Best Group Bike Ride 2014 | Summer Solstice Swimsuit Ride by TBAG | Sports & Recreation | Phoenix

Nothing gets you in the summer spirit quite like getting on your bicycle wearing next to nothing and pool-hopping around Tempe. Luckily for folks in the Valley, Tempe Bicycle Action Group has been making a regular event out of it for the past five years with its Summer Solstice Swimsuit ride. The ride is a casual cruising event made for all skill levels to enjoy. Usually, the group will ride from Tempe Beach Park, stopping at private pools, apartment complex pools, fountains, and even a Slip 'N Slide, all in the pursuit of keeping cool and staying on the bike as temperatures rise. The last ride saw cyclists donning skin-tight Speedos with an Arizona flag design. So should you ride next year, you can at least expect a decent view on the way.

Downtown Phoenix isn't the most bicycle-friendly region of the Valley, but for those living in the area, there's a shred of hope for safe travels on Third and Fifth avenues. If you're looking to go northbound from downtown, take Third Avenue. If you're looking to go southbound to downtown, take Fifth Avenue. That's pretty much law for downtown riders. With a continuous and reasonably sized (for Phoenix) bike lane on both streets, it's an artery that pumps cyclists from uptown to downtown without too much trouble. Sure it isn't the most scenic of rides in the metro area (many favor the Greenbelt in Scottsdale or even the Carefree Highway for more serious riders), but for sheer utility in commuting, we have to give some love to our little avenidas.

There are two kinds of Valley motorcyclists: Those who have been to Tortilla Flat and those who will go to Tortilla Flat. No other local ride puts riders on twisting roads so quickly, yet this convenience requires no sacrifice in quality. The scenery on this ride is truly stunning, featuring breathtaking desert vistas, sharply rising mountain cliffs and a shimmering, blue-green lake. Take U.S. 60 east to the Idaho Road exit, then head northeast on State Route 88, also known as the Apache Trail. Minutes later, you've left civilization (or what passes for it in Apache Junction) and have escaped into the freedom of the hills of Tonto National Forest. About 10 miles after passing Lost Dutchman Park (a great place to begin a Superstition Mountain-area hike), the two-lane highway curves in ways that will test the skills of new riders and put a smile on the face of even the codgiest old biker. Weekend mornings and weekdays are the best times to go, when the Apache Trail isn't likely to be choked with traffic and you can ride at a speed that suits you. At the end of the twisties and after passing over a neat one-lane bridge near Canyon Lake, you arrive at Tortilla Flat, an Arizona ghost town and tourist attraction with a saloon and ice cream store. In peak season, the dirt parking lot outside the shops is hazy with dust and vibrating with the rumble of dozens of motorcycles. Sooner or later, you'll join the crowd.

You take an interstate to get out of Phoenix? What are you, new? Take a drive on State Route 87, which is ideal for anything from a relaxing day drive to a full-blown adventure. Once you catch the road in the East Valley (as Arizona Avenue in Chandler or Country Club Drive in Mesa), it's only minutes before you're on the open road of the Beeline Highway and heading northeast from the Valley. Just a few miles past Fountain Hills, you're in the Tonto National Forest, passing Four Peaks, heading through Payson, and going through some tight turns amid the Mazatzal Mountains. You'll head through the end of the forest and through Winslow, eventually reaching the northern end of the highway in a little town on the Hopi Reservation called Second Mesa. It's at that point you might realize that your scenic drive has left you more than four hours from Phoenix — but it'll be worth it.

First published in April 1925, Arizona Highways originally was a journal devoted to documenting the road-building projects of the Highway Department (now known as the Arizona Department of Transportation). Travel stories and scenic photography were the order of the day back then, when the magazine's print run totaled 1,000 copies per issues and the cover price was one thin dime. The magazine really took off after World War II and has continued to soar as a showcase for the world's best scenic photographers. Ansel Adams was a frequent contributor in the magazine's early years, and the publication's tradition of stunning photography has continued with work from James Tallon, Herb and Dorothy McLaughlin, and Chuck Lawsen.

There's a place to drive 100 miles per hour around Phoenix, and believe it or not, it's not called Loop 101. If you really want to drive (and we mean drive), take your car to one of the race weekends hosted by the National Auto Sport Association's Arizona region. It doesn't matter whether you bring your brand-new Porsche 911 Turbo or your old Honda that's barely coughing up 100 horsepower — you'll have some competitive racing to do. New drivers get on-track training from experts, and it's not long before you're spending the weekend doing full-blown racing. There are different classes of racing based on vehicle and driver ability, so everything stays competitive. If you bought a car with performance in mind, this is the place to use it.

Move over, Granny! Octane Raceway has been letting us fuel our fantasy of the Indy 500 since 2003. This revved-up, third-of-a-mile race track is the only full-time indoor/outdoor track in the country, and on almost every single day of the year, its European electric race karts offer a truly exhilarating experience with zero eco-threatening emissions. Drivers can crank things up to 45 miles per hour, then throw back a brewski at the Octane bar (where staff keeps a breathalyzer handy for anyone keen on getting faced). You might even bump into a racing star there because Octane is home of the Indoor World Kart Championship and has hosted NASCAR stars like Kenny Wallace, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards. What are you waiting for? Slip on a helmet and get yourself strapped into an Octane kart.

This museum is a hidden gem located among all the Penske-owned car dealerships along Scottsdale Road. The museum showcases race cars used throughout the years by racing legend Roger Penske and the drivers who've raced under the Penske Racing name. You can get right up next to some of the most memorable cars in IndyCar and NASCAR history. Any auto museum can host a collection of mass-produced consumer vehicles, but not every city has a museum like this, with winning race cars driven by the likes of Penske, Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr. and Jr., and Helio Castroneves. If only they'd let you drive these things . . .

It's not a talking point on the hotel's website, and it doesn't seem to get a lot of use, but there's something magical about the Western village at Camelback Inn — which is complete with a tepee, wooden stage, and storefronts such as Mummy Mountain Mercantile — at the base of Mummy Mountain. We'd love to see a giant concert held there — featuring appropriately Western acts from all around Arizona. With the rustic digs and open desert terrain surrounding it, the Mummy Mountain faux Western town could be the site of a real hootenanny.

Surrounded by the concrete oasis of metro Phoenix, it's easy to forget we live in a desert. When tourists arrive in the Valley, the first thing they'll probably look for while mumbling something about the dry heat is a tumbleweed or saguaro. But if they really want to see the natural beauty of Arizona, Desert Botanical Garden provides a truly amazing introduction to the plants and wildlife native to the Sonoran Desert. Admission costs $22 for adults, $12 for students, and $10 for ages 3 through 12. The busiest months for Desert Botanical Garden are March and April, so you'll want to reserve your tickets ahead of time in the spring, when snowbirds and spring training fans flood the Valley.

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