The Nile Theater

Metro Phoenix is what you’d call a hotbed of professional wrestling fandom. (To quote Kurt Angle, it’s true, it’s damn true.) Just ask all the marks who flock to the events that WWE brings here on the regular (including its Royal Rumble pay-per-view earlier this year) or any of the smackdowns put on by the half-dozen independent wrestling promotions in the Valley. So much spandex-clad action happens in the Valley, in fact, that it takes something unique to stand out from the competition — and Party Hard Wrestling has been doing just that the past few years. Since its debut in 2016, PHW has become the weirdest, funniest, and quirkiest entry into Phoenix’s busy wrestling scene. It stars characters like the garbage-covered El Rey Basura (literally, “the trash king”), Cereal Man (who’s half-human, half-breakfast option), and the Party Ranger (a parody of “Super Sentai” kids’ shows). Competitors battle for Party Hard’s main title, the Championship of the Multiverse, and storylines sometimes involve supernatural or otherworldly elements. PHW has proven to be popular so far; its shows at The Nile Theater in Mesa, which run monthly from September to May, are usually packed with fans. It even appeared in a recent episode of the Netflix show Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father. It’s ribald, rowdy, and ridiculous, not to mention a blast to watch.

We'll acknowledge our tastes (and abilities) run more toward golf courses that feature windmill holes and clown mouths, so we're deferring to the experts on this selection. Golf Digest, the bible for those who spend their Sundays praying for a birdie putt to fall, this year again ranked Quintero among the top 100 public courses in America, a list that includes such legendary names as Pebble Beach, Pinehurst, Sawgrass, and, alas, Trump National. No other Arizona course made the list. Golf Digest wrote that "perhaps no course in the greater Phoenix area provides a better experience of the area's diverse topography. Some holes are framed by mountain ridges, others are out in the Sonoran Desert. Still others are edged by manmade irrigation lakes or natural desert washes." But to paraphrase Mark Twain, why spoil a good walk among such beautiful scenery trying to knock a little white ball into a hole a quarter mile away?

Hotel Valley Ho

The best staycation spots give you plenty to do on-site, plus lots of nearby options when you want to explore the urban landscape. Hotel Valley Ho beautifully blends it all, with amenities that include spa time, yoga, a pool with DJ-provided tunes, a chef's table culinary experience, and tours focused on the hotel's history, where you'll hear guides drop names like Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, of Psycho fame. The hotel can also hook you up with a tour of Midcentury Modern architecture in Scottsdale and the area's eclectic assortment of food, drink, and shopping options. You can get off the grid, getting around by electric scooter, trolley, or golf-cart taxi. Walk just a few minutes, and you can explore cultural resources from art museums to performance venues. Bottom line: Guests leave refreshed and ready to tackle the real world.

Wet 'n' Wild Phoenix Water Park

It's hot in Phoenix. Really, really hot. Like being blasted in the face with a wall of heat when you open your oven while baking hot. There is absolutely no shame in spending the day trying to be as thoroughly drenched in cold water as you possibly can. The water park formerly known as Wet 'n' Wild Phoenix (formerly known as WaterWorld Safari) is now Hurricane Harbor Phoenix, and its 30 slides and other attractions are guaranteed to keep you from succumbing to the Valley's scorching summer heat (no, but seriously, drink water). You can float down a lazy river, get nauseated in the Hurricane Bay wave pool after eating too much fried food from one of the park's four dining options, and sail 830 feet on the Bahama Blaster, the park's "dueling H2O coaster."

The best pool parties bring just the right mix of pool design, people, and creative energy. In a Valley where cool pools abound, Talking Stick pool parties reign supreme because they bring people together through not just water play, but also with music that ramps up the summertime vibe. It's all about the synergy they create by showcasing different musical styles every week — with international and local DJs spinning tunes that transform these pool parties into dance parties or sing-alongs. It's just the right mix for long summer months, where just doing the club scene gets old, and people want to enjoy a bit of off-the-beaten-path escapism.

As anyone rocking a SNES Classic Edition or Sega Genesis Flashback could tell you, retro gaming is big. So big, in fact, that it rakes in hundreds of millions of dollar each year for the video game industry. And the folks at CollectorVision Games certainly are getting a slice of that pixelated pie. Since 2008, the indie developer, which is partly based in the Valley, has released more than 100 homebrew titles (or independently created games designed to mimic the classics) for vintage consoles like the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision, complete with period packaging and manuals. They’ve been a big hit with old-school gamers, especially such popular releases as Ghosts 'n Zombies (a clone of Ghosts 'n Goblins) and Space Raid (an homage to Zaxxon). In more recent years, CollectorVision has put out several titles in its addicting Sydney Hunter series, which are side-scrolling adventures in the vein of Indiana Jones and 8-bit favorites like Castlevania. They’re playable on systems both retro and modern (including the Nintendo Switch) and are bound to give you more nostalgia than an entire season of Stranger Things.

Admittedly, Electric Bat isn't the biggest arcade around (it measures around 14 feet by 40 feet). Nor does it have an enormous array of games (14 pinball machines and seven arcade titles dot the room). But what it lacks in size and selection, Rachel Bess' tiny arcade attached to Tempe's Yucca Tap Room makes up for with its cool factor and groovy atmosphere, which mixes horror-movie macabre with a rock 'n' roll twist. A poster for The Munsters and the covers of various pulp sci-fi and monster magazines decorate the walls, as do photos of rock stars like Debbie Harry and Elvis Presley playing pinball. The games also complement Electric Bat's aesthetic, and include pinball machines inspired by both horror flicks (Creature From the Black Lagoon, Bram Stoker's Dracula) and hard rock bands (including AC/DC, Metallica, and Iron Maiden). Plus, the sound of live bands performing next door at the Yucca Tap fills the air, adding to the atmosphere. Rock on.

As an old-school arcade, StarFighters in Mesa has it all. The 4,000-square-foot joint features enough joystick classics to delight any gamer, young or old, as well as such nostalgic touches as neon art, '80s action figures on display, and a jukebox playing throwback rock anthems. And, oh yeah, it also has the biggest selection of pinball in the Valley. More than 40 machines are available at StarFighters, ranging from the games your parents used to play (Genie, Pinbot, and Haunted House) to more recent hits like the ultra-popular Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast. They see plenty of action when StarFighters opens its docking port every weekend, Friday through Sunday, and the crowds have only gotten bigger since pinball began experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Thankfully, owners Steve Thomas and Mike Lovato keep every machine in perfect working order, so you never have to worry about broken buttons or fubarred flippers when you're going full tilt. StarFighters also host weekly and monthly tournaments, in case you'd like to demonstrate your pinball wizardry like Tommy.

Lone Butte Casino

The Gila River Indian Community's Lone Butte is low-key as far as casinos go, and that's what we love about it. Plotted on a relatively desolate stretch on Chandler's west edge, the quaint gaming establishment whispers to the modestly dressed, casual, and quirky gambler: Come breathe our oxygen, hear our slot machines ding. And of course, try your luck. However small, Lone Butte has what you're looking for: blackjack, plus electronic roulette and craps. Slow day? Hit up one of its slot machines. You're going to have a good time.

Practical Art

Art classes can be intimidating and expensive. But that's never the case at Practical Art, where art classes are casual gatherings without pressure to conform or be perfect. Art should be fun, and your art should be your own. That's exactly what happens at Practical Art, where frequent, affordable classes make it easy to explore making different types of art. They're taught by some of the Valley's best-known artists, including Jake Early, Christopher Jagmin, and Laura Spalding Best. On one occasion, Alexandra Bowers taught a class in woodworking; another time, Ann Morton showed people how to make a bouquet of flowers using only recycled materials. It's an added bonus that you can usually see an exhibit or shop for artist-made designs while you're there.

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