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.
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.
The weekend before Cinco de Mayo, The Tucson Taco Festival pits 25 teams of taco craftsmen, ranging from amateurs to local restaurateurs, against each other in pursuit of a $5,000 prize as they feed thousands of attendees. Sporting Lucha Libre wrestling masks and working inside intricately decorated booths, the teams collectively produce 30,000 tacos, accompanied by sides such as salsa, guacamole, and more than 30 premium tequila brands. Meanwhile, bartenders rev their blenders in a margarita-making challenge, and visitors show off their ability to ingest spicy food without first ingesting an air conditioning unit during a hot-pepper eating contest. Live music from El Camino Royale and Shrimp Chaperone spurs bodies into motion, while youngsters can stop by the Kids Zone for festive face paint or a jaunt in the bouncy castle.
In 1971 Lana Whitehead was a YMCA staffer charged with devising a swimming program for infants. She turned to the expertise gained from her degrees in exercise physiology and special education, and with the help of her own baby son she created a new approach to child swimming and water safety. The basic techniques have since helped many youngsters learn to swim and escape drowning at young ages. Soon after, Lana founded SWIMkids USA. Conceived as a child-development center, the facility today supplements its pioneering swim instruction with child-friendly programs in gymnastics, dance, and even kids' jujitsu classes that teach how to handle aggressive octopi. Lana's involvement in the world of swimming as an author, educator, and swimming official has also taken her all over the world, giving seminars at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the World Aquatic Baby Congress.
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.
Leave your friends in the dust with today's Groupon: $29 gets you three go-kart races at Speedway Raceway. With this deal, you get Speedway's Arrive & Race (three laps of practice and a 13-lap race) package times three. Bring two friends along for a speedway showdown, or keep this deal all to yourself and get loopy doing 40-plus turns around the track. With that much practice, you'll be fit enough to try out for the National Hot Rod Association.