Putting together a list of inspirational sights or experiences can seem subjective to the seeker since we all find beauty in different ways. True emotional and creative inspiration comes from each individual’s past, identity, and interpretation of specific interactions in life. Some will be more receptive to visual artistic expression, others are moved to tears by music, while another group needs a powerfully silent mountain in order to nourish organic innovation. This short list of five things to do in Phoenix recognizes how different we all are, allowing you to find something in your area that will spark your unique creative spirit. In order to get the most out of your long-distance visit or local travel day, I challenge you to block off a full day for whichever experience you choose. Maybe even turn off your phone, eliminate all distractions of the daily grind, and immerse yourself in whatever unbridled feeling the experience elicits.
1. “You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Storm of Fireflies” (Phoenix Art Museum)
Hands down the pinnacle of immersive modern art in all of Phoenix, possibly the entire United States. While the picture cannot possibly do the exhibit justice, you can begin to grasp the power of being surrounded by seemingly endless punctuations of illumination. You may choose to mentally adopt the artist’s title and imagine the lights to be fireflies, venture out into the vastness of space to touch the stars, or see a metaphorical representation of human memories and pain like in the song “All The Little Lights” by Passenger. If you reach a different level of creative inspiration when visuals are paired with music, bring headphones with you. Make a short playlist before your trip. Think through a personal roadblock with which you’ve been wrestling. Brainstorm ideas for your next song, story, painting, or miscellaneous creative project. Simply celebrate your own existence, internally articulating things for which you are grateful. Do this for every light you see. Wherever your mind takes you, let it run free. If you’re lucky, or if you stay in the exhibit long enough, you will be the only one in the room. With no one around to whisper in awe, silence intensifies your ability to absorb whatever it is you need to from this truly supernatural place.
If taking fresh air into your lungs and exploring the countless idiosyncrasies of nature is more your speed, the next two on our list are for you. The Desert Botanical Garden offers a leisurely stroll through over 50,000 different types of plants both native to the area and foreign. Bring a friend and engage in a relaxing walk punctuated by inspecting new plants you’ve never seen before. Or purposefully go alone and learn about some of the garden’s inhabitants. Finding inspiration here may look different for everyone, but approaching the garden with a specific intention is one way to ensure its impact. Choose one plant that interests you for whatever reason and do a bit of research on it. Depending on which you pick, the information could be on a plaque right before your eyes or you might have to pull out your phone. The purpose of this investigation is twofold.
* Completely enveloping your mental focus in a natural organism takes you away from our constant ego-centric “me, me, me” culture of everyday life.
* Understanding a bit more about the resilience, creativity, and sheer ingenuity of plant life can give you a new perspective on that one thing you have yet to solve, conquer, or process.
Escaping our screens can be tough, especially with the recent pandemic and our technology-heavy work cultures. Camelback Mountain is an easily seen reminder that the natural world is always out there, waiting for us to get off of work or push the power off button.
This mountain is equipped with a short, well-curated hiking trail leading to sweeping views of Phoenix. Bring that book you’ve been meaning to read or that journal you’ve been meaning to write in, along with a small lunch and lots of water. At the top, find a shady outcropping of rock to nestle into and take in the sights. Reflect, meditate, write, or simply let go of all that busyness that lies below you.
Retreat to this peaceful place to either find an internal answer or pose a big question.
Music speaks to everyone in different ways. From remembering a first love to catalyzing imagination, melodies are emotional time machines. While Covid has unfortunately shuttered the 2021 season for the Phoenix Symphony, they remain the authority on bone-deep musical inspiration.
There’s something profoundly powerful about hearing a plethora of different instruments coming together in unison to produce one magnificent sound. Besides the symbolism, these folks really can play. Each musical number will tell a story that will help you escape, think, or just exist peacefully.
If you’re feeling overstimulated by the constant barrage of 24-hour news programs or alarmingly pervasive advertisements, buy tickets for a 2022 show. When the time finally comes you will be able to sink into that theater seat and let the symphony carry
Not all inspiration comes from grandiose art or stunning nature. Friends, family, and good conversation can heal and illuminate when you need it most. Old Town Scottsdale lays out a considerable amount of options when it comes to finding a place to bring your loved ones together. When the weather is nice, bring a picnic spread to the sprawling park by the library. If the summer heat has gotten to you, find a lively bar or restaurant to foster connection within your community and cool you down. Walkability is a big selling point here. No matter your group’s desire, a quick Google search will find the perfect place for conversation and connection to flourish.