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.

Known as the the Valley's fastest group ride, the BOS has been pounding the roads of North Scottsdale since 1981. Named for its starting point — the Bicycles of Scottsdale shop that has come and gone a few times at the corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard — the weekly group ride pushes out every Saturday at 7:30 a.m. with upwards of 50 to 60 cyclists making up the peloton. The roughly 60-mile route can change slightly from week to week, depending on the moods of group leaders, but by and large, the ride rolls north along Pima Road toward Cave Creek, cutting east for some climbing loops on Happy Valley Road and Legend Trail. The ride continually ascends to the summit point on Cave Creek Road known as "The Tower," a house with a large microwave antenna, just before the turnoff to Bartlett Lake. The return trip is where the fast part comes in, as it is nearly pure downhill all the way back into Scottsdale, and this group moves. If the idea of riding in a bunch is a bit intimidating, the route still is among the Valley's best, cutting along the scenic high Sonoran Desert along iconic landmarks such as Pinnacle Peak and Reata Pass.

South Mountain may be known worldwide as one of the planet's best mountain bike playgrounds, but imagine an alternate mountain bike trail system that combines a bit of everything from that premier park: a good dose of National, add some Desert Classic, a dash of Mormon, a pinch of Javelina, and smidge of Alta. Mash 'em all up and drop the results on the east end of the Valley, and, presto, there lie the Hawes Trail Loops.

It may be a vastly smaller network of single-track than its big brother to the west, but it twists like a rattlesnake ready to strike, with climbs and drops that keep even the most technically capable riders on their toes. Hawes and its accompanying trails take riders up to mine shafts and through a forest of cactus leading to some of the best views in the East Valley. The primary trailhead is on the east side of Power Road (if you start heading downhill to the river valley, you're too far) with a small parking area across Power that holds about 10 cars (otherwise plan on parking at the Walgreen's at Power and Thomas Road, about two miles south). The most ride-able loop is a combination of Hawes, Saddle, Saguaro, and Ridge trails in a counterclockwise direction, for a run of about seven miles. The trails are signed with some old wood-carved placards sitting on posts whenever the tracks intersect. For a sweet payoff, work to the top of Saguaro Trail and discover why that trail is also known as Mine Shaft.

The walls of downtown and Central Phoenix have been springing to life over the past few years, thanks to local artists looking to define this community through public art. Three specific areas of CenPho have become the home to a majority of these large-scale wall masterpieces: 16th Street, Roosevelt Row, and Grand Avenue. And there is no better way to take in this massive public museum than by bike. The three areas can be cycled on an easy, flat 10-mile circuit beginning and ending at Barrio Café on 16th Street, home to the Calle 16 Mural Project. With stops at The Hive, Roosevelt Row (be sure to check the alleys!), Phoenix Public Market, and Grand Avenue and Fillmore Street, Phoenix's finest mural artists are on display, with works by Lalo Cota, DOSE, Joerael Elliott, Jenny Ignaszewski, Rose Johnson, El Mac, and Luster Kaboom. Each of the murals speaks to, for, and about Phoenix in a unique, insightful, reflective, and provocative way, and seeing them by bike gives cyclists a chance to really stop and appreciate them as more than just wall decorations, because, after all, this art belongs to all of us.

One of the great things about Phoenix-area bike routes is that there is always a nearby ride whenever you get the urge. (You know the urge: the need to ride that just keeps building until you can't hold it any longer and you just have to go, even when it's dark.) And if you have to go at night, you might as well CRAP. CRAP stands for Car Resistance Action Party (which really just sounds like a bad excuse to call it a "CRAP Ride") and historically has been run on Tuesday nights. The ride started in 2006 as a social bike crawl from Tempe Town Lake along the Greenbelt to Old Town Scottsdale, where drinks are had. The ride then either returns along the Greenbelt path or cuts back through Scottsdale along other roads. All in all, it's a low-key 12- to 15-mile ride, and you always feel relieved and relaxed afterwards.

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