BEST DOG PARK, WEST VALLEY 2005 | Foothills Park | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix
Located next to the Foothills Library parking lot, this gated, "leash-optional" dog park draws people and pups of every persuasion, and it's not unusual to see Great Danes and dachshunds romping together. The park includes ramps, a watering area, and random toys scattered throughout the grass, so the dogs can let loose while their owners socialize (you didn't think that huge guy with the adorable little pug was there just to scoop up poop, did you?). Of course, there are some rules: no more than three dogs per owner each visit, no children under age 13 without an adult, and the park closes at 10 p.m.
We're fashionable folk, but even we need to dress up to visit Tempe's favorite dog park. The leash-free zone is a hipster haven. These scenesters may look pissed off when you see them at a coffee shop or an art gallery, but they are still good mommies and daddies to their cute wittle puppies. Make no mistake: Taking the pup out to socialize and play doesn't mean compromising these twentysomethings' style. Frisbee attire includes heels, hats and asymmetrical skirts. Makeup is a must. A few chic dog lovers can handle the early morning, despite a late night at Hot Pink!, but even at 6 a.m., eyeliner is a must.

The dogs don't seem to care either way. If you're looking for some hot bitches, check this park.

Horizon Park is small -- just two-thirds of an acre -- compared to other Valley dog parks, but what it lacks in space, it makes up in amenities (this is north Scottsdale, after all). You and Bowser will find a large, shaded area, as well as a special dust-control feature that allows you -- with the push of a button -- to minimize the inevitable dog park haze with a squirt of water. Bowser will never have to worry about an asthma attack at the park again!
We should really give this puppy hangout "Best Name for a Dog Park" because we bet if there are any quail in the vicinity, they certainly do run fast, to escape Rover. The off-leash doggy portion of this Mesa park is more than three acres, completely fenced and featuring benches, water fountains for both dogs and humans, and poop bags (sorry, those are just intended for the dogs). Check the city's Web site for hours, as they may have changed, vis-à-vis maintenance. Quail, we suggest you stay home.
A surprisingly big city park at the intersection of Central Avenue and Indian School Road, four-year-old Steele Indian School Park has a little something for everyone: swings for the kids, a lake with trout and bass for anglers, and a very cool spiral of a garden for quiet reflection.

But the best part of the park has got to be its legacy: From 1891 to 1990, it held a boarding school for Native American kids (hence the name), the main buildings of which are still on site today. While the buildings are waiting for restoration funds to turn them into a Native American cultural center and museum, the city has done an excellent job putting up historical information for people who are interested. Ambling from the covered bridge to the old buildings, you'll get a good sense of what life was like in the school just by reading the placards. Think of it as a free museum -- that just happens to have swings, too.

If you're unfamiliar with the quasi-sport of ice blocking -- the act of locating a steep hill, plopping your bum down on a big block of ice and getting a push from a friend in order to bobsled silly down a grassy hill -- you really haven't lived. Or maybe you are actually sane.

Epic ice-blocking opportunities are aplenty at Gilbert's 100-acre Freestone Park. For an evening of slip-sliding adventure, wander down toward the west end of the park. There you will find hills of varying grades and skill levels for both the newbie desert bobsledder and the technically skilled Olympian-in-training.

Ice is available at your local Circle K.

Wouldn't you know it? Turn your back for one minute, and some mysterious bicycle bandit has snatched the phat beach cruiser you use to get around town. Looks like you're gonna have to beat feet down to Domenic Malvestuto's Mill Avenue bike business to score a new ride. Willing to drop a couple Gs? The helpful staff of cycle psychos might recommend choosing from their assortment of high-end two-wheelers like the Trek Madone 5.9 ($4,500), Orbea Orca ($3,999), or the Cannondale Optimo R-1000 ($1,800).

More salt-of-the-earth pedal pushers can also peruse the collection of more affordably priced used bikes out back, available for less than a C-note. And if you're only interested in souping up your Schwinn or customizing your Colnago, the shop has a vast selection of nearly every type of bicycle accessory imaginable, from pedometers and CO2 inflators to freewheel removers and crotch-hugging apparel for both men and women. Just remember to buy a lock this time.

Pulse, which this summer celebrated its first anniversary in what owner Erik Beckmann predicts will be the Valley's next extreme-sports mecca -- Goodyear ("It's blowin' up out here!" he says) -- strikes the perfect medium between the hard-core street cred of Cowtown and the board-park mom friendliness of the industrial mall shops.

"I like to say, 'We put the core in corporate,'" quips Beckmann, an old-school skater himself, who welcomes the skate punks to hang out and watch the latest rad DVDs but doesn't invite them to veg by nixing the couch and lounge area in favor of a girl-friendly fashion section. His shop, featuring all the requisite pro boards and his own budget Pabst-label-aping Pulse line, also boasts the coolest dressing room in town: a huge corrugated steel tube outfitted with a door and hangers by Beckmann's handyman dad. Tubular!

The city's outdoor skate parks have become a battlefield of sorts between young and old skateboarders and even BMX bike riders, who all want to claim the turf as their own. One thing they all seem in agreement on is that the sprawling concrete playground occupying a corner of the Snedigar Sportsplex in Chandler, just south of the Bashas' headquarters in a largely agricultural section of town, has the best variety of bowls, jumps, dips and flips to please anyone on wheels. Veteran boarders may cringe at the sight of all the helmeted, knee-padded grade-schoolers who typically rule the pools, but the overall atmosphere is big-brotherish, with the big kids in baseball caps high-fiving the little ones in bright orange Vigor helmets and offering tips to keep them from tumbling in their paths -- a setup that benefits old and new skaters alike.
While Tempe's city government was very late to acknowledge its local skating scene, it delivered a winner with this new park, which opened in February. Area skaters are raving about the street-oriented course, saying it is by far the best in the state. Spread across 26,000 square feet, the well-lighted concrete park is attracting the top skaters in the region on a regular basis.

And no wonder: The park has various shapes and sizes of rails, ledges and stairs to give skaters a true street experience, as well as a large bowl with a pyramid and a cool vert wall and pool coping. A word of warning: Too bad Tempe didn't set up shade screens, because the place roasts in the summer. No pads are required here, and water and restrooms are available on site.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of