Socially Distanced Summer Fun in Metro Phoenix: A Short Guide

Nighttime is the right time at the Desert Botanical Garden.
Nighttime is the right time at the Desert Botanical Garden. Adam Rodriguez
click to enlarge Nighttime is the right time at the Desert Botanical Garden. - ADAM RODRIGUEZ
Nighttime is the right time at the Desert Botanical Garden.
Adam Rodriguez

Given that we’re living through a pandemic worthy of the scariest sci-fi film, you probably want to continue staying indoors. But maybe you’re feeling trapped inside, or bemoaning the loss of summer vacation, or losing your mind because your kids won’t stop whining about wanting to go somewhere. If so, we’ve got some safer, out-in-the-world suggestions that will let you bust out of the house while keeping coronavirus germs at bay.

Kids and grownups alike dig a trip to Modern Round (8320 West Mariners Way, Peoria; 602-357-9611;, where you can put a safe distance between yourself and the other patrons because every group gets its own private space where they can eat and play. And, oh, the games they can play! Modern Round is a virtual shooting gallery for the whole family, so Susie and Chad get to pop virtual balloons or mow down cartoon trolls projected onto a giant video screen, while Mom and Dad can opt for more adult versions of shoot-to-kill video games. The setting is homelike, with lots of comfy sofas and side tables to eat off of, just like you do at your place. The food is better than okay, and while the full drink menu might impede Pop’s ability to murder that bank robber on the TV, what’s summertime without a little libation?

Simpler outdoor fun for the family can be found at Desert Rose Pizza and Gastropub (6729 North 57th Drive, Glendale; 623-937-3004;, a combination restaurant, dive bar, and live music venue with a colossal outdoor patio that’s perfect for social distancing. Horseshoes, video games, a dance floor, and a whole bunch of other outside fun can be enjoyed here while your posse chows down on every imaginable entree. If you’re being super responsible, the waitstaff is happy to leave your meal on a nearby table so you can help yourself and keep strangers at a proper distance.

click to enlarge Shoot 'em up at Modern Round. - MODERN ROUND
Shoot 'em up at Modern Round.
Modern Round
Equally safe but much more romantic is a moonlight hike through the Desert Botanical Garden (1201 North Galvin Parkway; 480-941-1225;, open this summer until 9 p.m. There’s still plenty of nighttime light to enjoy the hundreds of native plants along the paved trails of this miles-wide outdoor arboretum. Self-guided jaunts along the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail affords you great views of the mountain ranges surrounding the garden, as does the Center for Desert Living trail, designed for beauty but also to educate erstwhile gardeners about sustainable gardening. And don’t miss the Harriet K. Maxwell desert wildflower loop trail, bursting with desert blooms and succulents as well as several species of hummingbird who live there.

You can stay socially distant and safe with a private, guided horseback ride from Windwalker Expeditions (5440 East Peak View Road, Cave Creek; 480-585-3382;, which offers sublime equine communion all summer long. With access to hundreds of miles of wilderness trails, these horsey folks (and their horses) trailer their brood to dozens of different Sonoran trailheads. Windwalker offers rides designed specifically for both longtime riders and novices alike, and with permits to ride hundreds of miles of backcountry roads, they can come up with something for anyone looking to ride the summertime range.

Then again, maybe you’re determined to really shelter at home, no matter what. In which case, throw some blankets on the ground and enjoy one or more of this summer’s many astronomical events. Summer 2020 is chockablock with meteor showers — like the Delta Aquarids shower, best viewed after midnight and peaking on July 28 and 29. That one can produce up to 20 meteors per hour. Or the Perseids shower on August 11 and 12, which brings nearly three times as many meteors per hour as the Delta Aquarids team. So, stay safe, stay home, and keep reaching for the stars.
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