Best Dog Park 2022 | Chaparral Dog Park | Fun & Games | Phoenix

This popular doggie destination just east of Old Town Scottsdale features three parks. One is designated for active dogs, and the second is for pooches with a bit more chill. Fortunately, both are well-maintained spaces, with nice grass, dog water fountains, plenty of room to run and play, and a regular collection of nice, chatty people. The third park is closed for maintenance and reseeding; the spaces rotate, so the park will never close down, leaving dogs and their owners stir-crazy for months. Since the dog park is part of the larger Chaparral Park, you've got plenty of space to walk around outside the designated dog area. We recommend putting your pup on a leash and heading to the Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden for some zen via a fountain and lots of native flora.

Pelicans in the desert? Yeah, we're not kidding. The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, a 100-acre park tucked away in Gilbert, is a bona fide desert oasis — and a haven for birdwatchers. The town stores some of its water in several basins across the park, and birds flock from miles away to congregate in the shady pools. It's a particularly good place to see water birds; white pelicans, cinnamon teals, black-necked stilts, and roseate spoonbills are all easily found here, foraging and bathing in the water. But birds of all kinds abound, from hummingbirds to raptors to quail. The park is partly forested, and paths are accompanied by cheerful signage about the wildlife, making for a nice stroll. You're sure to encounter many veteran birders here, armed with their scopes and binoculars, but fear not, newbies — there are so many birds at the Riparian Preserve that you need no skill to see them. Simply take a walk, and enjoy the momentary respite from the desert.

One of the upsides of living in Phoenix is the way that nature and urban areas often rest literally right atop one another. For instance, you could drive 20 minutes from almost anywhere and be atop Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak for scenic hiking. Or, just head into Arcadia proper for a truly dazzling destination: the Phoenix Bat Cave. Every summer between May and October, as they migrate south toward Mexico, a colony of some 20,000 Mexican free-tailed bats make a flood control tunnel their temporary nesting spot. That means that as they emerge every day around sunset, the most unlikely of places becomes a majestic little nature observatory. To get there, just head to the northernmost end of the Arizona Canal Trail — near 40th Street and Camelback Road — where there's actual "Batcave Parking" available. (If you're savvy enough, the actual coordinates are 33.5147, -112.0012.) If it seems odd to have bats right around a delightful spot like Chelsea's Kitchen, that's sort of the point. Phoenix is a weird and wonderful place, and something beautiful can often be found where it's least expected.

Cat cafes are big business in Japan. Many Japanese apartments forbid pet ownership, so if you're in Tokyo and want to spend time with a flock of frisky felines while sipping a cup of joe, there are dozens of places that will help you scratch that itch. If you're looking to spend time with a purrfect stranger in Arizona, there's no better place to kick up your paws than La Gattara. Arizona's first cat cafe offers a bright, comfortable environment where folks can relax, read, talk with human friends, and make some new cat friends as well. La Gattara are also advocates for pet adoption and are always looking to help cats find their forever homes. Come on down to the cat cafe and watch them scamper on their towers — maybe one of them will climb their way into your heart.

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.

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