READERS' PICK: Sabino Canyon, a slender, stream-laced portal through the front range of the Santa Catalina Mountains, is a rare place for parts such as these, a place where water almost always flows. That perennial water attracts desert wildlife of all kinds; the erosive force of water has carved a tree-lined corridor, with small springs tucked inside, luring in myriad butterflies and moths, mammals like javelinas and ringtails, and a fantastic variety of bird life. The understory of the streamside tree canopies is just about the favorite place on earth for a great many kinds of hummingbirds, who set the air abuzz with their frantic whirring as they dart from flower to flower. Sabino Canyon is a wonderful little evolutionary laboratory, science classroom, and sanctuary alike, long prized by Tucsonans and visitors -- hundreds of whom instantly answered the call to repair the damage caused by this summer's flash floods.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Aqua Caliente Park, 12325 E. Roger Road. Forget the boom-boxes at Reid Park, the dog poop at Himmel, the jocks on the UA mall, and the fee gauging at Catalina State Park. Instead, pack yourself a little lunch and head up to Agua Caliente, possibly the grooviest little outpost within city limits.
Part of the Pima County park system, Agua Caliente was historically a cattle ranch, and later a getaway for health-seeking easterners. Today it remains full of towering trees, great picnic areas and a handful of lakes that don't sidle up to sprawling golf courses with a panoramic view of plaid pants. Best of all, it doesn't cost you one thin dime to enjoy. Call 740-2690 for information.