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.
There’s little left in Tucson to suggest that back in the mid-19th-century the city served as the Southwest’s hub for highway robbers. But it's a fact that the area hosted a string of stagecoach holdups and served as the starting point for Wyatt Earp’s infamous vendetta ride. At the Arizona History Museum, relics stand testament to this harrowed past, including an original Concord stagecoach, not unlike those whose occupants were forced to surrender their valuables to roadside brigands. The museum doesn’t only explore infamy, though; it illuminates all the forces that took part in Tucson’s transition from Paleo-Indian hunting ground to Spanish colonial outpost to the commercial center it is today. Exhibits cover this vast span of time creatively, including a full-size replica of an underground mine that provides a glimpse into early-20th-century working conditions, hands-on exhibits that recall the day-to-day lives of Native Americans, and archaeology displays that detail the surrounding environment's history over the past 4,000 years.
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.
It’s hard to believe that Pollack Tempe Cinemas was once just another small, drab movie theater in danger of replaced by the newest megaplex. What a difference a few years make. Once Pollack management took over, they completely redesigned the theater to better reflect the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. Autographed headshots, life-size cutouts of celebrities, and vintage movie posters all contribute to the classical vibe that permeates the theater today. Though most theaters with this sort of eclectic flair survive on a steady diet of indie and foreign flicks, Pollack’s movies are generally blockbusters and other films with mainstream appeal. On any given weekend, the theater attracts thousands of guests eager to enjoy second-run films at steep discounts and pose for pictures next to life-sized models of their favorite movie stars or second favorite key grips.