For the locals, watching someone go through their first Arizona summer is like sending your own son off to his first day of school. The road ahead is tough, but we make it through the best we can, and it’s worth it. Even with temperatures sometimes reaching as high as 120º, there are countless things to do in Phoenix to stay cool, have fun, and stay within budget. Many Arizonians consider summer to be the best season in Phoenix. The snowbirds have all gone home, clearing the roads and significantly decreasing restaurant wait times, and water parks are now open. If you’re new to Phoenix, enjoy these 10 summer activities you should plan for.
Typically places that offer summertime activities will provide shade or misters, however, you should always prepare for your day in the sun. If you are unsure about how the sun might affect you, be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, and water.
Hiking through the gorgeous Arizona landscape is an excellent way to start or end your day, and many trails and parks are a short drive from all areas around Phoenix. Maricopa County parks are a short drive from downtown and offer night mountain bike rides, scorpion hunts, and other family-friendly outings. Another popular hike is Hole-in-the-Rock Trail in Papago Park, landmark, and solstice-tracking tool with breathtaking views.
On Friday nights throughout the summer, you will find that many communities in the Vally host Art Walks and free concerts. Be sure to check out First Friday celebrations across the city.
Some of Arizona’s best wines are made locally, from Phoenix to Flagstaff and Sedona. Phoenix has various wine-drinking festivals like camping under the stars and blessings of their vineyards and creative, out of the box wineries that pair their wines with different chips and Cheetos. If you are someone who enjoys a drink with a view, try Bitter Creek Winery that clings to the cliff-side in Jerome with an incredible view of the old copper mine.
Be sure to grab your designated driver and visit Oak Creek Vineyards, Page Springs Cellars, and Javelina Leap Winery that are all within a five-minute drive of each other where flights cost less than $12 and come with a souvenir wine glass.
As far as breweries, Phoenix has some of the best. What’s better than a cold brew on a hot day? A must-try is Arizona’s own Four Peaks’ brewery and be sure to try the new flavors on tap. There are two locations with free one hour long tours where you can learn how they make their secret recipe and you’ll get to try a few of the craft beers for free.
If you can’t get out of town but need to get away, check into one of the many resorts in Phoenix that have waterpark features and places to cool down. The Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix is a highly rated resort designed for romance, elegant food, and lavish amenities. JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa comes with 316 acres of gorgeous land, complete with a full golf course, luxurious pools, and incredible food and drinks selections. Treat yourself and escape from the heat of the Valley with a stay-cation.
If you’re feeling lucky, try your luck at the Wild Horse Pass Casino. Located in the Phoenix metro area, it features a 100,000 square foot casino with over 1,000 slots, 38 game tables, and live poker. Feel free to dine at the many restaurants here, catch a live show, and stay overnight at the hotel.
If you are new to Phoenix, 7 out of 10 summer activities you should plan for is getting out of the sun. Whether you head to one of the many creative museums or catch a luxury movie, there’s plenty of entertainment to be found indoors in the Valley. Many of the museums offer free admission, too.
Families love the Arizona Science Center to stay cool and keep everyone learning. Exhibitions range from mummies to planets in space, collaborative projects, the human body, and the wonders of flight. Another popular museum is the Phoenix Art Museum. It’s the largest art museum in the Southwest, home of over 19,000 works of art from the Americas, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and beyond. As if this wasn’t impressive enough, the restaurant, Palette, showcases local farmers and producers for a fresh meal.
If you’re looking for a bit more action, check out the many local bowling alleys like Uptown Alley with nightly specials, or the few Indoor Kart Racing spaces like Octane Raceway. In addition, adults can enjoy shopping at thrift stores, swap meets, and flea markets. Also, many of the concerts coming up in the summer are hosted at indoor venues with full-blast AC.
Phoenix is home to the Arizona Diamondbacks Major League Baseball team which plays throughout the summer. Many home games take place in the evenings when the temperatures cool down at 5:10 pm, 6:40 pm, and 7:10 pm. On top of that, it’s in an air-conditioned facility that has been hosting regular-season games since 1998! Chase Field has a retractable roof, a signature swimming pool, and a solar pavilion that provides shade for fans while generating solar power.
The Arizona Diamondbacks present free firework shows after Friday night games on July 5, 19, and Sept 13.
Waterparks are a great place to be in Phoenix in the summer and each has something for everyone. Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa has a wave pool, lazy river, swimming pools, slides, and a zero-depth water play area for families and little ones. If you are more of an adrenaline seeker, try rides like the Sidewinder, Cauldron, or Stormrider.
Other great waterparks with both thrill rides and relaxing fun in the sun include Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Glendale which hosts dive-in movies all summer, Big Surf Water Park in Tempe that features Waikiki Beach wave pool, and for a more Vegas feel, be sure to check out Sip and Splash at Maya. Dance in the shallow pool with a drink, or lounge on a day bed or a cabana complete with a live DJ always keeping the vibe!
If you are new to Phoenix, one of the 10 summer activities you should plan for is exploring our many creative dessert options. Top spots for tasty desserts include
Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden is 140 acres of over 50,000 different displays of indoor and outdoor exhibits. The Garden hosts Community Day the second Tuesday of each month, where admission is complimentary. This beautiful full-day adventure for the whole family is open from 8 am to 8 pm and comes complete with restaurants and shops. Be sure to wear sunscreen!
The Phoenix Zoo opens at 7 am and closes at 2 pm but don’t sweat it. There are water-play areas such as Leapin’ Lagoon and Yakulla Caverns splash pad, and you can escape the sun’s rays in the Enchanted Forest too. The Phoenix Zoo hosts Winter in July every year, which features 40 tons of snow to play in!
OdySea Aquarium, Top Golf, and Butterfly Wonderland are all less than 5 minutes away from each other for hours of entertainment. Butterfly Wonderland is the home to over 3,000 butterflies and a cover charge of just $24.
Inside Arizona Mills in Tempe is an aquarium with 30 displays and over 5,000 ocean creatures including sea turtles, sharks, jellyfish, rays, seahorses, and octopus! The biggest attraction is a 360-degree ocean tunnel, making it a great place to hide out when temperatures are beyond 100 degrees.
Another great option is the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park. Cool off on a log-flume ride, train rides, and boat rides. It offers a Skyride that takes you through the 25 acre Safari Park containing more than 600 species and 6,000 animals.
Actually, this is one of the many great things about Phoenix. We’re nearby all the best parts of the desert. If you’re new to Phoenix, number 2 on our 10 activities you should plan for is to get out of town. Get closer to the mountains by visiting Flagstaff, Durango, or Colorado, in less than a day. If you’re dying to see the ocean, you can have your toes in the sand in San Diego or LA by happy hour.
There’s no better way to escape the heat than by heading north. Sedona is a two-hour car ride away with the picturesque red rocks. Walk around the quaint, small town, hike up Cathedral Rock, experience a Pink Jeep tour, or slip down Slide Rock.
Just passed Flagstaff is a legendary town called Williams. Williams is home to Bearizona – a North American wildlife adventure for the entire family. It’s a natural environment for bison, bighorn sheep, goats, wolves, elk, bear (and bear cubs!), and even a Jaguar. You are able to drive-through their natural environments, then end at a petting zoo and nocturnal creatures. This great zoo is known for its ability to rescue wild animals and provide them with ideal living conditions.
Last but not least, if you are new to Phoenix, number one out of our 10 summer activities you should plan for is to get in the water! Tempe Town Lake offers classes for all ages including rowing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Nighttime Glow Paddle events are offered too.
Phoenix is home to 27 city park lakes where you can fish from the shore. Just make sure you have a fishing license!
The Verde River is public land and is open for kayaking. If you don’t have your own equipment you can get everything you need at Sedona Adventure Tours. Sedona Adventure Tours has ‘ducky’ kayaking fun which includes rapids that anyone can do as the ‘ducky’ kayaks are incredibly stable.
Finally, last and certainly not least, grab your tubes, coolers, and friends and float down the Salt River. Take two cars, park one where you want to get out of the river, and drive the other to the entry point south of the Stewart Mountain Dam. You can also skip the car hopping and ride the Salt River Tubing & Recreation shuttle. Floating down the river usually lasts about three hours but you are welcome to kayak as well, trips lasting anywhere from 2-5 hours.
Welcome to Phoenix! Eat some good food, enjoy the outdoors, get in the water, and try some new things! When your friends and family do make it to Phoenix to visit you, you’ll have 10 summer activities you should plan for that even the local’s love, no matter the budget.