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Sports & Recreation

  • Best Downtown Run

    Grand Canal

    There are few places in downtown Phoenix where you can run unimpeded by traffic. One of those places is the Grand Canal. If you're looking for a nice three-mile jog, start at 15th Avenue and head east. Run by Brophy and Central, past the Brophy baseball field to Seventh Street. Turn around and jog back to 15th Avenue. Boom —… More >>
  • Best Hiking Trail

    Taliesin Overlook, Lost Dog Wash Trailhead

    While the point of many hikes is the scenery on the journey, that's not always the case. Sometimes, the hike itself isn't incredibly spectacular (once the beauty of the Arizona desert has sunk in), but there's a reward at the mid-point that feels so gratifying. One such hike is to the Taliesin Overlook, which is reached from the Lost Dog… More >>
  • Best Hike for Beginners

    Scenic Trail at McDowell Mountain Regional Park

    There are quite a few accessible hikes for all ages and levels within the big city, including a handful at South Mountain, but for beginners to experience the best that a day hike has to offer (without feeling so much strain that it brings on feelings of loathing for the outdoors), a trip to McDowell Mountain Preserve is in order.… More >>
  • Best Summer Hike

    West Fork Oak Creek #108

    There's much more to Sedona than red rocks, New Age-y retreats, and resorts for out-of-towners. Heading north from Phoenix? Drive through the tourist-crowded city center and into Oak Creek Canyon. Although a ton of great trails surround Sedona, the ultimate must-visit is West Fork. The first portion of the trail — great for families and casual hikers — has plenty… More >>
  • Best Winter Hike

    Siphon Draw-Flatiron

    A hike of six miles, Trail 53 into Siphon Draw and onward to Flatiron is a perfect representation of the vibrant desert of the Superstitions — and the harsh reality of hiking them. Starting as a gently elevating walk through the wildflower-speckled foothills, the trail veers upward through the smooth and massive draw (which can present the hiker with occasional… More >>
  • Best Tough Hike

    Picketpost Mountain

    This monument of a mountain looms over the surrounding desert between Phoenix and Superior, offering up one of the trickiest hikes near the Valley. (Take the unmarked dirt road to the Saddleridge Trail on the left, which ends at the trailhead parking lot.) It is not the length or elevation gain that makes this hike so difficult (though at nearly… More >>
  • Best Road Bike Ride

    South Mountain Summit Ride

    You'll need thighs of steel (or at least a hell of a granny gear) to complete this ride in one push. With our middling level of fitness and bike gearing set more for speed on the flats, we can't reach the summit without frequent rest stops. Yet we go back again and again. Why? This hill is the toughest —… More >>
  • Best Mountain Bike Ride

    Trail 100

    Smack in the heart of the Valley, running through one of the country's largest urban preserve lands, Trail 100 takes you past awe-inspiring desert mansions, middle-class to upscale neighborhoods, picnic areas, and, most of all, miles of near-nothingness — just the placid Sonoran Desert. Sixth-largest city? Where? We typically start at the joke of a parking lot at Tomahawk Trail… More >>
  • Best Vintage Bowling Alley

    Let It Roll Bowl

    We love Let It Roll because someone was smart enough to revamp this old bowling alley (all new lanes and equipment) to make it a delightful place in which to bowl, while retaining a bit of the shabby interior to keep us comfortable. And the prices, though not exactly vintage, are way more reasonable than at those newfangled, fancy bowling… More >>
  • Best Bike Advocacy Group

    Phoenix Spokes People

    If you've ever ridden a bike around downtown Phoenix, you know the conditions are hostile and bumpy, at best. The city has few bike lanes, and those that do exist sporadically end and restart without warning. Drivers in the city often are unaware of cyclists, which results in a lot of close calls or worse. Not to throw around the… More >>
  • Best Dog Park, East Valley

    Mitchell Park

    At Mitchell, the large leash-free park near Arizona State University, the pet-watching is good and the people-watching even better. The 30-something girl who looks like a hip barista but actually is a post-grad in water science. The amiable drunk who feels compelled to guess the original pedigree of every mutt he meets. Don't get us wrong, though — most folks… More >>
  • Best Dog Park, West Valley

    Rose Mofford Dog Park

    The things we look for in dog parks are space, water, parking, security, and safety for our pets. The Rose Mofford Dog Park on 25th Avenue scores on all these points. For one, the park is huge and offers plenty of space for dogs to run free. It also has separate areas for small and large dogs. There's plenty of… More >>
  • Best Water Park

    Wet 'n' Wild

    This place is better than SeaWorld, if you prefer looking at human creatures and tattoos wild enough to shame a school of clownfish. Yet beyond the people-watching experience is a water park that would should make any desert city proud. The many waterslides are first-rate, with at least three — Raging River, Tornado, and especially Mammoth Falls — providing more… More >>
  • Best Urban Kayaking

    Tempe Town Lake

    The cheaper the pleasure, the happier we are — which is why we always leave Tempe Town Lake smiling after a good paddle. For just $25 a year for residents, $50 for non-residents, you can launch a kayak into the water anytime during lake hours of 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and paddle till your arms feel like anchors. We… More >>
  • Best Public Pool

    McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic Center

    You know what it feels like to do a face-flop? We do, thanks to one of the two three-meter high-dives at the McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic Center. This flop literally put blisters on our forehead and gave us a mild headache. But . . . hurts so good! The calamity occurred after about 10 joyous jumps, dives, and somersaults from… More >>
  • Best Hotel Pool

    Paradise Pool at Arizona Biltmore

    This landmark resort is home to a quite a few memorable pools. Among the Arizona Biltmore's smaller pools, there's the private Ocatilla pool which remains exclusive to the guests of the hotel's luxury Ocatilla suites. Then, of course, there's the Catalina pool, which, according to the hotel, was a favorite of Marilyn Monroe's. But our first choice? The Paradise Pool.… More >>
  • Best Casino

    Talking Stick Resort

    Las Vegas is so close that it's almost pointless to gamble in the Valley, but, hey, sometimes you get an itch that you just have to scratch. Normally, we don't love nearby casinos, where the smoky haze is so thick you could cut it with a knife and we always feel as though we're getting taken by the dealers, but… More >>
  • Best Video Game Event

    ZapCon

    Man, would we love to get our hands on an Ice Cold Beer again. And we ain't talking 'bout a frosty pint containing an amber alcoholic concoction. Rather, we're eager to get our fill of the addicting mechanical game from 1983 that vexed us plenty (and claimed an hour or two of our lifespan) over an April weekend at the… More >>
  • Best Place to Hang With Gamers

    Midnight Release Launches at the Microsoft Store

    Gamers, for the most part, are known for being creatures of the night. That's why you'll find them hanging out on Steam into the wee hours, participating in frag-fests at marathon LAN events, or staying up late at the Microsoft Store at Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall for its midnight release parties. Hundreds of gamers from around the Valley wait in… More >>
  • Best Pinball Machines

    Castles -n- Coasters

    Pinball mythology dictates that the best pinball machines — and nearly all confirmed pinball wizards — are lurking in darkened corners of forgotten bars, covered in a portentous film of cigarette smoke. That's still the dream — unfortunately, the reality is that most bars have realized they can do better business in that spot with Golden Tee. Phoenix's remaining pinball… More >>
  • Best Go Karts

    K1 Speed

    After an adrenaline-fueled morning at K1 Speed, we're no longer cynical about the future of electric cars. The 20-horsepower karts at K1 are wicked-fast, zooming up to 45 miles per hour — easily as good as the gas-powered vehicles we've driven at other kart tracks and with no annoying fumes. Fourteen laps for $26 (six bucks for a membership and… More >>
  • Best Batting Cages

    Home Run Stadium

    Important batting-cage questions to ask: Is the price right? Is it open late? Are the cages tall and long enough that admiring your shot is an option? Is the machine's command of the strike zone Diamondbacks Randy Johnson or Expos Randy Johnson? Home Run Stadium, Mesa's most optimistically named batting cage, ticks off three yeses and one Diamondbacks. It meets… More >>
  • Best Place to See a Spring Training Game

    Camelback Ranch

    Glendale's Camelback Ranch is one of the newest spring training facilities in the Cactus League, as it opened in 2009. It's perhaps the most beautiful spring training complex in the Valley, including walking trails, an orange grove, and a lake stocked with fish. We think the stadium itself is the most aesthetically pleasing in all of baseball, with desert colors… More >>
  • Best Golf Course

    Arizona Grand Golf Course

    There's a lot to not like about Arizona Grand. It isn't 7,200 yards long. It sits next to a freeway. You have to use plastic balls on the practice range. But then there's the 18th hole. You make the walk uphill from 17, having spent an undue amount of time whacking your ball out of the sandy desert landscape that… More >>
  • Best Summer Golf Course

    Shalimar Country Club

    It's summer, and when it's summer, it's very, very hot outside, and when it's very, very hot outside, the last thing you want to do is smack around a tiny white ball in stuffy golf attire. So you show up to the course in a T-shirt and sandals, and when you get to the fourth hole, you take those off,… More >>
  • Best Summer Day Trip

    Lava River Cave, 14 miles north of Flagstaff

    When the summer heat starts to cook every single body in Phoenix, an inborn signal goes off, much like the internal clock in geese that tells them to fly south to avoid the cold of winter. The easiest place to run away for the day is Flagstaff, but for a true break from the heat, your final destination shouldn't be… More >>
  • Best Mexico Day Trip

    Nogales, Mexico

    Don't be scared — it's just Mexico. Sure, Americans do sometimes die in Nogales, but that happens in Phoenix, too. And if an American tourist ever was murdered doing what we often do — that is, park at the Burger King on the Arizona side ($4 for all day), walk over, eat something, buy something, and walk back — we've… More >>
  • Best Mexico Weekend Trip

    Rocky Point, Sonora, Mexico

    Nowhere in California or Hawaii will you find a comfortable two-bedroom furnished condo with a massive patio looking out over an unobstructed expanse of golden beach for under $200 a night. But Rocky Point, Mexico, is loaded with such deals. True, if you leave your chosen resort on the shore of the Sea of Cortez and go to town, you'll… More >>
  • Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Drive

    Route 66 to Holbrook

    Once an oft-traversed roadway, Route 66 has been relegated mainly to a kitschy back road. Don't let the garage sale memorabilia fool you; the Mother Road is still worth driving. Why? Because it leads to underexplored oddball nooks of the Copper State. Case in point: Holbrook. Sure, you're familiar with its teepee motel (you and everybody else -- it's referenced… More >>
  • Best Vintage Amusement Park

    Enchanted Island Amusement Park at Encanto Park

    It might be the Valley's only vintage amusement park. With its cartoony medieval theme, Enchanted Island is the perfect setting for the refurbished 1948 Encanto Carousel from the original Kiddieland. It's also a perfect outing for families with little kids, because there are lots of rides and activities especially for them and their parents — kiddy cars, a tiny coaster,… More >>
  • Best Scrambling

    Papago Park

    Scrambling is sort of like bouldering, a rock-climbing activity that generally keeps the climber traversing low to the ground, in that it involves no ropes or safety gear beyond rock shoes and possibly powdered chalk for a drier grip. But with scrambling, you keep going up — if you can. Papago is possibly the most popular place in the Valley… More >>
  • Best Bouldering

    Camelback Mountain

    One of the worst things about this year's closure of Camelback's west-side hiking trails, especially the über-popular Echo Canyon Trail, is that the west side is the location of all the best climbing. But it's expected to re-open near the end of the year, and it's the single best bouldering spot in the Valley proper, so we feel compelled to… More >>
  • Best Rock Climbing

    West Corner of Tom's Thumb, McDowell Mountains

    Want to test out those fingertips on some real rock and stand atop a truly kick-ass pinnacle summit? For the beginning leader, you can do no better than the west corner of Tom's Thumb. This gorgeous piece of granite can be seen from miles away, sticking out like a ripe piece of fruit on the summit ridges of the McDowells.… More >>
  • Best Rock Climbing Gym

    Climbmax Climbing Gym

    We almost lost Climbmax Climbing Gym two years ago when the owners shut it down, citing reasons beyond their control. But it's opened under new management, and we're ecstatic to still be cursing our shapeless arms as we cling to its 180 bouldering problems (along with a cave that climbs from the first to second floor), its 150 top-rope routes… More >>
  • Best Gym for Everyone

    Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center for Persons with Disabilities

    With a 7,500-square-foot weight room, two full-size basketball courts, lap pool and spa, indoor jogging track, and 35-foot climbing wall, the Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center isn't just the best gym in Phoenix for people with disabilities — we're pretty sure it's close to the best gym for anyone, anywhere. But the fact that this place is specifically… More >>
  • Best Male Athlete

    Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

    Year in and year out, Larry Fitzgerald's labeled the best wide receiver in pro football. But he's really been the best wide receiver in the National Football League with nobody to throw the ball to him. Well, not nobody, but the list of dismal quarterbacks since Kurt Warner's retirement is stifling. Can anyone say Kevin Kolb? (Don't worry, nobody can… More >>
  • Best Female Athlete

    Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

    Brittney Griner's a monster! She's a 6-foot-8, 207-pound chick taken first in the WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury who could play in an NBA front court. She's one hell of a basketball player, natch, because professional teams don't consider you the best college basketball player in the nation unless you can deliver. And deliver she did for Baylor University… More >>
  • Best Head Coach

    Todd Graham, ASU Football

    The rap on Todd Graham is that he's a disloyal climber. But this will be his second season as Arizona State University's football coach, and we have hope that he'll stick it out and take the Sun Devils to postseason glory for seasons to come. Since we've been in Phoenix, ASU's been mediocre to bad, with a couple of mediocre-to-bad… More >>
  • Best Coaching Hopeful

    Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns

    We loved Alvin Gentry, but he never was a head coach who could deliver a consistently winning team, much less a champion. He was put out of his misery by the team with the most miserable record in the NBA's Western Conference last season, the Phoenix Suns. After searching high and low, Suns honchos brought in Jeff Hornacek from the… More >>
  • Best Vintage Steamboat

    The Dolly Steamboat

    Cruising Canyon Lake since 1983, the Dolly is a replica of a historic stern-wheeler steamboat. At about 100 feet long, it's no Mississippi River gambling-and-vaudeville palace, but it has big smokestacks and lots of cheerful red-and-white paint. The Dolly's decks are a wonderful place from which to view desert scenery and wildlife, including raptors and waterfowl, but it's also a… More >>
  • Best Sports Team Owners

    Michael and Bill Bidwill, Arizona Cardinals

    Not that long ago, one of the biggest arguments in sports was over who the worst owner was. It was a close race between Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers and the Bidwills (daddy Bill and son Michael). Our money always was on the owners of the Arizona Cardinals because they were notoriously cheap when it came to acquiring… More >>
  • Best Sports Brawl

    Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers

    It was at Chavez Ravine that former Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy hit two batters in apparent retaliation for Dodgers pitcher Zack Grienke hitting catcher Miguel Montero. Anyhow, the Dodgers took great umbrage at Kennedy's antics. So much so that they stormed the field and started whomping up on our beloved Snakes. There was much cold-cocking by the Dodgers. In fact,… More >>
  • Best Bogeyman

    Golfer Phil Mickelson

    Considering that the Phoenix area is known as America's golf mecca, we've failed over the years to honor one of our own: ASU's Phil "Lefty" Mickelson, one of the great golfers of all time. His latest accomplishment was coming from five shots back to win the British Open this year. While at ASU, Mickelson stunned the golf world by winning,… More >>
  • Most Exotic Sports Guy

    DiDi Gregorius, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Diamondbacks shortstop Mreiekson Julius (DiDi) Gregorious is a native of the Netherlands. Now though it may may sound strange to most Americans that a major-league baseball player is Dutch, we'll have you know that our national pastime is pretty popular in the land of windmills, wooden shoes, and dikes. Here's a little history lesson: Baseball started in the country in… More >>
  • Best Sports Comeback Kid

    Kurt Warner, Ex-Arizona Cardinals

    It wasn't surprising when Valley sports celebrity and Dancing wth the Stars veteran Kurt Warner wound up hosting a reality show on the USA network. A virtual twinkle-toes on the popular ABC dance-off, the retired Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl quarterback became the face of The Moment, a program he's highly qualified to do. The show's about second chances, and Warner's… More >>
  • Best Pitching Phenom

    Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Patrick Corbin was listed as the losing pitcher in baseball's All-Star Game this summer? So what! This means he played in the elite event in New York City. He lost because he gave up the first run in a 3-0 American League victory. The Arizona Diamondbacks have had other All-Star pitchers, including Randy Johnson, Kurt Schilling, and (last year) Wade… More >>
  • Best Vintage Train

    Pioneer Park Train

    In the Facebook group Growing Up in Mesa in the '70s, they're making that whole experience sound much cooler than it was. However, everyone agrees that the 1912 steam locomotive we crawled around in at Pioneer Park (across from the Mormon Temple) was the shit. Nowadays, we're so safety-conscious we'd probably never let kids do that. People who grow up… More >>
  • Best Hockey Player

    Mike Ribeiro, Phoenix Coyotes

    Once the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation got settled, with IceArizona taking over the team from the National Hockey League — which had grabbed the Coyotes because of their financial hardships — general manager Don Maloney found himself in a buyer's market. Suddenly, every free agent out there was getting shopped to Maloney, who'd had to practically beg good players to… More >>
  • Best Exciting Football Player

    Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

    Patrick Peterson won the national Chuck Bednarik Award as best college defensive player his last year at Louisiana State University, where he was a unanimous All-American in 2010, but that isn't what he's most famous for as an Arizona Cardinal. Oh, Arizona's fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft still plays defensive back, and plays the position well. But he's… More >>
  • Best Human Honey Badger

    Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals

    Despite his selection as a finalist for the 2011 Heisman Trophy, Tyrann Mathieu still was around for the Arizona Cardinals to snag in the third round of the NFL draft. It would've been stunning for an athlete of Mathieu's talent to get picked 69th overall, except for what's been reported to be his off-the-field drug habits. He was kicked out… More >>
  • Best Sports Strategist

    Kevin Towers, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Everybody thought he was crazy (and not in a good way) when he traded slugger Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves for utility man Martin Prado, pitcher Randall Delgado, and a few tidbits. Towers' thinking was that the Diamondbacks could only contend big-time as a scrappy-ass team, and Prado, who can play almost any position (and has, this season) was… More >>
  • Best Sports Motivator

    Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks

    You wouldn't want to piss him off. He could take your hide off with his sandpaper face. His stare could bore a hole in the barrel of slugger Paul Goldschmidt's giant bat. Smiles are hard-won from this guy. So are compliments. He never runs with the bulls; they run from him. No, that's the Most Interesting Man in the World… More >>
  • Best All-Around Baseball Player

    Aaron Hill , Arizona Diamondbacks

    Aaron Hill spent almost the whole first half of the Diamondbacks' 2013 season on the disabled list from a rare fracture to his left hand. But when he returned, he was gangbusters. Despite the fact that he's sure to need surgery on his glove hand in the offseason, he came back slugging, complementing slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in the… More >>
  • Best Catcher

    Wil Nieves, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Miguel Montero's got the big contract (five years, $60 million), but it's his backup, Wil Nieves, who's delivered to the maximum this year. We wince when Montero goes to the plate — he seems to have lost his will to hit since getting all that dough. He may have been a guy who's good only when he's lean and hungry… More >>
  • Best Sports Choker

    Heath Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Jeez, Heath Bell used to be great! Jeez, he's sucked this season! Despite Kevin Towers' management prowess, his biggest bonehead move this year was bringing Bell over from the Florida Marlins, where he was beneath dismal last season. Kevin, the guy's O-V-E-R! Bell once was great with the San Diego Padres, but he's lost it. Batters seem to anticipate his… More >>
  • Best Sports Nice Guy

    Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes

    Shane Doan tends to toss hockey pucks over the glass to adoring fans before home games. The Phoenix Coyotes forward has stuck fast with the troubled franchise when he could have bolted for more secure pastures. Last year, he won the Mark Messier Award for leadership among teammates, during games, and in the community. His charity work in the Valley's… More >>
  • Best Basketball Player

    Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

    Thank God for Goran Dragic! He was the only bright spot in the Phoenix Suns' dismal lineup last season. He continued to do it all: score, pass, rebound. The Suns didn't win many games — 25 of 82, to be exact — but the ones they did win were mostly because of the lightning-fast Serbian. The Suns are making moves… More >>
  • Best Defender in Sports

    Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes

    Let's face it, 6-foot-4, 220-pound Mike Smith was the main reason the Phoenix Coyotes made it to the NHL's Western Conference Finals two years ago. Which is why it was good to see the team give him what he deserved — a six-year, $34 million contract. To lose Smith, near the top of the goalie class in the NHL, would've… More >>
  • Best Sports Savior

    Alex Len, Phoenix Suns

    The Phoenix Suns are rebuilding after the almost-heady days of Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire. We mean, despite his two MVPs, Nash never brought us a trophy. Neither did Charles Barkley back in his day, though he came closer. Then came last season, when the Suns without Nash (Amar'e was long gone) were nowhere close to contention. In fact, they… More >>
  • Best Sports Legend

    Joe Garagiola

    We'd been hearing Joe Garagiola's gravelly voice our whole waking lives. It was always a comfort to hear him broadcasting baseball games for NBC and, since moving to the Valley, off-and-on with the Arizona Diamondbacks, with whom his son, Joe Jr., used to be an exec. Joe Sr. always was a wise and wisecracking presence. When he retired from broadcasting… More >>

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