BEST PLACE TO BALLROOM DANCE 2006 | Lou's Tivoli Gardens | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix
Even with the revived popularity of ballroom dancing, thanks to reality television, it's no surprise that we found the best ballroom dancing in Sun City, a town where "flashing" involves showing a guy your AARP card, and "bar hopping" means getting up to order a brandy without using your walker. Every Thursday through Sunday, Lou's Tivoli Gardens hosts dine-and-dance night, where grannies get blitzed on wine and strut their sagging stuff on the dance floor. Latin keyboardist Manuel Dorantes performs most evenings. If you can suffer through requests for "Tea for Two" and "Beer Barrel Polka," it's the best place in town to learn how to fake it at your cousin's wedding.
With NASCAR and Formula One on such a posh high these days, it's good to know that them good ol' boys are still holding down the redneck racing fort at "The Track That Action Built." Instead of mega-corporate sponsors and luxury suites garnished with shrimp and fine wines, Manzy offers $2 bean burros, cheap beer, and free dirt clods in the eyes. Since 1951, some of the biggest players in racing lore have spun their wheels here at one time or another: A.J. Foyt, Bobby and Al Unser, Mario Andretti, and local legend Wild Bill Cheesbourg, who successful competed at the Indy 500 for 10 years. Watch eight racing classes scream around the half-mile and quarter-mile dirt tracks, including midgets, sprints, modifieds, and dwarfs. The track's signature event is the 150-lap Bomber Enduro exhaust-a-thon, in which 70 cars bump, grind, and peel their way to the finish. Manzy ain't gonna stop hootin' and hollerin' anytime soon.
Okay, so it's all just a fantasy. But we've seen this particular fantasy the one about becoming a world-class NASCAR competitor taking the checkered flag at some super-cool international drag race overtake even our stuffiest friends. There's something about the thrill of zipping around Speedway Raceway's curvy quarter-mile indoor track in a 270cc Honda-powered Indy-style go-kart that morphs us into a hairpin-turn-hugging speed demon doing 1.5 lateral G's on a quarter-mile track. Speedway is open 365 days a year so that the kid in all of us (although real kids ages 8 to 14 drive Speedway Junior Karts) can catch a thrill-a-minute raceway high any day we want one. And we're off!
Ever since Jesse James swag began to outsell Mary-Kate and Ashley stuff at Wal-Mart, everyone and his mom seems to want a pimped-out chopper. The only problem a true boutique chopper is both difficult and expensive to build. That's where the Wicked Bros come in. They've been building custom sleds and chops since long before the Discovery Channel made chopping cool and can pretty much build whatever you can dream up. Wicked Bros builds its own frames, called Synister, with integrated oil reservoirs and the choice of a 280 tire with full-size belt or a 300 tire with full-size chain. For parts seekers, Wicked Bros also carries a full line of exhaust systems (its own exclusive Bourget Wizard is one of our faves). With some cajoling, they might even let you come into the shop and yell at you during the building process if you really want to have your own true American Chopper experience.
Local car enthusiasts Syd "The Squid" and Tammy Chase love chopping and reconcocting vintage cars so much that the vehicles fill the driveway, front yard, and backyard of the couple's Glendale home, sometimes spilling out onto the street. Not all of the cars belong to the Chases since they founded The Invaders car club in 1998, more than 20 members have joined the club, bringing rides like '49 Ford Shoeboxes, '49 Mercurys, '59 Cadillacs, '56 Chevy Wagons, and 1950 custom Chevys to the couple's home for body work or customizing. A lot of what The Invaders do with their cars is for show, as the club makes the trip to the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly festival every year and hosts a slew of custom car shows around town. The Chases say the members of The Invaders range in age from their 20s to their 40s, and having an old car is pretty much the only requirement to join the club. "It's just about having a good time with your friends," Syd Chase says. Sure beats a crowd that will only befriend you if you drive a new car!
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!

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