Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
The growing city we live in always seems to be in a state of building. With that comes a lot of noise and debris. And the traffic seems to be getting worse, too. Finding a quiet spot to sit and collect your thoughts seems like an impossible dream. Except that we have the Franciscan Renewal Center. The former tourist resort has been a place to retreat to for solace since the '50s. The lush and spacious gardens are the desert's version of Eden within our urban sprawl. Fountains trickle sweet melodies and the breeze whispers through the trees. Come sit, smell the flowers and remember that there is more to life than work, bills and responsibility. Relax and clear your mind in an oasis amidst the concrete jungle.
Speed freaks with qualms about breaking the law -- hey, they could exist -- best cruise up to the northwest Valley, where Speedworld Motorplex, nine miles north of Bell on Grand Avenue, holds weekly Street Legal Drags. The gates open at 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday in September for five hours of straight racing (gate time moves to 5:30 p.m. in November). Instigated at the request of local street racers, the casual event follows no set program; drivers wanting to test the prowess of their street-driven cars can get in 'tons of runs' without the hassle of tickets or formalities -- $15 to race, $10 to watch. If your beloved Buick doesn't have what it takes, get your kicks via virtual drag racing at www.speedworldmotorplex.com.
Located in southwest Phoenix at Cesar Chávez Park, this fishing hole gets a hook, line and sinker rating. With 25 acres of water, this is the largest of Arizona's designated urban fishing lakes. Be sure to get out there early because the space along the shore fills up quickly. There aren't any boats allowed, so you don't have to worry about the fish being jumpy or your line getting pushed around by the wake. Although there is a limit on the number of bass, trout and catfish you can take home, all others are fair game and limitless. The lake is stocked every two weeks, so there are always some hungry fish out there. Make a family outing out of it and teach the kids how to fish. Enjoy a picnic. Anglers, get angling.
Thanks to the Arizona Department of Transportation, it's only a short hop these days from downtown Phoenix to this nice little executive course, perfect for a late game even in 110-degree heat. The short (3,766 yards for the entire 18, or almost half as long as a regular-size links) par 60 doesn't lend itself to the use of big clubs -- not that we know how to use them anyway. Actually, it was the tricky, undulating greens that proved to be our undoing, as three-putts became a constant, if unwanted, companion. Though many of the fairways are narrow, nobody minds if you hit from wherever you land, as long as you keep an eye on the other groups. The 18th hole is a 340-yard beauty where water comes into play on both the tee shot and approach to the green. The whole thing takes just more than two hours, less than half what it usually takes to play a full-size course. That's a big plus in our busy books. And it's generally easy to get a tee time at Continental, except for those months when the temperature finally drops below 100. The price is right, too: $18 including a cart. Fore!
Readers' Choice for Best Golf Course: Troon North
Way ahead of the curve, Sidewalk Surfer has been flinging skate gear for 26 years. Owner Sandie Hamilton started her first shop near the Scottsdale Civic Center because her kids and their friends were way into skateboarding, but couldn't find the stuff they needed in area stores.
"If these kids were doing it, I figured there were a lot more doing it as well," says Hamilton.
Besides the wide array of decks ($25 for blanks), bearings, wheels, trucks, helmets and pads, Sidewalk Surfer also sells inline skates (rentals available), mopeds, snowboards, boogie boards and skim boards. For those who prefer to walk, SS has every Frisbee golf disk needed for the hard-core master.
And while equipment is fine, the proper image is equally important. SS has a wide selection of hip sunglasses, flip-flops, swimsuits, tee shirts, pants and hats. For those downtimes, check out the skating videos under the counter, along with stickers galore for marking your turf.
When we want to experience a real celestial celebration, we head for Starlab, where the Challenger Space Center hosts totally cool interactive stargazing programs using high-powered telescopes. Our night consists of a slide presentation on the constellations and planets, with news on upcoming sky events, and stories of the night sky featuring folklore and mythology from different cultures. If we're as hungry for food as we are for knowledge, we can snack on hot dogs, chips and soda while we wonder about our place in the universe. Often, too, we stop in for special traveling shows, like the NASA Space Weather Exhibit; the Kalusa Miniature Aircraft Exhibit; the Space Toys Exhibit; and the Hubble Telescope Exhibit. Baby, we're going to the moon!