When I moved to Arizona in the fall of 1993, the weather was a balmy 80 degrees. I thought to myself, “After a lifetime of grueling winters in Maine, this place is going to be like paradise!” Then, fall gave way to winter, and winter abruptly turned into 100+ degree searing heat. In MAY. I panicked. I was completely ill-equipped to deal with the furnace-like conditions. I contemplated packing up and moving the 3000 miles back home. I may have cried.
Yeah, that first summer was rough. But I learned some very valuable lessons, tips, and tricks, on how to get through three to four months of triple-digit temperatures. I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to!
1. Go North!
The higher elevations of Arizona enjoy four full seasons (unlike the desert, which only boasts two – Hot, and Not Hot), with summer temperatures ranging in the high 70′s to low 80′s. Flagstaff is a popular destination for hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, and just plain ol’ getting out of the heat. Only a two-hour drive from the Phoenix metropolitan area, this college town is also popular for its shopping, fine and casual dining, and historic Route 66. It is a natural stopping-off place on the way to the Grand Canyon. It’s a great destination for a day-trip, or an extended stay.
If you and your family enjoy camping – tent or RV – the White Mountains recommend themselves as a beautiful, scenic, and COOL location. Show Low, Pinetop/Lakeside, and the surrounding areas offer countless improved campgrounds, and many areas where unimproved (non-hosted) camping is permitted. Big Lake, near Springerville, is a lovely remote area which hosts both tent and RV camping, and even boasts a handful of cabins for rent. There are public showers, boat rentals, and a general store – which is very handy, considering the hour-long drive back out to civilization if you’ve forgotten something vital.
2. Play Indoors!
Phoenix and the surrounding areas offer a wide variety of entertainment in cool, air-conditioned comfort. The Phoenix Art Museum is a world-class facility featuring permanent collections spanning cultures and genres, and a varied schedule of exhibitions and events. The museum is free to all on Tuesdays from 3:00-9:00 p.m., and the first Friday evening of each month from 6:00-10:00 p.m. At all other times, admission is $10 for adults and $4 for children.
Another popular destination, especially for families with young children, is the Arizona Science Center. There are many hands-on exhibits, an IMAX theater, and a planetarium. You’ll definitely want to schedule a full day to take advantage of everything the Science Center has to offer. General admission is $9 for adults and $7 for children. Special exhibits, the IMAX theater, and the planetarium are an additional cost.
Throughout the summer months, Chase Field is occupied by the Arizona Diamondbacks and visiting teams, as well as various scheduled sporting and non-sporting events. The stadium may have a vast retractable roof, but it stays closed during the summer months and is cooled to a comfortable 78 degrees, on average.
3. Resort Life!
Top resorts in Arizona are fully aware that it’s hard to entice customers to come play in 100+ degree temperatures. Many of them, such as the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, and The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa, offer significantly discounted rates and packages to appeal to “stay-cationers” and visitors alike.
Look for a resort with a large swimming pool or complex of water features. A swim-up bar isn’t a bad idea, either. Many resorts offer full and mini-spa treatments for men and women alike, as well as fitness classes, golf lessons, and entertainment for the children. Hundreds of locations offer a multitude of options, so go here to find the best place for you. The best rates are typically offered in the months of July and August.
4. Don’t Forget!
No matter what activities you indulge in while in Arizona, it is vitally important to remember these things:
- Water – First, foremost, and of the UTMOST importance, is water. Carry it with you everywhere and at all times. Keep a couple of gallon jugs of water in your trunk in case you break down. Freeze a few 16-oz water bottles, and when you’re ready to go out for the day, take them with you. They’ll melt (quicker than you’d think!) and keep your water cool for hours. It is vitally important to stay hydrated. Arizona is primarily a desert state and you can become dehydrated before you know it.
- Sunblock – Even if you plan on being indoors all day. Even if your exposure to the sunlight is limited. Please remember that it takes only TWO MINUTES of direct exposure to sunlight to get a burn during peak months. Sunblock your face (including the part in your hair and the tips of your ears!), neck, arms, and any other parts of you exposed to the sun. Don’t forget the tops of your feet if you’re wearing sandals!
- Hat – In tandem with the sunblock, a hat can go a long way toward keeping you cool, keeping the sun off of your head and face, and preventing dehydration.
- Sunglasses – Arizona is one BRIGHT state. Limit your eyes’ exposure to harmful UV rays by choosing lenses that block such light. Wearing sunglasses while driving also cuts down on the glare from the pavement and other vehicles. Plus, it’ll reduce the chance of crow’s feet!
This is but a very small selection of all of the available choices to escape the raging Arizona heat. I’ve indulged in them all – some more than a few times – and they’re some of the things that make it bearable to live in this state summer after summer (after summer).
Stay cool out there!