Twice a year, as NASCAR fans flock to Phoenix International Raceway, they discover the western cities of metropolitan Phoenix are full of wonders.

From the beauty of the outdoors and antique treasures to the mysteries of space and ancient petroglyphs, there’s something for everyone of this side of town.

With so many options, you’ll find plenty of ways to fill your time before and after the NASCAR action.

Fun with the Family

Looking for things to do with the kids in Greater Phoenix? Test your racing skills on a Glendale go-kart track. Hitting speeds of up to 45 mph, the go-karts at Speed Street satisfy the racing impulse of even die-hard fans.

For those who prefer to design cars rather than drive them, plan a pit stop at Ridemakerz in Glendale’s Westgate City Center to build your own miniature racecar.

Choose a body style; then customize it with wheels, decals…even sounds. Opt for the remote-controlled version if you want to design and drive.

The ultimate race was the race to space. Budding astronauts and their parents can soar at Peoria’s Challenger Space Center. Visit the planetarium, tour the interactive exhibits, and blast off during a simulated space mission.

Ever wonder how chocolates get cream-filled centers? Unravel the mystery – and perhaps a few candy wrappers – during a tour of Glendale’s Cerreta Candy Company.

Animal lovers of all ages enjoy Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium in Litchfield Park. The aquarium showcases sharks, penguins, eels and more. The zoo offers five different rides, including an African safari train.

Enjoying the Great Outdoors

Hiking in Greater Phoenix is a perfect way to encounter Arizona’s natural beauty. Try Lake Pleasant Regional Park, located northwest of the metro area, for lakeside hikes, plus camping, boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking and wildlife-viewing.

Mountain bike trails abound for cyclists, who can pedal the 10-mile competitive track in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. Shared-use trails are also available for joggers, cyclists and horseback riders. White Tanks Riding Stables offers guided horseback tours of the White Tank area.

Estrella Mountain Regional Park has a two-loop competitive track for cyclists, as well as trails for hiking and horseback riding. You can even fish along the Gila River.

History buffs can walk in the footsteps of the region’s early inhabitants as they study the rock drawings left behind. Learn about these petroglyphs at the Deer Valley Rock Art Center in Phoenix, or spot them along the Waterfall Trail in the White Tank Mountains.

Attention, Sports Fans

Hockey fans flock to Jobing.com Arena in Glendale to watch the Phoenix Coyotes take the ice. The exciting NHL action keeps fans howling for more.

Glendale is also home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. If your visit doesn’t coincide with a home game, schedule a tour of the award-winning University of Phoenix Stadium, which features a retractable roof as well as turf that can slide outdoors.

Lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) fanatics should pay a Sunday-afternoon visit to El Gran Mercado in Phoenix. This weekly pro-wrestling event – complete with masks and capes – gets the crowd cheering and jeering.

Lovers of Luxe

The Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa at the Wigwam Arizona resort in Litchfield Park puts the “ahhh” back in NASCahhhR. The spa offers rejuvenating services with Southwestern-inspired amenities.

Historic downtown Glendale boasts more than 70 antique and specialty shops to explore for one-of-a-kind treasures from the past.

Seekers of more contemporary fare find Glendale’s Arrowhead Towne Center a must-shop, with major department stores and upscale shopping venues. Desert Sky Mall in Phoenix and Westgate City Center offer additional retail and dining options.

For the ultimate escape, float away from it all on a hot air balloon ride with Phoenix’s Arizona Hot Air Balloons. Your guide will point out the abundant flora and fauna as you soak in the stunning views.

For aerial thrills mixed with a sense of serenity, board an Arizona Soaring glider and silently sail over the beautiful Estrella Mountains southwest of the metro area.