We had to rub our eyes when we read that Boyce Thompson welcomes quadrupeds (at least on leashes). But it does! We can take our pooch into Arizona's oldest historical arboretum and botanical garden without any fuss. Mining magnate Colonel William Boyce Thompson founded his arboretum in the roaring 1920s, to imbue in people an appreciation of plants. And while dogs might appreciate trees in ways different from ours, the folks at the Arboretum don't seem to mind.

Best puppy behavior is recommended (though not enforced) as you enter through the pay-by-honor snack bar. It only takes one or two snuffs of sharp cactuses to convince your pet he should stay on the trail. The walk is wonderful, easily two hours past a symphony of Arizona history, babbling brooks and traveling sculpture. You have to factor in time for bops on the head for your kids who may insist on frightening lopes along the edge of a crevasse, and to scrub off the sticky spittle of your own sweat and dried dog drool. But you, and your hyper hound, may never be as happy anywhere as you can be, for a day, at Boyce.

The expansion of the 202 Freeway east is a good thing. It allowed us to empty our car into uncharted territory in Mesa, and, as we drove around lost and clueless, to come across the Orange Patch. We were immediately taken with the farmhouse shop, surrounded by more than 200 acres of tree-ripened citrus. This is a store straight out of Harry & David's lore, stocked to the rafters with bin after bin after bag after tin of locally grown fresh-roasted-in-the-store nuts. There are also Arizona-kitsch gifts, dates, dried fruit, candies, hand-dipped chocolates, orange juice made fresh every day and ice cream. The fresh produce options are as jaw-droppingly expansive as the nut selection: fresh citrus, seasonal items such as squash, okra, tomatoes, New Mexico green chiles, Utah peaches, watermelon and cantaloupe.

Shop anywhere else? We'd have to be nuts.

Best Place To Listen To Music And Eat Chinese Food

Lucky Dragon

Johnny Chu has mastered the art of multitasking, and we're grateful as we sip hot tea over a plate of beef and broccoli, listening to live jazz. Chu doesn't only make great Chinese food with a French flair (the portobello dishes are superb) and book all kinds of music into his hole-of-a-strip-mall venue, he offers up the walls to local artists, as well.

Be thankful for the dim lighting -- the quality of art is more varied than the quality of the spring rolls -- and appreciate the fact that whether you dig art and music or not, you can still score hot and sour soup 'til 1 a.m.

So many restaurants these days are so, well, hot. Loud music, a crush of fashionably dressed bodies, edgy service, blaring decor, and a menu that takes an Atlas and foreign dictionaries to decipher. How are we to focus on our special someone under these conditions?

We go to Palm Court to whisper sweet nothings. This intimate space speaks of yesteryear, a candlelit room framed by picture windows overlooking the golf course, exotic floral displays, the quiet melodies of a Steinway, even a personally engraved matchbook for our party.

It's impossible not to melt in each other's eyes as our tuxedoed server prepares our entrees tableside, au flambé as appropriate. We know what these dishes are without any primer -- steak au poivre with cognac and tricolor peppercorns, duckling aux framboise in raspberry bigarade, lobster Lord Randolph with fresh mushrooms, truffles and Courvoisier. An evening of enchantment begins with escargots Bourguignonne on toasted brioche, and ends with bananas Foster.

Or, if we're really lucky, the evening's just begun.

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