For many years, the trade show now called Creativation was in Anaheim. Creativation moved to Phoenix in 2017. Overall, the move was unpopular. Personally, I was disappointed about the change because Anaheim is driving distance for me, but Phoenix is just enough farther that driving doesn't make sense. I was used to the way things worked in Anaheim and my family loved tagging along with me. Still, I saw some benefits to Phoenix. After the 2018 show, I filled out a survey giving my honest opinion about Phoenix. A few weeks later, I was VERY surprised to receive an invitation from the City of Phoenix and AFCI to travel to Phoenix that May!
I flew into PHX early on Monday, May 14 and flew out in the afternoon on Wednesday, May 16. You will not believe how much was on the agenda for such a short trip! The first stop was at the Renaissance Hotel, our home away from home for 2 nights.
Our hostess and guide throughout the trip, Elizabeth, gave us an awesome tip for finding our way back to the hotel. The Renaissance looks like a giant cheese grater! Once I knew that, it was easy to spot throughout the downtown area.
We got checked in, then headed to a fabulous restaurant around the corner at La Piazza PHX. While we enjoyed their AMAZING pizza, the five of us (plus Elizabeth) got to know one another. Starting at the left: Brooke Snyder is the owner of Urban Scrapbooker in Edmonds, Washington. Anita Takemoto is from Southern California and runs an online store. Elizabeth Thielen is our hostess with the City of Phoenix. Alison Bevis, owner of The Crafty Chain, traveled all the way from Australia to participate! On the right is Cheryl Stapleton, a crafter and designer from Oregon.
We hit it off right away, which is a good thing since we spent so much time together! After lunch, we had a tour by Phoenix Rising Tours. It was outstanding. I was especially interested in the "5 C's of Arizona" and the role they played in the early days of the state. Our guide did an excellent job of weaving historical facts in with Phoenix today.
We made multiple stops during our tour, first on Grand Avenue. The street is so welcoming. It's obvious there are creative businesses nearby!
Nancy, the owner of Hazel & Violet Letterpress, gave us a tour and showed us the letterpress process on several different presses.
What a fun souvenir!
Next, we went to Porter Barn Wood. Their business is all about using reclaimed wood and live-edge slabs to create gorgeous furniture, artwork, and anything else you can imagine.
The first thing I noticed when we went inside was the giant wall of finishes.
To give you an idea of how large the showroom is, there's a two-story cabin inside.
It houses an interesting collection of antiques and other assorted goodies for sale.
Touring the workshop and extensive reclaimed wood storage areas was fascinating. We were able to watch some beautiful pieces being made.
At SlabHaus, we learned about the art of concrete design.
I had no idea how many beautiful can be made with concrete. My favorites were these flower pots.
Our next stop was at Snoh Ice Shavery. Yum!
It has a super cool vibe and plenty to keep you entertained, including this fun photo booth (without the booth).
We continued our tour of Phoenix and then made ANOTHER stop for dessert! Not that I was complaining. Churn was fantastic.
I sampled three flavors of their homemade ice cream before ordering a kids' cup of Cookies & Mint. It came with a mini cone and a plastic ring on top, which was fun.
We headed back to the Renaissance for 'Discovery Hour' at Dust Cutter. None of us were remotely hungry, but Elizabeth insisted we try their amazing avocado fries. We got one order for the six of us and I'm so glad we did. Here you can see the cocktail of the day being created. Each day, a different bartender invents something new in a big bowl, then ladles it out for everyone to try (for free). I don't remember what she called it, but it was tasty!
As soon as we finished our drinks, the pedicabs picked us up...
... and delivered us to Chase Field for a Diamondbacks game!
Our tickets were on the Home Run Porch, which was AWESOME. Not only were the seats fantastic, but we had tons of space to spread out, tabletops and counters, unlimited food, and our own waiter.
We were seated near the Diamondbacks museum, so we checked that out.
The Diamondbacks didn't win that day, but we had a great time anyway. Stuffed with more food that I think I've ever eaten in a single day, a few of us declined a pedicab and waddled the few blocks back to the hotel. I spy a cheese grater - we must be there!
I got back to my room around 11:00 pm (having left my house that morning before 4:00 am) and collapsed into bed. What a wonderful day!
But there was no time for sleeping in. We had another full day ahead of us. Elizabeth picked us up at 7:50 am on Tuesday and took us to Matt's Big Breakfast.
I sampled a tiny bit of everything and it was all amazing.
Next stop, Antiquities Warehouse. Pictures cannot capture it. Take what you see below and multiply it by 500 because Antiquities Warehouse is HUGE. To be exact, it is 35,000 square feet and packed with one-of-a-kind antiques from around the world.
No matter what you're into, it's there. Even bunnies.
We picked our jaws up off the ground, hopped into our van, and took a tour of nearby Tempe. From there, we went to Mesa and stopped at The Fiber Factory. It's a fun shop, filled with all sorts of beautiful yarns and inspirational projects.
Our next tour was at Palabras Bookstore. This bilingual bookstore emphasizes social awareness and prides itself in showcasing authors that represent a wide variety of cultures. I loved that they use portraits of authors as part of their shelving.
It's a beautiful space and I would have loved to have had more time to explore.
Instead, we headed next door to Mucho Más Art Studio. This boutique/gallery features the artwork of Emily Costello, Patrick Murillo, and Kathy Cano-Murillo (better known to me and many others as The Crafty Chica). Kathy is an amazing artist and talented speaker who I have had the pleasure of meeting several times. It was a delight to see her gallery.
After our tour, Kathy hosted a mini round table with local creative bloggers and designers. It was wonderful hearing their perspectives about Phoenix and learning more about what they each do.
Lunch was at The Vig. It was so, so good.
If you go, you absolutely MUST have the butterscotch cake with whiskey maple glaze. I'm still thinking about it.
After lunch, Elizabeth took us to the Convention Center where we had a collaborative meeting with representatives of the City of Phoenix and the AFCI staff. They wanted to hear all of our thoughts about the city, the show, and any way we could think to make Creativation even better than it already is. Our meeting was about 2 hours long. We stopped by the hotel for a quick refresh, then joined the AFCI staff (Andria, Jason, Kristen, Keli, and Keri) for a trip to my favorite Phoenix destination, the Desert Botanical Garden!
The gardens were stunning and I could have spent hours there. But the sun was setting and we had tickets to watch Ballet Arizona perform Eroica under the stars. We sat at reserved tables near the stage; there were general admission bleacher seats behind us. We had a tasty dinner, including delicious prickly pear cocktails, as we watched the dancers warm up.
The performance began when the sun set completely. I've been to the ballet numerous times, but this was hands-down my favorite performance of all time. The setting was gorgeous, the choreography was amazing, the lighting was stunning, and the dancers were breathtaking. It was killing me that we couldn't take photos. I did take one photo during the curtain call (is it a curtain call if there is no curtain?) to help me remember the magic of the evening.
Elizabeth had cookies from a local bakery waiting for us in the van, because of course she did. I ate more in two days with her than the previous two weeks combined! After another very full day, we headed back to the Renaissance around 10:30 pm for our second and final night.
And, of course, we were up bright and early again! Elizabeth picked us up at 7:50 am to take us to Phoenix Public Market Cafe for breakfast. Some of the AFCI staff met us there to debrief and conduct interviews.
We were all still ridiculously full, so we only ordered a few items and shared. This homemade Pop Tart was incredible. Everything was really good.
I've been wanting to visit the Heard for a long time. You may have noticed from my previous travel posts that I am particularly interested in Native American art. Specifically, I love intricate beading and Acoma pottery. The Heard had stunning examples of each.
There were many other beautiful pieces of artwork.
I really enjoyed my time with Anita. I love visiting art museums with Steve and Trevor, but I know their tastes and they know mine. Anita brought my attention to different types of artwork and pointed out details I wouldn't have noticed. That was neat.
Apparently it's a thing to put your admission stickers on the crosswalk signal in front of the museum.
We still had plenty of time before we'd be heading to the airport, so Anita and I walked all through the downtown area, admiring street art, popping into shops, and exploring food options for future visits.
We headed back to the Renaissance, checked out, and were on our way to the airport. And just like that, our whirlwind trip of Phoenix was over. It was incredible in every way and I feel so lucky to have been selected for this amazing experience. If you're going to be in Phoenix for Creativation, I know your schedule is packed, but try to take a little time to explore this amazing city. And if you won't be at Creativation, schedule a trip to Phoenix (preferably during the cooler months). You won't be disappointed!