Welcome to summertime in Phoenix! Yeah we know, it's a little hot. Okay, it’s pretty hot. But do you really think locals just sit inside our houses all day with the air conditioning blasting? No way. Summer months are an opportunity to explore the lesser known parts of the Sonoran Desert, take advantage of discounts from businesses, hotels and resorts, and indulge in frozen treats and cocktails.
All the special experiences we have in summer have been our little secrets over the years — things we've learned to make summers just as enjoyable as every other part of the year. And now, we're finally fessing up about these secrets to you, so you can enjoy Greater Phoenix year round as much as we do. Here are our secrets to summer in Greater Phoenix.
Go Tubing / Kayaking on the Salt River
If you've spent a summer in Phoenix, odds are good that you've been to Salt River. If not, grab some friends, pack a cooler and hit this waterway for an unforgettable adventure. Just minutes from Phoenix, in the beautiful Tonto National Forest, the Salt River is a recreational paradise that will keep you cool for an entire day or just the afternoon (depending on which adventure you choose). For a leisurely float, head to the Lower Salt River or, to experience the rapids, the Upper Salt River is home to class III whitewater. Learn about everything you can do at the Salt River.
You can find guided tours along the Lower Salt River with REI Co-Op Experiences, which offers half-day kayak and rafting tours on the river, as well as Canyon and Saguaro lakes. Have a relaxing tour as you view red cliffs, cool water, and maybe even catch sight of wild horses and bald eagles.
Head to the Lake
Though many love Greater Phoenix for its scenic desert landscapes, an escape to a watery oasis can be a perfect summertime change of scenery. Within a short drive, Phoenix has a number of lakes that offer fun experiences for both thrill-seekers as well as those looking for relaxation. From Lake Pleasant to Canyon Lake, here are six lakes near Greater Phoenix for swimming, boating, kayaking and more.
We asked local influencer Aiesha Beasley to check out Saguaro Lake. Here's what she had to say: "What I love about this place is it’s not too far from Central Phoenix! It’s about [a] 40 minute drive. Also, it’s so low key compared to other lakes nearby! I also loved that there was a restaurant where you can grab food and hangout with friends and family!"
Take a Moonlight Hike
Experience the cool desert nights under the stars on one of Greater Phoenix's best hikes. Hit the trail after sunset for a new perspective on beautiful landscapes, including night-blooming cacti, views of city lights, wildlife (do you know how to spot a glowing scorpion?) and stargazing. For those looking for a little more insight into the surroundings, guided moonlight hikes are also available.
Golf for Cheap
All locals know that resorts and hotels in Greater Phoenix lower their prices in summer (more on that later), but did you know that golf courses do the same? You'll need to lather up in sunscreen and bring a big sun hat and lots of water, but you can experience some of the best golf courses on Earth for cheap during the summer. Check out some of our favorite courses around Greater Phoenix here.
Camp Up North
A quick drive north of Phoenix is an easy way to escape the heat during summer months, and what better way to enjoy the scenery than camping? Arizona offers six national forests, 31 state parks and more than 12 million acres of public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for your next overnight in nature. So whip out the tents, get the chocolates, marshmallows and graham crackers for s'mores, and check out our picks for the best places to camp near Phoenix.
Take a Day Trip
So camping may not be your thing — that's OK. You can still take a day trip to Sedona, Prescott, or the Mogollon Rim and enjoy those cooler climes. Phoenix is a hub for a number of memorable day trips that allow you to explore other Arizona spots for the day and be back in town by night. Find out our favorite spots for a day trip.
Take a Scenic Drive
As locals well know, getting out of your car's sweet, sweet air conditioning can be a challenge. One way you can avoid abandoning the coolness of your ride — while still taking in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert and the city — is via a scenic drive. These intra-city road trips allow you to travel from point A to point Beautiful … and be back in time for dinner.
Pray for a Monsoon
One of the redeeming qualities of summer in Greater Phoenix is the monsoons — quick bursts of rainfall that occur throughout the Southwest. It's always a gamble knowing if and when a monsoon will happen, but if it does, here's some ways to enjoy it safely.
Take a Dip in a Resort Pool
Sparkling beneath palm trees and plentiful sunshine, Phoenix’s eye-catching pools beckon to all manner of loungers, lazy-river riders and lap swimmers. Make a splash, or just soak up the sun, at these top local resort pools. You'll usually find great rates and deals from these resorts for the summer season — more on that below.
Get some frozen cocktails and hang out at Rise Uptown, or live in luxury at the newly renovated Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. According to local influencer Kelly Gannon, the Biltmore is perfect for both families and couples.
"The new property, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, is both family-friendly and a great location for a romantic getaway," Gannon wrote in her blog. "Valley locals who aren't looking for an overnight visit, can still take advantage of the incredible new dining options as well as a visit to the spa...which is absolutely in the running to be my new favorite."
Take in the Views at a Rooftop Pool
It’s not just the resorts that get to have all the fun when it comes to two of Phoenix’s famous traditions. These hotels have created ideal spots for swimming and sunning upon their rooftops (or close to the roof, at least). Here are our picks for the best rooftop pools in Phoenix, where you can get a dip and great views.
Arizona may be known for its endless sunshine, but you can also make a splash this summer by visiting some of the water parks the destination has to offer. From playful and family friendly water slides to Zen and relaxed lazy rivers, there is a water experience for everyone to have fun in the sun. Check out some of our favorites below:
Let your little ones have some fun in the sun by splashing the heat and day away while enjoying the sun. Splash pads offer a cooled off play area for the entire family to be entertained so the words “I’m bored” are never said this summer. Here's some great spots for the kids to cool off:
Outlets at Anthem
4250 W. Anthem Way, Phoenix
1 E. Washington St., Phoenix
Civic Space Park
424 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Desert Ridge Marketplace
21001 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix
The Quad at Scottsdale Quarter
15059 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
12925 N. Saguaro Blvd., Fountain Hills
“The Cloud” Splash Pad (Kiwanis Park)
5233 S. Ash Ave., Tempe
Tempe Marketplace (near Barnes & Noble)
2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe
2100 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Mesa
Desert Breeze Park
660 N. Desert Breeze Blvd., Chandler
Water Tower Plaza
45 W. Page Ave., Gilbert
Fountain Park at Westgate Entertainment District
6751 N. Sunset Blvd., Glendale
12325 W. McDowell Road, Avondale
Desert Botanical Flashlight Tours
Enjoy the beautiful Phoenix desert from a different perspective at the Desert Botanical Garden. Bring your own flashlight and go on a self-guided nighttime adventure. Explore the trails and witness floral blooms and animals that only appear at night. This is a memorable experience for all ages to enjoy during the summer. Learn more about the experience here.
Go to a Museum
Stay cool and learn something while doing it! The Greater Phoenix area has a lot to offer in terms of history and culture. We have a wide range of museums that will wow and educate all age groups. Learn more about local museums here.
Among our many favorite museums here in Greater Phoenix is the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix's Heritage Square — one of Greater Phoenix's top attractions. The museum hosts all sorts of hands-on experiences and activities, including limited time events such as Build It and POP! The Science of Bubbles.
Visit Arizona Falls
Experience a combination of technology, innovation, and history by going to see Arizona Falls. Located along the Arizona Canal, this waterfall provides renewable energy as well as a cool oasis to enjoy the view year round.
Catch a D-Backs Game
Enjoy America’s favorite pastime with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Several ticket options are available to customize your baseball experience. Take your friends and family out to a ballgame at Chase Field and see why millions of fans love to watch the D-backs play. Check out the schedule here.
Catch a Mercury Game
If you are a sports fan, make sure to stop by Footprint Center and root on the Phoenix Mercury. Founded 24 years ago, the WNBA team is exciting to watch and entertainment for the whole family can enjoy. Check out the schedule here.
Club it Up in Old Town Scottsdale
There is no shortage of clubs in Scottsdale, and if you are looking to party and have a fun time during the day or night, Maya Day Club is a great place to start. Their clubhouse space features a fantastic backyard area to enjoy games such as Connect Four, Skeeball, and Giant Pong. If you get too heated playing games, cool off in their pool and keep the party going.
Food, drinks, entertainment, what more could you ask for to celebrate any occasion? Whether booking a private event or looking for a fun time, The District makes partying a breeze by offering a vibrant atmosphere in their indoor and outdoor facility.
If you are looking to elevate your clubbing experience, stop by Riot House in downtown Scottsdale. This multi-use space features several bars, a large dance floor, and an overall cool venue design. From corporate events to Football watch parties, find out why they often say, “Let’s start a Riot!”
Boondocks Patio & Grill
If you like to party but need a break from the clubs, check out Boondocks Patio & Grill. This venue offers comfort-style food, a wide selection of beverages, and a laid-back environment to enjoy it all. They also provide great bar games, a climate-controlled patio, and live music.
Food and Drink
Sip on a Prickly Pear Margarita
The perfect drink for a summer day is, of course, the margarita. The versatile drink can be made with a variety of ingredients and flavors. But if you’re going to have one in Phoenix, the one to try is the prickly pear. Made with the fruit of cacti native to Arizona, the flavor profile is sweet and light with a hint of tartness. For the ultimate summer refresher, make your way to these Phoenix restaurants, where unique versions of the prickly pear margarita await you.
Cool Off with a Cocktail
There's nothing like a cocktail to help you chill, and thankfully, there's plenty of places to gulp one down. We asked local influencer @hellosilhouette to check out some cocktail spots, and one of the must-go places is Baby Boy at the Pemberton on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix.
"[Baby Boy] is the vacation spot you never want to leave!," she wrote on an Instagram post. "Handcrafted cocktails that are sure to cool you down in this summer sun!"
You can also head to The Gladly for cocktails, where your drink will be cooled off with their signature ice balls, which starts with crystal clear, impurity free ice that is locally-sourced from Artisan Ice. Cut perfectly into square blocks, the ice is placed in our 100% aluminum ice ball mold which holds half a sphere on both the top and bottom. The mold itself works as a conductor, quickly transferring it’s temperature to melt the block down to a perfectly cylinder ball of ice. All of this fun presentation and science experiment is done table-side for the guest when ordered to enjoy with your cocktail or whisk(e)y!
An ice ball is the perfect way to keep your beverage icy cold without the fear of watering it down. Since there is less surface area than traditional cubed ice, the ball itself chills your beverage without melting and can last for multiple beverages. The best part? You can sip, stay cool and do good at the same time. Each ice ball donates $1 directly to a local nonprofit organization.
Travel to a New Land in Century Grand
Need a break from Sonoran Desert views and vibes? Head to Century Grand in Arcadia for three immersive experiences at three unique cocktail bars. There's Platform 18, which puts you in a room meant to feel like a twentieth century train ride; UnderTow, where you sail through the ocean as if you were on a cargo ship; and Grey Hen Rx, inspired by old school New Orleans apothecaries. Learn more about Century Grand here.
Grab a Scoop of Phoenix's Best Ice Cream
Whether it's a classic one-scoop cone or an epic sundae experience, complete with hot fudge, bananas, nuts, fruit, whipped cream and sprinkles, Phoenicians love their ice cream. No matter where you’re at, a local-approved sweet treat is just around the corner thanks to these ice cream shops and parlors scooping up some of the best frozen desserts in town. Here's where to find some of the best ice cream spots in Phoenix.
Hear it from a Local:
We recently asked local influencer Kisha Gulley (@panamakish) to share her top picks for ice cream spots as well. You can find her choices here on her blog, which includes spots such as Petersen's Ice Cream, Churn, Sweet Republic and more.
"Whenever you think of summer you think of swimming, grilling, and ice cream! Yes, that cold, creamy goodness," writes Gulley. "And with Arizona being as hot as it is it’s no wonder there are so many awesome ice cream shops to choose from. But I’m going to help you out and share five of my local favorite shops!"
Take a Lick of Phoenix's Best Popsicles
Say what you will about the Arizona heat, but more warm days only mean more chances to cool off with a frosty popsicle. The icy treat not only provides sweet relief, it also conjures up delightful memories of lazy summer days filled with pool parties, road trips and sticky hands and faces. Popsicles are all the rage throughout Phoenix, making endless flavor combinations super easy to find — just be sure to order enough for later, too. Check out the top spots for popsicles in Phoenix.
Perk Up with an Iced Coffee
There's something about iced coffee in summer — it cools you off and perks you up simultaneously. Luckily, Greater Phoenix is no stranger to great coffee shops. No matter where you are in the metro area, there's sure to be a cold cup of Joe nearby.
We asked local influencer @HungryInPhoenix to check out the new Kahvi Coffee House + Cafe in downtown Phoenix's Roosevelt Row. Here's what she had to say:
"The buzzy Scandi-meets-Tulum coffee shop is hidden inside of the [The Monorchid], a creative community gathering space and art gallery. This coffee destination has a crew of friendly staff and they brew some stellar coffee, too. Just add ice!" she wrote on an Instagram post. "And, when happy hour rolls around you can switch from lattes and cold brew to literal cold brews. A shortlist of award-winning craft beer from [Pedal Haus Brewery] is on tap at [Kahvi]."
Head to a Dark Bar
Phoenix’s summer sunshine compels local barflies to step out of the light and into the darkness. Defeat the summer heat in Phoenix and retreat inside one of the local dark and underground bars, such as Valley Bar, Little Woody's or MercBar, for an ice-cold drink (or two, or three).
Munch on Some of Phoenix's Hot and Spicy Foods
Heat does not only apply to the weather in Phoenix, we like to add it to our food too! Plus, eating hot or spicy foods will acclimate your body to the heat more easily. With a wide range of diverse and authentic cuisine, our food and restaurant scene are sure to please even the pickiest of palate. Whether you go to a food truck, a café or restaurant, spice up your summer by trying some local favorites, including the best spots for tacos and Thai cuisine.
Hotel and Resort Deals
Most Phoenicians refer to summer as "staycation season." That's because many hotels and resorts in Greater Phoenix drop their prices for the summer months, and we all enjoy a dip in the pool, cocktails, a comfy room and great food. Whether you're looking for the best Phoenix staycation to treat yourself, or a luxurious getaway, you can find everything you need to enjoy your time at Phoenix's hotels and resorts and get a great deal.
"We are so grateful to show you a #PhoenixSummerSecrets destination nestled in the desert of Carefree, AZ, that has become one of our favorite hidden gems!" they wrote in an Instagram post. "From classes like Aerial Yoga and Sunset Sound Healing to the Aqua Therapy Circuit in the spa, we couldn’t help but feel enlightened while shedding some unnecessary emotional and spiritual baggage we didn’t know needed to be cleared- it was probably all of the stagnant energy from 2020."
Attraction and Restaurant Deals
Hotels and resorts aren't the only spots with summer discounts. These Phoenix coupons, offers and deals are good for discounts at a variety of local attractions, because smart travelers know that saving money can brighten a vacation almost as much as sunshine. Use our mobile-exclusive app to download special offers straight to your phone, and get special deals for Phoenix businesses and attractions to save a few bucks.