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.
Chaparral Park
Scottsdale, with its high-end boutiques and resort hotels, isn't exactly known for accommodating pets at least, not if your pet's too big to fit in your purse. But there's one place in town where dogs can get a sweet taste of freedom. The 71-acre Chaparral Park, which is currently being expanded, has the largest off-leash run in the city. There are separate areas for active and passive dogs, the latter being grassier and more open so dogs can run or play Frisbee with their owners. The passive run is more of a socialization area, with dogs sniffing other dogs and lounging lazily in the sun while humans perch in plastic lawn chairs chatting about Fluffy's diet or weighing the pros and cons of shock collars. We're looking forward to the expansion, which will increase the size of the fenced bark park to four acres plenty of room for our four-legged pals to really break out and burn off some of those table-scrap calories.
Everyone knows the best times of day in elementary school were recess and nap time. As we slough through our 9-to-5(ish) grown-up gigs, we've often bemoaned the fact that neither is available in the corporate world. Well, come to think of it, we're too hopped up on Red Bull to squeeze in a nap, but recess would be nice. Good thing the World Adult Kickball Association is around to help us get out our after-work energy. (Hey, sitting at a computer all day is hard!) The Valley hosts four divisions AZ Cactus, AZ Scorch, AZ Valley and AZ Fire but as the oldest division in the Valley, AZ Fire gets our "best" vote for pioneering the magical combo of a ton of beer, a bunch of bored twentysomethings, and the easiest sport ever. So strap on your sneakers and get ready to play. And if you get picked last, think of it this way that's just more time to chug your brew.
Native New Yorker
Work hard, play hard right? At this Native New Yorker, no one will think twice about your tennis shoes and sweaty clothes in the lounge. It is the perfect spot to replenish all the carbs and calories you just burned with its extensive menu that includes wings, pizza, burgers, hot dogs, nachos and just about anything fried. Quench your hard-earned thirst with a few beers, and top off the meal with something from the dessert menu almost half of the items have "jumbo" in the title. If you really want to be naughty, you can smoke a cigarette inside! Go ahead and indulge. You've earned it.
Move over, Calgon. We'd rather let Willow Stream take us away. At this upscale spa devoted to beauty and pampering, tucked amid the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess' sprawling, Spanish-style courtyards, there are so many ways to relax that it's easy to stretch an hourlong treatment into a whole afternoon of aimless leisure. Check in early, check out the schedule of free fitness classes, and work off some stress in the exercise room. Get a pedicure and then snooze by the rooftop pool, where there's a postcard-worthy view of the McDowell Mountains, or head downstairs to soak under the warm waterfall, letting it softly pummel the tension out of your shoulders. And before your massage appointment, settle down in the inhalation room, a cozy capsule of silence and soothing smells. Forgive us. We could probably chat all day about this gorgeous respite, but we're still coming back to earth from our otherworldly "Body Quench," where they slathered us in avocado oil, wrapped us up in a snug cocoon, and then worked the knots out of our weary limbs. Blissful doesn't even begin to describe it.

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