Sure, walks around the block get the pup to stop being such a spaz (and keep the little guy from doggy obesity), but, just like humans, sometimes canines need a little change of scenery. We recommend Shaw Butte for your dog's next outdoor adventure. Heading west from the trailhead, take trail 306. The uphill trek starts off with a wide dirt service road that climbs a steady incline to reach the Butte's cluster of metal towers. It's a sturdy 1.5-mile hike for Fifi or Fido. From the top, feel free to turn back and cruise downhill. Or push yourself and your companion to make the descent on the other side of the mountain to complete a four-mile loop. Be warned: this part can get a little rocky (we saw a dog with hiking booties on its paws one day — no joke). Either way, we've spied plenty of pooches on this trail, and those four-legged energy machines looked like they were loving every second.
Washington Park
We know too many parks in the Valley where dog owners take over, allowing their antsy and often-aggressive canines to run free and trample (sometimes literally) the rights of all others. Time and again, we have fantasized about "rescuing" some feral pit bulls from south of the border and setting them loose in said parks as we announce to the other dog owners, "Oh, don't worry. They're really friendly." We are heartened by this expansive, fenced-in facility (with little dogs on one side separated from the bigger dogs on the other) just north of the tennis center south of Glendale Avenue. Sure, it gets crowded on occasion with both dogs and masters, but everyone seems adult about how to negotiate — none of that sense of entitlement to let their animals do what they want and damn the rest of the world. Just recently, we saw a Jack Russell terrier cozy up to a mini-daschund in a corner and make friends. Before you knew it, a couple of nosy beagles cozied up to the pair and a coffee klatch (minus the joe) ensued. It was a Kumbaya moment that brought a smile to our faces.
Cosmo Dog Park
It doesn't take a whole lot to please a dog — a field and a ball will often do the trick — but the city of Gilbert is home to a park for pooches so impressive that even humans have taken notice. Cosmo Dog Park is widely regarded as the best dog park in the East Valley and was even nationally recognized in June by Dog Fancy Magazine as the fourth-best dog park in the country. The four-acre park welcomes all types of dogs — even the most anti-social hounds can unwind in the park's fenced-off section, for timid pooches. And, of course, there's the lake, complete with a fountain and dock for any pup ready to test his sea legs.
This three-acre neighborhood park has it all: basketball courts, sand volleyball pit, grassy open spaces, a hippie labyrinth complete with a Dalai Lama quotation set in one of many tile mosaics, an adorable skate park with its own half-pipe, and the most wholesome people-watching this side of Mill Avenue (which isn't far, in case you have a hankering for some Mojo fro-yo). The park itself is a playground for all ages, but tucked in its southeast corner is a thoughtfully appointed and newly renovated sensory playground. Old-school swings, slides, ride-ons, and climbing/hanging contraptions balance out the giant bongo and percussion section, meandering paths, shade structures, rock walls, and mini-Mt. Hudson. There's even disability-friendly equipment and a splash area. Gandhi did say that to teach peace, we must begin with the ankle-biters. Playgroup/drum circle, anyone?
Makutu's Island
Makutu's Island is like Chuck E. Cheese on steroids. It has taller slides and higher tubes, plus nets for crawling. And it's more colorful — and possibly even louder — than its mousy cousin. On a busy day, packs of screaming kids run through the 20,000-square-foot facility, sliding down poles, climbing across catwalks or plunking tokens in the game room. It may sound like your version of Hell, but your kids will love it. We find it's best to try to keep up with the romp — though it's true one of our fingers may never be the same after it was tweaked on a rope bridge. Toddlers and post-toddlers who find the action intimidating can play in a slower-paced corner with small slides and fun blocks of foam.
Pump It Up: The Inflatable Party Zone
Got a kid who's got the wiggles? Get over to Pump It Up, where even in the dead of summer, kids can get their bounce on in a multi-room setup with huge slides and a whole neighborhood of bouncy houses. Be sure to consult Pump It Up's website before you load the kids in the minivan, as this is a place mainly meant for birthday parties (and we highly recommend them — the kids love it, the staff is friendly and helpful and you won't wind up with icing all over the walls of your house) but Pump It Up does have regular discounted bounce times for kids and even some "cosmic-style" light show stuff for the tween/teen set.
Jump Street
Ever get the urge to jump around like a kid sucking down Pixy Stix and jamming to whatever pretty-haired teen idol of the moment is dominating the charts? Go on, admit it. There's no shame in loving a good bounce. Chandler's jumpstreet offers a unique opportunity to relive your childhood by jumping much, much higher than your feeble muscles would normally allow. It's a pretty simple concept: a warehouse full of giant and connected trampolines allowing you to bounce around laughing until you ache. You pay by the hour — but, trust us, an hour is pretty much all you'll need to feel wiped out. You're too old for this and you know it, but you're going to love it anyway.
Fear Farm
We're not easily spooked. We usually find the sight of geeky teenage boys growling at us from behind Halloween masks more funny than scary. But Fear Farm makes it easy to suspend disbelief for a few hours. The sprawling setting — three sections of dark trail through a cornfield and one old building on the outskirts of Glendale — is certainly a big part of the attraction, and the scenery is artfully rendered, but what really separates Fear Farm from the pack is the performers. Unlike a lot of cheesy haunts looking to cut labor costs with motion censors and pneumatics, almost every scare at Fear Farm comes courtesy of a flesh and blood actor. Those actors are good, too. We're not sure how Fear Farm attracts the talent it does (perhaps being almost the only game in town on the west side because the east is saturated with similar attractions?) but each and every pretend monster at Fear Farm seems to be obsessed with the idea of scaring the hell out of us. It's all about going the extra mile. For example, the chainsaw-wielding bad guys chase their victims out halfway to the parking lot when they've got a real screamer on their hands, which is why you're likely to get startled just walking around the grounds or waiting in line.
Golfland Family Entertainment Center
Considering that it's crammed into the upstairs of a family fun center specializing in arcade games, miniature golf, and go-carts, it's nothing short of amazing that The Gauntlet manages to feel like a must-see Halloween attraction. Though the space is small, there appears to be no expense spared and no detail unrefined. Take the live mice, for example. Those with an acute case of musophobia are sure to squeal as they're forced to walk over a piece of Plexiglas that gives a great view of the little critters. Likewise, the overdone execution and dungeon scenes are lushly designed with blood and guts galore. The maze is cramped at points — those people lured to attractions that advertise such-and-such square feet of fright will probably want a longer ride — but each corner of The Gauntlet reveals something worth seeing, which makes it a must-see for any haunted house fan.
We're not sure how or why they appear, but you know it's the Christmas season in the Valley when saguaros atop Phoenix's two tallest points — Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak — get the Griswold treatment. We're not sure who lugs bulbs, garland, and battery-powered lights more than 1,000 vertical feet up the rugged trails, but it fills our hearts with holiday joy every time. The decorations appear and disappear mysteriously, as though they're the work of Christmas elves dispatched to the desert to bring a little Yuletide cheer, and they do more to get us in the spirit of an Arizona Christmas than even repeated viewings of It's a Wonderful Life, delicious tamales, or St. Nick in a Speedo.

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