Best Bike Path 2022 | Arizona Canal Trail | Fun & Games | Phoenix

Variety is the spice of life, it's been said, although some people are skeptical when they're pondering outdoor time in Arizona, where you could be forgiven for thinking it's all cactus or housing tracts as far as the eye can see. The Arizona Canal Trail stands out because it comprises nearly 40 miles of varied terrain where you'll encounter not only nature, but also suburban neighborhoods, commercial enclaves, and parks. We're smitten with the smattering of bridges and tunnels that make for a fun change of pace now and then, and also with the way this trail connects us to places in the city we don't get to experience in our everyday routines. We're keen on moving between dirt, rocks, and pavement, because adapting is one of our superpowers. People riding the trail are pretty low-key unless you're completely ignorant of cycling etiquette. Take your camera along, because you never know when you'll be surprised by an unanticipated photo op.

The sports world always loves a good comeback story. Just ask fans of Phoenix Rising Football Club, as their favorite team might be in the midst of one at the moment. After spending the past few years as perennial contenders in the United Soccer League, the local pro soccer team went off a cliff this season, losing a majority of their games and going from heroes to zeroes. (It's par for the course with local sports franchises these days.) After a front office shakeup, including promoting former assistant coach Juan Guerra to team manager, the Rising reversed their fortunes and got back into the playoff hunt. The team's rabid fanbase couldn't have been more ecstatic. They already turn out in droves to the Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex in Chandler, packing the bleachers while adorned in face paint, waving red and black flags, and cheering on their squad. In certain sections, you'll see huge fan groups such as the Banditos and the Red Fury getting even rowdier, creating a cacophony with musical instruments and leading chants as their enthusiasm grows to a fever pitch. It helps heighten the experience and makes games, even the losing ones, fun to attend.

There was no joy in the Valley earlier this year when the Phoenix Suns choked, and choked hard, during the NBA playoffs, despite their record-breaking season and prime position as the top seed. As devastating as it was for long-suffering Suns fans, the person we truly felt for was legendary play-by-play announcer Al McCoy. The former Iowa farmboy has been calling games on television and radio since 1972, describing the action in his distinctive, folksy style. He's as much a part of the Suns as their mascot, the Gorilla, and has seen many ups and downs over the decades, from the dark days of the team's mid-'80s drug scandal to the heights of the Charles Barkley era and beyond. And his signature catchphrases, like yelling "Shazam!" when the Suns hit a three-pointer or "Wham bam slam!" after a dunk, are the stuff of lore. McCoy's in the twilight of his career, scaling back to just calling games on the radio these days, so Devin Booker and company only have a certain amount of time to finally win an NBA championship. If anyone deserves to make that call, it's McCoy. So c'mon fellas, win this one for him.

Best Place to See a Spring Training Game

Sloan Park

For decades, Arizona has been a magnet for baseball fans nationwide who soak in the sun's rays watching their favorite players show off their talents before the regular season begins. There's no better place to make springtime baseball memories than Mesa's famous Sloan Park, winter home to the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs, who snapped a 71-year National League pennant drought in 2016 en route to their first World Series title since 1908, have trained in the East Valley since 1952. Built in 2014, and located just east of the Loop 101 freeway, Sloan Park (formerly Cubs Park) boasts a 15,000-seat ballpark and seven practice fields, meaning Chicago Cubs fans will be closer than ever to the spring training action. It's earned the stadium, which is also the home of the Arizona League Cubs of the Arizona League and the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League, the nickname "Wrigley West." Fun fact: Sloan Park is the largest spring training stadium by capacity in Major League Baseball, eclipsing Camelback Ranch in Glendale (coincidentally, the spring training home of the Cubs' in-city rivals, the Chicago White Sox) by 2,000 seats.

So, you're eager to up your creativity quotient, but you don't have time to hit one place for theater and another place for painting. Or you want to go beyond drawing and other traditional mediums to try something more unconventional, like blacksmithing or throwing pottery on a wheel. Mesa Arts Center has a wide range of classes that let you stretch your imagination and discover art forms you didn't even know you wanted to explore. The center has spacious, pristine classrooms where you can study with super-talented local artists. It's a bonus that classes are held on the MAC campus, because you can find inspiration inside the contemporary art museum, do your gift shopping in the museum store, or take in some public art while you do a bit of walking. Best of all, the center has special classes for servicemembers and for youth.

You might enjoy the guilty pleasure of holing up for days inside your apartment with a big basket of yarn and your favorite knitting needles. Still, there's nothing like spending time with fellow crafters who get your love affair with felt, beads, and fancy ribbons. Sunshine Sunflower Studio nails it with a wide variety of craft workshops, including some just for kids and some just for grownups. You can learn to use a pottery wheel during Saturday Spin classes or Mimosa & Mud classes when you bring your own Champagne. Or you can hit open studio times, or holiday-themed workshops. The vibe is casual and easygoing, so you never have to be embarrassed if more clay ends up on your apron than on the mug you were making for your bestie.

Few musicians better embody the wrestling concept of "kayfabe" like Andrew W.K. Kayfabe is all about fully committing to the bit and not letting the performer's mask drop. Think about it: When's the last time you've seen W.K. wearing anything that isn't all-white and stained with blood or sweat? So it's only fitting that his all-in-on-the-gimmick, party-all-the-time ethos inspired an entire wrestling promotion. Party Hard Wrestling is the Valley's go-to promotion for wild wrestling gimmicks, bizarre characters, and imaginative matches that push the boundaries of what you'd expect from an indie wrestling show. From Evil Dead references to elaborate street fight matches that literally turn into fights on the streets of downtown Mesa, PHW has been all about getting real weird with it. What the future holds for the beloved party animals remains to be seen: Their big fall event is called Series Finale. Will there be a Party Hard Reboot in the future? Or are they hanging up the title belts for good?

You know how sometimes you return from a trip and need a vacation to get over your vacation? For a local respite that's actually relaxing, check out CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa in the north Valley. Named as a top destination by Conde Nast Traveler, CIVANA is a hotel and wellness spa tucked along the backdrop of the Sonoran Desert. Upon checking in, you receive a journal to keep track of your mental state. With daily classes such as Pilates, yoga, and meditation, this is the staycation destination that will be your to-go spot to unwind and be recharged in unexpected ways. The property is expansive, with a rock circle labyrinth, a lush green lawn, and a relaxing pool. Whether you want to spend time getting a massage or learning how to meditate, CIVANA is intent on getting you to relax.

If you're looking for trendy, colorful vibes for your next staycation, check in at Rise Uptown Hotel. The midcentury-inspired, locally owned boutique hotel boasts modern amenities such as paletas-style popsicles at The Pop Stand at check-in, a lounge area with comfy, outdoor beds, and Cartel coffee for your caffeine needs. The luxurious rooms are filled with kitschy, vintage wallpaper, an old-school record player, (not just for show, you can actually borrow records and listen to them), and balcony views of uptown Phoenix. To contact the front desk, just shoot a text instead of making a phone call. For your relaxation and inebriation needs, Rise Uptown has two impressive bars: Lylo Swim Club, a poolside space serving up Hawaiian-Japanese bites, and Don Woods' Say When, a '60s-inspired cocktail rooftop bar. Both spots are led by Ross Simon, owner of two award-winning, world-renowned bars in Phoenix, so you know the drinks are artistic, tasty, and strong. Plus, the Dole Whipped cocktail comes with soft-serve, pineapple ice cream, the perfect accompaniment for those hot, sunny days.

You can't sling a sack of quarters in the Valley these days without hitting an amazing throwback arcade. Each is great in its own right — the nostalgia-fueled Player 1 Arcade in Surprise, the pinball-centric Stardust Pinbar, and the perenially popular Cobra Arcade Bar. Are any of these options the best, though? Sorry, Mario, but our winner is in another part of town. Out at StarFighters in east Mesa, the '80s-themed joint reigns over the scene like King Koopa, boasting the biggest lineup of games under one roof: 42 pinball machines and 84 different arcade classics. Its unparalleled selection is diverse, too, offering deeper cuts from yesteryear than other local arcades. Hard-to-find favorites like Crossbow and Lunar Lander. Vector classics like Black Widow and Space Duel. And gems like the campy Atari rarity Escape from the Robot Monsters. StarFighters' crack staff of Fix-It Felixes keep all the vintage machines working perfectly, so jiggly joysticks are never an issue. Admission is $11 per person with every game set to free-play mode, meaning no jerks will ruin your trip down memory lane by slapping their tokens onto the corner of the screen.

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