Best Zoo 2023 | Phoenix Zoo | Fun & Games | Phoenix

Ever have the desire to dip your hands into a shallow pool and pet the smooth surface of a stingray? If that's on your become-one-with-nature bucket list, you can make it happen at Phoenix Zoo. Other close-up and hands-on adventures include strolling through Monkey Village, where primates swing freely around and above the pathways, and hopping onto the back of a camel for a ride. This massive facility is home to more than 3,000 intriguing animals and over 400 species. Barns, a petting zoo and splash pads are just a few ways kids can learn and work off some of their excitement. Plenty of educational opportunities fill the annual calendar, helping visitors understand animal behaviors and needs. And Phoenix Zoo often finds ways to offer fun after closing time, like the yearly ZooLights holiday event, during which time the park becomes illuminated by festive displays that celebrate the season.

Sure, hanging around poolside all summer is the kind of glamorous lifestyle that will make your friends in Minnesota jealous. But just like a good cocktail menu, variety is the spice of life. So, why enjoy your water in still form when you could fly down a waterslide at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix? The park is home to the Anaconda, which was named a top five waterslide by the Travel Channel's "Extreme Water Parks" program. You'll corkscrew, spin and splash your way down the Anaconda on a multiperson raft before getting drenched in a pool. Young kids will love running around the Soak 'em Playground and Coconut Bay. With season passes starting at just $59 per a person, Hurricane Harbor is one of the city's most affordable ways to stay cool.

A date night getting dropped, spun and flipped around on a roller coaster might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it definitely beats the ho-hum routine of dinner and a movie. The adventurous couple will relish the chance to watch their significant other scream bloody murder on the Sky Diver ride, which, you guessed it, sends you plummating a terrifying 120 feet before abruptly stopping. As an added bonus, the Sky Diver offers great views of the former Metrocenter mall site. Our favorite ride is the Splashdown log ride, which can add some naughty fun to your outing if you're daring enough to wear white. But Castles N' Coasters isn't just for the young of heart — it's also for the actual young. A mini Ferris wheel and kid-friendly roller coaster make Castles N' Coasters a great place to pass the time with the whole family.

This is the only place we've seen a wild rabbit and a stray cat snuggling while a family of peacocks grazed for food under the same fruit tree. No, Sahuaro Ranch Park isn't a gateway into a mystical land, but there does seem to be something special about this park located in the heart of historic Glendale. The 17-acre park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the "Showplace of the Valley." And we'd have to agree. Although visitors are currently unable to tour the park's historic homes, the buildings offer a beautiful backdrop as you stroll through the robust garden of fruit trees. Overhead, doves coo in tall palm trees, helping to set a romantic atmosphere for couples. Across the park from the historic buildings are playgrounds and well-maintained sports fields. After a day of playing, families can rest at covered picnic tables while watching wild peacocks saunter by. Sahuaro Ranch Park is truly an urban oasis with entertainment for anyone willing to visit.

Things we like about golf: hitting the ball and drinking. Things we don't like about golf: how long it takes to play, walking, keeping score. If you're the same way, you'd probably prefer a day at the driving range over a full 18 holes. When the urge to experience the good parts of golf comes over us, we head to Coronado Golf Course & Lighted Driving Range in south Scottsdale. The driving range is open from sunrise to 9 p.m., and there are discounts on medium and large buckets of balls during happy hour, which runs 4-8 p.m. Speaking of happy hour, domestic beers are just $2 or less then. The result is a fun, relaxed evening enjoying the parts of the sport we love. Just remember to bring cash, because the facility doesn't accept credit or debit cards.

As it turns out, you can teach an old-school game some new tricks. At Puttshack, miniature golf gets a high-tech and high-energy twist with imaginative and illuminated courses tricked out with ball-tracking sensors and computerized scoring. The entertainment and nightlife chain, which debuted at the upscale Scottsdale Quarter retail center over the summer, features two floors with four separate nine-hole courses, each named after gems. There aren't any windmills to tilt at, just inventive and interactive obstacles resembling a skateboard half-pipe, a giant game of beer pong, a pinball playing field writ large and other fun inspirations. (Our favorite is the one where your ball bounces down a descending series of drums.) The place also puts the "tee" in "party" with bars on each floor, DJ sessions on weekend nights and a full food and drink menu. You can even drink while you golf, presuming you can wield both a club and cocktail without pulling a party foul. Put simply, Puttshack puts other local mini-golf spots to shame.

Golf can be a game of inches, for sure, but it can also be super pretentious and not a lot of fun for people who like to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere. The scene at Bellair Golf Park is just what the doctor ordered for those who like to knock the crap out of a little dimpled ball while laughing with friends and knocking back a few cold ones. Think Top Golf without a triple-digit tab at the end of the night. The best part is that the range, which features some nifty video features, is open until 10 p.m. every night, so you can get out of the sun and into the fun. There's nothing else like it on the west side, and the opportunity to see your progress using TopTracer technology is well worth the price of a range bay. You might not cure your slice, but you will enjoy the price. Just tell 'em a little birdie told you so.

Technically, anything is a skate park if you're determined enough. But there are a limited number of true skate parks around metro Phoenix, and for our money, the best one is all the way down in Queen Creek. The Mansel Carter Oasis Skate Park (inside the park of the same name), an in-ground skate park, is a relatively new facility. It was only built in 2018, giving it a fresh, well-kept appearance. Features of the 11,000-square-foot park include a mini ramp and contest-style street course with colored concrete. Though it's a trek from many parts of the Valley, it's worth it to practice your moves at the best skate park in town.

Many residents of metro Phoenix are fortunate enough to have private pools. Still others may have access to one at an apartment complex or condo community. But the pool-less don't have to go undunked, because there are plenty of public options around town. The best, in our opinion, is the McDowell Mountain Ranch Aquatic & Fitness Center in north Scottsdale. The facility has a 13-lane lap pool that's heated in the winter, plus four diving boards (two 1-meter and two 3-meter). In the summer, the number of amenities grows to include a waterslide, lazy river and zero-depth-entry play pool. The entire center is well-kept and visually appealing, and if you want to take swimming lessons or water exercise classes, those are options, too. There's a small fee for everything, and nonresidents of Scottsdale will have to pay a couple of bucks on top of that, but overall, the price is right for a fun day at the pool.

There are six courts always up for the taking at Roadrunner Park in north Phoenix. No fee is required to use the courts, but it's first come, first serve. The courts were recently resurfaced, so you don't have to worry about a giant crack getting in the way of the backhand winner down the line. On any given day or evening, you'll see hardcore competitive tennis players practicing serves as well as recreational players enjoying a fun game of doubles. There's no need to cut the evening short, because the courts are lighted, and for those who want to practice their strokes, there's a hitting wall available, too. When it's time to cool down or shake off a bad game or two, you can stroll around the park, watching kids play on the playground or dogs walking with their owners.

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