Cobra Arcade Bar
Lauren Cusimano

Recent years have seen an explosion of the popularity of hangouts that mix drinks and arcade games, and while there have been plenty of cool ones to open in Phoenix in the last year, none have quite matched the vibe of Cobra, located in downtown Phoenix. The selection of games is excellent (and constantly rotating, which means you get new games on the regular), the vibe is sleek and modern — with garage door-style windows that can be opened when the weather's cooperating — and the drinks, appropriately named for video-game characters like the Crazy Kong and the Ryuken, are well-mixed and inventive, providing top-notch liquid accompaniment for a few rounds of Street Fighter 2

Let It Roll Bowl

An independently owned bowling alley is a rare thing, but it's even rarer for one to be as cool as Let It Roll Bowl in Sunnyslope. You get everything you're looking for in an alley — cosmic bowling specials, funky shoe rentals, and league nights — but you also get a slightly retro, totally charming vibe, with a modern bar and midcentury-inspired decor that evokes the '60s, when the bowling alley was originally built. There's pizza, too, and cheap pitchers, which come in handy for those nights when your game's off and you need some help easing in to those strikes. 

Octane Raceway

Tires screaming around corners. Cars slamming into sidewalls. The agony of defeat as you see you came in ninth behind a bunch of high-school freshmen. Yeah, that's Octane. First – the check-in with the enthusiastic and friendly young staff. You sign your life away, and that of your children, if you have any. If it's crowded, you get to hang out in the lounge, which isn't too bad. They even serve beer. At the appointed time, you step into the cavernous track room and pick out a helmet. Soon, the staff will have you strapped into your mini-Indy car, and the session begins. Adult sessions are 14 laps, while the slightly slower kids' cars go for 10 laps. It's actually a race, and you can see your time and place among the other racers in your set in a printout afterward. (See above note about defeat.) It's an addictive experience, despite the roughly $20-per-race charge, not to the mention the battering drivers take from the g-forces in the curves. We usually find a bruise or two after Octane. It's a good pain.

Outside of his amazing wife and wonderful family, Rob Locker's true passion in life is skateboarding. A lifelong rider of the concrete wave, Locker founded AZPX Skateboards in 2002, and since that time has pushed local skateboarding along more than anyone in the community. Whether it has been releasing somewhere around 10,000 skateboards, sponsoring the (now-disbanded) AZPX skateboarding team, or just encouraging young and old skaters to get out and skate more and have fun, Locker's advocacy of one of the Valley's favorite sports is invaluable. Locker has also ventured into the music world over the years with AZPX Records, which promotes the music of skate rock bands. Often at his own expense, Locker has set up skateboard contests and demonstrations at local skate parks, and worked tirelessly to promote not only his companies, but also the art and skateboarding talent of countless people in the skateboard community. A true original, Locker will surely continue to be a vocal advocate of the skateboard community for years to come.

June 21 is Go Skateboarding Day, and nobody celebrates it quite like Cowtown Skateboards. The local company has four Valley locations and goes all out on Go Skateboarding Day to give back to the local skateboard community. The yearly events are typically held at one of the many Valley skate parks, although 2015 saw the shindig take place at downtown uber-venue The Pressroom. Hundreds of Phoenix-area skateboarders across every age range show up to celebrate with Cowtown, eat pizza, and either watch or take part in different skateboard trick contests every year. In addition to providing the grub, which you may imagine goes quickly with a group of active skateboarders, Cowtown also does a ridiculously huge merchandise giveaway every year, providing skateboards, wheels, trucks, clothing, and accessories galore.

Some of us don't know what the winter Olympic sport of curling is, exactly, and some of us know all too well. Either way, there's a way to get it all sorted with the Coyotes Curling Club in Tempe. Billed as the "only curling club in Arizona," the CCC was established in 2003, and features annual bonspiel events, a variety of leagues, and public "Learn to Curl" classes. Classes are $30, and start off with a 45- to 60-minute ice tutorial, followed by roughly two hours of on-ice instruction and a half-game. These guys have more than 100 years of combined experience in curling, so it's safe to say you're in good gloves.

Sometimes all you want to do is ride your bike; if so, you're in luck. Established in spring 2015, the Phoenix Downtempo Ride is a community organization offering free weekly bike rides where just about anyone is welcome. The Phoenix Downtempo Ride meets at 7 p.m. at spots like Encanto Park's Amp Island, Steele Indian School Park, Margaret T. Hance Park, and Coronado Park. The ride averages eight miles per hour, and lasts for approximately an hour, arriving usually at a restaurant or 21-and-over bar. Ending spots have included Pomeroy's, Rosie McCaffrey's Irish Pub, and Café Tranquilo at the Clarendon Hotel. Participants are only asked to bring a bike in good working order, though if a flat happens or if a chain busts, you won't be left behind. Bring water, spare tubes and pumps if you have them, and even music if it's not too disruptive to the other riders. The Phoenix Downtempo Ride people also host special themed Monday night rides, including PHX Pool Poppin, Fondue in the Park, and the Linger Longer Pedal Party.

Lost Dutchman State Park

The Phoenix metro area has many excellent hiking trails, but the king of them all is Siphon Draw in Lost Dutchman State Park. Go outside and look east —see the sheer-cut mass of rock jutting from the earth like the desert version of the Wall in Game of Thrones? That's your destination. The hike will be slightly more than four miles round trip, but it's so steep it'll feel like twice that. Take water and some snacks for refueling on the way — yes, it's that strenuous. You think Camelback Mountain is tough? Siphon Draw has nearly twice the elevation gain. And the trail's not just steep and rugged like Camelback — it's very steep and very rugged, slippery with gravel in places. At least one section will require one or both hands to surmount. Even the flatter parts of the trail are rocky and will give your ankles a workout.

What do you get for all of this pain and suffering? Only the chance to stroll next to the largest cliffs in the Phoenix area. The huge spires and walls of the west flanks of the Superstition Mountains make a dramatic backdrop for half the hike. In the high, sloping boulder fields just north, you might catch sight of a javelina — or a herd of them. Towering in the distance is the Flatiron, a monumental formation that dominates the upper landscape. That's where Siphon Draw goes. The trail takes a turn for the vertical, when you can find the trail. Keep a lookout for the white paint splotches that take you up the most efficient way. The top of Flatiron is flat and a great place for a picnic, and the magnificent view of Phoenix is the other main reason you came. Hikers with energy left can jog upward and eastward for another 20 minutes to a higher perch. But save some juice for the slog down.

Camelback Mountain/Echo Canyon Recreation Area

What could make metro Phoenix's toughest short trail even tougher? Braving it in the area's legendary heat, of course. Echo Canyon Trail ascends about 1,200 vertical feet in 1.5 miles, and is known to reduce even tough Arizona Cardinals players to whimpers. When springtime coolness disappears, the fire department comes out more often to Camelback Mountain as unprepared or unfit hikers suffer. Be warned: Even experienced hikers can succumb to extreme heat. Several hikers, including some on Camelback, have died from heatstroke in the last couple of years. Yet when the mercury was expected to reach a record-setting (for the day) 119 degrees on a Saturday in June, our most-avid Camelback-hiking friend put the call out on Facebook: "Who's going with me?" About five other guys showed up, he told us later. On the hottest days, the reddish surface of Camelback is so appropriate it's ridiculous — this feels and looks like Hell. Trapped in one of several gullies where no breeze stirs, surrounded by super-heated rock on three sides, temperatures may soar to more than 130 degrees. Why do they do it? "I like the exercise factor, and I like to sweat my ass off," says our friend. We mention that it's also nice when the usually-packed parking lot is empty. "Oh, yeah," he says with enthusiasm. "Put down that the parking lot's empty." On June 30, following a string of heat-related tragedies in Arizona, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board considered a motion to close its mountain-park trails when the temperatures rose over 100 degrees. More than a dozen people showed up to protest the action, and only two people argued for the closures. The board voted down the measure. Sweat on!

Pima Canyon Trailhead at South Mountain Park and Preserve

Pima Canyon is an ideal place to introduce kids to real hiking, or at least the general concept of it. Tykes don't always tolerate heading down a single-track trail in one boring direction; they'd rather scamper, scramble, and explore. Here, you'll find an awesome mix of trails within a relatively small area, and the little ones can do what they want. Once parked along the park road west of 48th Street, you and the fam can jump on one of the trails that descends into a broad arroyo full of sand, palo verde trees, and boulders. Watching out for mountain bikers, check out the hills just south toward the Arizona Grand Resort and Spa (formerly the Pointe), then circle west again, back toward the road and the end of the paved parking area. An easy walk on the start of Desert Classic Trail takes you to the barred inscription from 1537 by Spanish explorer Marcos de Niza (you don't have to tell the kids it's likely a 1920s forgery). Toddlers or little kids ready to cover some distance can tackle the wide, dirt road open only to pedestrians that extends about a mile to the start of the long and brutal National Trail. Even a short walk down this road and back will give a kid a sense of what desert hiking is all about, but the car isn't far away in case of a mental meltdown or tired legs. On nice days, you'll see many other hikers, including lots of families with kids or pets. Go around sunset for a good chance at hearing the yips and yaps of the coyotes who live in the 16,000-acre South Mountain Park/Preserve.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of