Hutchings: Nearby outlet malls offer bargains, much more - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Dollars and Sense Hutchings: Nearby outlet malls offer bargains, much more

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Linda Hutchings is a Gilbert resident and a life-long frugal consumer—uh, cheap skate. Please reach her at: Send her your penny-pinching ideas.

Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 2:14 pm | Updated: 4:30 pm, Wed Dec 3, 2014.

Kokopelli, the dancing-Indian flute player with wild-flowing hair, carries a bag on his back rumored to contain seeds and magical tokens. Nah, he just likes to shop.

And Kokopelli told me where to save money, have some fun, and soak up some Arizona history.

Arizona Mills Mall, where US 60 and Interstate 10 cross in Tempe, is this week’s “Happy-Hunting Grounds,” with more than 185 stores to shop. And Kokopelli knows that the mall sits on the ancient territory of the Yaqui Indians.

Arizona Mills is the state’s largest, indoor, climate-controlled outlet, value, and entertainment mall. The anchor stores are JC Penney Catalog Outlet Store, Burlington Coat Factory, and Sports Authority. You’ll find Marshall’s, Ross Dress for Less and a Sears Appliance Outlet to replace your non-functioning servo-mechanism — no, not your wife.

Arizona Mills offers 10 food-specialty stores like the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Starbucks along with restaurants like Garcia’s (Mexican), Johnny Rockets (burgers) and the Rainforest Cafe (fun and food for the whole family). A giant food court sells tacos, Asian food, and tequila-battered lizards on a stick — OK, maybe not the latter.

Entertainment at Arizona Mills includes a Harkins 25 Cinema and an IMAX, Rainforest Cafe and Gameworks. Sea Life Arizona, an indoor aquarium, dazzles with gorgeous lighting on 30 pristine displays featuring red octupuses, green sea turtles, and flashy fish like yellow tangs, and rainbow wrasse. I left this aquarium elated.

Buy a coupon booklet for $3 at guest services — or get the booklet free with memberships like AAA.

For a bit more Indian culture, head south on Priest Road (east of the mall) to the town of Guadalupe, located immediately south of Arizona Mills. Priest Road changes its name to S. Avenida del Yaqui. Guadalupe, inhabited by 44 percent Indians, is one-square-mile of 5,500 people. To see Our Lady of Guadalupe church, continue south and turn west on E. Calle San Angelo. You’ll think you time-traveled back to the old west. The small church looks like a humble version of the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas. The church still celebrates mass, and, if you look hard, you will see Kokopelli sitting on the center cross playing his mesmerizing music.

On to the next mall. On Avenida del Yaqui head south until it curves left, again running into Priest Drive. Turn right and go to Elliot Road, turn right again then get back on I-10 going south.

Your next stop is the new Phoenix Premium Outlets next to Wild Horse Pass Casino at the Gila River Indian Community, about seven minutes south of Arizona Mills. Take exit 162 (Wild Horse Pass Boulevard), turn right, turn right again at Winners Way, and then right once more at the T. Three rights don’t make a wrong here.

Phoenix Premium Outlets stores open outdoors into two promenades with seating, misters, and canvas shades. The mall has 90 traditional, outlet, and value-retail stores. I found great cooking pans in the Calphalon outlet. Coach Factory Outlet had so much eye candy that my eyeballs sugared shut. Check out factory stores like the Gap, Levi’s and Nike. Find enough shoe stores to pamper Lady Gaga and the Kardashians. There are vending machines and a food court. At suite 200, buy a VIP coupon book for $5 — or get it free with memberships like AAA.

When you tire of saving money, go to the adjacent Wild Horse Pass Casino to waste the money you just saved — but it’s fun, right? The casino offers the traditional ways to laugh maniacally as your money whirls away in a Sonora dust devil.

Or visit the small Huhugam Heritage Center Museum due south from the casino’s main entrance. Winner’s Way Road changes its name to Maricopa Road. Down the road on the left you’ll see a red building with an irregular roof. The two entrance driveways are marked with small red-plaster signs. The museum office is directly under the tallest red tower. With roots in the prehistoric Hohokum Indians, the Gila River Indian Community honors its history displaying intricately decorated pots, eclectic cultural materials and baskets so tightly woven that they hold water. The center is open Wednesday through Friday, but absolutely call first to ensure you can get in.

Kokopelli, you trickster you. I saw you peeking at me like a grinning gargoyle from the museum roof. Thanks for the tour. Next time will you carry my shopping bags, too?

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