Much can be said about the heat in Arizona, yet it’s not enough to detract from the beauty that composes this state. As summer heatwaves begin to overtake most of Arizona around late May, many people retreat into their homes; curtains closed and A/C on full blast, they try to wait out the summer heat. As exciting as this may be for some, others defiantly come up with creative ways to tough out the summer heat without sacrificing their lust for excitement. Whether you’re visiting Arizona or are experiencing your first super-hot sunbelt summer, it’s imperative to learn how to beat the blazing heat. For those of us who embrace the 100+ degree summer temperatures, this is no serious feat, and much of what this article covers will seem second nature by now, but nonetheless here is your Arizona summer survival guide.
“Heat cannot be separated from fire, or beauty from The Eternal” -Dante Alighieri
Mastering summer in AZ requires a certain amount of foresight in your daily activities. When you’re leaving your car, its necessary to cover your windows so that your seats—and most importantly your seatbelts—don’t become blistering hot to the touch. Make sure to take caution when entering your vehicle to avoid burns from such objects, and if you have time, its best to start your car’s A/C a few minutes before you take off so that you don’t melt en route to your destination. When the summer rays are beating down on your place of residence, you might want to try covering your windows with reflective/insulating curtains or blankets before investing in fans. Overall, when cooling your place, efficiency measures should take precedence over spot cooling for the benefit of cost and convenience in this state. As always, be vigilant to the signs of dehydration and heat stroke and drink plenty of water! Although hospitals tend to have great air conditioning, its generally not a place you want to be during the fun summer months.
Grab your sunscreen and head to the water park. Arizona has plenty of water parks big and small throughout the valley to help you cool off all summer long. Water parks here are a popular option for many, and they are constantly being upgraded with new attractions for your amusement, so even if you think you’ve seen it all in years past, think again. The most popular water parks in the Phoenix Area include: Wet & Wild, Golfland Sunsplash, and Big Surf. These three parks are first on every local’s mind when it comes to water parks here because of their reputation for a good time. Each one has a giant wave pool and tons of slides and other attractions to keep you entertained. Don’t fret waiting in line without shoes; these water parks keep you cool with misting systems throughout. Admission to these water parks can be pricey, however. Some of these parks offer a discounted rate if you purchase tickets online or if you visit during the week.
Of course, there are more affordable options when it comes to visiting water parks. Cheaper waterparks are open all summer long, and some amusement parks also have water features and rides that will help you cool off. There is an abundance of local parks that come with their own mini-waterparks/splash-pads right next to the playground, many of which are free for public use. Don’t worry if you forgot to bring a towel, you’ll be dry soon enough thanks to the relentless sun!
Crisp Day Trips
Arizona’s beautiful mountain landscape lends to its climatic versatility, and with a short two to three-hour drive from Phoenix, you can be set in the cool alpine air. Surprisingly, there are plenty of places to take a serene nature walk through the forest in Arizona. North of Phoenix, you can head to the Mogollon Plateau, a southern forest section of the Colorado Plateau. Small, cold lakes and streams are scattered all over this region, perfect for fishing, kayaking, swimming, and catching crawdads. Typical destinations include Sedona, Woods Canyon, and Flagstaff. Farther east, you’ll enter Apache territory which is great for the more rugged outdoors people. This forest area is not maintained by the U.S. Forest Service and therefore a nature walk will include more fallen trees overgrowth and mysterious forest finds with less people around. If you’re in the Tucson area, a quick drive up Mt. Lemmon will bring you out of heat and into a beautiful forest area you wouldn’t even think was there. Arizona is awash with riparian forest escapes to explore and cool off—see for yourself!
The Phoenix metro area has an impressive collection of indoor museums and art galleries where you can spend the hot summer months perusing through interesting exhibits. The Arizona Science Center is a popular museum in town with tons of inspiring exhibits and galleries to explore the wonders of science. Another popular choice is the world-class Heard Museum. The Heard Museum is a must-see attraction filled with Native American fine art and artifacts. Newer in town, the Musical Instrument Museum was founded in 2010 and is a musical walk around the globe, featuring approximately 16,000 instruments and artifacts from around the world. Check the website for concerts and special events, as this museum is as lively as it is captivating. The Phoenix Art Museum is a personal favorite and a great place to experience culture and art in its many forms. The Phoenix Art Museum has presented over 400 exhibitions in its time, and they even have a contemporary exhibit showcasing local artwork that has received special recognition.
Fortunately, the Phoenix metro is full of cultural attractions, there are hundreds of small museums and art galleries tailored to special interests all throughout the valley that waiting to captivate your senses and keep you out of the sun.
Heat doesn’t have to chain you to the couch, if you want to be out and about doing fun activities then no sweat, there are plenty of options. Scottsdale and Phoenix have great shopping districts that will keep you inside and cool. Scottsdale Fashion Square is Arizona’s largest and most luxurious mall; three floors of retail stores are sure to keep your mind off the heat. Outdoor strip malls are not to be avoided, either, since they are almost always equipped with complete misting systems and shaded walkways for your comfort.
Ice rinks are another fun place to be when the summer rays douse the Phoenix area. You risk confusing your circadian senses by wearing a jacket during summer, but fear not, because your body will register the season once you leave the rink. If money is an issue, then a visit to a roller rink or a public pool may be called for instead. Water sport enthusiasts can find their leisure at nearby Lake Pleasant or Tempe Town Lake, although the latter might not be ideal for swimming. Laser tag arenas, indoor racetracks, and video game arcades are also fun places to keep in mind when looking for an escape.
Cooling Off at Home
At home, there are plenty of ways to chill out. Try not to spend all summer indoors evading the intense weather, though. With some creativity, you can have a great time in the heat around your house. If you’re lucky enough to be a part of the 42.8%  of Phoenicians with a swimming pool, then take a dive. If you’re aim is to alleviate the boredom of children, the solution can be as simple as turning on the water hose. Hand a group of kids a water hose on a grassy lawn and their day is usually set; add a slip ‘n’ slide to the party and they will be preoccupied for hours upon days. Summers, are long and if you find the walls of your home are getting you down, you might find spending an afternoon outside in the shade with a cold beverage is just what you need. It helps to sit near a body of water or directly on the grass with a breeze.
The dry heat doesn’t have the same lingering effect at night as it doesn’t in more humid environments; however, the heat does stick around to a large extent. The aforementioned water park, Golfland Sunsplash, turns into Nightsplash Wednesday thru Saturday nights throughout June and July and is a great option for cooling off at night. Aside from conventional amusement, night is when Arizonans are more apt to venture outside. Stargaze, night hike, or take to the streets—this is when you do what you wanted to while you were trapped indoors. Summer nights in the valley are prime for the 21+ crowd, and the clubs and bars come alive. Nights might be short, but that’s all the more reason to live it up!
Arizona residents should already be privy to the dangers of life in the desert by now, and thus might find the rest of this article ineffective. However, for tourists and newcomers who can’t wait to get out and explore the beauty of Arizona during summertime, there are a few things to keep in mind for your safety. First, don’t forget to stay hydrated, and always keep water nearby. Part of staying cool is dressing cool, and that means sunglasses, hats, open-toed shoes and tank tops are commonplace, and unless you’re at an outdoor wedding, there is no need for pants. Use sunscreen. When going outside, make sure to heed all heat advisories and don’t do any strenuous outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day; this is especially true for those who are accustomed to colder climates! While it’s ideal that you would embrace the dry summer heat, give your body a chance to adjust. Learn the signs of dehydration and heatstroke, stay vigilant, and make sure your companions are aware as well. Get ready for a great summer!
- 2011 Housing Profile: Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ. PDF. Phoenix: U.S. Census Bureau, July 2013.
- “Arizona Science Center.” Azscience.org. Accessed February 24, 2017. https://azscience.org/.
- Musical Instrument Museum. Accessed February 24, 2017. http://mim.org/.
- “Art & Culture in Downtown Phoenix, AZ.” Phoenix Art Museum. Accessed February 24, 2017. http://www.phxart.org/