With its nickname being Valley of the Sun, it’s no surprise that summertime in Phoenix is sunny and hot. Like HOT HOT. If we’re being honest, many of the activities that would normally be recommended for downtown Phoenix and the surrounding area aren’t just that enjoyable in sweltering 100+ heat.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in Phoenix in the summer! I’m not about to spend my summer sitting inside in the AC (though it’s tempting sometimes!) so I’ve spent the last few years discovering exactly the best things to do in Phoenix in the summer sun.
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I still remember when Mr. Misadventures and I rolled up into the Phoenix area in our RV and were met with a temperature of 119 degrees. We managed to survive that first half-summer but it was definitely a shock when we had been expecting to spend all of our time outdoors hiking!
So let’s just say I know from personal experience what to do and not do in Phoenix in the summertime!
100 outside? Who cares when I can enjoy a nice view from inside the Phoenix Art Museum!
Like any other major city, and Phoenix is the 5th largest city in the United States, there are plenty of world-class, and air-conditioned, museums to check out. Personally, I think this is the best way to spend the hottest part of the afternoon as museums are something I would regularly visit anyway. Might as well do it when I can’t (or don’t want to be) outside!
- There are many to choose from, here are my picks:
- Phoenix Art Museum (1625 N. Central Avenue) It’s the largest art museum in the Southwest US!
- Heard Museum (2301 N. Central Avenue)
- Arizona Science Center (600 E Washington St) First Peoples art.
- Musical Instrument Museum (4725 E Mayo Blvd) only one of its kind in the world.
- Hall of Flame Fire Museum (6101 E Van Buren St)Arizona Capitol Museum (1700 W Washington St)
- Children’s Museum (215 N 7th St) This has some great interactive exhibits for the kids!
I have a full list of museums in my 70 things to do in Phoenix list, check them out!
Mr. Misadventures and I like to hike and we are also early birds so getting up in the morning hours to hit the trail is not a hardship for us. Hiking in the summer is not about doing epic trails but rather shorter hikes that allow you to enjoy being outside while ensuring you are back at the trailhead before it gets too hot.
You really shouldn’t start any later than 6 a.m., bring lots of water (and the other 6 items you should pack for a trip to Phoenix) and tell someone where you’ll be.
- South Mountain Trails (several locations on 19th and Central Ave) 0.5-3 miles, easy to difficult
- North Mountain & Shaw Butte Trails (several locations on N 7th Street) 1-4 miles, easy to moderate
- Phoenix Sonoran Preserve Apache Wash Loop (1600 E. Sonoran Desert Dr.) has several trails 0.5-5 miles, easy to difficult
- Phoenix Sonoran Preserve Desert Hills Trailhead (705 W. Carefree Hwy.) has 2 trails 6 and 7 miles, moderate to difficult
- Phoenix Sonoran Preserve Desert Vista Trailhead (1900 W. Desert Vista Tr.) has several trails 1-4 miles, easy to difficult
A few folks have told us about night hiking, and if you look at the trail hours on some of the trails listed above you see that some stay open until 11 PM, but I have not personally done this, and I’m not so sure it is my thing. It can still be 90 degrees until way past midnight and also, I’m hard-pressed to stay up past 10!
But if you are interested in trying this out, there are some newbie trails like Alta Trail and the Holbert Trail in the South Mountain (listed above) and the Apache Vista Loop Trail in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve (also listed above). Sometimes the rangers will do guided hikes as well.
Once you get your nighttime hiking skills under your belt check out: Cave Creek Regional Park, Estrella Mountain Regional Park, Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Usery Mountain Regional Park, and the White Tank Mountain Regional Park.
I have more hikes in my 70 Things to do in Phoenix as well.
Resorts (and their pools!)
Summer is the low season for hotels in Phoenix. That means you can score some excellent deals at many of the area’s finest resorts. And if you are an Arizona resident you can get even deeper discounts for your very own staycation.
The resorts boast many pools (when I had a 36-hour staycation at the Fairmont Princess in January I found all 6 of theirs!) and pool activities including temporary beaches, movie nights, etc. along with exceptional dining and spa experiences. I’m a big fan of off-season experiences and I think this is a great opportunity to stay at a luxury resort on the cheap.
- Resorts I KNOW I have summer deals:
- The Camby (2401 E Camelback Rd)
- Copperwynd Resort & Club (13225 N Eagle Ridge Dr, Scottsdale)
- JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa (5350 E Marriott Dr)
- The Phoenician (6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale)
- Point Hilton Squaw Peak Resort (7677 North 16th Street)
- Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort (5700 E McDonald Dr, Paradise Valley) is on my personal bucket list
- Westin Kierland Resort & Spa (6902 East Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale
This is JUST to name a few, seriously every hotel and resort in town has summer deals! Since this post isn’t supposed to be about hotels, I’m moving on!
If pool parties are more your style (they’re not mine) than head to:
- The OH Pool at the Valley Ho Hotel (6850 E Main St, Scottsdale) it’s open to the public every day but Saturday
- Maya Day & Nightclub (7333 East Indian Plaza, Scottsdale) a Vegas-style party pool
- The Release pool party which is 21 and up at the Talking Stick Resort (9800 Talking Stick Way)
Nighttime Visit Taliesin West
I’ve visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous home, Taliesin West, in the winter and absolutely loved it. I can tell you for a fact that you do not want to visit it in the summer, too many windows, BUT I just learned they do evening tours which I think would be just awesome and it is something I am going to be doing this summer.
With its location high up on the hillside, it is supposed to be really great for sunset. The Night Lights Tours is offered 3 times on Friday evenings at 6, 6:30, and 7. It’s 2 hours so you are also supposed to see a great view of the stars on the last tour. (I could not find any information about the tour on their website, so use the link I provided.)
Desert at Dawn at the Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden, located in Papago Park, is worth visiting anytime. They have garden trails and galleries that are perfect for wandering, a butterfly garden to sit and relax, and more rotating exhibits.
But, knowing that the afternoon heat can be a little unbearable, they offer a special during the summer – Desert at Dawn, where you can enter the gardens at 6 am on select days. Not only do you get to see the stunning desert sunrise, but you also get to access the garden while it’s much cooler outside!
And if you have kids, be sure to check the calendar of events as they offer storytime and other activities for kids during the summer as well.
Catch a Game at Chase Field
I think there are few things that say “summer in America” quite like enjoying some popcorn and a hot dog while watching a football game. And luckily, this is something you’ll have no trouble doing in Phoenix. Just visit Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks!
Baseball not your thing? Chase Field also hosts live music and other events throughout the year.
Take a Day Trip to Scottsdale
Scottsdale, Arizona is just 25 minutes up the road and is a great place to visit in the summer. You can visit the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, explore Old Town Scottsdale (and pop into a cafe or bar to escape the heat when needed!), get your cowboy on at the Museum of the West and spend the hottest part of the day in the AC of the OdySea Aquarium, one of the newest aquariums in the US and the biggest aquarium in the Southwest.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Check off your bucket list with a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert and Deer Valley! There are several companies in the area offering this experience but Rainbow Ryders and Hot Air Expeditions are two of the most well-known.
Both companies offer tours beginning at 4:30 am so you’re in the air as the sunrises. What a truly unique experience! Since this is such a popular bucket list adventure, be sure to reserve your spot in advance.
Take a Scenic Drive
Whether you go on an impromptu road trip with no destination or make a true day trip out of it, this can be a great way to take in the desert landscapes – especially if you’re new to the area! Crank up the air conditioning or roll the windows down (but, realistically…you’ll probably want the AC!), turn up the tunes, and drive.
Not a fan of random driving? Punch one of these day trip destinations in your GPS and go exploring!
Here are some of the best road trip songs: Theme Songs for Your Trip to (or through) Arizona!
Get on the Water
I’m not the beach-going kind of gal, convenient as I now live in the desert. When it’s hot outside makes sense that water would be a good solution – I’m just always hesitant because water plus sun equals sunburn to me, so make sure if you partake in any of the following that you wear a hat and a ton of sunscreen!
Here are some of my recommendations for water activities in the Phoenix area.
- Boating and swimming on Lake Pleasant (41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd., Morristown)
- Enjoy a morning of tubing down the Salt River (9200 N Bush Hwy, Mesa)
- Paddleboat on Tempe Town Lake (Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe)
- Water parks like Big Surf Waterpark (1500 North McClintock)
There’s nothing I like better when it is super hot outside than an ice-cold beer. And in Phoenix, the local favorite is Four Peaks Brewing Company. You can visit, tour, and sip their beer (for free) at their original brewery (and one of the best bars in Phoenix) in Tempe (1340 E 8th St).
The tour lasts an hour and you can learn all their brewing secrets, try new flavors they have on tap, and stay to eat and enjoy more if their exceptional on-tap craft beers.
So you know that statement there’s nothing better on a super hot day than an ice-cold beer?” Well, maybe there is a close second. As you can imagine living in the desert with year-round temperatures that range from mildly warm to fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk, ice cream is a big deal around here and there is a huge variety of choices.
From old-timey spots doing classic sundaes and shakes with primo ingredients, to those that lean more scientific with nitro-infused inventions to hipster cool popsicles and weird shapes and serving preparations.
Here are some of my ice cream recommendations:
- Sweet Republic (9160 E Shea Blvd) and Phoenix (6054 N 16th St)
- Udder Delights (1385 E Warner Rd)
- Pop ‘N Tea Bar (550 West McDowell Road)
Summer is low season in Phoenix but that clearly doesn’t mean there’s a lack of things to do! You can still have a great time, as long as you come hydrated and prepared with a little sunscreen. While you may not want to hit up the usual attractions like the Phoenix Zoo in the middle of the afternoon, you’ll have a chance to experience things others won’t, like a hot air balloon ride or a Vegas-style pool party.
If you want my FULL Phoenix and Tucson Travel Planner with day trips and things to do in Phoenix and Tucson, it is available for $4.99.
How about you? Do you have a recommendation for things to do in Phoenix in the summer? Do you live in the desert (or hot locale) have a survival tip? Do share!
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