By Melissa Larsen
Whether you’re booking a staycation or movie tickets, planning a hike or hot-air balloon ride, check out these Valley favorites for free-time fun.
Best Pet Resort/Boarding Facility: Camp Bow Wow
This Peoria-based dog day care and overnight boarding facility makes creating a fun and safe environment for your four-legged friend its foremost vow (there are even live webcams to check in on your pooches while you’re away). In addition to boarding, Camp Bow Wow offers grooming, walking and training services. campbowwow.com.
Best Casino: Talking Stick Resort
Talking Stick Resort impresses with its nearly 300,000-sq.- ft. casino floor. Players enjoy 800 multi-dimensional slot machines, a wide array of table games and the largest poker room in the state, with 47 tables running Texas Hold ‘em, 7-Card Stud and Omaha Hi-Lo. Each year, the property hosts the annual Arizona State Poker Championship and the Arizona State Ladies & Poker Championship in The ARENA Poker Room. talkingstickresort.com.
Best Downtown Phoenix Hotel: Hyatt Regency Phoenix
Located in the center of Downtown Phoenix, Hyatt Regency Phoenix is walking distance to fab dining and shopping, theater and museums, and popular sporting events. The hotel’s 693 spacious guestrooms offer mountain or downtown views, and guests enjoy amenities like an outdoor pool, hot tub and sundeck and on-site fine dining at Arizona’s only revolving restaurant, Compass Arizona Grill. phoenix.hyatt.com.
AFM FAVE: Best Downtown Phoenix Hotel: Kimpton & Hotel Palomar Phoenix
Boutique in size with 242 rooms, Hotel Palomar Phoenix is located at CityScape Phoenix, just steps away from performances and games at Talking Stick Resort Arena, Chase Field, the Phoenix Symphony and more. Savor Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails, one of the top spots in Phoenix for craft cocktails, in addition to complimentary perks that include morning coffee and tea service, evening social hour with wine service and more. hotelpalomar-phoenix.com.
Best Lobby Bar: Hotel Valley Ho
Toast with handcrafted cocktails and savor seasonal American fare at the recently renovated ZuZu Lounge at Scottsdale’s Hotel Valley Ho. Stop by for Cool Redux Happy Hour from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays or enjoy a tasting at Wine Wednesdays and Whiskey Thursdays. Food is served until midnight daily. hotelvalleyho.com.
Best Movie Theater: Harkins Theatres
Harkins Theatres is the largest family-owned theatre chain in the country, with 82-plus years in Arizona and headquarters in Scottsdale. Harkins Theatres is known as a trailblazer for advancements like the Cine Capri, state-of- the-art digital projection and sound, curved wall-to- wall screens, the plush Ultimate Rocker and the Ultimate Lounger loveseats, Loyalty Cups and T-shirts, in-lobby children’s PlayCenters and an expanded selection of gourmet concessions. Also a 2015 Winner! harkinstheatres.com.
Best Movie Theatre Dine in: FilmBar
Since opening in 2011, Phoenix’s FilmBar has become a favorite downtown hangout as a beer and wine bar and a movie theater. Dine on the likes of nachos, popcorn, tamales and other crowd-pleasing eats while enjoying new and classic flicks. On draft, sip of a selection of local brews from Oak Creek, Four Peaks, Lumberyard and more. thefilmbarphx.com.
Best Place to Discover Your Inner Artist: Pinspiration
Is your inner Martha begging to come out? Head to Pinspiration, a DIY art studio and bar on High Street. The studio offers both tutorial-let and open-ended (for a $15 studio fee) art experiences. Customers have access to a variety of art supplies and tools to create their own idea on the spot or choose from an array of changing monthly project menus based on the most popular pinned social media projects and current craft trends. pinspirationaz.com.
Best Resort, Most Relaxing Resort Pool and Most Luxe Accommodations: The Wigwam
Designated as a Historic Hotel of America, this local family-friendly landmark in Litchfield Park is home to 331 casitas and suites. While at The Wigwam, guests can tee up on the legendary golf course, relax at the on-site spa and wade the day away at four pools. And whether your craving fine dining or a casual respite, there is a restaurant at The Wigwam to satisfy your hankering—just be sure not to miss Litchfield’s decadent meat and seafood dishes paired with some of the Valley’s tastiest side dishes (hello, smoked gouda mac and cheese and crème fraiche yukon mash). wigwamarizona.com.
AFM Fave: Most Luxe Accommodations: The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
Spacious layouts, private balconies and deluxe marble-laded bathrooms are just a few of the elements that greet guests at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. Those visiting the Marana resort also have access to four restaurants (that can fulfill just about any craving, whether it be sushi or Sonoran-inspired), beautiful pools, a destination spa, Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf and endless family-friendly fun. ritzcarlton.com.
AFM Fave: Best Resort: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
Family-friendly escape. Romantic respite. Girls-only getaway. Whatever type of holiday you have a yearning for, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has it all. Pop into one of the resort’s four restaurants, make time for some serious r-n- r at Well & Being Fairmont Scottsdale Princess or make a splash at one of the pools where you may find luxe cabanas, twisting water slides or even a dive-in movie. Come Memorial Day weekend, there is even a new Sunset Beach Pool and Sunset Beach Wing to enjoy as the temps start to climb. scottsdaleprincess.com.
Best Valley Adventure Experience: Float Balloon Tours
Much more than just a balloon-ride company, Float Balloon Tours offers a selection of packages that give guests the most unique flying experiences, from a sunset dinner to a sunrise brunch to an airborne photo workshop. Float elevates the high-flying adventure by pairing it with mouthwatering local eats and sips crafted by top-notch talents (this month, eats and drinks spotlight Wren House Brewing and Stone Grindz Chocolate). floatballoontours.com.
Best Valley Hiking: South Mountain
With gorgeous scenery and great spots for taking in the horizon, South Mountain is a beloved spot for hiking and biking trails with opportunities for adventurers of all skill levels. During your time on South Mountain, keep an eye out for 150 different species of animals and petroglyphs that were carved into rocks by ancient dwellers. phoenix.gov.
AFM Fave: Best Valley Hiking: Camelback Mountain
At 2,704 feet, Camelback Mountain is a popular climb among locals and their visitors because the local landmark offers stellar views of the Valley below and plenty of photo ops for Instagram-loving climbers. There are two main hiking trails to choose from—Echo Canyon and Cholla Trail. climbcamelback.com.