TEMPE TOWN LAKE
This 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) man-made lake that provides flood control for Tempe is also a haven for cycling, jogging and other activities. Feel free to skate or stroll the 12-foot (3.6-meter) paths that lie on either side of the lake. On any given day, you can spot people kayaking, sailing and even dragon-boat racing on the water. The lake is also the site of free special events, from July Fourth fireworks to the Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade every December (this year, Dec. 8). Typically, there's no fee to watch annual sporting events such as Ironman Arizona.
RIO SALADO AUDUBON CENTER
Forget about city life just a couple miles (kilometers) south of downtown at this hidden nature center. The Rio Salado Audubon Center is nestled in a 600-acre (242-hectare) preserve along the Salt River. The park is home to at least 200 different species of birds and other wildlife including coyotes and jackrabbits. Take a walk or bicycle ride along the 16 miles (26 kilometers) of riding trails. Indoors, there are interactive and photo displays to peruse. Parents looking to amuse their children can choose from numerous free activities after-school and on weekends. You can also toast Mother Nature at a monthly Birds 'n Beer talk (lecture and snacks are free, beer from a local brewery is offered at a reduced rate). Closed Mondays,http://riosalado.audubon.org/
HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOODS TOUR
In 1996, a coalition of city residents led by Gerry and Marge McCue sought to dispel the myth that downtown Phoenix wasn't safe and had no decent housing. Their grassroots effort culminated in a handy guide to 34 historic neighborhoods. You won't find any cookie-cutter rows on these tree-lined streets. Each one is a showcase of past architectural trends. The styles range from Tudor to American Colonial and craftsman. Make sure any self-guided tour includes a stop at Encanto Park. Home of the Phoenix's first public pool and golf course, the lush 222-acre (90-hectare) park is a historic landmark. Paddle-boat across the lagoon or take the kids on the carousel. With an estimated 80,000 printed over the years, the free maps have become staples in some hotels and antique stores. You can also get a copy by calling the McCues, who say they will leave it on their porch for pick-up. If the couple happens to be home when you retrieve it, you may also get free advice about how to make the most of your visit (602-253-5579).