Best Communing With Creatures of the Night 2023 | Phoenix Bat Cave | Fun & Games | Phoenix

Best Communing With Creatures of the Night

Phoenix Bat Cave

Here's a fun fact: Arizona is home to 28 species of bats, second in the nation to Texas. They're spread all over the state, but one colony of Mexican free-tailed bats has claimed as its summer home a flood-control tunnel near Camelback and 40th Street. The colony reportedly numbers 10,000-20,000 bats, which leave the tunnel nightly in search of some tasty insects. To witness this exodus, park near the intersection before sunset and start following the canal at the northwest corner of the intersection. Walk on the right side of the canal, and when you see a path heading off to your right, follow it until you arrive at the tunnel. You'll need to be quiet while you wait, as the bats don't like a lot of commotion. But eventually, you'll be rewarded with the sight of thousands of bats heading out for dinner. Don't worry, the bats aren't interested in humans and we've never seen a bat run into a spectator. As you head back to your car, keep your eyes peeled for bats picking off bugs from the surface of the canal.

We've been known to take a yoga class or two. But let's be real. When we go to yoga at Arizona Goat Yoga, we're there for the chance to watch and possibly cuddle a baby goat. And the classes don't disappoint. When you go, you get plenty of opportunities to interact with baby and adult goats with a low-impact yoga class chaser. Many of the classes are themed, so you and the animals can dress up to match themes like '80s, Hawaiian or Halloween. Depending on the day, some alpacas may crash the party, and still other classes offer cow cuddling as well. The staff are adept at making sure that the animals stay safe and happy while the guests enjoy their experience.

Birding has taken off in popularity recently among a wider range of demographics, and this 110-acre preserve in Gilbert is the premier place in the Valley to try it out. It's impossible not to see birds here, and when out-of-town birders ask for suggestions of where to see some feathered friends, this is usually the most popular answer. The birding surge started during the pandemic when people were looking for things to do outdoors and away from other humans, but the craze has continued. Because the preserve is in the desert, you'll probably see doves, quail and hummingbirds, but also, because it boasts seven lakes of reclaimed water, you'll spy specimens that aren't likely to show up in your backyard such as egrets, grebes, stilts, avocets and herons. The water is also a beacon for migrating birds that aren't usually in town such as peregrine falcons. And if you need guidance, the park is always brimming with veteran birders (you'll know them by their telescopic camera lenses) who are happy to answer questions and point you to less commonly seen species.

We just don't understand people who don't like cats. They're soft. They're cute. Most are friendly if you just take the time to get to know and understand them. If you love cats, you need to make a visit ASAP to La Gattara Cat Lounge in downtown Phoenix. At La Gattara, a rotating cast of kitties spend their days snoozing, eating and playing in the bright, comfortable space. For a small fee, well-behaved humans are welcome to come and frolic with the felines. And spending time with the cats isn't the only cool thing La Gattara offers. Other programming includes drag queen bingo, cat-themed paint nights and cat yoga. La Gattara is a nonprofit organization whose ultimate mission is to find homes for cats, and in this it's succeeding. More than 1,000 cats have been rescued because of La Gattara's good work in the community.

Phoenix is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, but a vast number of transplants don't do their research before packing their van and heading into the wonderland of the Sonoran Desert, the most biodiverse desert on the planet. They arrive oblivious to the array of birds, mammals and reptiles that share a wide swath of our state, often to the detriment of the animals. It should be a requirement when people change their license plates to visit Liberty Wildlife. Not only is it a rescue center for injured wildlife, but it provides education and a world of fun. Go during open hours or book a private tour to see the "animal ambassadors" — rescued birds, lizards, snakes and others that, for various reasons, can't be rereleased. You might meet Sheryl the crow, Einstein the great horned owl or Marble and Millie, the California condors. Better yet, attend a special event. Volunteers roam the grounds so guests can get closer to the critters and learn more about them, and some events feature open-air bars, food trucks and entertainment. Also, don't miss the non-eagle feather repository, which provides feathers for religious and ceremonial purposes to Native Americans with federally recognized tribes.

Best Place to Watch a Spring Training Game

Sloan Park

When spring training rolls into town, baseball fans are presented with a multitude of options. Metro Phoenix is home to 10 different stadiums that host 15 different teams. But one location rises above the rest. Sloan Park in Mesa is the official spring training facility for the Chicago Cubs. Like all spring training stadiums, the outfield features a large lawn for picnicking and catching the game from the grass. But Sloan Park also offers a rooftop bar and party deck, an area called the Citrus Grove where a rotation of food trucks set up shop and concession stands selling Chicago dogs and Cubs memorabilia. Design nods including green steelwork and red bricks give the impression that a version of Wrigley Field found its way to the desert along with the team's sun-seeking fans. For locals, Sloan Park provides a taste of the Windy City without leaving the Valley, making it a destination for all.

Arizona loves sports betting — and the chance to be first. The Caesars Sportsbook at Chase Field is the first MLB stadium to allow fans to place in-person wagers. In addition to that novelty, we love that Ceasars Sportsbook is in the heart of downtown and boasts a massive two-story space, including a loungy patio. It also offers casual eats powered by celebrity chef and Phoenix Suns fan Guy Fieri and more TVs than we can realistically focus on. For a sports bettor or a sports fan, it's not a bad way to spend an afternoon downtown. And, you can visit whether or not the Arizona Diamondbacks are taking the field. It will even be a little more low-key if you do, and that's not a bad thing.

Brittney Griner was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside of Moscow in February 2022 after officials reported finding cannabis-filled vape cartridges in her luggage. In total, Griner was found to be in possession of 0.7 grams of cannabis oil — an offense typically punishable by up to three years in prison. But Griner's detainment came just days before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the country's invasion of neighboring Ukraine, so she quickly became a political pawn. Griner was facing a 10-year sentence. The U.S. State Department declared that Griner was a wrongful detainee in May 2022 and began pushing for her immediate release from custody. The U.S.'s calls for action were ignored by Russian officials and in November, Griner was transferred to a penal colony 200 miles southeast of Moscow. Luckily, Griner's stay in the penal colony was short-lived, and she was freed in the U.S.-Russia prisoner exchange in December. In February 2023, the WNBA star signed a one-year contract with the Phoenix Mercury to complete her improbable journey back home.

Diana Taurasi has been a mainstay on the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury roster for nearly 20 years. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft, Taurasi has spent her career racking up accolades including three WNBA championships and seven Russian league titles during the off-season. But on Aug. 3, she outdid herself, scoring 42 points against the Atlanta Dream to become the first WNBA player to net 10,000 career points. Although the Mercury would end 2023 with a dismal 9-31 record, the season will be one to remember for Taurasi, who is largely regarded as one of the greatest players in WNBA history. We're lucky to have her in Phoenix.

When the Phoenix Suns fell to the Denver Nuggets in Game Six of the Western Conference semifinals on May 11, the biggest sting wasn't from another playoff exit by the Purple and Orange Gang. Instead, our hearts ached because it was the final game featuring Al McCoy, Phoenix's longtime play-by-play broadcaster. We knew it was coming — especially since McCoy announced he'd hang up his headset at the conclusion of the 2022-23 after five decades with the Suns — but we were still sad as he bid goodbye to fans on the radio (where he'd been calling games since 2003). Despite the Suns' frustrating loss to the Nuggets in the series, McCoy was nothing but classy, handling his farewell with grace and humility. He thanked colleagues such as color commentator Tim Kempton, mentioned how he enjoyed providing Suns coverage to blind listeners, and then gave a final adieu to end the game. "I just want to say thank you for 51 wonderful years and allowing me to bring the story of the Suns in the NBA to you," McCoy said. "It's been a great ride." After hosting the post-game show, he gave his final sign-off: "We'll just say so long ... for now." Vaya con dios, Al. You'll be missed.

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