700 square feet of display space. The eclectic gallery includes a variety of art including paintings, mixed media, sculptures, jewelry, prints, watercolor and more. SunDust also offers art classes and art shows.
Location: 48 W. Main St. Suite 100, Mesa
Contact: (480) 464-6077