Bemoan the sweltering heat, inevitable sunburns, and incessantly blazing sunshine all you want. There’s plenty to adore about Arizona in the summertime. The season officially arrives on Tuesday, June 20, and here are 10 reasons we love it.
As the mid-summer clouds begin to form and the winds kick up, Phoenix’s signature storm season can mean some mild relief from the heat. The fantastic lightning shows are a photographer’s dream, and we’re partial to the random torrential downpours that would be a bummer in most other climates. Leave it to desert dwellers to get psyched about rain — and the smell of drenched creosote. After a couple of months of 100-plus temps, monsoon season is nature’s cure for summer burnout. Gargantuan dust clouds sweeping through the Valley are the perfect excuse to stay indoors and live vicariously through the Instagram of Mike Olbinski (@mikeolbinski), the mega-talented storm-chaser who’s captured everything from tornadoes to microbursts. Soak it in — you’ve earned it.
Downtown Phoenix’s First Friday art walks are nothing if not popular. The crowds on Roosevelt Row have gotten so big, it can be tempting to stay home and forget about the whole ordeal. But during summer, it’s a different story. As temperatures rise, the crowds start to dwindle, increasing your chance of seeing some art without having to elbow your way through a sea of spectators and kids holding “free hugs” signs. The monthly to-do also promises free general admission to Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N. Central Ave.) and the Heard (2301 N. Central Ave.), while art hotel Found:RE Phoenix (1100 N. Central Ave.) presents fresh art in its Studio space.
Salt River Tubing
Contrary to popular belief, Salt River tubing isn’t just for drunken college kids. (But if you’re into that, bring marshmallows and a cooler.) Drive over to the Tonto National Forest (9200 N. Bush Hwy.) in Mesa for entry and tube rental, and put on enough sunscreen for up to five hours of floating. Pro tip: If you go on a weekday, right when the park opens at 9 a.m., you can enjoy the natural landscape in relative solitude. And if you’re lucky, you might spot some wild horses crossing the Salt River. Cost is $17 per person for a day of tubing, and facilities are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. — weather permitting.
Chase Field’s Roof
Even when it’s downright smoldering outside, Arizona Diamondbacks fans don’t have to sweat it out while catching a game, thanks to the 9-million-pound retractable steel roof on Chase Field (401 E. Jefferson St.). Which means that hats have become a summer fashion statement — or a way of declaring team allegiance — rather than a necessity at the downtown ballpark. Seriously: On most 100-plus days, they shut out the blazing sunshine and blast some much-appreciated air conditioning. For those seated in the upper levels, the blowing air can make it downright cold. We’re fine with that.
With tourist season at its low point, locals can reap the benefits with sweet staycation discounts. Relatively cheap room rates, free amenities, and complimentary wining and dining are just some of the ways Valley hotels and resorts try to woo summer guests. This summer, take advantage of the opportunity to get away from it all without ever stepping through airport security. You’ll find deals across the Valley: the Graduate Tempe (225 E. Apache Blvd.) offers $25 credits to its poolside cantina; Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix (2 E. Jefferson St.) has discounted rooms, cocktails, and food. The Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort (5700 E. McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley), The Camby (2401 E. Camelback Road), and the Saguaro Scottsdale (4000 N. Drinkwater Blvd.) also offer special rates for Arizona residents during summer.
Read on for more reasons why we love summertime in Phoenix.
Here in Arizona, you don’t have to take a vacation day to treat yourself to a trip — and a total change of scenery. Some parts of the Grand Canyon State are actually quite temperate in the summer. And who doesn’t love a good getaway? Several roadways out of Phoenix also provide great views. Try the Joshua Forest Scenic Parkway, which stretches from Wikieup to Wickenburg, or the Apache Trail, a path originally used by stagecoaches running through the Superstition Mountains. As for small-town Arizona, put the wineries of Jerome, the weird streets of Bisbee, the red scenery of Sedona, and historic downtown Prescott on your day-trip bucket list.
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They have summer blockbusters, giant sodas, and air conditioning. Honestly, what more could you ask for? With the average feature film running about two hours these days, you can park it in a reclining plush chair, order an ungodly amount of popcorn, and wait out the hottest part of the day in one of Phoenix’s luxe, budget, or arty movie houses. For a high-end experience, you can’t beat Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square 14 (7014 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale), where mega-hits are presented alongside independent fare. Coming in a close second is AMC Esplanade 14 (2515 E. Camelback Road), whose only downside is that your fellow moviegoers can order extra beers and burgers during the movie. And that can make for distractions. For some arthouse picks, try FilmBar (815 N. Second St.) or Chandler’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (4955 S. Arizona Ave.).
Let’s be real: The beach is overrated. Between the seagulls, seaweed, and grits of sand in nearly every crevice of your clothes, car, and body, Phoenicians’ lust for California’s coast is a classic case of “the grass is always greener.” Save yourself the time and money and stop by one of the many parties happening at popular pools all over the Valley. From well-known DJs and drink specials to water slides and private cabanas, these pool parties are a welcome alternative to your usual seaside sunburn. We recommend the music-centric Release at Talking Stick Resort (9800 Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale) or diving into the Vegas-style partying that Maya Day & Nightclub offers (7333 E. Indian Plaza, Scottsdale). If you’re really jonesing for sand, try Big Surf (1500 N. McClintock Dr., Tempe), where local surf fiends get their fix.
The desert comes alive when the sun goes down. And night hiking is a great way to get some outdoorsy exercise without burning up. You’ll need water and a head lamp — though during a full moon, you can often go without the latter. If you’re new to hitting the trails by night, South Mountain offers a few easy treks to get you started, including the Alta Trail and the Holbert Trail. There’s also the Apache Vista Loop Trail in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, the North Mountain National Trail in North Mountain Park, and the Black Top Mesa in the Superstition Wilderness Area. Obviously, it’ll be dark out. So it’s best to pick trails you’re already familiar with or to bring along an expert.
Museums in Arizona cover a huge range of interests. Also? They have really nice air conditioning. A few of our favorites include the Heard (2301 N. Central Ave.), specializing in Native American art and history; the Musical Instrument Museum (4725 E. Mayo Blvd.), which surveys the history of music-making with a global eye; Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N. Central Ave.), the largest art museum in the Southwest; and Arizona Science Center (600 E. Washington St.), which promises fun for curious kids and nerdy adults alike. This summer, PAM presents “Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection” in the Steele Gallery till July 16, while the Heard hosts the only North American stop for “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera” through August 20.