Short on New Year’s resolutions? Take a cue from what our own East Valley has to offer, and resolve to live like a tourist in your own backyard. From getting back to nature (try bird-watching at Gilbert Riparian Preserve; spotting otters, beavers and eagles from a canoe on the lower Salt River near Mesa; or hiking at San Tan Mountain Regional Park) to going out on the town (think drinks and a show at Mesa Arts Center or fun, tasty dining in downtown Chandler), our nearest cities offer plenty to do. Here are our picks for four local things you should make a point to see or do in 2010.
Check out the new and improved Chandler Center for the Arts
Chandler’s just about the most festival-friendly city in the Valley, with celebrations of multiculturalism, Juneteenth, ostriches, Chihuahuas and other themes scheduled nearly every month of the year. But the unveiling of the updated Chandler Center for the Arts will occur just once, in May 2010. A $6.7 million remodel of the 20-year-old facility includes a redo of rigging systems, ADA improvements, air-conditioning renovations, seating refurbishment, lobby floor remediation, installation of an orchestra lift and other upgrades. The opening is planned just in time for longtime Valley performing arts institution Ballet Etudes’ fanciful staging of “Cinderella.” The venue also hosts concerts, dance performances, plays and other productions.
Chandler Center for the Arts is at 250 N. Arizona Ave. For information, call (480) 782-2680 or visit www.chandlercenter.org.
See a show at Hale Centre Theatre
Joe’s Real BBQ may be the most delicious reason to visit downtown Gilbert, but it’s not the only reason. Steps away from the fabled barbecue joint, in the shadow of Heritage Square’s landmark water tower, is an equally homey yet rave-worthy place, the Hale Centre Theatre. The intimate, 380-seat playhouse is known for top-rate family fare at reasonable prices, not to mention in-the-round seating that makes you feel this close to the action on stage and occasional delightful effects, like snow falling on the audience during Christmastime performances.
Hale Centre Theatre is at 50 W. Page Ave. For information, call (480) 497-1181 or www.haletheatrearizona.com.
Stroll through MACFest and the Macdonald Street Farmers Market
Mention doing anything in downtown Mesa — from getting a haircut at chic salon Adorn Style Lounge to redecorating with unique finds at drool-inducing boutique Domestic Bliss — and the incredulous response is often the same: “You did what? In downtown Mesa? I didn’t know there was anything down there.”
That’s why this Saturday street fair (or its nighttime cousin, Second Friday, held the second Friday of each month) should be tops on your 2010 to-do list. Not only will it open your eyes to a quaint district of eateries, wine bars (there are two), shops and museums, but you could walk away with a piece of original art or obscure, bumpy vegetables that will amaze your friends (check out the turban squash at the produce booth).
Get dirty, real dirty
If the only reason you’ve ever ventured this far into the desert stretching out around the San Tan Mountains is the wholesome good times (and food) at Schnepf Farms, plan to come again for Monsoon Madness, Queen Creek’s other great — albiet dirtier — family attraction. The summertime event features a 100-foot soapy slide, inflatable water slides, water play zones, a mud volleyball tournament and the mother of all mud pits, the Monsoon Mudslide. Last year, more than 2,000 people turned out for the giant mud puddle at Founders Park. Watch the town’s event calendar for details on 2010’s Monsoon Madness. You can keep tabs at (480) 358-3700 or www.queencreek.org.