Turf Paradise
Take a break from the strip malls, the freeways, the dog eat dog of the real world, and break for the ponies. Few things in life are as satisfying as leaning against the fence at the finish line, nursing a drink and looking left to catch the first glimpse of the pack coming home. If your horse finishes out of the money, no big deal. There's always the next race -- and plenty of beer. Anyway, gambling isn't the point. It's the fresh air, the scent of the stables, the tight jeans the escort riders wear as they guide the thoroughbreds to the gate. There's enough superstition in the air to fill 10 Bank One Ballparks. Dare you wager on a pony called U R Toast, or is Notanotherskidmark the safer choice?
Sometimes college students need to just let loose, get a little crazy and occasionally get escorted out of a building after a bit of debauchery. Spending your nights on Mill Avenue can get old. The real place to catch raucous 18- to 22-year-olds mid-shenanigans is at Wal-Mart. By midnight, at least 10 people will be running, yelling and climbing over displays in a heated game of hide-and-seek. Letting off steam by acting like a 6-year-old must work, because larger games of 20 to 40 players are orchestrated monthly at MySpace.com. The hide-and-seek activity at the Mesa Wal-Mart peaked a few months ago, but there's nothing stopping you from getting on MySpace.com and starting a fresh game. After all, when was the last time you were kicked out of anywhere for playing hide-and-seek? Unlike when you were a kid, your mom won't be there to be embarrassed by you.
Rustler's Rooste
Courtesy of Rustler's Rooste
Face it: Steak houses can be pretty bland. The menu of most typical wood-paneled, sawdust-on-the-floor family restaurants can easily be replicated on the grill at home if you know your way around a kitchen. But throw in a giant steel slide that propels you into the dining room at relatively scary velocities, and you've got Rustler's Rooste. The designer of the two-story building with a lounge on top and dining below decided a slide leading from the entrance through a mine shaft to the banquet room beneath was the only way to go. Okay, so there's a staircase for those not adventurous enough to coast to their dining table, but we of course suggest the ride. Maybe we're incurably 10 years old, but we love this little bit of playground mayhem at the start of any meal.
It's late on a Saturday night in the PHX. You've just downed a dozen Seven and Sevens at the strip club Band Aids. There's a $20 bill left in your wallet, and before you know it, you're rollin' down Van Buren, checking the ho stroll for a 10-minute GFE (Girl Friend Experience). Don't do it, bro! Sure, you might have an industrial-strength, steel-reinforced condom on hand, but them chicas -- if they really are chicas -- have got diseases that'll eat their way through concrete.

Better to save the Jackson, cruise home and pop in that DVD you copped from Phoenix photographer Lokey, titled Hookers . . . on Van Buren. Set to the soundtrack of the movie Superfly, Lokey's stills were snapped from a moving car after shouting "Hey, Baby," to workin' girls on the street. Under the glare of Lokey's unforgiving flash are many, many hella-scary-lookin' ladies of the night, none of whom you'd want to get with in the light of day and fully sober.

Most frightening, perhaps, is the fact that at one point, the best-lookin' puta of the lot flashes his/her penis for Lokey's camera. Cue Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)." Now, aren't you glad you didn't get played as a trick for the evening?

Tilt Studio
Shhh! Don't tell. The other night we went for a little spin while seriously soused. With our bloodstream filled with more booze than John Q. Law permits, we hopped into a souped-up streetcar and set out broadsiding Caddies and crashing through cinderblocks on a private path of destruction. Don't fret; you're not going to be seeing our mugs on the local news anytime soon. Why? This bout of vehicular violence was contained within the aptly named Smashing Drive, one of numerous driving games available for playing after getting pissed at GameWorks' Arena Bar, located upstairs at the mega-arcade and nightspot. Gulp some of the watering hole's premium spirits, gourmet beers, or signature drinks -- like the delicious honeydew martini or the 40-ounce Megarita -- before getting behind the wheel of racers like Outrun 2 SP, Ferrari F355 Challenge, Motocross Go!, or Crazy Taxi to see how much inebriation affects gaming performance. We guarantee you'll be driving under the influence -- of fun, that is.
Camelback Mountain/Echo Canyon Recreation Area
There are few breathtaking views in town to be had as easily as the one from Echo Canyon. Around here, getting high enough up a mountain to get a panoramic view tends to involve hiking for miles, purchasing a $12 cocktail, or even finding a sugar daddy. (How else are you going to buy that manse in Paradise Valley, real estate being what it is?) But this perfect little spot alongside Camelback Mountain does the trick for free. If you can walk a quarter-mile, you're at the summit. And what a vista! The only catch: You're not the only one who can't find a sugar daddy, and so parking is limited. On weekends, expect to find a line of cars waiting for a space.
Camelback Mountain/Echo Canyon Recreation Area
The palm trees that stand dramatically at attention along the entrance to this posh resort should give you some clue: Nothing about this place is going to be subtle. Or even quietly luxurious (except perhaps in the meditation room of the spa). The Phoenician is shiny and rich, a paean to the joys of having money. Its premier restaurant, the elegant Mary Elaine's, even boasts murals hand-painted in 24K gold.

You can't deny that the place is striking, the food is good, and the service is excellent. And even if you just stop by for a $12 cocktail (we recommend the Phoenix -- Grey Goose L'Orange, grenadine and lime juice), we can guarantee that you'll find flaunting it is much more fun than saving it for a rainy day.

Francisco Grande Resort
With an $8 million overhaul, the main tower of the Francisco Grande Resort has been returned to its swingin' modernist splendor, circa 1961. Once the haunt of the likes of John Wayne and Willie Mays, Francisco Grande, about 40 miles south of Phoenix, went through several decades of slow decay before its recent restoration.

It was a structure worth saving. There are few places in the West where you can so thoroughly dive into the architecture and decor and high-flying resort sensibilities of the swanky '60s. Heck, get a penthouse suite and drive down with a group of friends and a trunk full of martini fixings, cocktail wear and '60s hipster albums. It will be the party of a lifetime. One caveat: Make sure you get a room in the renovated tower. The courtyard rooms have not been updated. Rooms, even with a round of golf, can be had for less than $100.

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa Hotel Review
We've learned the hard way that boutique hotel does not always equal luxury hotel. Don't be sucked in by a fancy lobby and a ritzy bar -- it doesn't mean your room will be up to par. When we're looking for luxury in an intimate setting, we head up the mountain to Sanctuary, which offers a great view of the Praying Monk and makes the most of its location with a hilly climb (or golf cart ride) up to a beautiful casita, where you'll find more gorgeous views and a setting hip enough for Paris Hilton. The restaurant, elements, is lovely, and the spa offers delights like an in-room Swedish or Thai massage.

Now this is boutique-ing at its best!

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
The Valley's own Four Seasons is perhaps best known for its location, snuggled up against Pinnacle Peak, with beautiful views of the landscape, the perfect home base for a serious hike. But if you're serious about relaxing, this is also the place for you. We recently checked in and checked out -- that is, passed out, in a king-size bed in our beautifully decorated (read: no pinks and blues, just subtle whites and browns) room, shutters closed against the beating sun. We held tight to the remote control and slid around the bed, finally understanding what everyone's talking about when they mention high-thread-count sheets. The honor bar was stocked with everything from Diet Coke to Dean & Deluca goodies, and the bathroom products were all by L'Occitane en Provence.

In the morning, we ate a continental breakfast truly fit for someone on any continent, and washed off the sticky pecan rolls in the enormous bathtub, then tried out the glass shower, just for fun.

We requested a late checkout (granted) and finally emerged, blinking, into the hot sun. At the same time, another couple reluctantly left their room. Before she got in the car, the woman gave a wistful little wave and said, "Bye, room!"

She must have liked it, too.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of