At the greatly revamped Mesa Southwest Museum, though, all that dull old stuff is now brilliantly weaved into an epic kid-friendly tale of Arizona, a tale that spans some three billion years and includes everything from meteors and trilobites to territorial jails and the making of the movie Wyatt Earp.
The star of the museum is its new Prehistoric Wing, a 40,000-square-foot display that doubled the museum's space when it opened in May. With giant automatronic dinosaurs and a towering waterfall, the new wing keeps the kids excited and engaged as they digest lots of hard science and history.
The museum also has two galleries that host changing exhibits as well as numerous hands-on programs for kids.
The museum's hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 3 to 12. Children under 3 are free.
Readers' Choice for Best TV Newscaster: Liz Habib
Mel Blanc reincarnated, the vocally versatile Tingle regularly tickles prisoners of morning drive-time listeners as he single-throatedly creates the biggest assortment of wackos this side of a Farrelly Brothers flick. There's honky-hatin' ho "Clarissa Jenkins," the flatulent flatbacker who once flummoxed a locksmith with a cell phone call after she claimed to have accidentally locked herself in the trunk of her car -- in the middle of a serious attack of gas. Then there's the ever swishy "Ramon Jaworksy," whose lisping pleas for a pair of hunky bunkmates didn't cut much ice with the receptionist at a local military recruiting office. And who can resist horny yenta "Blanche Horowitz," who inevitably elicits puzzled gasps from victims as she provides obscene translations for old Yiddish phrases?
But if you're laughing so hard that you find yourself in a minor fender-bender (as has been rumored to happen), don't call us. Call Clarissa Jenkins, you uncircumcised monkey!
Readers' Choice: Dave Pratt
First, pack a picnic lunch with lots of cold beverages. Then suit up the kids in their swimming gear, grab the sunscreen and head for Desert Breeze Park.
Ignore the lovely lake surrounded by trees and picnic tables. Instead, head to the children's playground area. Beneath an earthen berm/overpass/observation deck are an assortment of shaded tables. This covered passageway connects a traditional playground with a "spray pad" where three dolphins and an elephant (climbing structures the rest of the year) squirt water on a cyclical timing system from May to October. Eat, chill, eat, chill -- well, you get the idea.
Repeat process as needed through mid-October.
When forward Tom Gugliotta blew out his left knee, people felt bad for him, but nobody panicked. When Rex Chapman, Penny Hardaway and Shawn Marion took turns missing long stretches of the season, fans felt frustrated, but nobody panicked.
But when All-Star point guard Jason Kidd fractured his left ankle with a month left in the regular season, your last name didn't have to be Colangelo to know that Phoenix was witnessing a total eclipse of the Suns. What other injury would send the team into such a fit of desperation that it would drag Kevin Johnson out of the retirement home for one last waltz at point guard?
That's how important Jason Kidd is to this team. With all due respect to Randy Johnson, there is no other professional athlete in this town so utterly indispensable to his team.
In 1999-2000, Kidd didn't quite match his astonishing pace of the year before, when he was probably more deserving of the league MVP award than eventual winner Karl Malone. Nonetheless, Kidd was routinely dominant, leading the league in assists (10.1 per game), finishing fifth in steals (2.0 per game), and averaging 14.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. And -- as always -- he was an iron man, averaging nearly 40 minutes a game.
The true measure of Kidd's greatness, though, is the way he always seems to play at a different speed from the rest of the team, tirelessly pushing the ball up the floor, driving his teammates with the urgency of a warrior who knows that he won't be mentioned in the same breath with his idol, Magic Johnson, until he starts putting championship rings on his fingers.
Readers' Choice: Randy Johnson
But, competitive as these franchises are, they don't tend to rise to the occasion in the postseason. You'd have to go back to the glory days of Charles Barkley to find the last time either the Suns or Coyotes were more than TV spectators once the second round of playoff action commenced.
Last year, in their maiden trip to the playoffs, the Arizona Diamondbacks were similarly shown the door in the first round. But, that disappointment aside, this team has shattered baseball precedent by stepping to the top echelon of the majors before casual fans even knew what their uniforms looked like. The very thought of a major-league baseball franchise winning 100 games and capturing a divisional title in its second season is startling enough to make Abner Doubleday and Connie Mack do head-first slides in their graves, but that's exactly what this team accomplished.
Whether it's Randy Johnson mowing down opposing hitters or reborn journeymen like Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley cranking the ball over the swimming pool, this is a team that's as entertaining as it is efficient. A mild second-half swoon this season can't obscure the fact that this is still the best sports ticket in town.
Readers' Choice: Arizona Diamondbacks
He's Fang, the longhaired, jeans and tee-shirted mascot for the Arizona Rattlers, although no one actually calls him that to his face. Nah, he's the team's "enforcer," there to ensure that both sides of the stadium raise the "noise meter" up a respectable seven or eight notches.
Not that he even needs them, since he barrels through pyrotechnics on his thundering motorcycle. Once Fang gives his seal of approval, he's off again, which lets us know he really ain't such a trouble boy. Basically, Fang is what the Fonz would've turned out to be if he'd stopped hanging around those goody-goody Cunninghams and given those Steppenwolf albums a chance.
Not long after local audiences were still savoring that geographical howler, Shandling visits a Phoenix strip club. When he asks whether it's the only one in town, someone explains that there are several other similar establishments scattered throughout the city.
Estrella Mountain Ranch
11800 South Golf Club Drive
Estrella Mountain Ranch
11800 South Golf Club Drive