Best Petroglyph Hike 2010 | Kiwanis Trail, South Mountain | Sports & Recreation | Phoenix
For this award, we're not talking about a petroglyph "hike" that barely tips the quarter-mile mark. In our book, walking a few hundred feet in dirt just doesn't count. So when we trekked the two-mile Kiwanis Trail in South Mountain, we not only felt like justified hikers, we got to spy some sweet petroglyphs along the way. The trail runs through Snake Canyon and offers lush vegetation, a peaceful wash, and virtually no traffic; unlike Piestewa or Camelback, this trail hasn't grabbed the attention of the masses. The steady incline makes for an easy cardio workout and, just as you're ready to catch your breath, you may see an ancient spiral rock etching beyond the trail. The markings are left over from our beloved Hohokam Indians, and it's believed that the trail was used as a trade route. Who would have thought that history and exercise could make such a lovely pair?
Grandpa is pushing 90, and he's on the way out. A couple strokes down, he's still got enough fire to get out of bed and into a wheelchair (but that's about it). Snap out of your denial and take the old soul out for a stroll in our beautiful desert on the Accessible Trail at Papago Park. This paved path stretches for 1.2 miles, but if the old-timer ain't up to the whole thing, a quick turnaround is always an option. This "hike" is relatively flat, with a few gentle slopes and zero climbing. Still, it offers some nice views of the local rock formations and surrounding desert sprawl that can be seen from any height — wheelchair or standing. The trail is plenty wide for a large group of folks, and last time we were there, representatives from all three generations of our family went along for the stroll.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.

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