Willo and Encanto may date back to the 1920s and '30s, but there's nothing fuddy-duddy about their funky shops, bustling restaurants, and high-energy nightspots.
A late-afternoon visit to these still-picturesque, side-by-side neighborhoods can easily stretch into night. Cool off in air-conditioned boutiques, get lost on palm-shaded paths around a lagoon in Phoenix's oldest and biggest park, and duck into a wine bar for a light dinner. End the evening with music and a nightcap.
Bert Easley's Fun Shop. WHAT: 6,000 costumes for rent in a labyrinthine store opened in 1947. For the Fourth, pick up an Uncle Sam top hat with stars that light up. WHERE: 509 W. McDowell Rd.; 602/271-9146.
Southwest Gardener. WHAT: A jam-packed homage to gardening, with hand-painted garden art, tools, and classes. The owners are Master Gardeners who love talking shop. WHERE: 2809 N. 15th Ave.; 602/279-9510.
Encanto Park. WHAT: After the shops close, hit Phoenix's own Central Park, with 222 grassy acres and a lagoon where you can take a paddleboat out among the ducks. Evenings mean old-fashioned fun, from a swim in the pool for a nostalgic 25 cents (after 6 Mon-Fri) to poetry readings, folk dancing, and jam sessions. WHEN: Paddleboats 4 p.m.-dusk Sat-Sun, July only; pool noon-8 p.m. daily. WHERE: 2605 N. 15th Ave.; 602/261-8993.
My Florist Café. WHAT: Half-price bottles of wine (can it really be Christmas in July?) are the daily deal at the 1950s florist shop-turned-restaurant and piano bar. There's a cool vibe, big salads, and sandwiches made with yummy bread from Willo Baking Company next door. WHEN: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. HOW MUCH: $. WHERE: 530 W. McDowell Rd.; 602/254-0333.
Emerald Lounge. WHAT: A little gem of a dive bar and the place to catch up-and-coming rock bands. Also in the mix are cheap drinks and people-watching―lots of artist and writer types sporting tattoos. WHEN: Noon-2 a.m. daily. WHERE: 1514 N. Seventh Ave.; 602/256-9705. ―Melissa Castleman
Willo and Encanto lie between Thomas Rd. to the north and Mc- Dowell Rd. to the south, and Central Ave. to the east and 15th Ave. to the west.