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Sports & Recreation

  • Best Place to Get Your Zen On

    South Mountain Park and Preserve

    Living in the city requires regular intervals of time away from the computer, the car, work and just about everything else. Our favorite place to let our worries fall away and get in touch with our inner center of peace, love, and all that wonderful hippie stuff is on the seemingly endless trails around South Mountain Park/Preserve.South Mountain encompasses more… More >>
  • Best Sunset Drive

    Grand Avenue

    Fans of Jim Thompson or Raymond Chandler will appreciate a drive down Grand Avenue at sunset. This isn't the pretty, well-manicured part of Phoenix. Dive bars line the street next to cheap, weekly rate motels. To the west, graffitied rail cars sit waiting to get hauled on to their next stop, and if you keep driving, you'll eventually run into… More >>
  • Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Drive

    Vekol Valley Road

    Signs warn of smuggling activity on this road, and it's possible you may run into some undocumented immigrants. But as development closes around the Valley, consider the smugglers your competition for the bumps and slides of Vekol Valley Road and its spurs, located southwest of Maricopa. The road is accessed off Interstate 8, about 13 miles west of the intersection… More >>
  • Best Day Trip

    Miami/Globe

    Phoenix is bound by history, be it the scattered ruins left by the Hohokam or the Old West cowboy and mining heritages created by pioneers pushing west. But some of the true greatness of Arizona's history is embedded in its geology — how the land was formed, baked, eroded, and mined, exposing all sorts of natural treasures to experience and… More >>
  • Best Summer Day Trip

    Fossil Creek Ranch

    When the mercury levels in Phoenix skyrocket into the triple digits, it's time to start planning an escape route. When we're looking to get out of town for a quick visit to cooler temps, we like to jump on the Beeline and book it up to Strawberry for a dose of pine trees, fresh air, and maybe a cheese-making class… More >>
  • Best Weekend Road Trip

    Northern Arizona, for National Parks Days

    Arizona is home to some of the most amazing, scenic, and popular national parks in the United States. The Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, Wupatki and Sunset Crater, and Walnut Canyon, among others, are all within two hours of Flagstaff. Typically, it would cost a family of four $20 to $25 to enter each park, but for… More >>
  • Best Casino

    Talking Stick Resort

    Vegas, baby. Er, Indian Bend, actually. Indian Bend and Loop 101, that is, where Sin City meets Scottsdale in the form of Talking Stick Resort, the swanky 15-story, 497-room casino that, especially by night, can make you feel like you've just taken an airport cab to one of the hipper spots on the Vegas strip, one of the places you… More >>
  • Best Hotel

    The Boulders

    The ideal luxury resort hotel is able to maintain the perfect atmosphere so that — no matter the person or their preferences — everyone can feel relaxed and welcome. At The Boulders, lifelong Phoenicians as well as international travelers can get away from it all and experience a true escape. This Waldorf Astoria hotel is located in quiet, peaceful Carefree,… More >>
  • Best Hotel Pool

    Oasis Pool at the Clarendon Hotel

    Fair warning: There are no slides, rafts, or lazy rivers at the Clarendon Hotel's Oasis pool. There is, however, a pretty cool waterfall, a killer color palette, and public access — you just have to buy a drink at the bar (and if you've heard anything about the bar at Gallo Blanco, which sits on the first floor of the… More >>
  • Best Public Pool

    Encanto Park

    If you're one of the few people in Maricopa County without a swimming pool in your backyard and you don't feel like hitting up one of the dozens of weekly (and ridiculously trendy) hotel pool parties, then you might want to check out Encanto Park's public pool. It may not be the largest or the swankiest pool around, but the… More >>
  • Best Splash Pad

    Tempe Beach Park

    Even looking at Tempe Beach Park's Splash Playground in the off-season, when it's dry and quiet, we get a pang of emotion. Over many summer days when the kids were toddlers, they'd laugh and tread the shallow canals of the park, swim diapers swollen with water. Then they'd cry that they were cold when a slight breeze hit them, even… More >>
  • Best Water Park

    Big Surf

    Big Surf is a Valley gift that keeps on giving. The two-million-gallon wave pool — the nation's first when it opened in 1969 — is just part of the fun here. The place sports two play areas for little kids stocked with floating islands and mini-slides. At least one of the big-kid slides is steep enough to give us a… More >>
  • Best Playground

    Makutu's Island

    We can take it. It's true — some parents fear Makutu's: the swarming, screaming chaos of kids running and climbing and gaming for hours. And hours. Adults always want to leave first. But the kids could stay all day — because Makutu's provides the most fun Valley kids can have when it's hot, outside of the swimming pool. Because we're… More >>
  • Best Dog Park, East Valley

    Cosmo Dog Park

    If you and your furry friend are willing to venture out to the hinterlands of Gilbert, you'll find a pot of doggy gold at the end of the earth-toned rainbow of houses you pass along the way. Cosmo Dog Park is great for both pooch and master alike, with plenty of walking trails, running and playing areas for both big… More >>
  • Best Dog Park, West Valley

    PetSmart Dog Park at Washington Park

    Got a dog with a Napoleon Complex? Then this is the place for you. We like this park for its abundance of shady spots and, most important, separate play areas for big dogs and "little" dogs (with separate entrances), so you don't have to worry about any ankle-biting. There's plenty of room for running and playing, sniffing and leg-lifting too,… More >>
  • Best Indoor Skate Park

    Kids That Rip Indoor Skatepark

    The East Valley has a new factory of elite athletes, sending competitors to this year's games that pit them against the very best in the world. And these athletes are only 11 years old. That's right, Kids That Rip Skatepark in Mesa sent two of its skaters to X-Games 18 in Los Angeles this summer to compete on the ramps.… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Skate Park

    McDowell Mountain Ranch Skate Park

    Yep, there's a skate park in North Scottsdale, and like most things in the area, it's pretty new. At 16,000 square feet, it's not the biggest skating spot out there, but it's got the tables, benches, planters, and ledges to keep you entertained, and a bowl that drops down about 10 feet. It's the second city-owned skate park in existence… More >>
  • Best Road Bike Ride

    BOS Ride, Scottsdale

    Known as the the Valley's fastest group ride, the BOS has been pounding the roads of North Scottsdale since 1981. Named for its starting point — the Bicycles of Scottsdale shop that has come and gone a few times at the corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard — the weekly group ride pushes out every Saturday at 7:30 a.m.… More >>
  • Best Mountain Bike Ride

    Hawes Trail Loops, Mesa

    South Mountain may be known worldwide as one of the planet's best mountain bike playgrounds, but imagine an alternate mountain bike trail system that combines a bit of everything from that premier park: a good dose of National, add some Desert Classic, a dash of Mormon, a pinch of Javelina, and smidge of Alta. Mash 'em all up and drop… More >>
  • Best Urban Bike Ride

    Central Phoenix Mural Tour

    The walls of downtown and Central Phoenix have been springing to life over the past few years, thanks to local artists looking to define this community through public art. Three specific areas of CenPho have become the home to a majority of these large-scale wall masterpieces: 16th Street, Roosevelt Row, and Grand Avenue. And there is no better way to… More >>
  • Best Nighttime Bike Ride

    CRAP Ride Tempe

    One of the great things about Phoenix-area bike routes is that there is always a nearby ride whenever you get the urge. (You know the urge: the need to ride that just keeps building until you can't hold it any longer and you just have to go, even when it's dark.) And if you have to go at night, you… More >>
  • Best Wind Tunnel

    Faster

    Part bike shop, part athletic training center, Faster is most unique because it is the nation's first shop complete with a cycling-specific wind tunnel. Discreetly tucked in the back of the shop, the tunnel is available to cyclists of any type — be they professional triathletes looking to perfect their aero tuck or weekend warriors wanting a good bike fit… More >>
  • Best Bike Rack

    Bicycle Cellar

    Imagine a place that enables people to commute to work or school by bike, saving loads of cash while improving fitness, by supplying the all-needed showers and safe bike haven while said folks work through the day (or night). One such harbor exists in Tempe, at the city's Transportation Center. Started as an initiative by Tempe to encourage bike commuting,… More >>
  • Best Bike Lift

    Gnar Gnar Tours

    Simple physics dictate that in order to descend, one first must ascend. When it comes to cycling, it's widely known that climbing is not for everyone, although many believe that there is no greater descent than a descent earned. For those who fall into the former category and just go for the downhill bomb, Gnar Gnar Tours is your rescue,… More >>
  • Best Bike Escape

    Tucson

    Outside magazine recently named it the number-one bike town in America. Bicycling Magazine tabbed it number nine. The Old Pueblo may be regarded as Phoenix's little sibling in terms of Arizona's urban centers, but when it comes to cycling, Tucson has the Valley outclassed across the board. The fact that many pro cyclists and triathletes either live or train there… More >>
  • Best Golf Course

    Las Sendas Golf Club

    With about 200 courses to choose from, this was a tough one, but being that we are suckers for magnificent views and thoughtful holes where sheer power doesn't always win the day, Las Sendas is this year's winner. This gorgeous desert course winds through the Usery Mountains in east Mesa nearly 1,800 feet above sea level, but unless your golf… More >>
  • Best Winter Golf Course

    Southern Dunes Golf Club

    Located about a half-hour southwest of Sky Harbor, on the other side of South Mountain, this sweet public course provides both a "true test" of golf and one of the best bangs for the buck this side of Augusta. The fairways generally are wide and forgiving, a must for our many wayward drives, though the second shots on the par-4s… More >>
  • Best Summer Golf Course

    Talking Stick Resort

    It may not be the Valley's most demanding course (actually two 18-hole courses, North and South), but this well-maintained facility on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, off Loop 101, is perfect for our scattershot game, especially in the summer, when prices drop from $175 to a cool $40 or so. The North Course has a hole, number 12, dubbed… More >>
  • Best Miniature Golf

    Castles N' Coasters

    Some people dream of traveling the world, buying a sports car or a mansion, or diving into a swimming pool filled to the brim with Cristal should they ever win the lottery. And sure enough, that last option sounds pretty tasty, but we'd still prefer one thing over all these options: a world-class miniature golf course in our backyard, with… More >>
  • Best Place to Hang With Fellow Geeks

    N.E.R.D.S.

    It's time to shoot down some stereotypes: Geeks and nerds of the world long have been encumbered with the reputation of being nothing but a bunch of socially inept and physically unattractive loners who shirk the outside world in favor of hiding in Fortresses of Solitude to revel in their fandom obsessions (see: Cooper, Sheldon, from The Big Bang Theory).… More >>
  • Best Place to Hang with Role-Play Game Geeks

    Imperial Outpost

    We witnessed a melee taking place in the West Valley the other day, and it wasn't pretty. A horde of ferocious, green-skinned Orks carved through a phalanx of soldiers from the Imperial Guard in vicious fashion, waylaying bodies with their gnarly-looking chainswords and leaving few survivors by the end of the skirmish. Thankfully, such slaughter happened within the confines of… More >>
  • Best Bowling

    Let It Roll Bowl

    When did bowling — of all things — become trendy?! We like our bowling old-school, thank you very much. We don't need designer couches and mood lighting (unless it's the glow-in-the-dark variety for cosmic bowling). Just give us loud music, cold beer, and clean lanes. You'll find all that and more at Let It Roll. In fact, this bowling alley… More >>
  • Best Go Karts

    Octane Raceway

    We haven't broken out the measuring tape, so we'll have to take Octane Raceway's word that it's the largest indoor kart-racing facility in the United States. It certainly looks large. Even the check-in area is big. Two race tracks can hold 50 drivers at a time. Still, time does seem to slow down between races, while we're waiting for our… More >>
  • Best Motorcycle Ride

    Rio Salado and Galvin Parkways to McDonald Drive

    As much as we love the Valley, we wish its founding fathers had seen fit to plant more curves in the roads. To find that long and winding road, it's best to leave town, of course — go to Bartlett Lake or Tortilla Flat. Takes hours to do that, though. We often need something to enjoy just for an hour… More >>
  • Best Weekend Run

    Paradise Valley Hills

    With the exception of the two to three hottest months of the summer, Phoenix is a great city for outdoor activity. You can hike Camelback, South Mountain, the Mountain Preserve, or any number of other local trails. But for you runners out there, Phoenix can pose some problems. First, you have to contend with traffic, and then there's the distinct… More >>
  • Best Hiking Trail

    National Trail, South Mountain

    You'll get your bellyfull of dusty paths, rocks, and cactus on this 15-mile trail in prime Sonoran Desert real estate. Hiking all of National Trail — from one end of the 16,000-acre South Mountain Park to the other — is a Valley adventure not to be underestimated. Don't under-hydrate or hesitate to snack. And bring two cars unless you really… More >>
  • Best Winter Hike

    Hunter Trail, Picacho Peak

    Picacho Peak re-opened to the public on September 15, having been closed for the second time in two years for what state officials call the "summer season." Besides the decent camping facilities and yearly Civil War battle re-enactment at the site, Picacho's premier attraction is the spectacular Hunter Trail, which goes up to the precipitous summit. It's a four-mile-round-trip butt-kicker,… More >>
  • Best Fitness Hike

    Piestewa Peak

    It's not just the exercise our friends enjoy on our summer evening slogs up Piestewa Peak; it's the "camaraderie in pain." Indeed, we always suffer going up this one, at least a little. And that's the point. The long, rocky staircase leading to the 2,608-foot summit offers a phenomenal workout because of its stiff grade, ascending about 1,200 feet in… More >>
  • Best Tough Hike

    Tom's Thumb

    Built in 2009, the trail from the Gateway Access trailhead to the base of Tom's Thumb in the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale is truly upscale. We're not just talking about the multimillion-dollar trailhead facility off Thompson Peak Parkway, a resort-worthy piece of architecture with shaded breezeways and a neat, rusted-steel low bridge that leads to several trails. "Up" is the… More >>
  • Best Scramble Hike

    Cholla Trail, Camelback Mountain

    Usually, we're with those Echo Canyon snobs who sneer at the wimps coming up the easier Cholla side. But this year, we've rediscovered the pleasures of Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain — especially the killer scramble up the last fifth of the 1.75-mile hike to the summit. If you enjoy a hands-on hike like we do, this trail will make… More >>
  • Best Bouldering

    South Mountain

    At the end of a dirt road in South Mountain's Pima Canyon Entrance, tucked away in a quiet desert arroyo full of mesquite and cactus, you'll find a collection of boulders with names. These are the gems of South Mountain bouldering, a type of low-vertical climbing activity that usually involves rock shoes and a chalk bag but no rope. On… More >>
  • Best Rock Climbing

    Little Granite Mountain

    Without a state land permit, you may get harassed and ticketed by The Man on this crag. (If you want to keep it legit, call 602-542-2119 for permit info.) Either way, you'll enjoy some of the Valley's finest climbing if you head out to Little Granite Mountain in Scottsdale.Called "little" to distinguish it from a much more impressive rock pile… More >>
  • Best Rock Climbing Gym

    Phoenix Rock Gym

    Rock climbing is a perishable skill. Thankfully, each time we find ourselves in too pathetic a state, we have the Phoenix Rock Gym to help with the necessary repairs. The two bouldering areas, including an upstairs room with sharply overhanging walls, are perfect for muscle-building and fingertip-hardening. Once we get back in shape, we usually can then find a partner… More >>
  • Best Batting Cages

    The Cages

    There are plenty of spots around the Valley that can fulfill the urge to hit a few baseballs. There are only a few places where you can feed your inner big-leaguer at an indoor facility and face curveballs, 85 mph fastballs, a delivery that simulates a human arm angle, or get instruction from former pros. You can get even more… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Spring Training Game

    Goodyear Ballpark

    Old Hohokam Stadium, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, and Scottsdale Stadium stand as the last of the original Cactus League stadiums. The spring homes to 15 of the major leagues' teams have turned into sprawling multi-field complexes for a couple of teams to share. Character and warmth of the intimate training fields have been stripped so that fans can sit in pristine,… More >>
  • Best Place to See Former WWE Superstars

    Future Stars of Wrestling's Adrenaline Rush

    For most professional wrestlers, few things are as thrilling as hearing the roar of the crowd as they compete in the ring. In rasslin' parlance, it's called a "pop," and it can be addictive. Especially the massive rush of performing for tens of thousands of fans at televised extravaganzas as a superstar for World Wrestling Entertainment (a.k.a. the big leagues).… More >>
  • Best Mascot

    The Gorilla

    We gotta go with the Gorilla. We're not expecting much else to be good about the Phoenix Suns this year, but the Gorilla will remain a crowd-pleaser with his death-defying leaps, his goofy antics, and his public appearances around the world on behalf of various worthy causes. According to the Suns' website, he attended Fur-man University and Hairy Truman High… More >>
  • Best Superfan

    Cindy "The Flag Lady" McBride

    Being a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks the past few seasons is akin to being on a roller coaster. In 2009 and 2010, the team found itself dwelling in the dank depths of the National League West standings. Then, the absolutely unthinkable happened last year, when skipper Kirk Gibson took Arizona from worst to first, leading them all the way… More >>
  • Best Play-by-Play Announcer

    Al McCoy, Phoenix Suns

    A couple of years ago, the folks at Channel 3 pulled a major boner by running an erroneous headline on their website stating that legendary longtime Phoenix Suns radio announcer Al McCoy was hanging up his microphone and retiring. Much to the relief of Planet Orange fans everywhere (ourselves included), it thankfully turned out to be completely false. Because, honestly,… More >>
  • Best Coach

    Dave Tippett

    Before Dave Tippett hit town, we thought ice hockey had two halves and four quarters, just like basketball and football. The Phoenix Coyotes head coach has brought hockey intelligence to this desert metropolis. Like they say, winning puts fannies in the seats, and it made us learn not only that there are three periods in a hockey game, but also… More >>
  • Best Female Athlete

    Georganne Moline

    Georganne Moline may have been the happiest fifth-place finisher in the history of the Summer Olympics. And why shouldn't the Thunderbird High School and University of Arizona hurdler have been beaming? In the finals of the 400-meter hurdles in the London Olympics, she finished in a personal-best time of 52.92 seconds. There wasn't much separating her from the gold medal… More >>
  • Best Male Athlete

    Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes

    We never thought we'd name a hockey player best athlete in the Valley. Most sports fans around here barely knew the Phoenix Coyotes existed until their incredible run in the NHL's Western Conference playoffs last season. They lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the conference finals, but Shane Doan was a force to be reckoned with through the team's… More >>
  • Best Sports Legend

    Muhammad Ali

    We saw Muhammad Ali in Phoenix earlier this year, and he looked good for a man who has fought Parkinson's disease for decades. But when he was helped to his feet at the Summer Olympics in London recently as a titular bearer of the Olympic flag, we were struck with how weak the former mightiest athlete on the planet has… More >>
  • Best Sports Ambassador for Arizona

    Charles Barkley

    We've got a lot of crazy right-wingers in Arizona. You know who you are, Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, Jan Brewer, Jon Kyl, Ben Quayle. In the sports world, George W. Bush-loving hurler Curt Schilling used to pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks. So it's refreshing to have a wanna-be politician (he once said he planned to run for governor of his… More >>
  • Best Local Semi-Pro Team

    Arizona Rampage

    Professional sports championships are a rare commodity in Arizona. So much so that we not only tend to go batty whenever a team gets achingly close to grasping that elusive brass ring (read: the Phoenix Coyotes' unlikely playoff run this year) but also cherish the squads who succeed and bring home a world title trophy, like the Diamondbacks' titanic upset… More >>
  • Best Strong(woman)

    Sarah Robles, U.S. Olympic Team

    We loved the 2012 Summer Olympics — mainly because we found out about so many incredible athletes in our midst. Athletes who compete in off-the-radar sports like women's weightlifting. We're talking here about Mesa's Sarah Robles, who's not going to ring up the endorsement deals of beautiful gymnast Gabby Douglas but who's distinctively the strongest woman in America. Robles was… More >>
  • Best Sports Trailblazer

    Shannon Eastin, NFL referee

    It's hard to imagine a woman officiating the behemoths in the National Football League. But it was hard to believe that a woman would ever officiate the freakishly tall lurches in the National Basketball Association. That was before Violet Palmer started acquitting herself well as an NBA referee in 1997. Now comes Tempe's Shannon Eastin, who's admitted she's nervous about… More >>
  • Best Basketball Player

    Diana Taurasi

    Diana Taurasi is the best basketball player here. Forget about anybody currently on the Phoenix Suns roster; the Phoenix Mercury's Taurasi has surpassed everybody currently playing hoops in this city. We'll also forget about Taurasi's two WNBA titles, that she led the league in scoring in 2011 for the fourth-straight season, and her three national championships as a University of… More >>
  • Best Beard in Sports

    Former ASU basketball player James Harden

    Have you seen that thing?! It's getting so large that in post-game interviews, we expect TNT's Craig Sager to ask James Harden what the key to the game was — and then ask his beard. He started sporting facial hair that would've made the most hirsute Al-Qaeda thug jealous while still at Arizona State University.Now that Harden's a star with… More >>
  • Best Sports Traitor

    Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers

    Okay, we're sick and tired of hearing what a nice guy Steve Nash is! Yeah, he's in the twilight of his brilliant NBA career and, yeah, he wanted to go to a potential championship team, and the Phoenix Suns sure ain't gonna be that in our lifetime. But, Steve, the Los Angeles Lakers! The Lakers of Kobe Bryant and Metta… More >>
  • Best Defender in Sports

    Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes

    Mike Smith's a big, lanky guy for a goalie — 6-feet-4, 220. The Canadian's wingspan makes him hard to score on, and this was a major reason the Phoenix Coyotes made it to the NHL's Western Conference finals last season. Many believe Smith was the main reason, Coach Dave Tippett and forward Shane Doan aside. Because of his 2.21 "goals-against"… More >>
  • Best Wide Receiver in Pro Football

    Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

    We feel sorry for Larry Fitzgerald — which is hard. Fitzgerald is considered the best wide receiver in the National Football League, he's been a pro for eight seasons, and already he ranks fourth all-time in receiving yards per game; he's been selected for the Pro Bowl six times, and he signed an eight-year, $120 million contract extension in 2011.… More >>
  • Best Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals

    John Skelton

    John Skelton is the best quarterback in Phoenix. Which, granted, ain't saying much. Problem being that the Arizona Cardinals have to put somebody under center, and there's no reason to believe — based on this preseason, his limited performance with Arizona last season, or even his time with the Philadelphia Eagles — that much-touted Kevin Kolb can power the team.… More >>
  • Best Hope for the Diamondbacks' Future

    Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks

    It's been a while since any Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher's been in the National League Cy Young discussion. As Diamondbacks, Brandon Webb won the best-pitcher trophy in 2006, and Randy Johnson won it four years straight from from 1999 to 2002. Now comes slow-talking, happy-go-lucky, Louisiana left-hander Wade Miley, Arizona's only contribution to this year's NL All-Star team. Miley's unlikely to… More >>
  • Best Attitude in Valley Sports

    J.J. Putz

    J.J. Putz is no putz. The name is pronounced Puts (as in he puts away hitters), thank you very much! And you'd think you wouldn't want to mix that up if you were interviewing him after a Diamondbacks game. Putz is a giant at 6-feet-5, 250 pounds, with that imposing glare from the pitcher's mound. A guy that big throwing… More >>
  • Best Sports Field General

    Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Miguel Montero has one of the hardest jobs in sports, certainly the hardest on a baseball team — catcher. Not only must he direct the pitcher, which includes a professional intimacy with each hurler that probably makes his family jealous, and help oversee the position players, he must do it wearing a mask and squatting for the better part of… More >>
  • Best All-Around Baseball Player

    Paul Goldschmidt

    Paul Goldschmidt only is in his second season as a major-leaguer — and we usually don't award our coveted Best All-Around plaque to such a newbie. But Goldschmidt is becoming the consummate player. He hits lots of home runs and doubles (16 and 34 respectively), he's fleet of foot for a 6-feet-3, 230-pounder, makes stellar defensive plays at first base… More >>
  • Best Slugger

    Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks

    The rub on Jason Kubel, acquired this season from the Minnesota Twins, is that he strikes out a lot — a disease that has plagued sluggers who work the left side of the field for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Remember traded-away D-backs third baseman Mark Reynolds, who on and off led the majors in striking out. This season, left-fielder Kubel has… More >>
  • Best Disappointment in Valley Sports

    Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks

    When trade talks began about Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton this season, we hoped the team would send him packing. You know, get something/someone valuable in return for him, unlike local teams traditionally haven't done here with floundering "superstars." (Does the name Amar'e Stoudemire come to mind?) But, of course, the D-backs held on to their former top draft choice.… More >>
  • Best Sports Eccentric

    Trevor Bauer, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Well, eccentric is a mild description of the antics that Trevor Bauer displayed during his brief sojourn with the Diamondbacks before getting plopped back in the minors this season. His teammates were mostly mum about the highly touted rookie pitcher, except that the eyebrows of a few were raised to hairline level. The disdain reached a crescendo when Bauer shook… More >>
  • Best Sports Expatriate

    Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Andre Ethier grew up near what is now Chase Field and was a huge Diamondbacks fan (he went on to play at ASU under legendary Coach Pat Murphy) — which makes it all the more ironic that he and his Dodgers have been such a bane to our boys of summer. Especially this year. The Dodgers keep getting better, and… More >>
  • Best Hard Worker in Valley Sports

    Jared Dudley, Phoenix Suns

    What Jared Dudley does for the Phoenix Suns doesn't show up on the stat sheet. Dudley will never be a Hall of Famer, but he's essential to Coach Alvin Gentry's squad if it has any hope of pulling itself up by its sneaker strings to mediocrity this season. To say the Suns are in a rebuilding mode is like saying… More >>
  • Best Hope for the Phoenix Suns

    Goran Dragic

    We know the kid can play! In fact, when the Phoenix Suns traded him to the Houston Rockets in 2011, he was supposed to be the successor to ball-handling wizard Steve Nash. The trade boggled the mind because, while a little streaky at first, Dragic turned in some performances that made even perennial All-Star point guard Nash envious. We'll never… More >>
  • Best Geek Hangout

    HeatSync Labs

    Into 3D printing, radio, gaming, augmented humanity, pomo fiber arts, musical tech, or just making and inventing in general? HeatSync is a community-supported space where folks of those bents can play, demo, craft, swap ideas, knuckle down on projects, hack, gossip, or just observe. Along with the power of multiple brains, visiting HeatSync Labs gives you an opportunity to use… More >>
  • Best Masters of the Science of Gaming

    Evil Controllers

    When video-gaming goes from casual hobby to serious business, diehard gamers look for every advantage to take down their virtual enemies. Enter Evil Controllers. The online gaming distributor caters to a worldwide customer base of xBox and PlayStation enthusiasts by building custom video game controllers that meet the button, thumbstick, and trigger requirements of individual players.Evil genius Adam Coe founded… More >>
  • Best Science Fair Project

    Joe Hudy's extreme marshmallow cannon

    The Secret Service was less than thrilled, but how do you keep POTUS from playing with a big air-powered PVC gun at the White House Science Fair? At the February event, President Obama found 14-year-old Joe Hudy's extreme marshmallow cannon, which fires relatively harmless s'more stuffing up to 176 feet, as fascinating as we do. The Phoenix teen is no… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Penguin

    World Wildlife Zoo

    Of all the animals that might look out of place in the cactus-ridden sauna of the Sonoran Desert, penguins arguably rank first. Fragile-looking, flightless waterbirds in the land of rattlesnakes, dust storms, and a heat wave that begins each spring and stretches to fall — it's just plain wrong. The first time we saw the collection of black-footed penguins at… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Bear

    Bearizona

    Take the terror out of spotting a black bear alone in the wilderness and view it like we do — from inside the security of our own vehicle.Thirty miles west of Flagstaff, in Williams, entrepreneur Sean Casey has turned 160 acres into a rugged but manicured drive-through wilderness park featuring rescued bears and other mountain wildlife, à la Jurassic Park.… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Dinosaur

    Arizona Museum of Natural History

    Although it's been dead since the end of the Cretaceous period, the towering Tyrannosaurus bataar inside the Arizona Museum of Natural History is still terrorizing smaller creatures, albeit of the Homo sapiens variety, with its frightening teeth, menacing presence, and roaring countenance. Toddlers sometimes skitter away from its petrified skeleton, despite the fact it hasn't moved on its own for… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Snake

    Living Collection

    Phoenix might not have a lot of things, like cool ocean breezes or soaring forests, but one thing we do have? Snakes and other reptiles. We're like a herpetological all-you-can-eat buffet.To commemorate this, someone at ASU (nobody is exactly clear on who) started a massive collection of snakes, lizards, and other cold-blooded denizens of the Arizona desert. Since the 1960s,… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Dragon

    Land of the Dragons at Phoenix Zoo

    Allow us to nip your first question right in the bud: No, the pair of Komodo dragons currently residing at the Phoenix Zoo are not related to the winged serpent of legend in any way. Nor do they breathe fire, although their bite is considered to be quite toxic. Sadly, the only commonality (other than the whole scales thing) is… More >>
  • Best Crater You Can Visit

    Meteor Crater

    About 50,000 years ago, a chunk of rock the size of several freight-train engines fell from the sky near what is now Winslow, hitting the ground with a blast not unlike that of a nuclear bomb. In just 10 seconds, the explosion forged Meteor Crater, which is 4,000 feet across. That's kind of scary to contemplate. But also really nifty.… More >>
  • Best Crater You Can't Visit

    Roden Crater

    You're going to need to pass a killer job application to see Arizona artist James Turrell's longest-running project. Turrell is an internationally acclaimed artist who works with natural and man-made light and environments to create ever-changing installations. His pieces have been featured in museums around the world, and since the '70s, he's been working on his biggest installation — inside… More >>
  • Best Place to Perfect Your Swing

    Ping Swing Analysis Lab

    There are a lot ultramodern things afoot (Air Traffic Control Simulator Lab, anyone?) at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus, a 600-acre offshoot campus in southeast Mesa. The many professional and technical programs that characterize the Poly campus include a golf-management major with students to whom a golden golf swing means just as much as a great GPA. At the high-tech… More >>
  • Best Place to See Tech Geeks in Action

    Avnet Tech Games

    Pressure has a way of bringing out the best in people. Take Scottsdale Community College engineering students Trung Dinh and Dmitri Mihailov, for instance, whose abilities to work under the gun helped them reign supreme at this year's Avnet Tech Games. The pair had five hours to design, assemble, and program a wheeled robot out of parts harvested from a… More >>
  • Best Place for a Sure Thing

    Sedona Rainbow Trout Farm

    Taking a girl out to a fancy dinner doesn't mean you're going to make it to home base, and buying a lottery ticket doesn't mean you're guaranteed to win millions, but if there is one thing out there that's a sure win — even if your prize is just a couple of tasty fish — is fishing on a fish… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Butterfly

    Desert Botanical Garden

    For several weeks in both the spring and fall, make a detour off the trails at the Desert Botanical Garden and find yourself surrounded by butterflies. In fall, the assortment is rather limited, but still stunning, as you'll hang with black and orange monarchs. Spring brings more color. Either way, the humid, airy Marshall Butterfly Pavilion is paradise for both… More >>

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