Castles -n- Coasters
What better way to get out your aggression than to crash giant, gas-powered rubber boats into walls and waterfalls? Figuring out how to maneuver the suckers is half the fun; the steering wheels turn a full 360 degrees, so the challenge is to do more than make crazy circles in the water while everybody else bashes into you. And it's really fun when you get stuck against the wall or your boat dies in the middle of the water, because everybody races to rescue or (more likely) ram you. The boats at C-n-C also have a tendency to float backward when idle, and if drivers stomp on the gas pedal, they can rip into reverse and cause fantastic collisions with other giggling, wet maniacs. Adults love piloting these oversize, motorized doughnuts just as much as kids, and since each boat fits two people, a smaller kid can sit in the passenger seat while you bump and grind.
Mother Nature's Farm
We've tried the bigger, more commercial Halloween festivals, but this year we'll go back to Mother Nature's Farm (humming the Beatles the whole way) to let our kids grab a pumpkin, get their faces painted, and spend a little time in the hay. With a nod to the desert, the folks at this farm not only stock cute crafts in the gift shop, they stock a pen with all sorts of reptiles. (We wish someone had warned us beforehand, so we're warning you.) This is not an all-day affair, more like a quick detour, but with our hay fever, that was perfect.
Glendale Community College
Sure, there are peacocks at the zoo, but how often do you see a large, brightly colored bird wandering around a college campus? You'd cry fowl at least a couple times a week if you attended Glendale Community College. The campus is located right next to Sahuaro Ranch Park, which technically occupied 640 acres until 1977, when the City of Glendale purchased 80 of the original acres. Now the park sits smack-dab in the middle of Glendale, between a fire station and the college and so do the peacocks. The edge of the park bumps right up against GCC's north parking lots, so it's pretty standard to see roosters, chickens and peacocks pecking about between students' cars. The peacocks also stroll the shaded mall between the Life Sciences Building and High Tech centers, along with Gambel's quail and roadrunners.
Wildlife World Zoo
This is the Little Zoo That Could, always to be in the shadow of the bigger, more complete Phoenix Zoo. But this little west-side park is home to some species that that other zoo doesn't have namely penguins. You won't be much reminded of the amazing documentary March of the Penguins; the Wildlife World Zoo is home to only a handful, and they don't march miles in horrendous conditions to eat. They enjoy air-conditioned quarters and a steady supply of fish. But if you've just gotta see one in the flesh, it beats a trip to Antarctica.
No matter how often we visit, we never get tired of seeing the squirrel monkeys roam their 10,000-square-foot habitat just off the Tropics Trail at the Phoenix Zoo, mostly because this is one exhibit where you can get up close and personal no cages involved. Although we've never had one land on our shoulder, we love hanging with the little monkeys (all named with a Star Trek theme, by a Trekkie volunteer), carefully walking through the entrance/exit to make sure none escape and always watching for poop. For once, the animals in the zoo actually look happy to be there and we're happy to be there, too.
Steele Indian School Park
This new downtown dog park, opened in July in the northeastern area of Steele Indian School Park, is gated and divided into sections one for larger dogs, and one for smaller dogs under 20 pounds. The park is off-leash, so canines can carouse untethered in an area that covers almost two acres, provided their owners keep an eye on them. The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board teamed up with city staff to give the dog park turf enhancements, new lighting and benches, water fountains, shaded areas, and "mutt mitts" and bins for waste disposal, at a total cost of around $73,000. The dog park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except during large park events.
If you could see into your dog's dreams, there would be a huge grass lot for running, tons of toys, a never-ending water supply, and maybe a sexy little companion. This one's got it all. The 2.65-acre bark park includes water fountains and benches for owners, plus doggie watering stations and free mitt-mutts for scooping up Fido's little surprises. There are always some extra Frisbees and rope toys lying around, so he's sure to get a lot of exercise. High fences and double-entry gates ensure your pet and his new friends will stay put inside the complex. The socialization doesn't stop with Fido. He may very well find puppy love, but single owners are likely to find a human companion, too. And you can be guaranteed he or she won't mind a little dog hair on the couch!
This park isn't strictly for dogs, but it does have a large, fenced area just for canines, where your pups can play off their leashes. And since there's an area for small dogs separate from the larger dog park, owners of little Chihuahuas and terriers needn't worry about having their little pets trampled or humped on by big huskies and shepherds. There are also water fountains to keep the dogs hydrated, and waste stations for considerate pet owners to dump off their dogs' droppings. The dog park is often undergoing maintenance, but it's set up in a way that allows park staff to always keep at least half of the huge space open.
Dog runs were created so owners and pets could play together, but this Chandler park has really gone to the dogs. Once your pooch gets a load of the agility course, you might as well just perch on a bench and get comfortable, because all you'll be doing is watching. There's a seesaw, play tunnels, hurdles and several A-frames with stairs for climbing. It looks like a training facility for athletes, and, in a way, that's exactly what it is. Some of the equipment was purchased with a government grant, so police dogs are sent here to exercise and increase their physical abilities. Since humans aren't even allowed on the obstacles, Spot will mostly be socializing with other dogs. We suggest bringing a handful of treats to reward him after the hard workout. It'll encourage continued exercise and it ensures that Spot won't totally forget about you.
In the early '90s, Tempe's Mitchell Park was a notorious hot spot for pet owners disobeying leash laws. After confrontations between owners and regular park patrons, a separate dog run was created. Now dogs are allowed to roam free inside the fenced area, which includes benches and tables for owners and an adapted water fountain with a doggie dish for pets. Plastic bags and waste containers are provided, and the park is lighted after dark so owners can swing by after work in the evening. It's a popular place. It isn't unusual to find 20 or more dogs in the run, but somehow, aggression is kept to a minimum. Our guess? Dogs are so fascinated by the idea of actual freedom to play with other pets that they ignore their own territorial natures.

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