In most places, summer is thought to have the best weather of the year; people can spend all of their free time outdoors hiking, biking, and traveling without having to even think about those cold winter days that just recently passed. In Arizona, the months of June, July, and August have the weather that scares away visitors, and residents resort to figuring out their daily activities based on when it’s “safe” to be outside under the unforgiving sun rays.
Locals know that when it gets into the 100-degree days, there is no going back for several months, and the streets in Arizona cities get very quiet and rapidly less populated. Snowbirds go home, students flee the state, and that leaves the rest of us trying to figure out how to enjoy this season without being fried to a crisp!
Here are some excellent ideas to help battle those triple-digit temperatures this summer, and attempt to stay cool until we make it back into jacket weather again (the 70-80 degree range, of course).
1. Make a splash at Breakers Water Park.
Swimming is extremely popular in Arizona, as one would expect. For people in the Tucson or Marana area, Breakers Water Park is an amazing asset each summer. It’s only open from the end of May through early September, but it can be the perfect way to beat the heat by sliding down some of their wild rides or just hanging out in the wave pool. Tickets to get in aren’t terribly expensive and many local grocery stores offer coupons, but there are also season ticket packages available for those who want to “move-in” for the summer.
2. Spend some time at Roosevelt Lake.
Roosevelt Lake is a haven just outside of Phoenix, and it often shocks people when they find out that there is such a large body of water out there! Technically speaking, Roosevelt Lake is a reservoir, but It’s actually fairly large - over 22 miles long - and is an ideal location for boating and camping if you are looking for a spot that isn’t too far away from the big city. It’s the perfect place to feel like you’re not in the desert anymore, and would be an exciting place for a daytrip, even if you don’t want to stay there overnight. In addition to that, the Dolly Steamboat operates on the lake and offers a few tours to either witness the beautiful scenery or go out for a dinner cruise at twilight.
3. Pack a picnic for lunch on Mount Lemmon.
Tucsonans love to tell outsiders that there is a ski resort in the area, because it hardly sounds believable. Yet, Mount Lemmon, also known as “The Island in the Sky,” is one of the town’s best kept secrets and does actually have functioning ski slopes during the winter months! It’s not as far away as you might think; a 30-minute drive out of Tucson will take you up the mountain and you’ll see the scenery drastically change from cacti and sand to tall pine trees and wooden cabins. It’s almost as if someone was able to transport you to the Rocky Mountains (along with the cooler temperatures too). On average, Mount Lemmon is about 20 degrees cooler than what it is down in the desert, which makes it the perfect place to escape to and bring a picnic for lunch. Some great spots to check out: Rose Canyon Lake or anywhere up in the Summerhaven area at the top.
4. Head out for a refreshing weekend in Flagstaff.
Flagstaff is another one of Arizona’s environment anomalies, as people who have never been to the state might be unaware that there are actually regions that don’t include the desert terrain. Flagstaff is located in the northeastern part of the state and is home to the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks, who love their mountainous woods and lush tree-filled environment. A weekend up in Flag might be the perfect way to get out of the heat for a while, as it’s usually much cooler up there than most other places in Arizona. During the winter, it isn’t uncommon for them to get blizzards, and residents rock the snow gear for several months (like the rest of the country). There are tons of great hiking trails and other opportunities for outdoor activities, as well as several fantastic breweries in town!
5. Dunk in at Wet n’ Wild Park.
The Wet n’ Wild Park is Phoenix’s version of a water park, and it's slightly more elaborate than Breakers in Marana in order to accommodate the larger population. There are several thrill rides for the adrenaline lovers, a wave pool, and a fantastic lazy river with a lovely little current that makes for a refreshing experience during the hot summer months. Season passes are also available for the people who plan on spending lots of time here, and rest assured that there are plenty of snack stations on the grounds to feed your appetite all day long.
6. Hang out at Southern Arizona’s malls and outlet centers.
If there’s one thing that Southern Arizona got right, it’s their mall set up and shopping amenities, and there is way more to do than just shop. There are several large malls within the Phoenix and Tucson area, including a few outlet malls that offer great deals on big name brands. The Tucson Premium Outlets just opened at the end of 2015, and are a great place to wander for a few hours between the many store options. Another great mall is Tempe’s Mills Mall just outside of Phoenix, where a person could get lost window-shopping (or actual shopping) for hours. Not only are there stores at Mills Mall, but there are other attractions in there, including a movie theater and an aquarium!
7. Explore the Grand Canyon Caverns.
The Grand Canyon Caverns are another hidden gem in the state of Arizona, and they are located just northeast of Kingman. What’s special about this place is that it’s the largest dry caverns system in the United States! They welcome thousands of visitors each year to come and explore the caves below ground. There are several different types of tours to go into the caves that accommodate hikers and spelunkers of all levels of expertise, and they offer a little relief from the sun for a good part of the day. In addition to exploring the caves, other activities nearby include horseback riding, river rafting, camping, and taking a journey to see beautiful waterfalls.
8. Take a trip to Lake Powell.
Lake Powell is an outdoor lover's dream come true, as this magnificent lake (which rests on the Arizona-Utah border) is full of opportunities for excitement and seeing some of Arizona’s natural beauty. This lake is an ideal spot for vacationers to rent a houseboat, kayak, fish, and even camp out on a picturesque white sand beach without even needing to leave the desert! There are endless spots to explore and get the full “staycation” experience, even though many Arizonans will have to drive four or five hours to get to the lake. Needless to say, it’s one of the most perfect places to relax by the water and get out of the heat for a day or a long weekend.
9. Learn something new at the Arizona Science Center.
Phoenix is one of the hottest cities in the entire state of Arizona, so it only makes sense that there would be plenty of indoor activity options. The metropolis has several very interesting museums that are both good for family trips or spontaneous “get out of the house” excursions. They range in a variety of themes, but one in particular is a favorite among locals. The Arizona Science Center is right in the heart of downtown and is entertaining for children and adults alike. Take a look around and check out their numerous hands-on displays to learn and play with. There’s also an IMAX theater, which features rotating presentations on different topics, so repeat visitors will always have something new to see! The first Friday of every month is the “Adult’s Night Out” event, where the museum sets up for grown-ups to enjoy a few alcoholic beverages on site to make learning even more fun.
There’s no reason to become a “summer hermit” when there are so many excellent ways to get out of the house
without baking in the unrelentless heat or breaking the bank! These are just a few of the many great activities and opportunities to make the most of the summer, even when thermometer hits terrifying highs.
Do you have a favorite spot to beat the Arizona heat? Tell us about it in the comments below and help your fellow Arizonians enjoy their summer to the fullest!