Outdoor Fun!

Written by Niki D’Andrea, Leah LeMoine & Craig Outhier Category: Features Issue: March 2014

The weather is lovely... but it won't be for long. Maximize your spring with our handy almanac of alfresco adventures, from fitness forays and food fests to outdoor arts and entertainment. 

Bonus: Handy guides to Cactus League baseball, desert gardening and urban camping.

FITNESS & ADVENTURE

EATING & DRINKING

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

 

 

 

 

 

PHM0314OF02FITNESS & ADVENTURE

1 Kayak the Salt River.
Sure, you can leisurely float down the Salt River on an inner tube, guzzling coozy-covered beverages and working on your tan. But why not embrace adventure, give the old back and arm muscles a little workout, and glide down the river in a sleek kayak? You don't have to be a seasoned rower: This is scenic floating, not rapids-battling, with the gentle waters of the river merely lapping up to splash you like pool water after a child's cannonball. Two kayak tours offer picturesque passages down the river, with views of regal saguaros, thousand-foot cliffs and desert wildlife, including deer, mustangs, bald eagles and Great Blue Herons. Saguaro Lake Ranch offers sit-on-top kayaks for claustrophobes, while Sonoran Kayak Rentals' crafts are snuggly sit-ins. Saguaro Lake Ranch, 13020 N. Bush Hwy, Mesa, 480-984-2194, saguarolakeranch.com/kayaking. Sonoran Kayak Rentals, Gilbert, 480-238-8971, sonorankayakrentals.com

2 Ride a pony.
"It's the way you ride the trail that counts; here's a happy one for you." Roy Rogers and Dale Evans would certainly endorse the "happy trails" at Spur Cross Stable in Cave Creek. Customizable trails span Sonoran Desert State Trust Land, Tonto National Forest and the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, with guided tours available for novices and veteran equestrians, from a beginners' one-hour ride to a nearly seven-hour "trail blazer" haul for John Wayne types. The stable sits on an 1870s gold mine and is home to more than 30 horses as well as a handful of donkeys, potbellied pigs and other little critters that your little critters can feed and pet before you saddle up. 44029 N. Spur Cross Rd., Cave Creek, 480-488-9117, horsebackarizona.com

3 Go off-roading with Arizona Hummer Tours.
Buckle up for a thrill-packed off-road excursion on an original stagecoach trail. These days, all the horses are under the hoods of the H1 Hummers careening across the desert landscape, with guides explaining the surrounding wildlife, regional history and current environmental issues and providing tours of a Native American fort and a ghost town. You arrange your pickup location. 602-692-7124, azhummertours.com

4 Get down and dirty at the Survivor Mud Run.
One-up all your paleo and primal-eating friends and channel the true caveman spirit with a filthy, 3.17-mile race through mud pits and grimy obstacles on March 1. Every participant gets a custom survivor medal, headband, bib, access to a boulder toss competition and refreshments, including a free beer for survivors 21 and older. Just don't lose yourself in the caveman role – no clubbing, for instance, unless it's the kind you do in Scottsdale after the race. ET Motopark, US 60 East and Ironwood Dr., Cave Creek, etmotopark.com, survivormudrun.com/locations/2014/phoenix.php

PHM0314OF03Hiking Trio
5 Peer Through Hole-in-the-Rock.
More a stroll than a hike, the path up to Papago Park's natural rock formations rewards walkers with geologic lenses to view the Valley through – petrified picture frames, if you will. The ancient erosions were used by the Hohokam to mark equinoxes and solstices by the sunlight streaming through the openings. 625 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 602-495-5458, phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/papago/

6 Hike Tom's Thumb Trailhead.
Valley hikers give this trail two thumbs up for its outstanding views of sprawling Sonoran Desert and the city of Scottsdale. Located in the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, the trail provides access to the base of its namesake rock formation, a digit-shaped, 140-foot crag hitchhiking against the desert sky. The trek is moderate to difficult and water isn't available at the trailhead, so be sure to pack plenty. 16435 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-998-7971, mcdowellsonoran.org

7 Get some cardio with your canine.
Power-walk with your pooch on one of Piestewa Peak's circumference trails, which loop around the peak rather than scale it and are much easier for your four-legged friend to navigate. The trails, dozens of miles long and broken into segments, are fairly even and much of them are shaded – another boon for preventing you and your pup from overheating. Make sure to take water breaks for both of you, and sit a spell at one of the picnic areas if you or Fluffy need to take a breather. 2701 E. Squaw Peak Dr., Phoenix, 602-261-8318, phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/piestewapeak/

8 Take a walk on the wild side.
Two zoos alike in dignity, in the fair Valley where we lay our scene: Spend a day or more exploring the snazzy, expansive Phoenix Zoo, with its realistic enclosures, family vibe (a whole section of the park is dedicated to wee beasts of the human variety) and superior snacks, including bags of hot, fresh kettle corn. For a more rustic experience and the opportunity to get closer to the animals, traipse about the peacock- and duck-heavy dirt paths of the Wildlife World Zoo. Don't skip the always-evolving aquarium or the tranquil skyride over the park. Phoenix Zoo: 455 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 602-273-1341, phoenixzoo.org. Wildlife World Zoo: 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park, 623-935-9453, wildlifeworld.com

9 Rock your body at Yoga Rocks the Park.
Yoga meets a rock festival at this outdoor extravaganza, where yogis bend and twist to live music and DJs. Camp Yoga Rocks the Park lets kids get in on the fun during adult practice. The event takes place Sundays in February and March. The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts sponsors a free class on March 9. Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, yogarocksthepark.com

10 Get carried away in a hot air balloon.
Get up close and personal with our legendary Arizona sunrises and sunsets with a hot-air balloon ride over the Valley. Rainbow Ryders offers sunset rides until the end of March, and Hot Air Expeditions caps its morning and afternoon flights with gourmet cuisine at Vincent's on Camelback. You and your palate will be on Cloud Nine. Rainbow Ryders: 1725 W. Williams Dr., Phoenix, 480-299-0154, rainbowryders.com. Hot Air Expeditions: 704 W. Deer Valley Rd., Phoenix, 480-502-6999, hotairexpeditions.com

Day Trip Bonus
11 Soak in hot springs.
Kick it ancient school with a soak in nature's healing hot tub: the El Dorado hot springs in Tonopah, which translates to "hot water under the bush." A subterranean source of pure hot mineral water – average temperature is 107 degrees, with a pH of 8.2 – gurgles to the surface to relax and rejuvenate soakers. Private soaking areas "Sunset" and "Desert View" are available for hourly, daily or overnight rental and provide views of open desert and Saddle Mountain. Exhibitionists can enjoy the rustic, nude-only "Desert Pete" soaking area, also available for hourly, daily or overnight rental. Soaking addicts can get a one-year frequent soaker card with $100 worth of soaks for $80. 41225 W. Indian School Rd., Tonopah, 623-386-5412, el-dorado.com

BONUS: Urban Camping Guide                                                                                                        BACK TO TOP
12 Go Camping, Urban-Style
No need to drive for hours into the middle-of-nowhere wilderness to stay and play in the great outdoors. Whether you're rolling in an RV or pitching a tent, Maricopa County parks can accommodate you. Since spring brings blooms and the busy season, reservations are recommended and can be made online at maricopa.gov/parks or by calling 602-506-2930. Fees range from $10 for "primitive" camping (no facilities whatsoever) to $17 for "semi-developed" sites (with restrooms, tables and grills) to $25 for "developed" spots (hookups for water and electricity, plus restrooms, tables and grills). There are 11 Maricopa County Parks. Here we give you the highlights of four of the most camper-friendly.

Cave Creek Regional Park
37900 N. Cave Creek Pkwy., Cave Creek, 623-465-0431, maricopa.gov/parks/cave_creek
Known for its horseback riding trails, this 2,922-acre park in the upper Sonoran Desert is where "you get more of that Western, rustic vibe," according to spokesperson Dawna Taylor. Hikers delight in the mountain-loop Go John Trail, and rock hounds dig the jasper-dotted desert hills. The park has 28 individual camping sites; each site has a parking area and can accommodate a 45-foot RV.
Recommended Event: "Stargazing with Telescopes," 7:30 p.m., March 29.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park
41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd., Morristown, 928-501-1710, maricopa.gov/parks/lake_pleasant
Located in the northwest Valley, this park offers a deluge of water recreation on its namesake lake, including boating and fishing, along with wildlife watching and camping galore – there are 148 sites between two campgrounds, dubbed Desert Tortoise and Roadrunner. Shoreline camping in tents is available year-round, depending on the water level.
Recommended Event: "Pleasant Paddlers Program: Exploring Paul's Hideaway," 9 a.m., March 8.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park
16300 McDowell Mountain Park Dr., Scottsdale, 480-471-0173, maricopa.gov/parks/mcdowell
Sprawling across almost 22,000 acres in the lower Verde River basin, MMRP boasts more than 50 miles of multiuse trails and great wildlife viewing, including potential run-ins with residents of the park such as javelina, deer, coyotes and birds. The park has all three types of camping (primitive, semi-developed and developed). There's also a recently renovated playground with colorful features like cactus-shaped swings.
Recommended Event: "Wildflower Discovery Hike," 10 a.m., March 7

White Tank Mountain Regional Park
20304 W. White Tank Mountain Rd., Waddell, 623-935-2505, maricopa.gov/parks/white_tank
When this park sees a rainy season, visitors can see a running waterfall, Taylor says, adding "White Tank has a lot of critters in that park," largely thanks to its nature pond. At nearly 30,000 acres, White Tank is the largest regional park in the county. All campsites are developed.
Recommended Event: "Tales of the Sonoran Desert," 11 a.m., March 27

EATING & DRINKING                                                                                                      BACK TO TOP

PHM0314OF0413 See what the buzz is all about at the Great Arizona Beer Festival.
The 230-beer selection is great and all, but let's be honest – after the ninth or tenth tasting, Pabst and Pliny taste pretty much the same. The real reason we love the Great Arizona Beer Festival is its sparkling location at Tempe Town Lake and symbolic calendar position in early March. Essentially, this is the Valley's Olympics-style opening ceremony for springtime fun. March 1. $50. azbeer.com

14 Have a peach of a dinner.
For her latest Dinner Down the Orchard event, Schnepf Farms head picker Carrie Schnepf welcomes chef Vincent Guerithault of Vincent's on Camelback, who helmed the first orchard dinner eight years ago. The chef will serve his Southwestern-French cuisine to 100-150 guests seated at a linen-covered banquet table in the farm's signature peach orchards. Beats Applebee's. $85 per person, or $120 per couple. March 29 and April 26. 24810 S. Rittenhouse Rd., Queen Creek, 480-987-3100, schnepffarms.com

15 Get your food truck on.
PHOENIX mag food reviewer Wynter Holden picks her three favorite moveable feasts.
Buzznbeez: Look for this bumblebee-toned truck when you've "got a hankering for good Southern food," like the blackened catfish burrito ($7). buzznbeezgoodfood.com
Hey Joe!: The hardest-working Filipino food truck in the Valley makes an unbeatable pork lumpia. heyjoetruck.com
Pizza People: Still a fave, even after launching its brick-and-mortar pub Downtown. "They kind of do the same thing as Short Leash hot dogs – a classic staple with unusual combos." pizzapeopleaz.com

16 Bring your appetite – and sunscreen – to Devoured.
We love the Devoured Food + Wine Classic. Held every March in a courtyard at the Phoenix Art Museum, the annual fair is like six months of culinary discovery crammed into one weekend, showcasing both old favorites (CIBO, Petite Maison, Kai) and intriguing new arrivals (Overland Trout, Southern Rail). The crowds have grown in concert with the event's reputation, but organizers offer a remedy for mob-fatigue: VIP passes ($150) that give holders access to the food booths an hour before the general public. Just be a doll and save some of that Hana hamachi for us GA schlubs. March 1 and 2. $90 general admission. 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, devouredphoenix.com

Three devoured must-tries...
Overland Trout: Former Quiessence chef Greg LaPrad will junket all the way from Sonoita to give Valley food lovers a taste of his new farm-to-table menu.

Southern Rail: The paint at Justin Beckett's new restaurant at the Newton development is unlikely to be dry by the time you're nibbling on his pan-Southern cuisine.

Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden: The focus on farm-to-table food will be intensified at the booth for this New American eatery, which sources ingredients directly from its own gardens.

PHM0314OF0517 Alfresco Dining
Find a great patio near you with this Valleywide map.

1 Sassi Italian farmhouse resto has huge patio with panoramic views of North Scottsdale. 10455 E. Pinnacle Peak Pkwy, 480-502-9095, sassi.biz

2 Petite Maison Chef James Porter's Old Town patio has the cozy charm of a Parisian bistro. 7216 E. Shoeman Ln., 480-991-6887, petitemaisonaz.com

3 Bourbon Steak PHOENIX magazine food writer Gwen Ashley Walters' #3 patio in the Valley. 7575 E. Princess Dr., 480-513-6002, scottsdaleprincess.com

4 El Chorro The Valley's most storied outdoor culinary playspace, with unbeatable views of Camelback Mountain. 5550 Lincoln Dr., 480-948-5170, elchorro.com

5 Elements PV perch is Walters' #4 patio. 5700 E. McDonald Dr., 480-607-2300, sanctuaryoncamelback.com

6 J&G Steakhouse Swank resort resto is Walters' #2 patio. 6000 E. Camelback Rd., 480-214-8000, jgsteakhousescottsdale.com

7 Timo on Central North central wine bar rules the North Mountain-area alfresco scene. 8801 N. Central Ave., 602-354-3846, timocentral.com

8 Cibo Delicious pizza, even better patio. 603 N. Fifth Ave., 602-441-2697, cibophoenix.com

9 Main Ingredient Ale House & Cafe Sip an IPA on its serene little patio in the Coronado neighborhood. 2337 N. Seventh St., 602-843-6246, tmialehouse.com

10 The Vig Fillmore Our favorite of the Vig's three patio-centric properties. 606 N. Fourth Ave., 602-254-2242, thevig.us

11 Hula's Great place to scope the uptown Central drag. 4700 N. Central Ave., 602-265-8454, hulasmoderntiki.com

12 The Yard/Culinary Dropout Converted motorcycle dealership is the buzziest patio in town. 5632 N. Seventh St., foxrc.com

13 The Farm/Quiessence South Mountain resto is an alfresco dining paradise. 6106 S. 32nd St., 602-276-0601, thefarmatsouthmountain.com

14 House at Secret Garden Walters' #5 patio. 2501 E. Baseline Rd., 602-243-8539, houseatsecretgarden.com

15 Tonto Bar and Grill Cave Creek classic is Walters' #1 patio. 5736 E. Rancho Manana Blvd., 480-488-0698, tontobarandgrill.com

16 Wigwam/Litchfield's Storied resort boasts the best alfresco sitch in the West Valley. 300 E. Wigwam Blvd., 623-935-3811, wigwamarizona.com

17 Little Saigon Warm your bones on pho; enjoy the breeze at this Glendale eatery. 7016 N. 57th Ave., 623-939-6136, littlesaigonaz.com

18 Arrowhead Grill PHOENIX mag food writer Wynter Holden's favorite WV patio. 8280 W. Union Hills Dr., 623-566-2224, arrowheadgrill.com

19 House of Tricks Robinson Crusoe-like treehouse patio in Tempe is like no other. 114 E. Seventh St., 480-968-1114, houseoftricks.com

20 Rancho de Tia Rosa Open and airy. The East Valley's best supper patio. 3129 E. McKellips Rd., 480-659-8787, ranchodetiarosa.com

21 Vintage 95 One in a new generation of great sipping patios in San Tan. 95 W. Boston St., 480-855-9463, vintage95.com

22 Postino East New San Tan outpost rises to the upper echelon of EV patios. 302 N. Gilbert Rd., #102, 480-632-6363, postinowinecafe.com

23 the monastery Has a volleyball court. Can Sassi say that? 4810 E. McKellips Rd., 480-474-4477, realfunbar.com

24 Queen Creek Olive Mill Essentially a multi-acre olive farm. Easy to find a seat. 25062 S. Meridian Rd., 480-888-9290, queencreekolivemill.com

PHM0314OF0618 Rock out in an olive garden.
The Queen Creek Olive Mill is so much more than a place to pick up a bottle of EVOO. Founded in 2004, Arizona's lone working olive farm is a culinary theme park unto itself, with olive-oil-based beauty products, an excellent Mediterranean restaurant and a yearly music/food event called Olivepalooza. Every Saturday and Sunday in the adjacent orchard, you can also catch live jazz and blues (11 a.m.-3 a.m.) and wine tastings (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) poured by the likes of Page Springs Cellars and Pillsbury Wine Company. queencreekolivemill.com

19 Barbecue. Beer. Sun.
Vendors will plate 20,000 pounds of barbecue and tap 200 kegs of brew at the Great American Barbecue and Beer Festival (March 22) in downtown Chandler. Featuring the low-and-slow stylings of Joe's Real BBQ, Waldo's BBQ and roughly two dozen of the Valley's best purveyors, it's widely viewed as the top event of its kind in the Valley. $10 at the door. Dr. AJ Chandler Park. 3 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler, chandlerbbq.com

20 Take a dip with the "kids."
Admittedly, the pool party scene in Scottsdale tends to skew young – particularly if you're cooling off in a pool with the phrase "Spanish fly" in the name. Slightly less Logan's Run-ish are the Saturday and Sunday pool parties (noon-5 p.m.) at the W Scottsdale's rooftop WET deck. Yes, toned, 20-something flesh rules the day – but you also might see a stretch mark or two. Comrade! 7277 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 480-970-2100, wscottsdalehotel.com

PHM0314OF0721 Take your dog to "yappy hour" at OHSO.
With its spacious back patio along the Arizona Canal, the Arcadia-area nanobrewery claims our Best in Show award for canine-friendly dining. According to staffers, Saturday and Sunday brunch (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.) are the peak hours for puppy traffic, when the patio averages "about a dog per table." It's also your best bet to catch a Belgian Malinois lapping up a saison. Good dog! 4900 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-955-0358, ohsobrewery.com

Other Dog-Friendly Patios
Sometimes the best dining companions have four legs and tails. With these pet-friendly patios, you won't have to drag your dog to dinner – he'll scamper along willingly.

22 Hula's Modern Tiki.
More than a retro-chic watering hole, Hula's serves Polynesian-American fusion for lunch, dinner and a weekend brunch ideal for toting Toto along. 4700 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-265-8454, hulasmoderntiki.com

23 32 Shea.
By day, 32 Shea is a bustling espresso house and cafe; by night, it's an intimate lounge and restaurant. Dogs are welcome at all hours on its vibrant patio. 10626 N. 32nd St., Phoenix, 602-867-7432, 32shea.com

24 Morning Squeeze.
Greet the day with waffles and a mimosa for you and pup cakes or doggy biscuits and gravy from Morning Squeeze's Tail Waggers menu for your furry friend. 4233 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-945-4669, morningsqueeze.com

25 Casey Moore's Oyster House.
Inside, Casey's is a packed Irish pub serving gastropub mainstays and fresh oysters. Outside, its sprawling, pup-friendly patio feels thoroughly southwestern, with wood tables and wide open spaces. 850 S. Ash Ave., Tempe, 480-968-9935, caseymoores.com

26 Taps.
Elevated bar food and American and southwestern staples are on the menu for humans here, but both two-leggers and four-leggers can boogie to live music on weekends on the patio. 76 N. Old Litchfield Rd., Litchfield Park, 623-935-2037, tapsbars.com

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT                                                                                                      BACK TO TOP

27 Free art.
Sunday A'Fair at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts packs an arts and food lovers' paradise onto the sprawling green lawns of Scottsdale Civic Center Park from noon to 4 p.m. nearly every Sunday through early April. People are encouraged to bring blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy the sounds of live local bands like Sonora Jazz (March 2) and blues band Cold Shott & The Hurricane Horns (March 9), as well as heritage dance performances by SambAZ Dancers, Capoeira Brasil Arizona and Grupo Liberdade (April 6). Now in its 27th season, the A'Fair continues to be free, and so is parking at the nearby public garage. Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second Street, Scottsdale, 480-499-8587, scottsdaleperformingarts.org.

28 Get a little air on St. Patrick's Day.
You don't have to be a green-clad, ginger-haired O'Something to join the revelry of Phoenix's 31st annual St. Patrick's Day Parade celebrating Irish culture and the patron saint of the Emerald Isle. Just come with a jovial spirit to enjoy step dancers, bagpipers, marching bands and floats, and an appetite to feast on corned beef and cabbage with a pint or two of Guinness. March 15, 10 a.m. Route: Third Street south from Sheridan Street to Moreland Street, Phoenix, stpatricksdayphoenix.org

29 Get some ostrich love.
Quirky is an understatement for the fun at this fest, dedicated to one of nature's freakiest fowl. Watch ostriches race and then enjoy them in burger form. A parade, live music, petting zoo, fun run and freak show are just the tip of the festival's eccentric offerings. Discounted advance tickets available at Fry's. Parade and fun run, March 1; festival March 7-9. 2250 S. McQueen Rd., Chandler, 866-993-2477, ostrichfestival.com

30 See Kings of Leon at Ak-Cricket Home Furnishing Pavilion or whatever they're calling it these days.
We're big fans of the 20,000-seat West Valley amphitheater. It's the best outdoor concert venue in the Valley. Now if only they could settle on a name. (Currently, it's Ak-Chin Pavilion.) March 19. 2121 N. 83rd Ave., Phoenix, 602-254-7200, concerts.livenation.com

Outdoor Art Guide
Museums are fab, but weather this gorgeous begs for alfresco art. This trio of juried art fests gives you something to do for three weekends this spring, so sprinkle your sunbathing and spring training plans with some aesthetic adventures.

31 Scottsdale Arts Festival.
Now in its 44th year, SAF hosts 200 artists providing live entertainment, food trucks, kids' activities at the Imagine Nation family area and free admission to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Look for: The U.S. debut of Happy Rainbow, an interactive exhibition of multicolored sculptures and adult-size bounce house by art duo FriendsWithYou. $8 single-day pass. March 14-16. 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale, scottsdaleartsfestival.org

32 Tempe Festival of the Arts.
Mill Avenue teems with nearly 400 artist booths and 225,000 visitors each year for this spring festival. Kids can learn print-making while adults have their own fun at the Arizona Wine Festival Garden and Art of Beer tastings. Look for: Featured artist Richard Curtner's "epic poetry," delivered through painstakingly curated magazine text cutouts pasted seamlessly into collages. Admission: Free. March 28-30, 310 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, tempefestivalofthearts.com

33 Carefree Days Festival.
Get the jump on festival crowds by coming out for this inaugural showcase of vetted art, creative gifts, crafts and live music. Look for: The winner of Saturday's local talent contest will perform on Sunday, followed by a performance by the Desert Cactus Kickers, Carefree's dancing grannies chapter. Admission: Free. April 11-13. Carefree Town Garden Center at Sundial Circle, Carefree, magicbirdfestivals.com

34 Take a time machine back to the '90s.
If you're nostalgic for the era of "alternative" rock when CDs were "new media" and the Internet was a niche for sharing newfangled MP3s, then the inaugural Liquid Sol music festival – slated for Saturday, March 15 at Sportsman's Park outside University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale – will sate your sonic desires with a lineup pulled straight from the tops of the '90s Billboard charts: Cracker, Fuel, Everclear, BoDeans, Vertical Herizon, Ed Kowalczyk (former lead singer of the band Live), Tonic, Buckcherry, Blind Melon and Tempe's own Gin Blossoms. Promoters expect tickets ($89-$349) to sell faster than you can say "Lollapalooza," so get your dial-up modem screeching toward tickets at liquidsolfest.com or ticketforce.com.

35 Get funked-up and folked-out at McDowell Mountain Music Festival.
Set squarely in the heart of Downtown Phoenix, this tenth iteration of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival brings a multicultural melange of acts. Hip-hop-fusion fans will be happy to see headliners Slightly Stoopid, G. Love and Special Sauce, and local fave The Wiley One, while funk fans can groove to the tunes of Gramatik, Lettuce and the eclectic duo of Ben Harper and blues harpman Charlie Musselwhite. Electronica-rock mashup fans, fear not – MMMF has STS9 and Disco Biscuits for you. And straight from the book of "if you book only one country artist..." is the most-multi-platinum act on the bill, Dwight Yoakam. This three-day sonic salad gets tossed March 28-30. 3-day passes cost $100-$150; single-day admission costs $45-$55. Margaret T. Hance Park, 1202 N. Third St., Phoenix. mmmf.com

36 See Some Outdoor Theater
Desert Botanical Garden will host the Southwest Shakespeare Company production of FairyWorlds! May 15-June 1. A new adaptation of the Bard's magical comedic romp A Midsummer Night's Dream, the elaborately-costumed and visually enchanting play features the Arizona desert as its backdrop. Tickets cost $40 for general admission and $55 for reserved bistro seating. Food will be available for purchase, along with alcohol at the full cash bar at Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, swshakespeare.org

PHM0314OF0837 Make out at a drive-in.
What's old is new again at West Wind's Glendale 9 Drive-In, the last theater of its kind in Arizona. Rather than withering away into archaic irrelevance, the drive-in is experiencing a renaissance, with record numbers of attendance in the last two years. Why? Nostalgia, for one. Grandparents and parents eager to pass on their memories of wholesome fun bring technology-overloaded wee ones to share the magic of the sky-topped silver screen – or leave the kids at home and recreate their early dates at the drive-in. Economics also plays a part, with drive-in tickets and concessions saving couples and families substantial cash over indoor theaters (kids ages 5-11 are $1 and ages 4 and younger are free). Bonus: Three times a year, Glendale 9 hosts free movie nights with play places, carnival rides, face painting, live music and special snacks. The next free movie night is April 24. 5650 N. 55th Ave., Glendale, 623-939-9715, westwinddi.com

BONUS: 38 Cactus League Guide                                                                                                      BACK TO TOP
15 teams. 217 games. Untold wiener consumption. It can only be spring training baseball – that annual American ritual that lures MLB fans from all over the country to the Valley like pilgrims on hajj. Don't leave your home – or hotel – without this handy guide.

Best Stadium: It's not the biggest or newest of the 10 Cactus League fields – and it certainly isn't in the ritziest part of town – but Maryvale Stadium is a serious charmer, from the ample shade in the seats to the autograph-friendly clubhouse set-up. You also have to love the shady, mezzanine-like grass area that rings the outfield – the Cactus League's best cheap seats. 3600 N. 51st Ave., Phoenix, 602-245-5500, phoenix.gov/sports

Best Grub: We have a feeling the concessionaires at newly-opened Cubs Park will do it the way their counterparts at Hohokam Stadium did: Honor both their Arizona roots (Native American frybread carts) and the home team's Windy City lineage (Chi-Town Dogs with sport peppers and relish). Near Rio Salado Parkway and Dobson Road in Mesa. cubs.com/tickets

Best Deal: In years past, Camelback Ranch sold $1 hot dogs. Granted, they aren't Short Leash-caliber or anything, but... $1! 10710 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 623-302-5000, camelbackranchbaseball.com

Best Beer Selection: Baseball games are not generally renowned for their spectacular craft beer menus. That's why we take special pleasure in A's games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where the taps start with everyday winners like Blue Moon and end with Arizona-sourced micros like Sonoran. 5999 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix, 602-392-0074, phoenix.gov/sports

Biggest Cactus League Dramas
Which Dodger will a Diamondbacks pitcher plunk first?
You think D-backs manager Kirk Gibson holds a grudge against the Dodger dudes who made like Esther Williams in the Chase Field swimming pool after clinching the NL West pennant last year? Gee, maybe. The smart money is on Yasiel Puig.

DUI over/under.
Seems like nary a season goes by without at least one Cactus Leaguer getting popped for drunk driving. Last year, it was the Rockies' Todd Helton and Red Sox prospect Drake Britton. Before that, A's problem child Coco Crisp. We're thinking at least one player will be in the tank by mid-March.

Will Clark the Cub survive the spring?
The Chicago Cubs' new mascot was derided as a "nightmarish, perverted furry" by Deadspin, and if social media is any indication, the Chi-Town faithful aren't too fond of it, either.

Oddest Park Feature:
To optimize shade and reduce batter's box glare during day games, Cactus League diamonds – and most baseball fields anywhere, for that matter – are designed so home plate faces northeast. Not at Camelback Ranch, the "Guillen-meets-Taliesen" high-design showpiece park and home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. To optimize views, former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt instructed his architects to make home plate face southwest. McCourt is gone now, and Dodger fans have only sunburns to remind them. 10710 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 623-302-5000, camelbackranchbaseball.com

Most Sought-After Autograph:
That's a toss-up between Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the 25-year-old fireballer and two-time Cy Young honoree who just signed a record-breaking $215 million contract, and Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the 22-year-old Mickey Mantle clone who many predict will be baseball's highest-paid player by decade's end. Either way, keep that autograph someplace safe and dry.

Coolest Kid-Friendly Feature:
We've always been tempted to try out the miniature Wiffle ball field at Goodyear Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians. Where's a 5-year-old when you need one? 1933 S. Ballpark Way, Goodyear, 623-882-3120, ci.goodyear.az.us/ballpark

PHM0314OF09Can't-Miss Game:
Los Angeles Angels at Oakland A's. Wednesday, March 26. This will be the last A's spring training game played at Phoenix Municipal Stadium before the A's move to Mesa in 2015 and the Muni becomes the new home of ASU Sun Devils baseball. So sad... because the Muni is the one Cactus League park that still allows tailgating. And then there were none. 5999 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix, 602-392-0074, phoenix.gov/sports

PHM0314OF1039 Chill with Chihuly sculptures.
Nobody blows minds with blown glass quite like Dale Chihuly. The Washington state-born artist's fantastical large-scale glass sculptures – green neon-speared abstract aloe vera jutting fifteen feet high; tentacled bushes in hues of bright blue – have been shown in more than 200 museums worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., but none provide a setting for his sculptures quite like Arizona's own Desert Botanical Garden, where dozens of Chihuly's colorful, curly and tubular sculptures adorn the natural environs. Tickets for Chihuly in the Garden, running through May 18, cost $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, $12 for students and $10 for children. DBG also offers Chihuly After Dark events from 8 p.m. to midnight on March 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, and April 5, 12 and 19, which include a DJ spinning dance music and a cash bar. 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 480-941-1225, dbg.org.

BONUS: 40 D.I.Y. Desert Garden Guide                                                                                                      BACK TO TOP
You live in the desert, and you want to know how your garden will grow? Few people know our desert-friendly flora like Brian Kissinger, Director of Horticulture at Desert Botanical Garden. Kissinger let us pick his brain for this D.I.Y. Desert Garden Guide, outlining bullet points for your botanical aspirations. To learn more about desert gardening and to get some hands-on experience, consider taking one of Desert Botanical Garden's many spring classes.

Landscape
"It takes a certain amount of expertise to garden in the desert. I always advise homeowners to develop a plan before they plant," Kissinger says. "A gardener should take into consideration the site and possibly improve the conditions by creating shade and shelter from the unremitting light and protection from extreme afternoon heat. A windbreak can lessen the effects of drying winds. Mulching the beds can help reduce evaporation."

What to plant in spring
"The spring begins in late February in the lower deserts," Kissinger says. "This is a great time to re-evaluate your garden and look at planting herbs, seasonal color and vegetables."

• If you already have a raised planting bed, plant "warm-season annuals such as aster, marigolds, calendula, gaillardia, coreopsis, cosmos and zinnia."

• Tomatoes in a "protected location."

• Beets, carrots, collard and mustard greens and other varieties "that can mature in a short period of time before summer heat."

• Herbs. "Set out lavender, marjoram, sage, oregano, basil, cilantro, cumin, dill and parsley in an area where you can protect young starts from any lingering chance of frost," Kissinger says.

• Cactus. "In the spring, most of your native cacti and shrubs bloom in April and continue till late May. Many desert trees explode with color in April as well. This is a great time to plant Palo Verde, mesquites, Ironwood trees and other native desert trees."

Soil preparation
"Soil preparation is critical for success. When creating a raised planting bed for vegetables, I like to mix sifted topsoil with 30 percent organic matter such as compost and 10 percent sand or some small aggregate for drainage. This mix allows for good soil aeration. I also like to lay two inches of mulch on the surface after planting to hold in moisture," Kissinger says.

How to water
"If you have an irrigation system, I like to program for less days but longer duration," Kissinger says. "If you have a hose only, I like to deep-soak most trees and shrubs rather than shallow frequent watering."

Eco-friendly pest control
"Pests can be a problem in the desert garden," Kissinger acknowledges. "I try to use eco-friendly means to help keep unwanted critters out of my beds. Below is my list of offenders and what I do to protect my young plants from them."

Insects: "I like to use insecticidal soaps to control mites, aphids, whiteflies and other arthropods. Botanical pesticides break down into harmless compounds in a relatively short period of time. Useful botanicals: pyrethrum, neem, rotenone, sabadilla. Always follow instructions on label when using any insecticides (even organic ones)."

Rabbits: protective fencing at least 24" high

Quail: protective fencing and netting over beds

Pack rats: Do not provide a pack rat-friendly environment. Remove any debris piles and let snakes live on your property.

Ground squirrels: Metal flashing 18" below grade with 36" fencing with top 6" metal flashing.

41 Look for Wildflowers
Most parks and gardens have a hard-and-fast "do not pick" rule when it comes to spring's sprays of wildflowers, but it's still fun to look and smell. A horticultural hunting guide for every section of the Valley:

Phoenix: South Mountain Park, 10919 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-262-7393, phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/south/index.html

Northeast Valley: McDowell Mountain Regional Park, 16300 McDowell Mountain Park Dr., Phoenix, 480-471-0173, maricopa.gov/parks/mcdowell/

Northwest Valley: Lake Pleasant Regional Park, 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd., Morristown, 928-501-1710, maricopa.gov/parks/lake_pleasant/

Southeast Valley: San Tan Mountain Regional Park, 6533 W. Phillips Rd., Queen Creek, 480-655-5554, maricopa.gov/parks/santan/

Southwest Valley: Estrella Mountain Regional Park, 14805 W. Vineyard Ave., Goodyear, 623-932-3811, maricopa.gov/parks/estrella

Valley Super-Gardens
Our summer temps' ability to fry eggs is well-documented, but don't let Arizona's arid rep fool you: This desert is far from a wasteland, and these lush little pockets of Eden prove that things can flower and flourish despite the sun's best attempts to thwart them. Go green at these glorious gardens.

PHM0314OF1142 Japanese Friendship Garden
A monument to the friendship between Phoenix and its sister city of Himeji, Japan, the Japanese Friendship Garden –Ro Ho En – is home to a 14-foot waterfall, koi ponds, a tea garden and a tea house for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. 1125 N. Third Ave., Phoenix, 602-256-3204, japanesefriendshipgarden.org

43 Desert Botanical Garden
Widely regarded as the Southwest's premier garden of desert-dwelling plants, DBG opened in 1939 and has been an institution ever since. Check out the gorgeous, blown-glass Chihuly in the Garden exhibit before it leaves in May. 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, 480-941-1225, dbg.org

44 The Rose Garden at Mesa Community College
This petal-packed paradise is the largest public rose garden in the Southwest, with nearly 9,000 rose bushes. The garden is the result of a partnership between Mesa Community College and the Mesa-East Valley Rose Society. Students use it as a botanical laboratory, but visitors are free to stroll and sniff. 1833 W. Southern Ave., Mesa, 480-461-7022, rosegarden.mesacc.edu 

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