Lobby Bar at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa
There are 10 pools at the Gainey Ranch Hyatt, including a three-story water slide, whirlpools and a cold plunge, but you'll always find us on the beach. That's right, the beach. We don't know how they did it, but we're awfully glad the folks at the Hyatt found a way to import all the best parts of the beach (soft sand, clear water, plenty of deck chairs) and none of the worst ("Hey, Mom, it doesn't smell bad here like the real beach!"). Some genius designed the beach so that much of it is very shallow, perfect for lounging adults and digging toddlers, and the whole thing merges nicely into the main pool, for older diving kids. A filter keeps the sand out of the rest of the pool, and while you'll have to do a little dance on the hot sand on an August day in Scottsdale, this is one beachfront property that won't slide off a mountain into the ocean.
McDonald's
Uh, yeah, can I get a Big Mac, fries, and a master cylinder to go? Such is the scene on Saturday nights at the McCoolest fast-food joint on the planet, which, thanks to its affiliation with the Rock-and-Roll McDonald's Classic Car Show, is transformed weekly from a run-of-the-mill McD's into a swarming pit stop for buff dudes and their chicklets. The cars are supercool, but it's the people-watching that sets this show apart, as hundreds of auto geeks and party hounds wander among the rods, exotics, and lowriders, clogging traffic arteries — and their own — in their quest for a heart attack on a bun.
A Child's Joy
Little Caitlin's birthday is coming up, and she's remembering the gigantic Wild West bash you threw for her older brother a couple of months ago. She wants a fairy princess party, with pink napkins and a bouncy castle and a pony ride and a face painter dressed like Jasmine from Aladdin. Where the heck are you going to get everything together on your schedule, and within your budget?

Try A Child's Joy, which you'll think could be more aptly named A Parent's Joy after you've done business with them. This one-stop party planner has everything you might want to rent for your little darling's birthday or bar mitzvah. Inflatable slides, bouncy rooms, mechanical rides? No problem. Clowns, jugglers, face painters? Those start at a measly $120 an hour. A Child's Joy is home to enough livestock to populate several petting zoos, and their friendly party planners are ready to help you organize the best bash your kids have ever attended.

Other parents will hate you for pulling off such a cool party, so long as you don't tell them how easy it was, thanks to your new pals at A Child's Joy.

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
In the 2006 movie Keeping Up With the Steins, parents compete to see who can throw their kid the most obscenely lavish party. One bash is on an ocean liner; another is at Dodger Stadium — the whole stadium. We don't know about you, but we miss the good ol' days when a birthday party consisted of a store-bought cake, a few presents, and an on-your-merry-way.

If you're looking for something between a ride in the space shuttle and a shrug of acknowledgment, call up the good folks at McCormick-Stillman. In addition to having the best play area in the Valley, the Railroad Park offers a square deal on parties that both your kid and your wallet will appreciate. The nice price — $57 plus $3 per child guest — includes the use of a covered ramada, various games facilitated by two "recreation leaders," free rides on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad and the Charros Carousel, a Railroad Park T-shirt and paper engineer hat, ice cream, and punch. All you bring is the cake and the kid. See? That was easy.

BEST PLACE TO THROW A BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR YOUR DOG

In the Raw

In The Raw
It's believed that one year for humans equals about seven in dog years. So it stands to reason that every time your pooch celebrates a birthday, you'll wanna pack septuple the amount of fun and frolicking into their party. The folks at In the Raw can help with that, as both locations of this holistically inclined juice bar/coffee bar/dog bar provide some pretty posh party options for feting Fido's anniversary of existence. The basic package starts at $6 per pup (with a minimum of five dogs in attendance) and offers a specialty menu of gourmet canine treats — featuring hors d'oeuvres of smoked lamb roll on potato and duck crackers, as well as tasty "pup-cakes" baked goods — with the higher-end alternatives (which costs $8.50 or $10 per pooch) also including such options as treat bags for guests, a gift for the birthday bowser, balloons, and party favors. Your four-legged friend might need a little help blowing out his candles, however.
Rose Mofford Sports Complex
Legendary theologian and orator Henry Ward Beecher once described the canine as "the god of frolic," and, doggone it, we can definitely agree with the 19th century holy man, particularly whenever our pups are romping around the 2 1/2 acre dog park located in the southernmost section of the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in North Phoenix. Once they get free of the leash, our hounds start acting like its Growls Gone Wild, cavorting around and getting some splendor in the grass in one of the two fenced-off areas (for either small or large dogs), showing off their high-pro glow, playing with some of the tennis balls and other doggy toys lying about, or lapping up water at the doggy drinking fountain. Meanwhile, we're kicking it on a bench or underneath one of the numerous shade trees, hanging with folks like 72-year-old Fred Corzilius, who visits the park six days a week with his energetic golden retriever/terrier mix Ginger.

"I live in an apartment and it's great to have a place she can run around at," says Corzilius. "The park is a god-send." We're sure Rev. Beecher would agree, Fred.

Goodyear Dog Park
The gorgeous high-desert terrain of the Estrella Mountains provides a breathtaking backdrop to the kidney-shaped Goodyear Dog Park, giving owners something else to stare at besides endless butt-sniffing and piles of poop. In between spells of spying the scenery, you can let Scruffy socialize and exercise in either of the two separate areas for passive and active dogs, or get him some liquid refreshment at any of the drinking fountains scattered throughout the West Valley Fido fortress.
Cosmo Dog Park
If all dogs do, in fact, go to heaven, we suspect the puppy paradise awaiting them in the hereafter looks a lot like Cosmo Dog Park. This four-acre canine Cloud Nine (named in honor of Cosmo van Blitsaerd, Gilbert's first police dog) not only offers the usual waste-disposal stations and fenced play zones, it boasts a special fire-hydrant-shaped doggy drinking fountain, obstacles fit for climbing, separate areas for active and timid pooches, and a man-made swimming pond (complete with a beach and docks) so Rover can take a dip. Since it opened last summer, the park's been packed with visitors of both the two-legged and four-legged variety, especially on the weekends. It even got a write-up in Dog Fancy magazine. Consider it the Taj Mahal for the tail-wagging set.
P. Ben Arredondo Sports Complex
Little old Tempe has five dog parks, which is more per human companion than we've found in any other Valley city. But the pick of the litter is the two-acre dog park at the Tempe Sports Complex near Hardy Drive and Warner Road.

It shouldn't be surprising that the biggest and best dog park is located on the side of Tempe that has the fewest residents — in swanky South Tempe, not the aptly named Sin City district near Arizona State University. We got lost trying to find it the first time, in part because the north-south Hardy Drive doesn't go through from Guadalupe to Elliot roads. The sports complex is so big, we were lost after we got there, too. We thought one of the fenced-in softball fields was the dog park until our old pooch started straining at her leash, pulling in the right direction.

Dogs will find plenty of room to roam here — and we usually sit on top of one of the picnic tables to avoid the slobbery, though friendly, snouts that come our way. The grass was in perfect shape in early June, and gravel areas break up the open space and give the mutts something else to explore. Gates also divide the park's middle, but they're always propped open, a couple with a floppy brown Lab told us. When we were there on a weeknight at about 8 p.m. (it's open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.), the place was full of flouncing Fidos and their owners. Rosy went home exhausted.

Chaparral Park
This spacious, 4-acre off-leash doggy park, constructed in early 2007 at the north end of lush Chaparral Park, is most definitely the dog's bollocks. Three gate-controlled and fenced-off areas include separate sections for passive dogs and active dogs, which is only disappointing news if you hang out at dog parks to watch Chihuahuas trying to hump Great Danes. The park also boasts a separate off-leash parking area, an adorable doggy drinking fountain and a display board with K-9 activity fliers, park announcements, and listings for pet-sitting services. The park is open from sunrise to 10 p.m., and admission is always free.

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