1) Traffic: Get downtown early. Artists start setting up at five, and most galleries open at six. The crowds don't get thick until seven thirty, eight o'clock. The earlier you drive down, the better chance you'll have of finding a parking spot.If you don't want to deal with driving at all, take the lightrail. Ride to the Central and Roosevelt Station and stroll the galleries on foot. Take the Trolley. The trolley is free to ride! Another bonus-there are maps of the artwalk and galleries at all of the stations. There are three trolley stations: The Phoenix Art Museum, located at 1625 N. Central, The Arizona Center, and 15th and Grand Avenue. The last trolley back is 9:30 so plan accordingly.
2) Weather: True to the nature of the desert, often times the weather is sunny and warm when you start out on your First Fridays adventure, and by eight o'clock you're shivering and yearning for a hot tea or coffee just to warm your hands. Bring a jacket. This Friday night is going to be chilly, a brisk 45 degrees. You may want to consider bringing a scarf, hat, and gloves. Perhaps you will find a handmade one to buy at one of the boutiques or outdoor vendors!
3) Acquisitions: Bring a large purse or bag to carry all of the art and handmade items you buy. You may think you're only going to look, but many times you'll see something you just can't live without. It won't hurt to put a pair of comfortable shoes in that bag in case you wore your cutest heels and your feet get tired from walking around all night. And it will hold that hat and scarf you didn't want to wear at five, but need at eight.
Bring cash. Many outside vendors don't have debit machines and it would be a shame to have to leave that inexpensive must-have painting, necklace, or lamp behind-especially since it's gift giving season!
4) Crowds: Roosevelt Row is the most crowded around seven, eight o'clock. If you are not somebody who likes crowds, consider going to this hot spot during off-peak hours. Seek out the artwork hanging in places on the outskirts. 7th Avenue and McDowell has Boutique Solie, Salon D'Shayn, and Olivastro displaying art. Grand Avenue has a host of galleries without the vast numbers of the Ro Ro crowd as well.
5) Hunger and Thirst: Many galleries, especially the ones on the outskirts, have a spread of meat and cheese, crackers, grapes, wine, water etc. There are also Food Trucks dispersed throughout . If you are vegetarian or vegan, stop by Aside of Heart right on 5th street and Roosevelt Row. If you end your trip on 7th Avenue and McDowell, there are eateries where you can get pizza, subs, etc. Finish the night off with an adult beverage at Sidebar (SW corner of 7th ave and McDowell). Have fun, but don't drink and drive please.
Alright so let's review if you're ready for First Fridays tomorrow: Do you have your warm clothing, comfortable shoes, a large purse or bag for your maps and purchases, lots of cash, and a desire to see handmade items and artwork? Yes? Then you're ready! I hope to see you there!