Golfland Family Entertainment Center
Years ago, having a large pool with a wave-maker and a slide or two was good enough to call yourself a "water park." But thanks to establishments like Golfland Sunsplash, modern water parks more resemble amusement parks, with a variety of rides and water slides seemingly engineered by thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies. Sunsplash boasts attractions like the Master Blaster Water Coaster, Thunder Falls (a raft ride that starts nearly seven stories high and features three huge drops), the Stormrider (a massive drop into the water from about 70 feet), and the Sidewinder (a half-pipe slide that allows riders to zip from one end of the bowl to another). Of course, there's the standard wave pool (all 450,000 gallons of it), but Sunsplash also offers a separate "activity pool" for water sports, a toddler pool for the wee ones, and even the Endless River (which ends after about 800 feet) for emulating tubing at the Salt River — minus the salt water, beer coolers, and rock-ravaged rear ends. With so many ways to get wet, why would we go anywhere else?
Desert West Skateboard Plaza
Desert West had a taste of the limelight when its 2011 PhxAM Skateboard Tournament aired on ESPN. But while cameras zoomed in on amateurs and professionals performing kick-ass kick-flips, manuals, and serious airtime, our eyes were stuck on the park's features — more than 25,000 square feet of skateboard-only curbs, bumps, hips, steps, and three full bowls. Sounds sick enough for national coverage, but the park scored big when local artists Thomas Marcus Breeze and Lalo Cota exhausted an army of spray paint cans when they canvassed the concrete with their signature interlocking designs and grinning skeletons. Now, that's a pretty sweet view — even if you're spending less time landing tricks and more time eating the painted pavement.
Xtreme Air Jump and Skate Park
Summertime in Phoenix blows chunks, especially if your hobbies include skateboarding, biking — or, hell, any outdoor activity. That's why we love this new skate park, which includes 30,000 square feet of ramps, foam pits, bowl corners, and a coffee shop for sipping lattes after grinding the rails. The 30-foot Velcro wall is a little creepy (though we're betting there's a fetish for that), but kids and adults alike can bounce to their heart's delight on the full wall of trampolines. Even BMX racers and kids with Razor-style scooters can get in on the action with weekly nights devoted to their preferred modes of transport. Just one word of advice: Don't head to Xtreme Skate Park after eating, or the only thing that'll be coming up during a bounce session is your lunch.
P. Ben Arredondo Sports Complex
This spot near Warner and Hardy roads was called the Tempe Sports Complex until this year, but our dog doesn't care. What he does know about the excellent dog park located within the 60-acre complex is that the drive takes longer than the trip to our usual park — and that it's worth the wait. The two-acre doggy park, unlike many such facilities, is open seven days a week and has been highly populated every time we've gone. That means the big galoot has plenty of buddies to slobber on him and play chase with. It also means there's more of a chance you'll meet someone who socializes with species other than canines.
Desert Foothills Park
Even though they're man's best friends, your fur babies can't survive on human affection alone. When Fido starts to crave a little doggy socialization, bring him to Foothills Dog Park, where he can sniff as many dog butts as his little nose desires. This off-leash grassy zone lets your precious pup romp with other friendly dogs — we've never encountered aggression problems here — while you socialize with like-minded dog lovers. Foothills Park offers plenty of shade for relief from sunny days, water to keep your dog hydrated, and an agility course if your pup is the next Lassie in the making. There's also plenty of seating, so you can kick up your own tired paws while Fido burns off some energy.
Tumbleweed Park
Playtopia at Tumbleweed Park in Chandler is a free place for families to romp, featuring a 2.5-acre playground and picnic area. For a good six months out of the year, this is a go-to spot for families looking for a good time. You'll find themed areas throughout, including Farm Land, City Land, and Critter Land. This is also a great place to drop off the kids with the grandparents, because there are photo ops at every turn.
Jump Street
You know what's bullshit? Walking. Of all the evolutionary traits that could be insanely better, bipedal motion is right at the top of our list. That's why we literally jumped for joy when we stumbled upon Jumpstreet, an indoor trampoline park in Chandler. We're going to repeat that: an indoor trampoline park. Here, the limbs you once used merely as a mode of conveyance from place to place can have you ninja-flipping like some sort of acrobatic madman. Want a challenge? Jumpstreet also has trampoline dodgeball. Bounce to avoid a big, red ball to the face. Tigger won't have shit on you.
Hearing the word "dodgeball" may awaken nostalgic memories of the game played during recess in grade school. Well, recess is over, punk. The AZ Dodgeball League made sure of that. As part of the league, you can join up with ball-throwing maniacs just like you (on teams with names like "Ninja Please" and "Two in the Pink"). League play goes down at the Family Life Center in Mesa. Want to test the waters before committing to the full-on dodgeball lifestyle? Head to an open-gym night, when anyone can play for a small fee. If you think that AZ Dodgeball is only about the game, think again. After a few hours of slugging red balls at each other, AZ Dodgeball parties hard at drinking establishments that sponsor teams, such as Bogeys in Tempe.

Best Public Lifelong Game You've Never Heard Of

Birdman

The rules of Birdman are simple. First, make the "okay" sign with your index fingers and thumbs. Rotate your wrists outward and flip these rings over your eyes. These are your "goggles." If, while wearing your goggles, you make eye contact with a participating Birdman player (after they've agreed to play with a handshake) he or she must immediately lie down so that his or her back touches the ground. However, should the targeted player sense your attack, he or she may block your goggles with the "monocle," or one index finger and thumb ring pressed against an eye with the other fingers pointing up. The origins of Birdman are shrouded in mystery. Suffice it to say the game is catching on in Tempe. Flash your goggles at the wait staff at Boulders on Broadway and prepare for the inevitable counterattack.
If you happen to see a family of four dressed as video game characters or superheroes running down the sidewalks of Mill Avenue in Tempe, don't panic. The Arizona heat hasn't finally gotten to you. They likely are part of one of the off-kilter Urban Dare adventure races. Inspired by such reality TV competitions as The Amazing Race and offering cash prizes and free airfare, these twice-yearly costumed scavenger hunts require participants to don outlandish outfits and dash around Tempe and Phoenix. Meanwhile, they hunt for clues and complete a series of goofy challenges, like maybe a giant game of Jenga or jump-rope contest. Then again, they could just be a bunch of nutters who let the Arizona heat get to them. The next Valley event is scheduled for March 24, 2012.

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