A night out in Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona

Enjoy a night out sans car on the cities' smooth light rail

Phoenix light rail

Explore Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe nightlife via light rail.

Andrea M. Gómez

Phoenix restaurant

Bask in the warm Phoenix night air on the patio at Maizie's Cafe & Bistro.

Andrea M. Gómez

Phoenix music store

Enjoy a backyard performance at Phoenix's Stinkweeds music store.

Andrea M. Gómez

Phoenix and Tempe light rail map

Plan your night around two of the rail's most bustling stops: Central Ave./Camelback Rd. in Phoenix and Mill Ave./Third St. in Tempe.

Why go in summer: Because after a long hot day, everyone deserves a cool, carless, and carefree night on the town.

The strategy: Plan a full night around two of the rail’s most bustling stops: Central Ave./Camelback Rd. in Phoenix and Mill Ave./Third St. in Tempe.

A train is born: The light rail launched on December 27, 2008.

And exceeds expectations: An average of 27,662 riders take it on Saturdays—more than anyone ever thought.

Dress code: Comfortable shoes.

Play it again: Local bands jam inside the train cars, often on Friday nights (thetrain​tracks.org).

Up for a third stop? The Central Ave./Campbell Ave. stop is within striking distance of great cafes and bars, including Lux Coffeebar (open till 10 p.m.; 4404 N. Central Ave.; 602/696-9976), which draws crowds with its organic espresso and Wi-Fi.

Ticket to ride

The light rail whooshes along 20 miles of restaurants, bars, and galleries in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. A one-way light-rail ticket is $1.75, but the better deal is the all-day pass for $3.50. Visit metrolightrail.org for passes, maps, and schedules.

Art with a purpose

True to its name, (1) Practical Art  specializes in objects you can use. Browse 1,000-plus locally made pieces, including bowls, vases, and superior French rolling pins by woodturner Paul Porter.

The rotating gallery wall shows a different artist each month; on most Fridays, the shop stays open late to host free workshops. Till 9 p.m. Fri, 6 p.m. Sat–Sun; 5070 N. Central Ave.

Dinner and drinks 

From Central and Camelback, you can wander in any direction and find a great place to eat (or sip). Go north and you’ll stumble onto the wine cafe (2) Postino Central ($; 5144 N. Central Ave.; 602/274-5144). Go east for (3) St. Francis ($$; 111 E. Camelback Rd.; 602/200-8111), where the seasonal menu and outdoor bar have created buzz. Go south for (4) Maizie’s Cafe & Bistro ($; 4750 N. Central) and its hopping patio: ​The burgers are the stars of the menu.

Feel young at heart

Get in touch with your inner teen at (5) Stinkweeds, an indie music store that also serves as a performance space (check website for events). Pick up the Phoenix: We Love It CD ($10) with tracks by local groups, including the front men of The Format and Jimmy Eat World. Till 9 p.m. Fri–Sat, 6 p.m. Sun; 12 W. Camelback Rd. 

A performance for everyone

At Tempe’s (6) MADCAP Theaters, ​you can check out a concert, a fashion show, an indie film, ​or what­ever else happens to be playing in the six theaters. MADCAP has a certain grittiness, but that makes the people-watching as fun as the show. From $5; 730 S. Mill Ave. 

Make a toast

Tempe’s (7) Caffe Boa has stayed relevant since the ’90s with a local, organic menu and a 24-page wine list. Drop in for a post- (or pre-) performance drink: the Amarice, with elderflower liqueur and blood orange bitters (pictured, front), or the Absinthe cocktail if you’re feeling adventurous. $$; 398 S. Mill Ave.

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