You can practically hear the whiff of your plaid corduroy trousers just thinking about it.
But now you can relive those easy times at Terry's Performance Raceways, where slot-car racing is way more than a nostalgia trip. It's pretty much a lifestyle. Terry's features (for now) two modes for mini-scale enthusiasts, beginning with the so-called "H.O." racers, those Hot Wheels-style cars that are authentic enough to induce a flashback in almost anyone. And it only costs $6 an hour: $3 for track time, $2 for a car, and $1 for a controller.
Then there's the drag-racing track, where speed is the only thing that matters. Even with cars that are 1/24th scale, Terry himself claims, cars have been clocked on the 55-foot-long track going as fast as 50 miles per hour, real time. He's currently building a 1/32nd-scale road course, but for now the main event is on Friday and Saturday evenings, when diehard slot jockeys compete in earnest. For a $5 entry fee you can compete if you make the qualifiers; and winners can receive up to 30 percent of the pooled money in store credit, which the proprietor says can sometimes be enough to buy you your own new car -- Terry's, you see, also sells a full line of cars, tracks and slot-car accessories.
"Racing cars to win more cars," Terry says. "That's just gotta be the best thing on Earth."
Indeed, "pockets mark the difference between a gentleman and a bum," and a young man's idle hours are better spent learning a game of skill and coordination that's not a carpal-tunnel-syndrome-inducing video game.
Most billiard palaces won't even allow minors a peek inside, but we've found a pool table that's easily accessible to kids at the Original Hamburger Works, located on the outdoor patio away from secondhand smoke, beer and guys named Fats, Philly and Moe. There's also a Ping-Pong table and horseshoes for those times when you've got to wait for the pool table to free up. The official eatery of the Phoenix Outlaws is a safe bet your kids won't grow up to be juvenile delinquents learning how to line up a bank shot.
While the lure of bumper boats, batting cages and go-carts you need a license to drive makes this park a top draw for preteen parties, it's also ideal for toddlers. The park's Kiddie Land offers six flagship rides including Flying Dumbo Elephants, the Miner Mike Roller Coaster and rookie go-carts. Value Packages are $16 for guests 60 inches and taller, $12 for guests 36 to 59 inches tall, with an additional $3.50 for the laser tag. You could probably make a case for the Value Package 2 if you're a short dad, but then they might not waive the height requirement for the go-carts.
It's worth the drive to Florence just to see the shock on your spawn's faces when they realize their Native American counterparts passed their time not by shopping but by actually making baskets, pottery, quilts, arrowheads and figurines of other hardworking Native Americans. Other sobering turn-of-the-20th-century artifacts include blacksmith equipment, antique medical supplies that were a marked improvement over bloodletting, musical instruments that don't plug in, tools, historic maps and jail objects like old nooses that have swung as recently as 1965! We can't guarantee your kids will be humble and hardworking once you get back to the future, but you've given them an interactive past money can't buy.
Open April-June, and September-November, noon-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; December-March, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, noon-4 p.m. Sundays. Closed July-August.
Of these resorts, Pointe Hilton's Squaw Peak resort is best-known because of its sprawling lazy river. It's great fun, but our money goes with Squaw Peak's sister hotel at Tapatio Cliffs. That's because Tapatio Cliffs has The Falls Water Village. And more so than the lazy river, the Water Village, a three-and-a-half-acre expanse of swimming pools, waterfalls and water slides, offers enough different activities to keep the whole family entertained for the whole day.
Besides numerous water features, the Village offers lots of time-occupying programs and events for kids. That means parents can slip over for a drink at one of the several themed bar and grills!
Also, more so than most area resorts, the Tapatio Cliffs management really works to fill your plate with events and free stuff. As part of this summer's Summer Splash event, for example, guests for $109 a night also received coupons for events worth more than $50.
If you've got kids, and you're sick of the heat and sick of cleaning and fixing meals, Tapatio Cliffs is a great way to break things up with a quickie vacation.
About 21 miles of trails are available for mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking with difficulty ranging from easy to strenuous. The Waterfall Trail offers .4 mile of barrier-free access to the Petroglyph Plaza.
The park has a unique 10-mile "competitive track" designed for cross-country runners and joggers, endurance bike riders and galloping equestrians. Family and group camping sites are available on first-come basis for $10 a night. The park is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a $5-per-vehicle entry fee.
The White Tanks provide a priceless respite from the relentless expansion of the metropolitan area that is now lapping up against the park's eastern and northern boundaries.
To get there, exit on Cotton Lane from Interstate 10 and go north to Olive Road. Go west on Olive to the park entrance.
Just to start you off easy, the first undulating half-mile is paved, rolling up and down in small sine curves until it empties out at the meeting point with the Desert Classic. Veer left and suddenly you're in flavor country -- a craggy but flat trail that creeps along the base of a long rock outcrop. At about the halfway point, things then take an interesting turn: upward. Now you're hoofing it into the sandstone, crabbing along an upslope and eventually hucking up ersatz staircases that have been hewed out of the hillside. And just as your pulse reaches cardio level, there you are: Telegraph Pass, right along a rise on South Mountain Drive. Sit on the bench and watch the lazy lunkers drive by. Then have a drink of water and begin stepping down into the flatlands, where your oven-hot car awaits. Now, aren't you glad you took that hour to commune with nature?
Reasons five through 100: flat-out snubbing-the-snooty satisfaction. Since 1994, the park has been closed to us regular folk, commandeered by a developer building the upscale Estancia home community. The fencing was supposed to be temporary; new homeowners refused to take it down, citing concern over riffraff (that's us) coming too close to their manicured yards. Finally, this spring, Scottsdale parks planners woke up and returned our park to the people.
It's hard to hike and thumb our noses at the same time, but hey, we're willing to bet the effort burns extra calories.