Best (Almost) Free Place for a Kids' Indoor Birthday Party

Michaels Arts and Crafts

Michael's in Mesa
Got a kid on your hands who loves arts and crafts and wants you to play art teacher for their birthday? If you're not up to all that glue and glitter in your house, book a party at your local Michaels Arts and Crafts store. The classroom is totally free for birthdays; you need only buy the craft materials on site. They'll even assign you a staff person to help during the crafting party, and you can bring in cake and juice. Crafty!

Best Place to Rent a Hula Dancer for Your Kid's Birthday Party

La Fiamma Entertainment

Are you the kind of person who likes hula girls? How about hula girls at a kids' birthday party? Well, we are — on both counts. Something for Daddy, something for a backyard filled with 20 little girls. And these aren't a bunch of middle-aged white ladies trying to work off unwanted pounds. They are the real thing. The young lady who came to our house in the spring, decked out in full hula-girl regalia, was a Valley transplant from Hawaii who brought her own music for us to play on our outdoor stereo system. And she delighted the little girls, whom we had supplied with inexpensive grass skirts from a party store, for an hour, teaching them the fun points of the Polynesian art form. Some mastered the dancing better than others, but they all had a giggles-galore good time before birthday cake was served. And hula isn't the only dance style available from Phoenix's La Fiamma Entertainment. The company also employs carnival, samba, Bollywood, modern, and fire dancers for all types of parties. Price for our dancer was $200 for the first hour, and $50 for each additional half-hour (we found that an hour and a half was plenty of time for a yard full of 5- and 6-year-olds). Included in that price for our party was the cost of materials for lei-making. You've got to supply your own roasted pig.
Inspirador
Who knew there was a 12,000-square-foot wedding facility in historic downtown Chandler? Located in the town's walking district, this massive — yet, somehow, quaint — facility offers brides a blank canvas to create their dream wedding in an air-conditioned facility that isn't a boring hotel or resort. If you have a theme in mind, this place is perfect, because there is nothing to get in your way — in terms of décor — and interrupt the flow of your tattoo- or elegant lace-themed wedding. This site is beautiful without forcing you to take on their decorating.
Hotel Valley Ho
Entirely too often, "boutique hotel" translates to "grungy old hotel with a flimsy new façade and icky rooms." Not at Hotel Valley Ho, built circa 1956, which underwent an extensive top-to-bottom renovation several years ago and emerged smelling like an Icelandic moonflower (really — it's the hotel's "signature scent"). From the lobby entryway to the booths tucked in the back of Café ZuZu, the hotel restaurant, the attention to detail is stunning and the scene Midcentury Modern years before the trend truly caught on. If you can tear yourself away from the 32-inch flatscreen TV in your funky room (bright red couches, striped green chaises), schedule an architectural tour of the property — or just relax by the lovely pool, no brainpower required.
Royal Palms Resort and Spa
The lush setting of this boutique resort can make you forget, even if only for a moment, that you are still in Phoenix. The 119-room resort sits against beautiful Camelback Mountain in the shadow of the overly extravagant Phoenician. The laid-back resort and spa is all about luxury and customer service — the staff is noted for being extremely friendly and helpful without being pretentious or overbearing. Once you settle into your private retreat off the vintage 1929 building, it's going to be difficult to leave. Each room is dripping with class and boasts some of the most comfortable beds in the metro Phoenix area. Muster up the strength to leave your room for a stroll around the meticulously maintained grounds or a glass of wine in the courtyard.
The Clarendon Hotel
If you're just looking to swim in some treated water, any hotel pool in the Valley will do. But if you're looking for a bona fide swimming experience — complete with multi-sensory special effects — then the Clarendon's pool is the only place to go. This boutique hotel's got the most impressive pool area in town, "The Oasis." In addition to being a work of art, complete with a 20-foot-tall glass water wall and a Sicis Italian mural with platinum and gold accents, the pool is state of the art. It features underwater speakers, water jet massagers, a jacuzzi that accommodates more than 50 people, and bubbling fountains. At night, the pool looks particularly majestic, as nearly a thousand stars become illuminated on the pool bottom. If that doesn't sound hedonistic enough for you, there's also a bar inside that serves fine wine and offers free Wi-Fi, so you can surf the Net for naughty pictures. But we have a feeling that the pool will get your undivided attention.
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
Ron and Nancy Reagan honeymooned there. Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas" by the pool. John McCain and Sarah Palin chose the Arizona Biltmore as the spot to concede the 2010 presidential race. Now you can stay there, too. No, really. We know what you're thinking: The Biltmore's way too pricey. But come summertime, the place empties out like nobody's business — and that's when the Biltmore wants yours. So make a reservation, pack a bag, and point the family station wagon straight to paradise. The rooms are big, the halls are wide, and the place is empty, so no one cares if your kids gallumph all over the place. A complex of several pools — with, most important, poolside cocktail service and even a swim-up bar for the grownups — features a stomach-churning slide and plenty of space to float. Best of all, the stars come out and a screen goes up at night, and the kids can float in the hotel's giant inner tubes and watch movies while you veg out on chaise lounges. In the morning, the kids can romp on the super-green grass while you grab coffee and pastries or something fancier. Go ahead — you deserve it.
Gila River Casino - Wild Horse Pass
You could go to any casino to gamble, really — a slot machine's a slot machine, right? That may be true, but Wild Horse Pass offers a lot more than just roulette wheels and card tables. In addition to keeping its slots up to date with the latest models from companies like IGT and Aristocrat, Wild Horse has 25 poker tables, 46 blackjack tables in five pits, and more than 30 big-screen TVs (for those who like to be distracted with televised sports and such). And if gambling's not your bag, the live entertainment offered at the casino's Ovations LIVE! Showroom is pretty impressive, too: Just this year, it's hosted shows by America; Blood, Sweat, and Tears; The Turtles; and Kenny Loggins. Throw in promotions like Ladies' Night (Thursdays), prizes for liking the casino on Facebook, and redeeming Player's Club points for gas cards, and you've got a real winner.
Arizona has many special places, but we hold a special spot for this onetime copper-mining town turned tourist attraction that sits northeast of Prescott up the big hill from the Valley of the Sun. Our favorites in the quaint little town include the Asylum Restaurant, which is perched above the main drag and offers one of the best wine lists in the state, if that's your thing. Artisans peddle their wares on the street, eager to make a deal. Dozens of top-drawer artists show their stuff in more established venues (known as galleries). World-class glassblower Tracy Wiesel demonstrates his mastery in his studio directly behind the gorgeous Raku Gallery, which he and his wife, Nancy, own and operate. Wiesel is as quirky as the town itself — he's a former traveling salesman who still knows how to pitch with the best of 'em. We watched him create a colorful wine glass one day and returned the next morning to purchase it. Fun! Oh, and Jerome's average high temperature in July is about 90 degrees. Need we say more?
Drive along the Apache Trail to view one of the most scenic drives in the Phoenix area. For your out-of-town guests, this is a snapshot of desert living — without having to get out of the car. This trail offers visitors a view of canyons, geologic formations, desert plants, trees, flowers, the occasional critter, desert, and lake views. If your guests care to step out of the car, there are many enticing stops along the way, including museums, restaurants, ghost towns, lakes, and Roosevelt Dam. Don't forget to share the legend of Jacob Waltz (the Lost Dutchman) with your guests — maybe they'll want to pan for nuggets of gold during this day trip. Start your trip at Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce and pick up a brochure or two to keep the guests entertained once the drive is over.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of