Best Cheap Yoga 2014 | Dirty Yoga | Sports & Recreation | Phoenix

It's time to get down and dirty Sunday nights at Steele Indian School Park because Dirty Yoga is the best way to stretch and mellow out all at once without breaking the bank. Because Dirty Yoga happens outdoors you're not paying the overhead for a brick-and-mortar location. For just $3 on Sunday starting at 7:15 p.m., you get the unique experience to do your practice in nature. If you're not sold on getting dusty for yoga's sake, just remember that you'll be practicing on your mat, not the ground itself. Plus, a little dirt never hurt anyone.

When temperatures start rising and tourists start fleeing, summer pool parties aren't just a way to beat the heat in metro Phoenix, they're a way of life. Cue the Release Pool Party at Talking Stick Resort. This seasonal Saturday ritual is the spot to see and be suntanned with bikini-clad cuties and their shot-slinging male equivalents. Release reels in the big crowds with ample pool space, private cabanas, touring DJ acts on the main stage, and cheaper drinks than you'll find at most outdoor shindigs in Scottsdale. With no admission fees, no waiting in line, and no searching the streets for parking, Talking Stick serves up the summer event that everyone's talking about.

Katie Johnson

Leave it to savvy snowbirds and summer staycationers to decide which pools are worth diving into. Their favorite place to test the water and their tanning oil, judging by the crowds? The Hyatt Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale. Ours, too. This secluded resort has something for everyone, with more pools than almost anyplace in town. The recently remodeled quasi-water park offers a three-story, high-speed water slide that takes kids and adults alike on turns at up to 25 miles per hour, a sand beach, volleyball courts, a Grecian-style water temple, and poolside dinning from the hotel's H2Oasis restaurant. Add to that the 20 fountains, 45 waterfalls, and 10 pools, and it's easy to see why people get carried away while getting away at Gainey.

Yes, it can be an expensive day. Prices are $39.99 for adults and $29.99 for kids and seniors if you don't get a season pass. (Kids 2 and under get in free). Worth it. And much cheaper than a trip to the pool store. The first time we drove out to the West Valley park, we had no doubt the kids would have fun. What we didn't know is that the place is a joyride even for older, ex-skydiving adrenaline junkies like us. Of the several big-time slides, Mammoth Falls gives us a rush every time. You sit in a four-person raft that, once leaving the station, lurches down a steep flume, rushing toward a 50-foot wall. It has two "oh, bleep" moments — the initial drop, then the out-of-control feeling on the weightless apogee after inertia carries the raft up that wall. But — ha! — we and our kin somehow don't fall out of the raft. The sensation is all part of the design. Our oldest child now enjoys this feeling almost as much as we do, but we're both still young enough to have fun in the wave pool, which has a sort of undulation mode that creates an unending succession of body-tossing waves. Our younger kid doesn't like the big slides but has spent hours in the wave pool, kids' splash area, and wading pools, which makes us feel great, too.

The dog days of summer don't do much for your canine companion, but come winter, spring, and fall, fair-weather furballs flock to the fine-cut grass and fenced-in comforts of Margaret T. Hance Park. The premier dog park in downtown Phoenix pulls in pooches and their pampering pet owners with newly constructed amenities like decorative wrought-iron gates, water fountains for humans and ground-level drinking bowls for dogs, picnic tables, benches, and shaded trees. With nearly an acre of space for frisbee-catching, ball-retrieving, and butt-sniffing socialization, a trip to Margaret T. Hance Park guarantees tails wagging and grass-littered mouths panting.

In the West Valley, wedged between Interstate 17 and Metrocenter, you'll find this world-class miniature golf paradise, past which flies a gigantic rollercoaster. Four separate 18-hole mini-courses let golfers (or should we say "golfers"?) putt their way through lush landscapes, fountains, and around a medieval castle. Little kids play for free, and kids of all ages can nip inside for refreshments, video games, and even a little air hockey. Fore!

In an area saturated with world-class golf courses, the We-Ko-Pa Golf Club stands out from the crowd. Both its Saguaro Course and Cholla Course are elite options for golfers of any level, with some of the fastest greens and most elegant scenery of any desert golf course, but the Saguaro Course stands out for its flowing design and more traditional compact layout. Saguaro allows its desert surroundings to determine its winding path, playing like a smoother and more naturally structured course compared to its competitors.

The newest Cactus League stadium is unlike any other. That's because Cubs Park was built to mimic one of the most legendary ballparks: Wrigley Field. The dimensions at Cubs Park are proportional to Wrigley's, the backstop is made of brick, Chicago dogs are sold at the concession stands, and the big green scoreboard in left field is based on the one in Chicago. Granted, the new park has major differences from Wrigley, which turned 100 years old this year. For one, there's no ivy on the outfield walls. Though there are other state-of-the-art spring training facilities in the Valley, Cubs Park is the only one that's a must-see.

Bruce Arians, a veteran of 25 NFL seasons as a coach but only one as a head coach and part of one as an acting head coach, either worked a miracle last season by leading the Arizona Cardinals to a 10-6 season or he really knows what he's doing. We're going with the latter. At this writing, he's 1-0 this season. It was Arians' rookie season with the Cards, a team that has struggled since the departure of famed quarterback Kurt Warner, he of two Super Bowl appearances, including a winning one in St. Louis and a losing one here following the 2008 season. To call the Cardinals dismal in the four years after Warner's departure is kind.

Then came the exit of Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who looked like a genius when Warner was around but sunk fast with a series of awful QBs. In came Arians, fresh off a 9-3 stint with the Indianapolis Colts while filling in for the ailing Chuck Pagano for the 2013 season. And it started off semi-bleak in Glendale, too. The Cards lost four of their first seven games and appeared headed for the NFL sewer. But Arians, a former college quarterback himself, got his veteran QB, Carson Palmer, on the right page, and the team won seven of its last nine games, becoming that rare 10-6 team to miss the playoffs.

It's attributed to the dumb luck of playing in the same conference with arguably the two best teams in the league, the Seattle Seahawks (who won the Super Bowl) and the San Francisco 49ers. Arians' crowning achievement of putting together a brilliant game plan and beating the Seahawks near the end of the regular season didn't matter to the playoff gods. Even with the departure of more than a few workhorse veterans, the Cardinals are billed to be better this year. We're betting that Arians surprises his team's conference arch-rivals and takes the Redbirds deep into the playoffs this season.

Don't believe the hype that Robert Sarver's a tightwad owner loath to spend big bucks on top talent. It's not true. The Phoenix Suns' head man, he of the giant foam finger in the team's heady playoff days, has had a wide-open wallet since he's owned the team, and it's only going to get more so when he and his staff finish working out star point guard Eric Bledsoe's contract. Hell, Sarver & Co. were ready to do whatever it took to land LeBron James if the star just would just have aligned (sigh . . . King James decided to go home to Cleveland) — so set was Sarver on returning a playoff contender to the Valley of the Sun.

In addition, Sarver has demonstrated his commitment to floor a contender at US Airways Center by making the genius move of hiring the most dynamic coach/general manager combo in the NBA today, Jeff Hornacek and Ryan McDonough. Hornacek's the legendary Suns player who was moved to Philadelphia in the Charles Barkley trade and was an assistant coach for the Utah Jazz before coming here. He's an even more astute coach than he was a player. Smart combined with smart always works, and McDonough, who labored for 10 years in the Boston Celtics organization, lastly as assistant general manager to former Suns coach and Celtics great Danny Ainge, is a basketball genius.

McDonough, just 34, and Hornacek, 51, combined to put together a gritty team that played, well, smart. The result was a 48-34 record, a 23-win improvement over the season before, sans the presence of a superstar. McDonough was runner-up for NBA executive of the year after last season. But it really was Sarver's doing that the Suns struck fear in the hearts of even their staunchest opponents. The irony was that competition was so tough in the NBA's Western Conference that they didn't make the playoffs. Much more to come this season; we're certain of it.

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