In 1966, Big Surf Waterpark founder Phil Dexter built his first model of a wave machine in his backyard, a place he affectionally named Tahiti Phil's. With some help, and several models later—including one assembled inside an abandoned billiards hall—he perfected the contraption, making it the centerpiece of his newly opened waterpark in 1969. Dexter's invention instantly snagged press from Time, Sports Illustrated, and Life, and today, it remains Big Surf Waterpark's 2.5-million-gallon keynote attraction. Over the years, despite Arizona's lack of rain or gigantic sprinkler, the park has managed to grow around the wave pool, and its current 20-acre campus features dozens of slides, rides, and areas for all ages. Big Surf's real estate has also played host to entertainment events, including concerts from Pink Floyd, Elton John, and the Beach Boys. New for this year, and in honor of Phil’s wave making machinery and his original backyard site where it all began, Big Surf has unveiled its own Tahiti Phil’s, a full service bar for adults over 21 that looks over the historic wave pool.
Housing numerous artifacts and anecdotes that catalog Arizona's near-100-year statehood, the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park takes visitors on a voyage through pivotal moments in the state's history. The museum's exhibits, like flashlights swallowed by a history book, illuminate the narratives of famous Arizonans—including the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor—and provide insight into Arizona's Japanese internment camps and Papago Park POW camps during World War II. With a mix of info-rich text, multimedia displays and hands-on learning, the exhibits keep visitors engaged and entertained, much like betrothals performed as rock ballads.
Climbers cling to large, composite structures, strategizing their way up the side of a rocky cliff. They have come to conquer Climbmax Climbing Gym's myriad rock-face combinations and master the art of blindfolded belaying on thick, padded floors. Before challenging themselves on the climb-through cave or scaling an overhang, climbers slip into a harness and climbing shoes for safety.
In addition to climbing areas geared toward beginners and advanced climbers, a children's area features its own pint-sized climb-through cave where youngsters learn to appreciate all aspects of the stimulating sport. Thick padding covers the floors of each climbing area, ensuring safe landings and comfortable, celebratory belly flops from the wall's summit.
At Sea Life Arizona Aquarium, you can watch Ziva, a rescued green sea turtle, graciously share the limelight with the 5,000 other oceanic creatures that populate the aquarium's tanks, including white-tip reef sharks and cownose stingrays. Rays swarm in live feeding shows, sea stars wait in tanks to be touched, and crabs don't mind if you hold them in your hand or whisper sweet nothings in their ears.
At Wheel Fun Rentals, visitors can traverse surrounding areas in fun paddle- and pedal-propelled vessels while soaking in oft-overlooked scenery, which would not be possible while buckled to a car seat or an Acme rocket. Established in 1999, Wheel Fun Rentals provides locals and tourists with an engaging way to sightsee while promoting a healthy lifestyle. Customers can rent a wide range of vehicles, such as a paddleboat ($15 per hour), surrey ($20–$30 per hour), scooter ($5 per hour), or kayak ($15 per hour) to traverse the verdant nature trails of Encanto Park or the glittering lake and bustling recreational center of Kiwanis Park.
An electric, zero-emission Zamboni roves over Oceanside Ice Arena’s 200′ x 89′ rink, readying the ice for the facility’s hockey leagues, broomball competitions, and open-skate sessions attended by throngs of casual skaters. Open since 1974, the arena has built a solid reputation over the years, one that’s largely a result of hosting the practices and games of Arizona State University’s hockey teams. When the rink’s not being occupied by hockey and broomball players or Zambonis carving messages of hope into the ice, the skating public is encouraged take to the ice during designated open skate sessions.