Best Daytime Date Spot 2014 | Japanese Friendship Garden | Sports & Recreation | Phoenix

Okay, so a "friendship garden" might seem like a bad move for a romantic venture, but you definitely won't get friend-zoned if you bring your date to this serene spot in Margaret T. Hance Park in downtown Phoenix. Admission costs $5, so this date option won't break the bank and you can spend all day strolling through the lakeside oasis, admiring the unique flora and koi fish. For refreshment, tea ceremonies are a cultured way to get rejuvenated. And who knows? Maybe this daytime date will go so well that it transitions to a nighttime affair. After all, you'll have plenty of after-garden options since your staycation happened right in the middle of downtown Phoenix.

Downtown Phoenix might not be the most serene location to put down your mat and start working on your asanas, but three floors above Jefferson Street, the bustle of the city quiets down on Lustre's rooftop patio. That's where more than 100 yoga lovers center their minds for just $10 with a $5 drink voucher included with the price of admission.

Don't worry that the Tuesday night Sweat Your Asana Off series ended September 2, because the event's popularity ensures that it comes back year after year from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Also, don't worry about getting so close and so sweaty to the person next to you because you can always cool off with a cocktail and a dip in the pool after class.

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.

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