Best Summer Golf Course 2013 | Shalimar Country Club | Sports & Recreation | Phoenix

It's summer, and when it's summer, it's very, very hot outside, and when it's very, very hot outside, the last thing you want to do is smack around a tiny white ball in stuffy golf attire. So you show up to the course in a T-shirt and sandals, and when you get to the fourth hole, you take those off, too. Don't worry; this is Shalimar, where the grass isn't so green and the sand traps are rock-solid, but where you also can get nine holes on a cart for less than $20, and on a hot summer day, you'll have all 4,800 yards of public golf course to yourself. Well, you might have to share it with the Hipster Duck, a maverick with a mohawk who likes to hang around hole nine. But don't worry; he's cool.

When the summer heat starts to cook every single body in Phoenix, an inborn signal goes off, much like the internal clock in geese that tells them to fly south to avoid the cold of winter. The easiest place to run away for the day is Flagstaff, but for a true break from the heat, your final destination shouldn't be the city proper. Head a little farther northwest into the Coconino National Forest to find Lava River Cave, a unique natural formation created when a volcano erupted some 700,000 years ago. As you head underground, be prepared for the overwhelming desire to bundle up underneath a cozy sweatshirt. The temperature in the caves is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, making them the perfect place to escape from the oppressive Sonoran Desert heat. This mile-long tubular cave is surrounded on all sides by hardened lava flows, so the surface is slick, bumpy, and totally unlike anything else you've ever set foot on. Wear comfy shoes, bring a jacket, and make sure to have a bright flashlight — better yet, one headlamp per person.

Don't be scared — it's just Mexico. Sure, Americans do sometimes die in Nogales, but that happens in Phoenix, too. And if an American tourist ever was murdered doing what we often do — that is, park at the Burger King on the Arizona side ($4 for all day), walk over, eat something, buy something, and walk back — we've never heard of it. According to a New York Times article from last year, Mexican authorities claim something like that has never happened. We believe it. Fact is, the odds are overwhelming that you'll simply have a wonderful time for a few hours. It's Souvenir Heaven: charming tin pieces, colorful wrestling masks, the belt-and-boot boutiques with warm leather smells. Treat yourself to authentic Mexican baked goods or lunch at the 40-year-old La Roca restaurant. Fear not the taco stands, either — way tastier than you'd expect. We've even been known to employ the services of a local barber, just so we can start our tourism story for the scaredy-cats back home with something about a Mexican holding a straight razor to our throat. People who never go to Mexico won't expect the happy ending.

Nowhere in California or Hawaii will you find a comfortable two-bedroom furnished condo with a massive patio looking out over an unobstructed expanse of golden beach for under $200 a night. But Rocky Point, Mexico, is loaded with such deals. True, if you leave your chosen resort on the shore of the Sea of Cortez and go to town, you'll find that Hermes and Juicy Couture haven't found reason to open shops here. Rocky Point, or Puerto Peñasco, as the Mexicans call it, may never be called posh, though boosters have ambitious hopes to someday see a cruise-ship port and airline service from the United States. What you'll find are warm people, eateries ranging from street food to formal dining, boating and fishing culture and, of course, miles of top-notch beaches. Yes, you've heard of Mexico's violence and also heard that Rocky Point has a little of that. You do have to be adventurous to drive to and stay in Rocky Point for the weekend. We daresay it's worth it.

Once an oft-traversed roadway, Route 66 has been relegated mainly to a kitschy back road. Don't let the garage sale memorabilia fool you; the Mother Road is still worth driving. Why? Because it leads to underexplored oddball nooks of the Copper State. Case in point: Holbrook. Sure, you're familiar with its teepee motel (you and everybody else -- it's referenced in Pixar's Cars, after all). But the city's also home to some bizarre murals worth a gander. There's a map of Arizona landmarks, complete with a prominently featured Yuma Prison and a howling coyote at "Happy Holbrook," and a bizarre collection of portraits (a cowboy and samurai are among them) on the signage for the Globetrotter Lodge, on the side of which you'll also find a massive painted Route 66 sign. It's perfect for a photo op and a solid stopover on the way to the Petrified Forest National Monument.

It might be the Valley's only vintage amusement park. With its cartoony medieval theme, Enchanted Island is the perfect setting for the refurbished 1948 Encanto Carousel from the original Kiddieland. It's also a perfect outing for families with little kids, because there are lots of rides and activities especially for them and their parents — kiddy cars, a tiny coaster, bumper boats, a train, the Splash Zone — and only a few exciting things they're too young or short to be allowed on. Castle Clash, a pair of opposing castles armed with water guns, targets, and water cannons, sounds especially fun. The option of paddle boats and canoes for older adventurers, as well as serene strolls, urban fishing, and picnicking in the larger park, make Enchanted Island a destination suitable for everybody. Single tickets, wristbands, and memorable birthday parties are all available.


Scrambling is sort of like bouldering, a rock-climbing activity that generally keeps the climber traversing low to the ground, in that it involves no ropes or safety gear beyond rock shoes and possibly powdered chalk for a drier grip. But with scrambling, you keep going up — if you can. Papago is possibly the most popular place in the Valley to do this, and we've seen people in flip-flops and tennies ascending ghastly faces of crumbly rock and gravel that we wouldn't climb in rock shoes. We don't aspire to such daredevil behavior — and neither should you. But the nice part about Papago is that with good judgment, there are many rocky areas that are good and steep for scrambling but so easy — in the right places — that nearly anyone can do it. Challenge your fears and the tread of your shoes on the friction slopes near Hole-in-the-Rock and the hills just east of the northern fairways of Papago Golf Course. For hikers and bikers in popular Papago Park, scrambling up the pink hills provides that extra thrill you crave on the trail.

One of the worst things about this year's closure of Camelback's west-side hiking trails, especially the über-popular Echo Canyon Trail, is that the west side is the location of all the best climbing. But it's expected to re-open near the end of the year, and it's the single best bouldering spot in the Valley proper, so we feel compelled to tout it. Camelback, known since the late '40s as a rock-climbing mini-mecca for the Phoenix area despite the many areas with loose rock, has not only several tall climbs ranging from 100 to more than 300 feet but dozens of excellent short bouldering routes that put calluses on your fingertips and muscles you didn't could exist had on your forearms. You'll want to pick up a copy of Marty Karabin's Rock Climber's Guide to Camelback Mountain, a fold-out map (price: $5) that shows all the main bouldering areas. The boulder we frequent the most is called the Pyramid, a little ways up from the parking lot. When we can round the northeast corner without setting a foot on the ground, we know our training is paying off.

Want to test out those fingertips on some real rock and stand atop a truly kick-ass pinnacle summit? For the beginning leader, you can do no better than the west corner of Tom's Thumb. This gorgeous piece of granite can be seen from miles away, sticking out like a ripe piece of fruit on the summit ridges of the McDowells. Two fun new trails that lead to Tom's Thumb opened in the past couple of years. Take the newer, shorter trail on the east side of the McDowells, since you'll be hauling a backpack with the requisite gear for this adventure. If you don't know what to bring for this traditional climb, you shouldn't be trying it. Consult a guidebook, regardless. Begin the route with an easy, ropeless scramble to a kitchen-table-size belay ledge. The first 20 feet or so is easy — then the fun begins. The Phoenix Rock Guidebook calls this a 5.1, but don't be fooled by the sandbagged rating. The two best parts: The shaded nook just under the smooth friction ramp you'll just about pee your pants on, and reaching the summit. We hope you like long rappels, too, because that's the only way you're getting down.

We almost lost Climbmax Climbing Gym two years ago when the owners shut it down, citing reasons beyond their control. But it's opened under new management, and we're ecstatic to still be cursing our shapeless arms as we cling to its 180 bouldering problems (along with a cave that climbs from the first to second floor), its 150 top-rope routes and 45 leads. When outside climbing is foolish or impossible because of the weather, Climbmax is the next best thing. Its walls are sculpted to imitate real rock face. You can lead climb a crack, an arch, and a 45-degree overhang. The top floor is filled with bouldering routes ranging from beginner to expert that the amiable staff changes every couple of months. Climbmax is 13,000 square feet of air-conditioned escape during the summer, and a good second option when you can't find a friend to pitch in for gas or belay you outdoors.

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