BEST BIKE SHOP 2006 | Tempe Bicycle | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix
Good bike shops are a lot like good bars: They have their own smell, their own special mood. They are not too clean, they are not too new, they are staffed with people who might otherwise not be employed. They are not designed off some corporate template for success, but rather off someone's obsession. Tempe Bicycle is a good bike shop, the best of the good bike shops in the Valley. And no doubt, it gets its cool energy from its locale, just three blocks from Mill Avenue and ASU close enough to be bicycle counterculture, not too close to have been made into College Disney like much of Mill. Yeah, yeah, they know bikes. They service well, they have a fine selection of tech and tough off-road and on-road rides. That makes them good, but not necessarily special. A lot of bike shops have good gear and good gurus. But here, you get the bike culture: that sometimes stoned world where the disdain for the combustion engine goes hand-in-hand with good music and good fun and a universe of progressive ideas. Much of this world has been stamped out of ASU by "public-private partnerships," et al. But it will never completely die as long as the Tempe Bicycles of the 'hood survive.
Dude, where's my board? As far as we can tell, no one can beat this popular Scottsdale spot when it comes to pimpin' your concrete ride. The walls are lined with brand names like Zoo York, Flip, Toy Machine and Alien Workshop, organized by manufacturer. The shop stocks more than 500 boards, and there are several glass display cases filled with trucks and wheel kits. A complete longboard will run you a couple of bills, but you can pick up a blank deck for just $30 and trick it out with fly wheels. And unlike other local skate shops, the staffers actually have a clue about boarding. They can outfit you with a killer skate shoe to help with traction, fit you to a board, and point you in the direction of the area's best bank ramp. You'll be going primo and doing Ollies in no time.
For anyone who needs proof that the JimmyZ-totin', Future Primitive-watchin' second generation of baby boomers is coming of legal age, look no further than the slew of skate parks that have popped up around town in the past few years. One of the latest and greatest, the bowl and street course in northwest Glendale, often plays host to hundreds of kids at a time, which means that if you're an old fart in your 30s like us, you might feel a tad out of place. We did. But that didn't stop us from bombing the quarterpipes and showing the shaggy-haired, Volcom-wearing kiddies how to pull Christ Airs and disco kick-flips. The park attracts skaters of every variety, from the screamo shredders with pants drooping under their ass cheeks to the skinny Crass-shirted Mohican punks. There's a great snake run to warm you up for running down freshmen while lighting up the big bowl. Kids may never get a high-five from the establishment for logging thousands of hours at parks like these, but put enough time in and you're sure to pull a dark slide or laser flip that'll make your peers' jaws drop, which is what really matters.
How do you separate friend from enemy? Shoot 'em first and worry about that later. WestWorld's paintball experience is a safe way to get out all of your pent-up aggression. Target your opponents as they try to hide behind hay bales and stealthily sneak around corners. Aim the scope. Point. And shoot. Blam! They'll be washing fluorescent pink paint out of their hair for weeks. WestWorld has two paintball sites, an indoor Xtreme Pursuit with inflatable obstacles, and the three-course Splatter Ranch. Weather permitting, the 20-acre ranch is the better of the two, with oil drum obstacles and built-up pueblos suitable for a "capture the flag" round. If you're feeling adventurous, try course three. With no manmade obstacles, you'll have to rely on rock outcroppings and gullies for cover. Wear your colored banner like a badge, because, as we found out on this natural course, friendly fire counts.
We've long since despaired of finding old-timey bowling in Phoenix the kind with manual ball returns and those funky handwritten scorecard projectors. But we're happy to settle for the fun we have whenever we visit Sunset Bowling Center, which offers everything we need to conquer our bowling jones: 32 professional lanes, wide-screen monitors, and state-of-the-art computer scoring systems. After a couple of games, we like to retire to Walt's Kitchen for a beer and a basket of seasoned French fries, then we beat it to the arcade, where a game of air hockey is always rewarded with fun prizes from the friendly staff. (Last time we won a light-up keychain shaped like a bowling pin fun!) Sunset offers pro and mid-skill league programs, and is even available for large private parties. That's a strike!
Whenever we get to missing Grandma, we head down to the Italian American Club, where the smell of simmering red sauce wafts over us as we dab hot-pink ink all over our lucky bingo cards, just like Nana used to do. The friendly folks who run this game offer both Power Bingo and good, old-fashioned "Paper Only" Bingo, and we get 21 games for just $18 (with the last three games paying $299 each!). The Italian bingo barkers promise $3,475 in prizes each session. The "Coverall" game alone is worth $1,000, and no regular game pays less than $100 in prizes. And while these big bingo cash prizes may be what draws a crowd every Monday and Friday at 6:30 p.m. and every Sunday at 1 p.m., we go for the fun, funky atmosphere, the snack bar, and the jovial guy who calls the numbers just like we remember from the church basement bingo of our childhood. We always get cozy in the large, comfortable non-smoking room, which seats up to 100 players, although we noticed on our last trip that the club's main hall features a state-of-the-art air-purification system. Bingo!
Sure, miniature golf is a fun family activity, but who wants to putt-putt outside in the blistering summer heat? That's why we love this 18-hole indoor range with its cute jungle theme. Tigers pounce throughout the course, and one hole sports a giant hippopotamus ready to gobble up your ball. Little adventurers can take a stationary Jeep ride, and there's foosball and arcade games to keep the older kids busy. It's also a great place for summer birthday parties. Parents can choose a basic package with golf and drinks, or go all-out with everything from jungle plates to a giant sheet cake. Space is limited on the course, so don't expect any fancy two-tier holes or waterfall obstacles. This is simple, clean mini-golf that's ideal for young children. Plus, at only $6 per round for adults and $5 for children 3 to 6, you won't mind when the kids want to have another go. And another go.
While we continue to bitch about the price of a round of golf in the Valley during the high season, we also continue to be amazed by the level of golf one can purchase for pennies when the weather takes a turn for the torturous. Really, though, 105 degrees isn't bad in a speeding covered cart, the breeze calcifying the salt brine ring on your hat, white stripes that become badges of courage announcing that no amount of dehydration will stop you from this glorious game. There is so much good golf to be had for under $50 in the summer, but only one course really makes us feel like we're ripping off management when we pay the greens fee. That's at Gold Canyon's Dinosaur Mountain Course, the sometimes overlooked superstar 18 at the base of the Superstitions. Indeed, this is a course that should be played in the summer, when the brutality of the Superstitions is at its height, when nearly every hole offers a stunning look into the abyss. Several holes here are as breathtaking as any on Earth, and several more tease you with risk-reward scenarios that draw you to the desert like the doomed prospectors of old. Beware. Or, heck, just spend some of that money you saved on an extra dozen.
Once the finest golf course in the Valley, arguably the best muni in the country, Papago has fallen from its heyday in the 1970s and '80s. By 2002, the course was a disgrace. But with some recent improvements, including new restrooms, improved cart paths, a face-lift of the clubhouse and a topnotch pro, Papago appears as though it could be on its way back. With just a bit of sprucing up, you can begin again to appreciate the spectacular layout of the course. To be realistic, though, the city, likely with help waiting in the wings from Valley golf aficionados who love the old course, needs to go for the full overhaul. It should be done, and quickly. For a community that has gained so much from the game of golf, it is time to show respect in return by restoring and properly maintaining one of the game's national treasures. In the meantime, it's still our favorite city course.
Everyone's heard of The Boulders, and no doubt a private membership there is one of the most prestigious and (since it swaps the private course and resort course every so often) enjoyable golf experiences in America. But for a fully private course experience (meaning no riffraff like us), absolutely stunning desert golf, and prestige so prestigious few people realize how prestigious it is, The Estancia Club is the crème de la crème. This course sits in a 640-acre master-planned community at the base of Pinnacle Peak that, when built in 1995, redefined luxury and beauty in the Valley. Today, it still remains as coveted an address as any in town, especially for the golf lovers among the outrageously rich. Home prices for a decent property around the course start at, as we like to say, "the low two millions," with a few houses pushing the $10-mil mark. The family golf membership initiation fee is another $205,000, while a "new resident social membership" is only $50,000. But this is nothing if you're used to having everything. The course itself was designed by golf architect/guru Tom Fazio. Way back when, it was named Golf Digest's "Best New Private Course of 1996." But stand on the course as the sun sets over the Sonoran Desert, and you'll likely call it the best private course ever.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of