Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2002

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Best Of :: Fun & Games

Best Place To See The State Bird

On this ranch, they have some chickens, E-I-E-I-O. With a donkey here and a billy goat there, you name the domesticated farm animal, you can pet it and make it your friend. After communing with farm life, go on a hayride, have a cookout, or take in the wildlife (like Arizona's "first bird," the cactus wren). The ranch is located in the slightly cooler stretch of the Sonoran Desert, so it's one of the few places that you can be outdoors when the weather is hot. Or stay in the A/C and take a scenic driving tour. If you do some digging, you'll even learn about the little-known mystery of the Mormon Girl Mine. But what makes MacDonald's Ranch special isn't what it has, it's what it doesn't have. You won't find any mechanical farm equipment here, because the ranch still operates with true "horsepower." That's just cool.

Readers Choice

BEST GOLF COURSE

tie: Troon North Golf Club
10320 East Dynamite, Scottsdale
480-502-5360

and

Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale
17020 North Hayden, Scottsdale
480-585-3428

BEST CITY HIKING TRAIL

Camelback Mountain

BEST CITY PARK

Encanto Park and Recreation Area
2605 North 15th Avenue
602-261-8994

BEST KIDS' FREE FUN SPOT

Tempe Town Lake

BEST KIDS' FUN-FOR-A-PRICE SPOT

Castles-n-Coasters
9445 North Metro Parkway East
602-997-7575

BEST PLACE TO SPEND THE DAY WITH YOUR DOG

Any dog park

Best Surprise For The Kids

If you're the sort of parent who blows your budget on your kids' parties, consider introducing your children and all their friends to T-Bo, the rhinoceros iguana. T-Bo is one of 500 creatures kept by Rich Ihle's Reptile Adventures. For $150, Ihle will cart a truck full of snakes and lizards to your home guaranteed to drop every jaw in the joint. This is a very hands-on experience that involves lots of touching and education with a cast that includes an Argentinean Red Tegu, a four-foot-long carnivorous lizard. Other big hits include water monitors that can hit seven feet in length, 19-foot-long pythons and hulking anacondas. A walking infomercial on all things reptile, Ihle is hoping to construct a public museum in the near future.

Best Video Arcade

Yeah, yeah, there's more to do at GameWorks than simulate genocide. But inspired killing is the foundation of any inspiring arcade. And with several dozen of the world's most realistically hyperviolent video games, GameWorks is just about as inspiring as it gets, killing-wise.

If you tire of killing, if that's possible, GameWorks offers all sorts of other entertaining cyber realms. And yes, there are numerous nonviolent games for children if you're some sort of daisy-pickin' pacifist.

After a hard day of killing, you can retire to GameWorks' full bar and a menu of mostly excellent food. The upstairs restaurant and pub makes a nice place to hide from children asking for more money.

To stem the high cost of killing, GameWorks offers daily specials as well as reduced pricing for bulk-killing. Now, if they could only pipe in the smell of napalm in the morning.

Best Advice For Kids

Before he became a Valley Popsicle, Ted Williams said famously that hitting a baseball was the hardest thing to do in all of sports. Keep that in mind the next time your Little Leaguer whiffs. If you'd like to do something constructive to help your budding all-star, take the kid over to Big League Dugout, where former major league ballplayers offer individually tailored half-hour instruction for $40. Tutoring in both hitting and pitching is available. Hummmm, baby!

Best Place To Play The Slots (The Other Kind)

What legions of us still have childhood memories of time spent in the game room, sitting cross-legged (back then we called it "Indian style") in front of a loop of plastic track, jockeying tiny magnetic cars to race our siblings for superlative titles -- the winner was "the coolest person on the planet," say, and the loser was "actually adopted but Mom and Dad don't want you to know"?

You can practically hear the whiff of your plaid corduroy trousers just thinking about it.

But now you can relive those easy times at Terry's Performance Raceways, where slot-car racing is way more than a nostalgia trip. It's pretty much a lifestyle. Terry's features (for now) two modes for mini-scale enthusiasts, beginning with the so-called "H.O." racers, those Hot Wheels-style cars that are authentic enough to induce a flashback in almost anyone. And it only costs $6 an hour: $3 for track time, $2 for a car, and $1 for a controller.

Then there's the drag-racing track, where speed is the only thing that matters. Even with cars that are 1/24th scale, Terry himself claims, cars have been clocked on the 55-foot-long track going as fast as 50 miles per hour, real time. He's currently building a 1/32nd-scale road course, but for now the main event is on Friday and Saturday evenings, when diehard slot jockeys compete in earnest. For a $5 entry fee you can compete if you make the qualifiers; and winners can receive up to 30 percent of the pooled money in store credit, which the proprietor says can sometimes be enough to buy you your own new car -- Terry's, you see, also sells a full line of cars, tracks and slot-car accessories.

"Racing cars to win more cars," Terry says. "That's just gotta be the best thing on Earth."

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Best Place To See The State Bird: Old MacDonald's Ranch

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