Sometimes, you don't need a casino with Las Vegas-style glitz. Sometimes, you want to sit among smoking west Valley residents wearing Minions shirts and baseball caps. You want to drown out the outside world amid the whir of the slot machines and the godlike voice over the intercom that periodically announces a new $5,000 jackpot winner. Sure, the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino in Glendale is a stopgap until the Tohono O'odham Nation constructs a much larger entertainment behemoth next door. The forthcoming 75,000-square-foot casino is a long sought-after goal for the tribe, which faced a legal challenge to the project. The new facility is scheduled to open by December 2019. In the meantime, the Desert Diamond's interim casino floor feels brand-new, with tons of slot machines and friendly staff. There are cheap drink specials at the bar, where a TV broadcasts concept art of the future casino on a loop. The ambiance is fitting. Casinos are designed to make you think that with the next pull of the lever, your luck will change. They telegraph to the gambler that something big is right around the corner. In the case of Desert Diamond, it's actually true.

You won't find any disposable cash cards being swiped at StarFighters Arcade. Nor will you encounter piles of prize tickets being exchanged for cheap crap, high-tech games the size of your car, or overpriced adult beverages — just row after blessed row of coin-op classics, and an enormous collection of pinball machines. StarFighters isn't so much an arcade as it is a monument to the era when Pac-Man fever swept the nation, and joystick junkies could get their fix one quarter at a time. Warp over to its location in a nondescript Mesa office park on a Friday or Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, and you'll be transported like Tron's Kevin Flynn into a thrill-soaked pixel paradise. Filling the 4,000-square-foot space are 130 throwback arcade titles and 35 pinball games from the '70s, '80s, and '90s, many of which come from the personal stashes of co-owners Mike Lovato and Steve Thomas. After paying the $10 admission fee, you can conquer Crazy Climber, make like 007 on Spy Hunter, score big playing Stun Runner, or finally prove you're the uncrowned king of Kong. So if you're ready, player one, StarFighters awaits you.

Golly, if you can't find a smile at Golfland, maybe your face needs a surgical graft. This is classic entertainment in a setting so iconic, even Hollywood has noticed. (Okay, it was only one movie, but it was Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, which is cool.) From the castle theme to the windmills and aging Astroturf amid real trees, Golfland Sunsplash oozes old-school charm and visual pleasures. Oh, and that Astroturf runs smooth, so contenders can get their game on. The course isn't dilapidated, just ... historic. The place opened back in 1983, followed three years later by the impressive plastic skein of waterslides that gave the "splash" to the name. No need to buy into everything else at the place: $10 each for people 12 and older gets you on the greens. Throw in dinner and gelato (somewhere else) and you've got the makings of a perfect date. Want to practice so you look like Tiger Woods out there? It's only $2 for a replay on the same day.

Stepping into one of the karts at Octane Raceway is when the thrill starts. The vehicle is low, and you've got a helmet on, impairing vision and making it more difficult to settle into the bucket seat and buckle up than it should be. The real stress is because, through the helmet's windscreen, you can see the competition — teen boys and girls, maybe some parents. One of them may be your kid, but you've got to beat them all. You floor it when the flag goes down, then screech into the first corner, losing ground already. The whine of the electric motors and surge of speed down the straightaways are like a shot of espresso laced with Walter White's Blue Sky. Fully alive now, you take the corners better, diving in at optimum track, hugging the concrete instead of sliding on it. You pass one, then two cars. But there's no sign of the older teens — they're so far ahead it's not worth worrying about. Then, the yellow flag drops — time to slow down already. The seconds are long and the laps are short at Octane. As usual, it's over all too soon. A quick peek at the printout of results. Drat. Time to buy more laps. It's always this way.

If you have fond memories of whiling away the hours of your youth at the local roller rink, we have good news: You can relive your skating days at Skateland Chandler. The facility is packed full of old-school fun, including an arcade, cafe, and super-groovy blacklight-friendly decor. There are a number of family skate and public skate sessions each week, plus occasional special events, including free pizza and adults-only nights. You can rent out the whole joint for parties, and if you're trying to impart a love of roller skating to the next generation, Skateland Chandler offers lessons for young and beginner skaters.

Our Phoenix temperatures run anywhere from "maybe I should put on a jacket" to "why does it feel like I'm burning?," which is why we like ice skating: You know you'll get a lovely, cool atmosphere the moment you walk in the door. Ice Den Scottsdale is our favorite rink for strapping on skates and beating the heat. There are plenty of public and family skate sessions each week for casual skaters who just want to hit the ice for fun once in a while. Ice skating can work up an appetite, and Ice Den Scottsdale has you covered: The Chilly Bean Cafe sells snacks and drinks, and the 18 Degrees grill offers full meals and alcoholic beverages. If you or your kid are into hockey or figure skating, Ice Den Scottsdale is the place to be. Skaters interested in hockey will find lessons, camps, and leagues for children and adults; would-be figure skaters also can take lessons, find a coach, or join the Coyotes Skating Club. Speaking of the Coyotes: Ice Den Scottsdale is the practice home of our NHL team, and if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us.

Everyone's there to have a good time at Let It Roll Bowl, the north central Phoenix bowling alley known for nightly specials like Monday Madness, Hump Day Wednesdays, and the well-known Rock N Cosmic Bowl nights on Fridays and Saturdays. Formerly Sunset Bowl, Let It Roll Bowl offers youth, mixed, and women's leagues for the serious bowlers, while those with a lukewarm love for the sport can either play or post up at The Lounge — an in-house tavern that's been around since 1962 with a full bar and food. Other perks include the Pro Shop and the Pizza RE, a casual eatery that serves all the bowling-alley staples (think fried appetizers). It's also an ideal place for corporate and group events, fundraisers, and adult parties.

When it comes to golf courses, metro Phoenix has an embarrassment of riches, from the toniest Scottsdale clubs to the humblest public links. But we're partial to Raven Golf Club, a south Phoenix facility where we always have a great day on the course. Designed by golf architect Gary Panks and PGA tour member David Graham, the course, which is dotted with pine trees and offers lovely views of South Mountain, offers a challenge for players at all skill levels. Raven is also home to a practice center featuring a driving range, putting green, and chipping green; lessons for children and adults; a full-service pro shop; and the Grill 36 restaurant.

One voice stands out among the testosterone-laced airways of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, and not necessarily in a good way. John Gambadoro has a delivery only a Soprano could love. After 21 years on the air here, the co-host of Burns and Gambo still hasn't swapped his New Jersey accent for a Phoenix inflection. Nor has his elocution improved. His attempt to say "methamphetamine" is the stuff of local legend. Yet he also stands out in another way among local sportscasters: his reporting. He actually does it well. He's constantly on the phone with his "sawces," even during his afternoon-drive show. He led everybody in reporting that Steve Wilks was the top choice as the Arizona Cardinals' new head coach. He predicted that if the Cards did make a move up for a quarterback in the last draft, it would be for Josh Rosen (they did). No one on the local sports scene seems more connected to the NBA. He obtained private pre-draft reports on the candidates for the Phoenix Suns top picks: Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, and Luka Doncic. And he broke the story about the Suns' Devin Booker needing surgery. So Gambo is our top pick, even if he does mangle nouns and verbs the way a garbage disposal mutilates rotten tomatoes and uneaten peas. At least he won't pronounce name of the Suns' new coach, Igor Kokoskov, any worse than the rest of us.

Chicago native Dan Bickley once had a press-row seat for Michael Jordan's career with the NBA Bulls. These days, Bickley is the closest thing Phoenix has to a sports media superstar, at one time flourishing in print, online, on TV, and on radio. He even has his own rock band. So when he announced his decision to leave his columnist job at the Arizona Republic to go full-time at Arizona Sports 98.7, it seemed natural that he used a basketball analogy. "The industry has become just like the NBA, where the best players don't flourish on talent alone," he wrote about the move. "They understand the importance of joining the right team." The Bickley brand now includes an expanded show with radio partner Vince Marotta from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.weekdays on 98.7 FM. His award-winning column appears exclusively on Whether he will be selling his own line of sneakers remains to be seen.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of