Ever wonder what 114 degrees feels like? Phoenicians can tell you—in fact, they feel it at least a few times each year. Summer in the Valley of the Sun is, well, sunny. At a certain point, all the dryness in the world can’t distract from this kind of heat.
Here’s the thing, though. Summer in Arizona can be a whole lot of fun—you just have to work with it. For starters, make sure to wake up early. Early as in, pre-dawn. Go get coffee, go take a walk, whatever you like—just make sure to accomplish as much as you can before mid-morning. Then, move it over to the pool—or, if you don’t have access to a pool, or a pool area with some sort of cover to keep you from roasting, take it inside. Make sure to nap at some point, too. (If you’re dropping in from a humid climate, you’ll quickly discover that desert naps are the best.) Then, once the sun begins to lose power, emerge from your hiding place for an evening on the town.
Sound fun? Pack your sunglasses, your weight in sunscreen and the biggest, floppiest hat you’ve got. You’re headed to Phoenix. Here’s why:
You can stay at the Four Seasons for around $150 a night. (No, that’s not a misprint.)
There are discounted hotel stays, then there’s Phoenix/Scottsdale in August. Check into one of the best Four Seasons resorts in North America for roughly $150 most nights during the month (while supplies last, obviously), down from hundreds more during winter. The rooms are beautiful, the pool is great, a pristine location high above it all makes this one of the valley’s best places to stay.
You can play one of the top courses in the world for $35.
There’s a reason why—as previously stated, it’s hot—but the bucket list-worthy Pinnacle Course at Troon North (incidentally, that’s the planned community where the Four Seasons is located) goes for a fraction of the normal cost on many summer afternoons. Prefer an early tee-time? Those are going for $52, still quite the steal.
Of course, there’s always a hike. Those are free.
Sunrise from, say, Camelback Mountain, or Pinnacle Peak, is impressive year-round, just as hiking in this part of the world is fashionable. During summer, though, you’re obviously going to get an earlier start. Make sure to bring water and a hat.
Speaking of staying hydrated…
As you might imagine, taking things easy is a popular summer pastime in Phoenix—luckily, you’re never far from a very good watering hole. Downtown, for example, Bitter & Twisted is one of the latest in a crop of class-act cocktail parlors around town that are worth your time. Great happy hours are abundant, too—fun hangouts like Hula’s Modern Tiki (in both Phoenix and Scottsdale) or the hip and cool Little Woody in Phoenix’s chill Arcadia ‘hood do great drink discounts in the afternoons and early evenings. Looking for the perfect summer drink? Papago Brewing Company’s Orange Blossom Ale is a refreshing favorite on a hot day—you’ll find it on tap along with 29 other beers at Papago’s Scottsdale pub.
Hungry? There’s plenty to eat.
The Valley is still too much in love with the kind of restaurant that feels as if it were dreamed up in a corporate boardroom, but terrifically chilled-out neighborhood spots like Welcome Diner (an Austin-esque, patio-centric spot centered around an old dining car that’s open until 2am), the lunch-only Noble Eatery and the counter-service brunch spot Vovomeena have lately been offering a more authentic, ingredient-focused antidote to so much “concept” dining. Of course, if you’re a first-timer to Phoenix, your dining adventure ought to begin with the caprese sandwich at Pane Bianco on N. Central Avenue, if not a pizza at the world-famous Pizzeria Bianco. Yes, Chef Chris Bianco’s food is hyped. Yes, it’s that good.
Of course, there’s more to do than eat.
The Sonoran Desert is among the most beautiful on the planet. Luckily, it’s all around you. Get an eyeful without leaving town by visiting the airport-adjacent Desert Botanical Garden, which comes pretty close to near-essential status on any Phoenix itinerary. What’s that, you say—too hot for a summer visit? The garden offers in-depth Flashlight Tours every Thursday and Saturday at 7p.m, through September 2nd. Problem solved.
Spend a romantic evening with Frank Lloyd Wright
Back in the 1930s, Wright bought a patch of desert outside of Scottsdale, constructing the Taliesin West campus, which famously blends in with its stunning surroundings. A two-hour Night Lights Tour is offered three times on Friday evenings, through August 25. Architecture buffs shouldn’t miss this.
Or, perhaps you prefer a little air conditioning.
From climate-controlled galleries at the Phoenix Art Museum (not to mention the fascinating Heard Museum) to Diamondbacks games in air-conditioned comfort at Chase Field, this is one town that’ll keep you cool when the weather outside is another kind of frightful. Not to worry.
Unless, of course, you’re the sweat-it-out type.
Seasoned types already know this as one of the best spa destinations in the country. Curious? Summer’s a great time to get introduced—resorts like the renowned Sanctuary Camelback resort tend to offer very attractive pricing—buy one treatment, get one half-off, that sort of thing. Make sure to ask. Every Monday, one of the valley’s most high-end resorts, the Omni Montelucia, offers an all-day Happy Hour deal—a 50-minute massage or facial for as little as $105.
Need a real cool off? Flagstaff’s just two hours away.
Visitors sometimes forget—there are places in Arizona that aren’t nearly as, well, oven-like at this time of year. For example, take the college town of Flagstaff. An easy drive up I-17, this pleasantly walkable city rests at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by forests and mountains. Sure, it warms up, but not like Phoenix. Tip: Make the very-worthwhile detour through Sedona along the way for a glimpse of those famous red rocks and a jump in one of the area’s famous swimming holes.
Looking for the best deals on the best Phoenix and Scottsdale hotels? Hotels.com has a regularly-updated Phoenix deals page. (You’ll also find plenty of inspiration on the deals page at Orbitz.) Want more choice? Try comparing multiple sites at TripAdvisor or their sister site, BookingBuddy. Also have a look at Priceline, where you can save up to 60 percent on any given night by taking advantage of their Express Deals feature. (This simple tool has probably saved us—no joke—thousands of dollars over the years.) Ever thought about bundling up? Book your flight and hotel together at Expedia and you could save up to 40%. If you need a rental car, begin your search by swinging wide to get a sense of the market—a site like Booking Buddy lets you check pretty much every site worth knowing in just a couple of clicks.