When I told people my sister and I were vacationing in Phoenix in July, everyone asked the same question: “Why?” Why visit one of the hottest parts of the country during one of the record hottest summers of the year? The answer was simple, because we were broke but still very much in need of a vacation. I had family with a vacation home and they said we were welcome. Also, the plane tickets for that time of the year were (understandably) cheap. So with a burning need to get away and backpacking through Europe not being an option, we set off. Even with a limited budget and temperatures approaching 110 degrees, we had the time of our lives. With a little easy planning fun and relaxation are possible in even the nastiest conditions.
Pamper your self
Beyond the raging heat, Phoenix suffered another annoying weather phenomenon this summer: dust storms. One just so happened to hit while we were visiting Downtown. However, thanks to a voucher from Travel Zoo, we were unaware of it. While the dust storm raged outside, we were treating ourselves to mimosas and relaxing music inside A New U Day Spa.
Social coupon sites like Travel Zoo, Groupon, and Social Living are a useful resource for salons and spa deals. Different options are available every day for several U.S. cities. If you have the patience and really want to save the money you can check regularly and wait. Odds are that perfectly priced massage, mani/pedi, or seaweed wrap will pop up. Just make sure to do a little investigating before buying to ensure a reputable business. Places like Joya Spa and the In Touch Wellness Center offers regular specials and boast excellent reviews. The right place at the right price guarantees calm and clarity inside no matter how cloudy and dusty it is outside.
Eat Drink Be Merry
One of the nicer ways to stay cool is to search out the best food and coffee in the area. As Seattleites, good coffee was essential but rare to find. Our search ended at Cartel Coffee Lab. Both the delicious coffee and laid back customers were a fresh taste of home when we needed it. Of course, when we headed out in search of a good cup o’ joe in the evening hours we only found a lot of “closed” signs. Thankfully there’s JoBot Coffee, delicious and open till midnight.
No question, it’s not a proper trip to the Southwest without a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine. It seems for truly great taste, the less fancy the better. For no nonsense delicious tacos and burritos locals will point you to one place, Elmer’s Tacos. There’s no better way to escape the heat than with a wonderful neighborhood favorite.
While Phoenix might feel like the hottest place on earth, the hottest place in Phoenix goes to Lake Havasu City, which had a blazing record high of 128F in 1994. Phoenix’s top marks were 122 in 1990. The coldest temps in Pheonix were in 1913, when the airport hit a downright chilly 16F.
The Southwest is known for some of the best natural vistas in the country. Including the state’s biggest attraction, the Grand Canyon, Arizona’s wonders include the Petrified Forest, Superstition Mountain, and the red rocks of Sedona. There are a lot of beautiful destinations for a day trip and the natural sights along the way make the journey there just as enjoyable.
Cheaper gas prices in this area mean you can search out a unique site throw some supplies in the car, and enjoy the view in your air conditioned bubble. Knowing my sister’s love of animals, we set off for Out of Africa. We were outside in the blazing sun, but the heat seemed to give the African animals a little more life. This made for an exciting day of safaris and feeding Tigers. Keep in mind, road trips can be a blast if you truly enjoy the company. Otherwise, no beautiful vista will make up for hours trapped in an air conditioned Hell. However, a little road trip with good friends/family and lots to see on the way can make for a truly memorable day.
Support their community
In truth, the house we were staying at was actually about an hour’s drive outside of downtown Phoenix. Considering our limited budget and considerable laziness, commuting back and forth to theaters and museums in Phoenix was out. However, when we found out that the nearby Gilbert Community Theater was performing “Little Shop of Horrors” we could resist the opportunity to get out and see a giant man-eating plant. Local Community events provide a lot of fun with a homegrown atmosphere. Locals who organize these events know the weather and know how to work with or around it. The best way to find smaller more intimate events are through online and print newsletters. Phoenix New Times is a great resource but there are many online calendars available for early planning. Plus, any amount of money you spend goes to support the local community which is easy on the wallet and good for the soul.
Even in the insane heat, it seemed unthinkable to head to the Southwest without a trip to the water park in mind. Thankfully, Arizona water parks compensate for pasty skinned Northwesterners who still want to play like kids.
Several of the water parks in Phoenix, including the two we went to offered nighttime hours. Usually for a better price than regular admission, patrons can watch the desert sunset from the tops of water slides and enjoy lazy rivers in twilight. This is a favorite of Phoenix locals as well. Unfortunately, this meant considerable crowds and lines. However, we made a point to arrive just as the gates were opening which gave us a few hours of fun before the hordes got out of hand. Evenings at the best Phoenix water park are a popular experience for a good reason. It’s family friendly fun, it’s outdoors, and there’s no sunscreen required.
More than anything else, a vacation is all about taking a break from routine. A fun vacation can be wherever and whenever. If you have any great tips on to how to deal with the heat while on a trip, and/or any personal tips for enjoying Phoenix, be sure to share them below!