The Boulders Resort & Waldorf Astoria Spa

The ideal luxury resort hotel is able to maintain the perfect atmosphere so that — no matter the person or their preferences — everyone can feel relaxed and welcome. At The Boulders, lifelong Phoenicians as well as international travelers can get away from it all and experience a true escape. This Waldorf Astoria hotel is located in quiet, peaceful Carefree, close enough to the big city to be convenient while far enough away to feel removed. Guest rooms include everything from spacious suites with built-in fireplaces to luxurious stand-alone haciendas with three bedrooms, an outdoor patio area, and a full kitchen with top-of-the-line amenities. The Boulders Resort also boasts two championship golf courses, a terraced tennis garden, four swimming pools, and The Golden Door Spa. There are six places to grab a bite on the premises, including Palo Verde, with stunning views of the golf course and duck pond, and Spotted Donkey Cantina, which serves a classic Southwest-Mexican menu and crowd-pleasing frozen margaritas.

The Clarendon Hotel

Fair warning: There are no slides, rafts, or lazy rivers at the Clarendon Hotel's Oasis pool. There is, however, a pretty cool waterfall, a killer color palette, and public access — you just have to buy a drink at the bar (and if you've heard anything about the bar at Gallo Blanco, which sits on the first floor of the Clarendon Hotel, you'll order a house margarita or two). The pool's been used as a backdrop for local fashion shows and has been a hotspot for hipster parties and weekend cool-downs. It's a place to be seen — from the hotel rooms that face inward and the hotel's rooftop deck, so just be sure to double-check your coverage before rolling off one of the oversize lounge pads or slipping out of the deep end for a dip in the hot tub.

Encanto Park

If you're one of the few people in Maricopa County without a swimming pool in your backyard and you don't feel like hitting up one of the dozens of weekly (and ridiculously trendy) hotel pool parties, then you might want to check out Encanto Park's public pool. It may not be the largest or the swankiest pool around, but the price is right, and it sits right in the middle or the Encanto Palmcroft historic neighborhood.

The pool is open from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday through Thursday (sorry, it's closed on Friday). All swimmers 17 and under swim free, ages 18 to 49 pay $3, and 50 and over pay $1. The pool has swim lessons in the morning, which is why the public swim hours don't start until 1 p.m.

Within Encanto Park's sprawling 222 acres, there also are lighted softball fields, grills for cooking out, a fishing lagoon, and Enchanted Island Amusement Park, with rides for children ages 2 to 10 years old.Dive in!
Tempe Beach Park

Even looking at Tempe Beach Park's Splash Playground in the off-season, when it's dry and quiet, we get a pang of emotion. Over many summer days when the kids were toddlers, they'd laugh and tread the shallow canals of the park, swim diapers swollen with water. Then they'd cry that they were cold when a slight breeze hit them, even when it was 110, and we'd give them a towel-wrapped hug. As the summers rolled on, they got too big to ride the backs of the water-spouting blue whales. They lost their fear of the thunderclaps and "lightning" on the rainstorm stage — but enjoyed it more. They'd have wars with other kids on the water-shooters, chase each other on the slippery surfaces, and try to act brave if they stubbed a toe. We came less frequently once the kids learned to swim, and only the younger one went to the park last year. But the memories of this simple, magical playground linger long after the end of summer.

Big Surf is a Valley gift that keeps on giving. The two-million-gallon wave pool — the nation's first when it opened in 1969 — is just part of the fun here. The place sports two play areas for little kids stocked with floating islands and mini-slides. At least one of the big-kid slides is steep enough to give us a thrill every single time we take the plunge. Spending half a day at Big Surf can be a real adventure. That is to say that by the end of the day — after we've survived the heat, the crowds and the thrill of the water attractions — we know we had fun but aren't sure it was an entirely pleasant experience. But the kids love it, so off we go.

Some helpful tips to keep the frustration factor low: It's well worth standing in line for 30 minutes before the park opens so you're there early enough to set up lounge chairs in the shade under an umbrella. During a wave, your kid's raft might overturn and float away — watch carefully and you might be able to identify the teen who steals it. Practice your smuggling skills and sneak in snacks and drinks, which are officially prohibited except for those purchased at Big Surf's concession stands. Remember to use sunblock and drink plenty of water. Now you're ready to hang loose. And whatever you do, don't forget the sunscreen.

Makutu's Island

We can take it. It's true — some parents fear Makutu's: the swarming, screaming chaos of kids running and climbing and gaming for hours. And hours. Adults always want to leave first. But the kids could stay all day — because Makutu's provides the most fun Valley kids can have when it's hot, outside of the swimming pool. Because we're just taller children, we have fun, too — for a while. We'll follow the kids up the dark climbing tower to the overhanging, tunnel-bridges made of webbing that bend our adult feet in painful ways. We help catch them on the zip line. We're behind them on the Banana Slide, which always seems just a little too fast. We give the undersea-themed tunnel feature, which has some truly claustrophobic squeezes for anyone over 5 feet tall, at least one pass-through. Then we let the kids go do everything again and again while we relax by throwing mini-basketballs in the game room. True, we still want to leave before the kids — but only when they're almost as tired as we are.

Cosmo Dog Park

If you and your furry friend are willing to venture out to the hinterlands of Gilbert, you'll find a pot of doggy gold at the end of the earth-toned rainbow of houses you pass along the way. Cosmo Dog Park is great for both pooch and master alike, with plenty of walking trails, running and playing areas for both big dogs and "timid" dogs, and even a pond and beach area, where the furry beast can romp around or take a flying leap into the water. There are four acres of fenced-in play areas, which provide plenty of room for dogs and humans to roam. The park is named after Gilbert's first police dog, so if your best friend is looking for inspiration, he or she can aspire to no less than a local legend. A plaque near the entrance to the park memorializes Cosmo. As an added bonus, if your quadruped is anything like ours, it'll enjoy a ride home in the car after meeting some new friends.

Washington Dog Park

Got a dog with a Napoleon Complex? Then this is the place for you. We like this park for its abundance of shady spots and, most important, separate play areas for big dogs and "little" dogs (with separate entrances), so you don't have to worry about any ankle-biting. There's plenty of room for running and playing, sniffing and leg-lifting too, although the "small dog" side is a bit more cramped than the "big dog" side. Water fountains are available to keep the little yapper hydrated on hot days, and plenty of seating is available under the huge trees in the small dog area. The park's open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Kids That Rip Indoor Skate Park

The East Valley has a new factory of elite athletes, sending competitors to this year's games that pit them against the very best in the world. And these athletes are only 11 years old. That's right, Kids That Rip Skatepark in Mesa sent two of its skaters to X-Games 18 in Los Angeles this summer to compete on the ramps. But not every skater out there has the goods to be X Games-worthy. So why not grind bowls, ramps, and rails aplenty on smooth wood surfaces indoors instead of baking in a cement microwave outside? Kids That Rip has over 3,500 square feet of street course bliss inside an air-cooled facility that will make it feel like Dogtown at Venice Beach. There also are the previously mentioned bowls and ramps, and even a tunnel. Skate camps for kids ages 5 to 15 run throughout the summer, starting at $199 per week for park members. The park also features an all-ages open skate at $15 for a three-hour session, with a themed open skate every first Friday.

Skate Park at McDowell Mountain Ranch Park

Yep, there's a skate park in North Scottsdale, and like most things in the area, it's pretty new. At 16,000 square feet, it's not the biggest skating spot out there, but it's got the tables, benches, planters, and ledges to keep you entertained, and a bowl that drops down about 10 feet. It's the second city-owned skate park in existence around here — the other one's at Eldorado Park on the other side of town — and it's a little more upscale than your typical skate park, as it's almost always spotless, with a covered patio and lights. It's connected to the city's recently built aquatic center, which probably is the best summertime perk you could ask for. It may not be the ideal facility for the more advanced skaters, but, hey, it's one of the few free things to do in North Scottsdale.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of