Summers are hot in the Valley of the Sun. Everybody knows that. But Phoenix locals know something more: They know, come June, when the mercury creeps upward and resort rates fall, it’s their time to live like rock stars.
Summer is when prices at resorts in Greater Phoenix plunge as much as 60 percent. Some resorts offer rooms as low as $89; others package discounted accommodations with dining vouchers and spa treatments.
But Phoenix locals also know they can’t spend the whole of summer lounging inside a poolside cabana or sluicing down a waterslide with their giggling kids. A truly successful summer “staycation”—a term invented in Phoenix—cannot rely on discounted resort fun alone.
So what else do locals do to keep cool and happy during summer?
“The first thing they do is find air conditioning,” says Nina Simmons, author of The Hot Sheet blog for the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Museums and movie theaters keep the AC cranked, so they are the perfect place to hang out and chill for a few hours.”
Simmons, however, suggests venturing beyond the routine trip to the museum or movie theater. She recommends trying out the luxury movie-going experience at iPic in Scottsdale Quarter or the AMC Dine-In Theatre at the Esplanade, or catching an idie film and microbrew at FilmBar in downtown Phoenix.
“FilmBar is a godsend for movie lovers in Central Phoenix,” Simmons says. “Its schedule is usually filled with arthouse films and documentaries, and the lounge—which is has this really groovy Moroccan vibe—often has live music or a DJ at night.”
As for museums, Simmons advocates not limiting yourself to simply strolling through halls and galleries, but keeping an eye out for lectures and traveling exhibits. Phoenix Art Museum typically has a full lineup of talks and lectures for the summer, beginning Wednesday, June 6, with a lecture by fashion historian and author Caroline Rennolds Milbank appropriately titled “Resort Fashion: Style in Sun-Drenched Climates.”
Traveling exhibits stopping at Phoenix museums this summer include “Beyond Geronimo: The Apache Experience” at Heard Museum. It examines the celebrity attached to the legendary Apache leader, as well as the misrepresentations of Apache culture that resulted from the intense media attention given to his battle with the U.S government.
And “Van Gogh Alive: The Experience,” at Arizona Science Center through June 17, gives museum-goers an unprecedented glimpse into the mind and talent of Vincent Van Gogh. More than 3,000 Van Gogh images are presented on an enormous scale, filling giant screens, walls, columns, ceilings and even the floor. (Arizona Science Center’s IMAX Theater is also a great place to see a summer movie.)
Another tip from Simmons: Take advantage of free-admission days at local museums:
• Admission to Phoenix Art Museum is free every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on the first Friday of every month from 6 to 10 p.m.; and Bank of America cardholders get free admission on the first full weekend of every month.
• Admission to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix is free on the first Friday of every month from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Bank of America cardholders get free admission on the first full weekend of every month.
• At the Musical Instrument Museum, Bank of America cardholders get free admission on the first full weekend of every month.
Simmons also is a sucker for ice cream on a summer day, and she says the Phoenix area is blessed with local shops that have garnered national attention.
Sweet Republic’s Toffee Banoffe Sundae was featured on the Food Network’s ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate,’ and it has since become locally famous. And Pink Spot Ice Cream shop in midtown has heat-beating flavors like piña colada, key lime pie and blackberry merlot.
“You can also stop by Urban Cookies and construct a custom ice cream sandwich,” Simmons says. “All the cookies are made in-house, and the ice cream is local. They’re pretty amazing.”
One last—and somewhat surprising—tip from The Hot Sheet blogger: Eat some spicy food this summer.
“Spicy food might make your mouth feel hot at first, but it actually can cool you off in the long run,” says Simmons, who insists this claim is backed by science.
“Obviously, Phoenix is full of fantastic Mexican and New Mexican restaurants that serve spicy salsa and chiles, but one really refreshing place to wake up your palate is Breadfruit in downtown Phoenix. They specialize in Jamaican food and house-made rum drinks. And their mango mint lemonade just might be the perfect summer drink.”
For more ideas about how Phoenix locals make the most of summer, check out The Hot Sheet blog.