Valleyites take their sports seriously and enjoy the many recreational facilities in the area. You can play golf, tennis, or racquetball, go horseback riding, jump in the pool, tube the Salt River, and even go surfing. The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department (602/262-6861, www.phoenix.gov/parks) sponsors some excellent parks and a variety of educational and recreation programs for children, adults, and seniors. Large county parks ring the Valley, providing additional opportunities to enjoy nature; contact the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department (602/506-2930, www.maricopa.gov). The book Day Hikes and Trail Rides In and Around Phoenix by Roger and Ethel Freeman offers detailed trail descriptions for hikers and equestrians.
K1 Speed Phoenix (in Phoenix at 2425 S. 21st St., 602/275-5278, www.k1speed.com/phoenix-location.html) offers excitement driving high-performance electric karts.
Castles-n-Coasters (in Phoenix at 9455 N. Metro Parkway East, 602/997-7575, www.castlesncoasters.com) thrills with a double loop coaster and other rides, along with mini-golf and arcade games. It's on the south side of Metrocenter; turn west from I-17 at the Dunlap Exit.
CrackerJax (in Scottsdale at 16001 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480/998-2800, www.crackerjax.com) gives you a driving range, batting cages, volleyball, mini-golf, go-carts, and bumper boats.
Golf and Tennis
Both are extremely popular in the Valley. Enthusiasts spend entire vacations at resorts offering top-notch facilities and professional instructors. Four Phoenix city parks have golf courses and many offer tennis courts, as well as two tennis centers. Newsstands and tourist offices provide many free publications and brochures of public and private golf courses.
Phoenix alone offers 28 public pools (602/534-7946 swim line, www.phoenix.gov/parks, or see the Yellow Pages under "Swimming Pools"). If you're looking for waves and water slides, try these places:
Kiwanis Recreation Center (in Tempe at 6111 S. All-America Way, 480/350-5201) features an indoor wave pool with spiral slide (closed Dec.), gym, and tennis and volleyball courts at in the southeast corner of the large Kiwanis Park, reached by Mill Avenue between Baseline and Guadalupe Roads.
Big Surf (in northern Tempe at 1500 N. McClintock Dr., south of McKellips Rd., 480/947-7873) has artificial waves 3-5 feet high that come crashing onto the beach. You can rent rafts and, for added thrills, try the water slides. Small children can play in a shallow pool. The season runs daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
Golfland-Sunsplash (in Mesa at 155 W. Hampton Ave., 480/834-8318) offers a wave pool and 10 water slides for fun and excitement plus rental rafts, three 18-hole miniature golf courses, video games, bumper boats, Indy race cars, and other amusements; the action is one block north on Country Club Drive from the Superstition Freeway, then right on Hampton.
Waterworld Safari (in Glendale at 4243 W. Pinnacle Peak Rd., 623/581-1947) contains a wave pool, water slide, and the "Lazy River" to cool you off; shallow pools cater to small children. The park is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. From downtown Phoenix take I-17 north 17 miles to Pinnacle Peak Road, then go west two miles on Pinnacle Peak Road.
Tubing Down the Lower Salt River
Cool off in the summer on a leisurely float down the Salt River east of Mesa. Salt River Recreation (1320 N. Bush Hwy., 480/984-3305, www.saltrivertubing.com) rents inner tubes and provides a shuttle bus service back to the put-in point for $12 per person or $9 for just a shuttle pass. The season runs May-Sept., weather and water permitting. The shuttle bus serves four points along the river, with a choice of floats lasting from 90 minutes to a half day. Below Granite Reef Dam, the Salt is a river no more—the water is channeled into canals, leaving only a dry riverbed downstream. From the east edge of Mesa, take Bush Highway north to the Salt River. An extra tube will carry your cooler of cold drinks, but don't bring glass containers. Weekends often see large crowds, and the Salt becomes one big party. Wear tennis shoes to protect your feet when walking in the river. Life jackets are a good idea—a necessity with children. Don't tie your tubes together; rather, lock your feet into each other's tubes. Canoeists can enjoy the trip from spring through autumn (there's no flow in winter). You can beat the summer tubing crowds by starting at sunup.
If you'd like to float down in a raft, contact Desert Voyagers (480/998-7238, www.desertvoyagers.com); trips go year-round and can be combined with a jeep tour.
The Phoenix area offers miles of scenic trails suitable for horses. Many of the stables can arrange lessons, breakfast rides, steak cookouts, hayrides, overnight trips, and boarding. Riding season runs from about October to May, and reservations are advised. For trips into South Mountain Park, contact Ponderosa Stables (just outside the park entrance at 10215 S. Central Ave., 602/268-1261, www.arizona-horses.com).
In Tempe near Papago Park, you can go with Papago Riding Stable (400 N. Scottsdale Rd.—turn in at Club Rio, 480/966-9793, www.papagoridingstable.com/).
In Cave Creek, ride with MacDonald's Ranch (26540 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480/585-0239, www.macdonaldsranch.com).
For guided hourly horseback rides in the nearby Goldfield Mountains and overnight pack trips into the wild Superstition Mountains and other desert areas, see OK Corral Stables (480/982-4040, www.okcorrals.com). There's an RV park here too. At the beginning of the Apache Trail, turn north five miles on Idaho Road, go east one mile on McKellips Road, then turn left at the sign.
Ben Avery Shooting Facility
Shooters and archers can practice at this fine facility run by Arizona Game and Fish (west off I-17 Carefree Hwy. Exit 223, 26 miles north of downtown Phoenix, 623/582-8313 rifle and pistol range, 602/287-1019 Black Canyon Trap and Skeet Club, www.basfaz.com). The range operates 7 a.m.-dark Wed.-Sun.; check for trap and skeet range hours. Users also enjoy picnicking and camping.
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