Phoenicians soaked up the sun while the East Coast was shoveling through mountains of snow for the past few months, but Valley dwellers are going to be on Vitamin D overload all too soon as summer hits and temperatures climb into the triple digits.
Anyone who's survived a Phoenix summer before knows that you have to have a game plan if you're going to make it to the end of September without your skin melting off. And that plan has to be cool — literally.
We've rounded up 15 places where you can be entertained, maybe learn something new, and most importantly escape the summer heat.
Burton Barr Central Library
Visiting the library during the summer is basically a no-brainer for us. And when we're looking for a place to simply grab a book, find a cozy spot, and spend a few hours, we choose the Burton Barr Central Library. With its gorgeous architecture, the abundance of natural light during the day, and events ranging from lectures about astronomy and space to sewing workshops, there's something for anyone. Plus, it's free. Check out phoenixpubliclibrary.org/Locations/BurtonBarr for daily hours and a calendar of events.
Scottsdale Public Library
While Burton Barr is our library of choice to curl up with a book, we turn to Scottsdale Public Library for our favorite exhibitions and events at a library. Whether you're a bibliophile or not, visit The Gallery @ the Library for exhibitions like Kim Johnson's watercolor-filled At the Beach or The Forest Floor by Melissa Martinez this summer. Or maybe you'd prefer to sign up for the I Wish I Had Read That Book Discussion Group and McDowell Sonoran Conservancy PastFinder's Summer Survivor speaker series. Visit scottsdalelibrary.org for a full list of events and exhibits.
Phoenix Art Museum
Being in a museum exhibition by yourself with all of the art for just you to admire is one of the coolest experiences we can imagine. And if that's going to happen to you at the Phoenix Art Museum, chances are it will be during the summer. While everyone else flees the heat, take advantage and enjoy what could feel like your own personal museum. See their events calendar on phxart.org to find out what's happening this summer.
Arizona Science Center
We don't care how many times you visited the Arizona Science Center on field trips as a kid, that place never gets old. Whether it's the changing exhibits they feature, learning something new about the stars in the planetarium, or using that machine to make a cloud appear for the zillionth time, the Science Center has some kind of entertainment no matter what your age. Oh, and that outdoor Water Spheres and Gears area was basically made for a Phoenix summer. For hours and ticket prices, visit azscience.org.
Arizonan Museum of Natural History
Dinosaurs. That's all we should need to say to convince you to visit the Arizona Museum of Natural History. The museum has everything from Cretaceous sea creatures to predators from the Prehistoric skies. Plus, a life-size statue of a wooly mammoth greets you right as you walk in the door. We don't care how old you are, that just plain cool. Go to azmnh.org or call 480-644-2230 for more information about hours and ticket prices.
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Okay, we know that contemporary art isn't for everyone, but we would argue that the pieces and exhibits the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art show are. The museum presents challenging but accessible works that both novice and veteran art appreciators can enjoy. View descriptions of the upcoming exhibits, including one looking at modernist design, and get more information on smoca.org.
Boyce Thompson Arboretum
If you start to get a desert version of cabin fever from being cooped up in air-conditioned buildings too much during the summer, take about an hour drive east of Phoenix, explore Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and appreciate the beauty the desert has to offer from the cactus garden to the wildlife that call the Arboretum home. BTA has limited hours during May, June, July, August, and September, so check arboretum.ag.arizona.edu for hours, tickets, and more information.
Though Taliesin West was Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home, you can use it as an escape during the summer to appreciate the surrounding desert — even though the heat may make you want to be anywhere else. Tours of this national historic landmark are offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and there are several different tours available, including a three-hour behind the scenes tour. Ticket prices are discounted online, so visit franklloydwright.org/taliesin-west and plan ahead.
ASU Art Museum
If you think Arizona State University's Art Museum is just for students, think again and plan your visit pretty much right now. Though the main location is on ASU's Tempe campus, this museum is bringing incredible and thought-provoking art from both established and emerging artists to Tempe and Phoenix in its location at the Museum International Artist Residency Program Combine Studios in downtown Phoenix. The museum is showing several exhibitions this summer between the two locations. Check out asuartmuseum.asu.edu for descriptions and information.
Musical Instrument Museum
An entire museum filled with instruments from all over the world kind of sounds like the true happiest place on Earth if you ask us. Plus they have a giant gong within the interactive drum room, and if you ask whoever is guarding it nicely, he or she may let you play it. The museum has not announced what the featured exhibit will be this summer, but it has recently announced the summer concert series. Visit mim.org for more information and tickets.
Shemer Art Center
There's a place nestled near the base of Camelback Mountain where you can learn almost every kind of art known to man and some that most men don't know about. A mala-making workshop? Learning how to work with watermedia? Creating your own books? Shemer Art Center can teach you all of these things, as well as more widely known arts like drawing, painting, and photography. Registration for 2015 summer camps is now open, so peruse what classes the center has to offer and sign up soon at shemerartcenter.org.
The summer is off-season for the hotels and resorts in Phoenix for obvious, weather-related reasons. So while all the snow birds are fleeing from the desert, you can swoop in and steal the best deals at some of the most luxurious to stay. And then be sure to check any additional deals the hotels have beyond room rates. At the Arizona Biltmore, if you stay two or more nights, you receive a complimentary 50-minute massage. Poke around on the websites of the hotels and resorts and see what kind of deals you can find.
Besides being one of the most beautiful buildings in Phoenix, the Orpheum Theatre also holds some of the most interesting stories within its walls. Learn about those stories and the building's original and restored design during a free monthly public tour. Ogle at the breathtaking mural on the ceiling of the main theater meant to make theatergoers feel like they are watching a show al fresco or hear what Carol Channing said after the theater's opening performance of Hello, Dolly! Check the calendar at www.phoenixconventioncenter.com/venues/orpheum-theatre for tour times.
Challenger Space Center Arizona
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Tap into your childhood dreams of hopping in a space ship, launching through the atmosphere, and exploring the stars in Peoria. The Challenger Space Center Arizona lets you do more than just tap in, though. Its simulated space missions allow you to man the flight deck, spacecraft, or Earth Space Transit Module, which transports crew members up to the International Space Station. The two-hour simulations do sell out, so be sure to book your mission in advance. See azchallenger.org for hours, tickets, and for a glimpse of what else the center has to offer.
Herberger Theater Center
It may only be about 45 minutes, but sitting in a dark theater and watching performers for that long is plenty of time to take our minds off the blistering heat outside. This summer, the Herberger Theater's Lunch Time Theater series will entertain audiences with a musical celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities act, the Pandanda Players' next Alphabet Shakespeare play about clowns and fools, and a dance and storytelling piece based in the symbol of the tree of life. Purchase tickets ($6) by calling 602-252-8497, at the door, or via herbergertheater.org.