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Perhaps the most unusual park in the Phoenix metro area centers on Tempe Town Lake, 620 N. Mill Ave., Tempe (tel. 480/350-8625; www.tempe.gov/lake), which was created in 1999 by damming the Salt River with inflatable dams. With parks and bike paths lining both the north and south shores, this 2-mile-long lake is a good place to stretch your legs. The best lake access is at Tempe Town Beach, at the foot of the Mill Avenue Bridge. Tempe Town Lake is the focus of a large development that also includes the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Among Phoenix's most popular parks are its natural areas and preserves. These include Phoenix South Mountain Park, Papago Park, Phoenix Mountains Preserve (site of Piestewa Peak), North Mountain Preserve, North Mountain Recreation Area, and Camelback Mountain-Echo Canyon Recreation Area.

Not far from downtown Phoenix, you can wander around the Steele Indian School Park, 300 E. Indian School Rd. (tel. 602/495-0739; www.phoenix.gov/PARKS/sisp.html). This park, as its name implies, was once an Indian school. Several of the old buildings are still standing, but it's the many new fountains, gardens, and interpretive displays that make this park such a fascinating place. A stop here can easily be combined with a visit to the nearby Heard Museum.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.