Let It Roll Bowl

Plenty of Phoenicians still shake their heads in disbelief when it's said, but it's true: Sunnyslope is pretty cool. Don't believe us? Look no further than Let It Roll Bowl. The independently owned bowling alley has everything you need when you're rolling, with league meetups and cosmic bowling nights, but its charm goes even deeper. The plush bar is sleek and modern but custom-fitted to the building's original 1962 roots. There's a reason the Somewhat Annual Local First Arizona Independent's Bowl tournament is held at Let It Roll: Its funky vibe fits the groovy event like a perfectly selected pair of bowling shoes. 

Golfland Family Entertainment Center

For nostalgic adventures in goofy golf, you can putt your colorful balls into a replica of the Alamo on the Flying Dutchman course, nab a hole-in-one along King's Arthur's Quest, or chip some dimples into a castle on the Princess Path. Each of the three 18-hole courses at retro Golfland is nestled within a moat of water slides from the adjacent Sunsplash Water Park, allowing for waterfalls, fountains, and mature foliage to help keep things cool and shady. Obstacles such as loop-the-loops, windmills, and fountains make for classic miniature golf staples with wheelchair-accessible options along each course. Each course is ranked by difficulty and boasts distinct themes with corresponding hazards and traps. Whether you foozle or bag the clutch putt, the classic courses at Golfland make the perfect game plan for a retro family fun night.

For a long time, the Stadium Course at TPC was known for being the location of the Valley's lone PGA Tour stop (even if it changed the name to sound more like a weird bathroom joke and less like a somewhat significant professional golf tournament), but not for being a course worth playing on. Last year, the course underwent considerable renovations, and it now boasts one of the better playing surfaces and atmospheres around. As a bonus, it's pretty sweet to be hitting the same links as the best players in the world do when they roll through town every February.

Phoenix Rock Gym

Phoenix Rock Gym was the first rock-climbing gym in the Valley, and it's retained a strong sense of community over the years. Starting in 1992 on South Roosevelt Street in Tempe, the gym moved after a couple of years to its present location, where it's outlived many other businesses in the Aztec Plaza strip mall. If you used to work out there 10, 15, even 20 years ago, you'll remember some of the same faces. We mean the customers, mainly, but co-founder Paul Diefenderfer, a.k.a. "Dief," still puts in hours there — his short beard perhaps a little grayer.

As old school as this gym is, Dief and the rest have done a good job keeping the place fresh. Taped climbing routes are replaced and rerouted often, and one wall always seems to be under renovation, which is a good thing. The gym hosts several 30-foot top-roping walls, one wing dedicated to lead climbing with an awesome roof section, and two first-rate bouldering rooms. If you have grand outdoor climbing ambitions, this is also a good place to meet an experienced belay partner. Hand strength and forearm muscles may fade, but you can always count on the Phoenix Rock Gym to be there for reconditioning.

When most people think of Arizona, they imagine miles and miles of dry rock, sand, and mountains — and the occasional saguaro. Though we can't deny parts of our state fit that description, those who know better also are aware of places like Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, home of Tonto Natural Bridge Falls. This impressive waterfall spills over the side of the Tonto Natural Bridge, which is known to be the world's largest natural travertine bridge. Visitors can see the 183-foot waterfall from observation decks at the top of the canyon or take the easy 300-foot hike to the bottom to get a dose of perspective and realize the scale of this natural wonder.

We asked a hardcore hiker for his favorite early-morning hike — the one offering the best view of the sunrise. He laughed and replied, "The sun is the last thing I want to see on an early-morning hike!"

Buzzkill. But, hey, we get it. In Phoenix, it's a race against the heat. So instead of a mountaintop, we have a different suggestion for getting a bird's-eye view of the desert sunrise: a ride in a hot air balloon. There are several companies that offer rides at all times of the day — some even include a champagne brunch! — in different parts of the Valley, so we'll leave the Googling to you. Enjoy the view and hold on tight.

Readers Choice: Camelback Mountain

South Mountain Park and Preserve

The desert has always been said to have healing powers. Maybe it's the fact that plants, animals, and people are able to thrive in this harsh climate, or maybe there actually is something different about this arid place. If you're going to try to tap into these mysterious environmental powers, South Mountain Park, the world's largest municipal park, is the place to do it and the fourth Sunday of each month is the time. Dubbed Silent Sundays, these specific days are meant for cyclists, skateboarders, wheelchair users, and strollers to take over the roads when the main access points are closed to motor vehicles. Appreciate the park peacefully, and let us know if you find any of those fabled powers.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park

It may be hard to believe when it's the middle of summer and temperatures barely dip below triple digits (even after the sun goes down), but the desert produces varied and beautiful wildflowers when the weather permits in the spring, and Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park has an incredible showing. Take yourself on a walking tour along the main trail, which is 1.5 miles long, and feast your eyes on the colors and varieties of flowers desert plants can produce. To see the most plants in bloom, visit the park in March and April. Be sure to take plenty of photos to remind yourself of the beauty of the desert through the harsh summer months.

Riding from the south on Scotts-dale Road, the route to Bartlett Lake takes you through North Scottsdale and finally into Carefree, a modern Mayberry in the desert. Coming from the west on Carefree Highway to Cave Creek Road, you'll rumble through the less posh but equally scenic Cave Creek and its biker bars. Either way, you'll be having fun even before you take the final leg east to the lake. Once clear of civilization, the ride turns into pure heaven for motorcyclists. Though not as full of twists as the road to Tortilla Flat, plenty of curves and dips unfold on the last few miles. The asphalt on Bartlett Dam Road is smooth, but watch for sand drifts around the bends.

For a round-trip ride that takes only two or three hours from most points in the Valley, you get the feeling that you've gone somewhere much more remote. Arriving at the lake doesn't mean you have to grab a burger and beer at the marina. Take off your boots and cool your heels in the water on one of the beaches, or keep riding on the smaller, fun park roads that surround the lake. It's definitely better in the cooler months, but Bartlett satisfies the jones for something other than the Valley's straight-edge grid system.

20808 East Bartlett Dam Road, Rio Verde
480-221-0503
www.bartlettlake.com
Lost Dutchman State Park

Most Phoenicians know to stay indoors during the hottest summer months, but sometimes you just have to break out your hiking boots and hit the trails even when it feels like the inside of an oven outdoors. Whether it's the fact that you drive 40 miles out of the city or it actually is a bit cooler, Lost Dutchman State Park makes the summer heat tolerable. With an abundance of fauna and flora year round and the legend of the Lost Dutchman to keep you entertained and on your toes, there's no better place to explore the desert landscape in the most brutal time of year than this destination in Apache Junction.

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