By Drew Olson Special to Published Mar 09, 2010 at 4:28 PM

The e-mails come in like clockwork, starting with a trickle just before Super Bowl Sunday and intensifying as St. Patrick's Day approaches. readers know that I've covered the Brewers in spring training for the past 15 years and ask me some variation of "What are some things I should do when I'm down there? Especially away from the ballpark."

My colleague, Andy Tarnoff, who has been sunburned on the berm at Maryvale Baseball Park each spring for the past decade or so, published a nice overview on spring training last week.

I've got a few of my favorites, too. Here is a list:

Hit the links: Watching Brewers players cavort on the emerald green grass is therapeutic. So is playing golf. The Phoenix area is home to some of the best courses in the United States. If you can squeeze in a quick 18 in the morning and make it to the ballpark for a 1 p.m. start, you're well on your way to being "king for a day." The better courses are expensive, but worth the splurge. Check out Troon North, the TPC Scottsdale course or Ocotillo, which is a sentimental favorite for me because it's located near the site of Compadre Stadium, the Brewers' former spring home. Ocotillo has a weekday deal that includes golf, a dozen Titleist ProV1 balls, a stained glass bag tag, lunch voucher and two drink tickets for $149.

Simply the best: It almost pains me to give up this secret, but my favorite Mexican restaurant in the world -- and one of my favorites overall -- is Los Dos Molinos, 8684 S. Central Ave. This family-owned spot is crowded nearly every night, particularly during spring training, and is closed Sunday and Monday, which adds to the crowding. They cook with Hatch chiles from New Mexico, so the food is hot -- but delicious. The salsa and sangria are fresh and tasty. The carnitas (slow roasted pork), shrimp Veracruz and blue corn enchiladas are worth the wait.

Take a hike, son: If you're going to partake of the excellent nightlife and cuisine in the greater Phoenix area, it's a good idea to work off some calories. There is no better way to do that than with a hike up Camelback Mountain or Squaw Peak. You'll see families on excursions, athletes on training runs, senior citizens doing the morning ritual and hungover bar patrons sweating out the night before. The best tips for this endeavor: dress comfortably in layers, bring a water bottle, take a camera and take your time. You don't want to make the evening news being plucked from the side of a mountain.

Hit the mall: Phoenix is a fashion-forward city and the month of March is a perfect time to score bargains on winter clothing, which may come in handy for two more months in Wisconsin. Fashion Square Mall, which has locations in Scottsdale and Chandler, is great for shopping and people-watching. The shops around Kierland Commons are terrific, as well. You're almost guaranteed to see some big-leaguers killing time between games.

Check out the Front Row: The Diamondbacks regular-season home, Chase Field, isn't particularly close to any of the spring training parks, but it's a good place to stop if you're close to Downtown. Much like Miller Park, Chase Field has a Friday's Front Row Grill in left field that offers views of the ballpark. It's located a pickoff throw from the Phoenix Suns home, the US Airways Center. If you can score a ticket, check out the Suns and head to Alice Cooper's restaurant, Cooperstown, 101 E. Jackson St., afterward. It'd be easier to find a ticket to a Coyotes game at their wonderful arena, which is adjacent to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. They are having financial trouble and aren't drawing particularly well.

Check out the kids: The Brewers' minor-league complex is located across the parking lot from the main stadium at Maryvale Baseball Park and it's fun to check out the prospects in pre-game practice or in a game. The mood is very low-key, but access is amazing. You might just stumble upon the next Ryan Braun or Yovani Gallardo.

Springtime shrine: Years ago, the Pink Pony steakhouse was the place for old-school baseball people to eat, drink, hang out and spin stories. The Pony closed recently, but Don & Charlie's is still going strong. The restaurant, located at 7501 E. Camelback Rd., is a favorite of Brewers announcer Bob Uecker, who counts owner Don Carson as one of his closest friends. You can go to Don and Charlie's for the excellent ribs, steaks and chops, the friendly service and the amazing collection of museum-quality sports memorabilia. You never know who you'll see at Don and Charlie's.

Back to school: The campus at Arizona State University, located in Tempe, is beautiful. You can kill a few hours wandering around and checking out the funky shops around Mill Avenue, which is the main drag. Every time I visit, I have two somewhat conflicting thoughts: "Why didn't I go to school here?" and, "I probably would have flunked out in half a semester."

Go upscale: Even if you're sleeping on a lumpy pullout couch in your Aunt Gert's sewing room, you can act like a big shot. Check out one of the many nice resorts like the Hyatt Gainey Ranch, the Phoenician, the InterContinental Montelucia, the Westin Kierland or the Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North and grab an overpriced cocktail to relax. With the smell of burning mesquite wood and flowers filling the air, it's great to soak up the atmosphere.

Join the chain gang: I know plenty of people who avoid chain restaurants while traveling. But, what about chains you don't normally frequent? The Phoenix area has plenty that haven't made their way to Milwaukee yet, including Jamba Juice, Baja Fresh, Sweet Tomatoes (a personal favorite) and In-N-Out Burger.

Visit the Land of the Giants: Simply put, Scottsdale Stadium has the best atmosphere, the best food and the best-looking fans in the valley. Whether the Brewers are visiting during your stay or not, it's a fun place to see. You can hit happy hour after the game in Scottsdale (Dos Gringos and Paddy-O's are personal favorites) after the game and keep the good times rolling.

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.