Listeners got a double bonus when Arizona Sports 98.7 FM expanded the Bickley & Marotta show from two to four hours last year. Not only did we get more time with this lively midday duo (and less with the B-Train, Bertrand Berry), but we also got free access to Dan Bickley's insightful column, which had been hidden for years behind the azcentral.com paywall and on the pages of the Arizona Republic. (We will admit his nasal voice is best suited for print.) Part of what makes Bickley and Marotta so successful is that they don't need to talk about successful sports teams to keep their audiences engaged. They are adept at entertaining us with lengthy discussions on celebrities, rock bands, and movies. What other sportscasting team can go mano a mano reciting lines from Caddyshack? Certainly, we need a few laughs after the way our pro sports teams have been performing — like rat farts.

Like we've said before, there's no bad place in the Valley to see a spring training game, because if you're there, it means you're off work or on vacation, and you're watching baseball. But let's give props to Phoenix and the Milwaukee Brewers for their $60 million renovation of the facility formerly known as Maryvale Baseball Park. The upgrades include a new entrance and better parking. American Family Fields is also the most centrally located of all the Cactus League stadiums, the only one actually inside the Phoenix city limits. There are no bad seats in this cozy 10,000-seat park, and the experience includes a few authentic touches from Wisconsin, including Kent "Iceman" Meyer, a legendary beer hawker at games in Milwaukee who accompanies the team to spring training and greets fans with his signature cry, "The Iceman be in the house!" A brew is the perfect pairing with the park's bratwursts slathered in Wisconsin's famous beer brat red sauce. It's a treat that rivals the Sonoran dog as the best in the Cactus League, putting the overhyped Dodger Dog to shame.

Pecos Community Center Skate Park

Pecos Skate Park is one of perfect dimensions, featuring fun and challenging obstacles, rails, and transitions for skaters of all skill levels. There are a number of prerequisites when it comes to selecting a skate park that will be attractive to every skater, because if you've spent any time carving and grinding through skate parks around town, you know that some can be a bit intimidating, while others are too simple and boring. Pecos is the Goldilocks of Valley skate parks: just right. In choosing Pecos Skate Park, we have taken into account approachability for young grommet skaters, as well as a difficulty and combination potential for even the most experienced skaters. Never too crowded, and with plenty of room for everyone to spread out and get their runs in, Pecos is shred-ready for skaters one and all.

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.

Best Of Phoenix®

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