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Bridle Path on Central Avenue at Bethany Home Road
Whether you're out for a friendly stroll or training for a half-marathon, this in-town trail is the perfect place to get off the pavement for a change. You'll find families riding bikes, friends out for a power walk, cheerful joggers, and athletes prepping for the next big race. Right in...
Best Comeback Trail
Echo Canyon, Camelback Mountain
After a year of waiting, Camelback lovers returned in force on January 15 to the renovated Echo Canyon Trail. The short, conveniently located adventure hike, accessed near Tatum Boulevard and McDonald Drive, is one of the most visited attractions in Phoenix and a weekly, or even daily, routine for many...
Best Hiking Trail
Tom's Thumb Trail, McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
If you've ever wanted to visit the moon, the landscape of the McDowell Mountains near the rock-skyscraper Tom's Thumb formation might just satisfy the craving — rolling, sparsely vegetated hills, boulders large and small. But first you have to get up there. We usually take Dynamite Boulevard, turn right on...
Best Hiking Guide
Hikers Guide to the Superstition Wilderness: With History and Legends of Arizona's Lost Dutchman Gold Mine by Jack C. Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart
First published more than a decade ago, this hiking and biking guide will inspire even the least-outdoorsy among us to hit the trail. Expert and frequently updated trail descriptions are categorized by difficulty, length, and popularity among hikers, and the book's topographical maps make this book a must-have for any...
South Mountain Park/Preserve
Bouldering in the Pima Canyon wash, near the east end of Phoenix's vast South Mountain Park/Preserve, requires extreme skill, not just because of the difficult routes, which are rated V0 (equivalent to about 5.10 at local rock-climbing gyms — not a beginner rating) to an insane V7, but also because...
Best Rock Climbing Gym
Focus Climbing Center
Unlike most climbing gyms we've been in, Focus mainly is about bouldering. Housed in an industrial building in Mesa just east of the Tempe border on Broadway Road, it has several walls with ropes for belaying climbers and a few auto-belayers that allow a solo climber to ascend the 30-foot...
Best Mountain Bike Ride
FINS, Estrella Mountain Ranch, Goodyear
A decade ago, some mountain bikers decided to create a single-track paradise for themselves on private Estrella Mountain Ranch land slated for development. They called it Fantasy Island North Singletrack, in honor of Tucson's Fantasy Island biking area. Friends started coming. Unlike skateboarders taking over a strip mall, they didn't...
Best Group Bike Ride
Summer Solstice Swimsuit Ride by TBAG
Nothing gets you in the summer spirit quite like getting on your bicycle wearing next to nothing and pool-hopping around Tempe. Luckily for folks in the Valley, Tempe Bicycle Action Group has been making a regular event out of it for the past five years with its Summer Solstice Swimsuit...
Best Road Bike Ride
Third and Fifth avenues in Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix isn't the most bicycle-friendly region of the Valley, but for those living in the area, there's a shred of hope for safe travels on Third and Fifth avenues. If you're looking to go northbound from downtown, take Third Avenue. If you're looking to go southbound to downtown, take...
Best Motorcycle Ride
There are two kinds of Valley motorcyclists: Those who have been to Tortilla Flat and those who will go to Tortilla Flat. No other local ride puts riders on twisting roads so quickly, yet this convenience requires no sacrifice in quality. The scenery on this ride is truly stunning, featuring...
State Route 87
You take an interstate to get out of Phoenix? What are you, new? Take a drive on State Route 87, which is ideal for anything from a relaxing day drive to a full-blown adventure. Once you catch the road in the East Valley (as Arizona Avenue in Chandler or Country...
Best Travel Magazine
First published in April 1925, Arizona Highways originally was a journal devoted to documenting the road-building projects of the Highway Department (now known as the Arizona Department of Transportation). Travel stories and scenic photography were the order of the day back then, when the magazine's print run totaled 1,000 copies...
Best Place to Drive Like a Maniac
National Auto Sport Association, Arizona Region
There's a place to drive 100 miles per hour around Phoenix, and believe it or not, it's not called Loop 101. If you really want to drive (and we mean drive), take your car to one of the race weekends hosted by the National Auto Sport Association's Arizona region. It...
Move over, Granny! Octane Raceway has been letting us fuel our fantasy of the Indy 500 since 2003. This revved-up, third-of-a-mile race track is the only full-time indoor/outdoor track in the country, and on almost every single day of the year, its European electric race karts offer a truly exhilarating...
Best Museum for Gearheads
Penske Racing Museum
This museum is a hidden gem located among all the Penske-owned car dealerships along Scottsdale Road. The museum showcases race cars used throughout the years by racing legend Roger Penske and the drivers who've raced under the Penske Racing name. You can get right up next to some of the...
Best Mock Western Town
It's not a talking point on the hotel's website, and it doesn't seem to get a lot of use, but there's something magical about the Western village at Camelback Inn — which is complete with a tepee, wooden stage, and storefronts such as Mummy Mountain Mercantile — at the base...
Best Tourist Attraction
Desert Botanical Garden
Surrounded by the concrete oasis of metro Phoenix, it's easy to forget we live in a desert. When tourists arrive in the Valley, the first thing they'll probably look for while mumbling something about the dry heat is a tumbleweed or saguaro. But if they really want to see the...
Best Daytime Date Spot
Japanese Friendship Garden
Okay, so a "friendship garden" might seem like a bad move for a romantic venture, but you definitely won't get friend-zoned if you bring your date to this serene spot in Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix. Admission costs $5, so this date option won't break the bank and...
Best Yoga with a View
Rooftop Yoga at Lustre Rooftop Garden
Downtown Phoenix might not be the most serene location to put down your mat and start working on your asanas, but three floors above Jefferson Street, the bustle of the city quiets down on Lustre's rooftop patio. That's where more than 100 yoga lovers center their minds for just $10...
Best Cheap Yoga
It's time to get down and dirty Sunday nights at Steele Indian School Park because Dirty Yoga is the best way to stretch and mellow out all at once without breaking the bank. Because Dirty Yoga happens outdoors you're not paying the overhead for a brick-and-mortar location. For just $3...
Best Pool Party
Release Pool Party at Talking Stick
When temperatures start rising and tourists start fleeing, summer pool parties aren't just a way to beat the heat in metro Phoenix, they're a way of life. Cue the Release Pool Party at Talking Stick Resort. This seasonal Saturday ritual is the spot to see and be suntanned with bikini-clad...
Best Hotel Pool
Hyatt Gainey Ranch
Leave it to savvy snowbirds and summer staycationers to decide which pools are worth diving into. Their favorite place to test the water and their tanning oil, judging by the crowds? The Hyatt Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale. Ours, too. This secluded resort has something for everyone, with more pools than...
Best Water Park
Wet 'n' Wild
Yes, it can be an expensive day. Prices are $39.99 for adults and $29.99 for kids and seniors if you don't get a season pass. (Kids 2 and under get in free). Worth it. And much cheaper than a trip to the pool store. The first time we drove out...
Best Dog Park
Margaret T. Hance Park
The dog days of summer don't do much for your canine companion, but come winter, spring, and fall, fair-weather furballs flock to the fine-cut grass and fenced-in comforts of Margaret T. Hance Park. The premier dog park in downtown Phoenix pulls in pooches and their pampering pet owners with newly...
Best Miniature Golf
Castles 'n' Coasters
In the West Valley, wedged between Interstate 17 and Metrocenter, you'll find this world-class miniature golf paradise, past which flies a gigantic rollercoaster. Four separate 18-hole mini-courses let golfers (or should we say "golfers"?) putt their way through lush landscapes, fountains, and around a medieval castle. Little kids play for...
Best Golf Course
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Saguaro Course)
In an area saturated with world-class golf courses, the We-Ko-Pa Golf Club stands out from the crowd. Both its Saguaro Course and Cholla Course are elite options for golfers of any level, with some of the fastest greens and most elegant scenery of any desert golf course, but the Saguaro...
Best Place to Watch Spring Training
The newest Cactus League stadium is unlike any other. That's because Cubs Park was built to mimic one of the most legendary ballparks: Wrigley Field. The dimensions at Cubs Park are proportional to Wrigley's, the backstop is made of brick, Chicago dogs are sold at the concession stands, and the...
Bruce Arians, a veteran of 25 NFL seasons as a coach but only one as a head coach and part of one as an acting head coach, either worked a miracle last season by leading the Arizona Cardinals to a 10-6 season or he really knows what he's doing. We're...
Best Team Owner
Don't believe the hype that Robert Sarver's a tightwad owner loath to spend big bucks on top talent. It's not true. The Phoenix Suns' head man, he of the giant foam finger in the team's heady playoff days, has had a wide-open wallet since he's owned the team, and it's...
Best Reason to Believe the Diamondbacks Have a Bright Future
Sports Exec Tony LaRussa
The Arizona Diamondbacks made a stunning move when they brought in legendary manager Tony LaRusa as chief baseball officer in the middle of this dismal season. One of the most brilliant minds in the game, LaRussa, when he retired as skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals, had been a major-league...
Paul Goldschmidt is more than just a power hitter, despite what his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame (complete with tree-trunk-size guns) might suggest. The first baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks, a National League starter at his position in this year's All-Star Game, hits for average and is a crack defensive player. But...
If anyone ever doubted how much Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin meant to the franchise, they need only look at the team's horrible record this season. Corbin, who went on the disabled list this spring, followed by Tommy John (ulnar-collateral-ligament) surgery on his left elbow, was a member of the 2013...
Best Basketball Players
Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe
Pundits didn't believe it would work. Phoenix Suns Coach Jeff Hornacek knew it would. He knew that starting two speedy point guards in the Suns back court was a genius move, mainly because he and Kevin Johnson were paired as such when they played for Phoenix under fabled Coach Cotton...
Best Football Player
Patrick Peterson's always has been an overachiever. A star defensive back at Louisiana State University, he was drafted fifth overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2011. And he started fast in the National Football League: In his first season in Glendale, Peterson, a cornerback/returner, ran back four punts for touchdowns...
Best Sports Phenom
The Phoenix Mercury made franchise history — and damn near made WNBA history — with a 16-game winning streak this season (it was the league's second-longest ever). And the team went on to dominate the WNBA playoffs and with its third title. Second-year phenom Brittney Griner was a large part...
Best Sports Expatriate
Steve Kerr is the luckiest man in the world. Never a starter when he played professional basketball, the University of Arizona standout had the good fortune to play with Michael Jordan and get coached by Phil Jackson, one of the all-time great basketball minds. And what Kerr lacked in talent...
Best Sports Legend
Basketball player, coach, and broadcaster Doug Collins
Doug Collins is the most astute NBA analyst around, after an illustrious college and professional playing career. Notice we didn't say head-coaching, another of his careers. He's been well-traveled there, having been forced out by the Chicago Bulls, the Detroit Pistons, and the Washington Wizards. He resigned as coach of...
Best Rock Climbing
Gardener's Wall at McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
The McDowell Mountains have been discovered, much to the dismay of longtime Valley climbers. We can't complain — we love the trails built over the past few years in the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. Now, everyone can enjoy this rugged, beautiful wilderness. And in what seems like a miracle, the city...