A few years back, we found an injured bird in the New Times atrium. We knew exactly what to do: We scooped him up into a box and drove him to Liberty Wildlife. This nonprofit organization cares for and rehabilitates orphaned and injured wild animals, teaches people of all ages about wildlife, and instills in the community a respect for the value and beauty of nature. In pre-pandemic times, this translated into camps for kids, nature walks, educational programs, tours, "Coffee With a Ranger" events, and more. Since the spring, we've had to get our cute animal fix by following Liberty on Instagram, but we're looking forward to the day we can again visit the south Phoenix facility and learn more about the precious desert wildlife that surrounds us.

Best Place to Hang With Creatures of the Night

Phoenix Bat Cave

Bats have never been a particularly popular member of the animal kingdom, and in the age of COVID, their approval rating has dropped dramatically. But bats are actually really cool, and helpful, and there's a place in Phoenix where you can watch them head out for their nightly feeding. The Phoenix Bat Cave is a flood-control tunnel off the canal path near Camelback Road and 40th Street. Each May through October, a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats (estimates put the population of the colony somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000) leaves the cave around sunset in search of food. Stand quietly at the fence, and you'll see the bats emerge from the tunnel and fly off into the darkening skies. It's a tiny, magical moment that offers a closer brush with nature than we usually get in our concrete-covered metropolis. As you walk back to your vehicle along the canal, you'll get a second look at the bats; many of them hover near the water to snack on bugs.

If you've lived here longer than a minute, you're aware of Phoenix's awe-inspiring sunsets. They're a staple of social media posts, and well worth enduring the hassles of life in the Valley. Thanks to our wide-open vistas and huge stretches of sky, great views are available from almost anywhere. The grandest, though, can be found on South Mountain at Dobbins Lookout. Navigate the twists and turns of a 20-minute drive to the summit and take in a sweeping panorama of the entire Valley as the sun melts into the horizon, painting the sky in hues of pink, orange, and violet. Climb onto the lookout platform and feel like the master of all you survey. Or just kick back on a bench or the hood of your car and watch the sunlight succumbing to nightfall as city lights twinkle below. The lookout is closed for updates, but it'll reopen this fall with a new ramada, a new walking path, ADA improvements, and refurbishment of the overlook structure, making one of our favorite places an even better spot to enjoy the view.

Rosson House Museum

Is it possible to converse with those who've gone to the great beyond? The Victorians certainly thought so. Not to speak ill of the long-since deceased, but these people eagerly believed in paranormal poppycock like Ouija boards, seances, and mediums, the popularity of which was born of the era's obsession with death. Such subjects are discussed at the Seances and Spiritualists Tour once a month during fall, winter, and spring inside the circa-1890s Rosson House in Heritage Square. These TED talks of the macabre explore how the era's low life-expectancy rates (most didn't live past middle age and half of all kids kicked the bucket by 5) led to many folks reaching out to the hereafter. Ghastly Victorian-era practices like visiting morgues for entertainment or dressing up corpses for photos are also covered. If all this leaves you in need of a stiff one afterwards, elixirs and charcuterie follow at The Bungalow event space next door. The series is currently on pause at the moment because of the pandemic, but we're sure its organizers will be talking about the dead again soon.

If the producers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever recast the role of Thor, they oughta give pro wrestler Alexander Hammerstone a call. The blond beefcake and Glendale resident has the rugged good looks to play the Asgardian superhero, not to mention a godlike physique. Seriously, the man is more cut than a sliced apple. Hammer-stone, who's signed to indie federation Major League Wrestling, boasts heavy-duty biceps, eight-pack abs, and triceps that make Charles Atlas look like a weakling. He puts his muscles to use every week on the Major League Wrestling: FUSION television show, easily tossing opponents like lawn darts with suplexes, powerbombs, and the "Nightmare Pendulum," a swinging side-slam that's his finisher. When he's not bringing the pain (please Hammerstone, don't hurt 'em!), he's posting videos of his exhaustive workout routines on social media, including deadlifting more than 400 pounds. But Hammerstone isn't all brawn and no brains; the dude's got a sense of humor, too. During a match at Crescent Ballroom in 2015, he engaged in an impromptu drum-off against a masked luchador. It was just as hilarious as any of the God of Thunder's jokes in Thor: Ragnarok.

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