Best Waterpark 2009 | The Oasis at Arizona Grand Resort | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix

When it comes to surviving summers here, Phoenicians are ready to pull out all the stops, from breaking out the water hose to sneaking into someone's pool. A whole genre of swim-and-drink nights at local hotels have even blossomed over the past few years to keep us cool. Other options around town, though, leave us, um, cold. Many local waterparks have roving bands of adolescents set on remaking Lord of the Flies, while floating the Salt River has too much of a low-budget Girls Gone Wild vibe going on. That's why The Oasis waterpark at the Arizona Grand Resort appeals so much to us. In addition to their eight-story water slide, their huge wave pool, and their 25-person hot tub, they've been spotlighted by The Travel Channel as one of the top 10 waterparks in the country.

We're not sure what we like more about this place: the pools, the views, or the architecture (considering we spent more time admiring Phil Weddle's rusted steel and glass aquatic center building than we spent actually swimming). Not only does this place feature myriad aquatic options — including an eight-lane lap pool, a diving well with four diving boards, a really big (and kinda scary) tube water slide, a zero-depth-entry play pool, a splash pad, and a 600-foot lazy river — it's got views of the McDowell Mountains and a captivating public art piece titled Cactus Mirage by Nori Sato (only in Scottsdale will you find nationally recognized public art at a swimming pool). But this awesomeness comes at a price. Be prepared to pay $30 for a family of four if you're not a Scottsdale resident. To be honest, we felt a bit like the caddies crashing the country club pool in Caddyshack, which is funny because there was a Caddyshack-esque "incident" that particular day — and it cleared the kiddy pool for half an hour. Despite all that, it's a beautiful facility, loads of fun, and totally worth the trip.

One of the crown jewels of any local high-end hotel undoubtedly is its sumptuous swimming pool. For instance, the W Scottsdale boasts an opulent oasis of white sandy beaches, glowing fire pits, and relaxing cabanas. Meanwhile, the swank swim tank at the Mondrian Scottsdale is a cerulean-colored lagoon of lavishness usually frequented by skinny and stylish bikini-clad chickadees. Both are luxurious relaxation destinations for A-listers and well-heeled types who want to take a leisurely dip. And unless you're a paid guest, your freeloading ass ain't allowed.

Not so at the Clarendon, where the CenPho boutique hotel opens its chic pool to the public daily from 6 a.m. until midnight (weather and holidays permitting) for $10 per person, which includes use of towels and sunscreen. If you're living a threadbare existence, get a taste of how the other half lives as you take an extended repose either in the crystal blue waters or by soaking your carcass in the 50-person spa.

Keep in mind there's one caveat: Appropriate swimwear is requested. In other words, do the world a favor and ditch the greasy cutoffs and your "Home of the Whopper" T-shirt in favor of some more modest board shorts.

The Dolly Steamboat markets itself as the "Junior Grand Canyon Tour," and Teddy Roosevelt compared the area favorably to the Alps, but we prefer to think of Canyon Lake as a stand-in for the Mississippi — at least when you're aboard the Dolly Steamboat. This recently restored sightseeing boat cruises the lake like Tom Sawyer once did down south. Though the big-wheeled boat floats like something from Mark Twain's era, the rocky landscape in the deep valley of the lake is uniquely Western. As you cruise, the captain will tell you about the history of the Apache Trail, and point to the bighorn sheep, coyote, deer, bobcats, and mountain lions that are often visible from the decks. Coyotes and bobcats? Golly, Huck, that's mighty scary!

As much as we love Phoenix, sometimes we need to get the hell out of Dodge for a day or two to collect our thoughts and find our center. Lately, there is only one place that comes to mind when the urge to disappear strikes us: the Shady Dell. Located in historic Bisbee, the Shady Dell RV park has nine beautifully decorated vintage Airstream trailers for guests to stay in. If the prospect of living it up trailer park-style with your own Astroturf yard doesn't seal the deal for you, it's worth mentioning that downtown Bisbee and its funky shops and restaurants are just five minutes away. With a cool tiki vibe, a 1950s-style diner and cabin names like "El Rey" and "Homemade," it's easy to get wrapped up in the Dell's kitschy goodness.

The drive to Wild Horse Pass is 20 minutes from central Phoenix, but as soon as you check in, you'll feel like you flew a thousand miles. The resort's signature restaurant, Kai, got Mobil's five-star rating this year and, thanks to the down economy, it's offering a "Kai Cares" prix fixe menu for $59. At the spa, Aji, you can indulge in a "native herbs cleansing wrap." And if the piped-in Native American flute music starts to be a bit much, you can ride a gondola over to Rawhide or drop 20 bucks at the casino. In all, it's a great getaway for your staycation.

If you've ever had fantasies of being Caesar or Cleopatra, a day at the Joya Spa is an absolute must. Joya's "Hammam" bath revives the ancient Roman tradition of the bathhouse. For $45, you get a scrub, herbal steam in rose mist, whirlpool, sauna, and refreshingly brisk shower. And that's just the beginning of the royal treatment. To compliment a dozen massage types from Thai to neuromuscular to stone therapy, Joya's signature body product line includes creams infused with real gold, sapphire, diamonds, and a "secret" night-blooming cactus blossom. We left feeling like butter after the spa's signature Joyambrosia massage with heated Moroccan "liquid gold" argan oil, and we can only imagine what we'd be willing to do after the pricier Moroccan sour cherry wrap or the two-hour Restorative Sleep Ritual. Bribe, anyone?

When you hear the words "walking tour," inspirational may not be what comes to mind. But the tour at Taliesin West, former winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, just may prod the creative genius in you. Regardless of your medium, this place will make you think. Always willing to go against conventional wisdom, FLW left his fingerprints all over the Valley. Taliesin West, built in the 1930s, is the headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and winter session of the school of architecture. Get a taste by taking one of several tours offered. They range from one to three hours in length. Prices vary accordingly, from $27-60, and include mid-morning tea. On the Desert Shelter tour, architecture students show you up-close living quarters they have constructed. The Insights tour features the Wright's living quarters and living room.

A typical city can't offer its residents a fully stocked lake right in the center of town — more likely, you'll get a polluted river full of mercury-filled carp and hypodermic needles. Lucky for us, this is not your typical city. Tempe Town Lake is filled and refilled with 12 species of fish, including rainbow trout, large-mouth bass, and flathead catfish. For $23.50 a year for Tempe residents, and $70.25 for everybody else, you can cast off from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. all year long.

No, they don't sell Perrier in the pro shop, some of the courts occasionally are dotted with leaves, and the noise factor from the nearby streets can be a pain. But we'll take this city-run tennis mecca any day, if only because it's cheap, the lights are good, and, if you learn how to play your cards right, it's easy to make a reservation for one of the 22 hard courts. Head tennis pro Matt Peck is an exceptionally nice fellow, and his teaching business always seems to be booming. And who can resist that scruffy little terrier named Spice always hanging around, yellow tennis ball in her mouth, surveying her domain? Helpful hint: If you can help it, don't sign up for one of the courts that abuts 21st Avenue. You may be just about to hit that nasty serve of yours when some turkey will drive by and honk at ya, just for fun.

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