Summer 2024 in Arizona: 106 fun ways to survive the 100-degree heat

It’s a dry heat but Arizona is still hot: here’s some ways to cool off

Hello, triple-digit temperatures!

It’s been hot in Arizona since May thanks to a heat dome but now that the official first day of summer 2024 has come and gone you may be needing ideas on how to survive the Sonoran Desert heat.

Those who live in—or spend time in—the desert have two options for coping with triple-digit temps: finding ways to have fun indoors or outdoors or getting out of town.

Whichever way you roll (in your RV) I’ve got you covered.

Don’t let those high temperatures deter you from doing fun stuff this summer. Here’s a list of 106 fun things to do this summer to beat the Arizona heat.

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Let’s start with the obvious: Pools, waterparks, and splash pads are the first things to think about when it comes to summer.

2. And while we’re on the subject of bodies of water, Arizona actually has a surprising number of sandy beaches where you can swim. I’m totally for real—check them out below.

3. Salt River Tubing has been a summer tradition since the 1980s.

4. With hundreds of miles of shoreline, Lake Powell harbors countless remote beaches amid a colorful labyrinth of canyons. There are even a few beaches that don’t require a boat.

5. Tucked away amid the rolling hills of southern ArizonaPatagonia Lake State Park is a shimmering oasis in the high desert. And since water is scarce around these parts, the 265-acre reservoir draws summer visitors from all across southern Arizona looking to cool off.

6. Four state parks cling to the edge of the Colorado River between Parker and Lake Havasu City accessed from State Route 95. Buckskin Mountain straddles a picturesque section of river, a beautiful combination of stony mountains and sparkling water.

7. Nearby River Island State Park nestles in a sloping bowl at the base of stark mountains that rise from the riverbank. An intimate beach sits next to the boat ramp and just beyond the campground with a grassy lawn that’s perfect for tents.

8. Hugging the southern edge of Lake Havasu, Cattail Cove State Park protects a long piece of scenic shoreline. Swimming is allowed in the roped-off area adjacent to the beach. 

9. Lake Havasu City also has free public beaches. Rotary Beach is a 40-acre park with picnic areas, barbecue grills, multiple play areas, a skate park, and designated swim area. Its location inside the 5 mph no-wake zone of Thompson Bay makes for calm waters.

Colorado River in Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Yuma has done an amazing job cleaning up and revamping its waterfront in an effort to reconnect to the Colorado River. Gateway Park was part of that development. Sitting at the end of Madison Avenue the park has picnic ramadas, a grassy area, playground, fishing piers, and a sandy beach with a gradual entry into the water. Located under the Ocean to Ocean Bridge the span provides a swath of welcome shade.

11. Popular with anglers, Roper Lake State Park has 5 miles of trails, cabins, a campground, and a picnic area.

12. For those uninterested in being out during daylight hours summer provides the perfect opportunity to catch up on all the shows. Lucky for you, Season 3 of Bridgerton is out on Netflix.

13. Also in TV news, Season 6 of Love Island USA is airing weekly on Peacock.

14. If you do want to leave the house for entertainment take advantage of summer movie deals at AMC Theatres, Harkins Theatres, and Cinemark.

15. Want to learn something this summer? The Poozeum is an extraordinary FREE museum and gift shop located in Williams. You can immense yourself in the fascinating world of coprolites or fossilized poop at Arizona’s most unusual new museum where while indulging in an experience that goes beyond the ordinary—it’s instructive entertainment at its finest and is suitable for visitors of all ages.

16. Speaking of museums, Tucson’s Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum just recently won the 2024 National Medal for Museum and Library Service due to their excellence in service to the community. So, it’s definitely worth checking out.

17. Plus, the Phoenix Art Museum offers “Pay-What-You-Wish Wednesdays” from 3-9 p.m. for general admission with special exhibition tickets being $10 for adults and $5 for anyone under the age of 18.

18. Want to save some money while soaking up all this knowledge? The Act One Culture Pass gives free admission to museums around Arizona. All you need is a library card.

19. Too hot to golf outdoors? Hone your skills at TeeBox Indoor Golf Club in Cave Creek. It has 11 simulator bays with the latest training technology plus a restaurant and bar.

20. If you’re going shopping, pick one of the many retail emporiums with misters lining the walking areas. A favorite is Tempe Marketplace which also has a splash pad for the kiddos and boba tea, ice cream, and frozen yogurt shops to keep you cool. It’s a win/win/win.

21. For the perfect family-friendly day outing the Arizona Boardwalk near Scottsdale has a ton of fun activities including a brand-new attraction: the Boardwalk Carousel.

22. Another way to stay cool is to go bar hopping and Arizona has so many cool bars and I bet you haven’t been to them all. See how many new ones you can make it to by the end of summer.

23. Don’t go day drinking and bar hopping without the proper fuel. Luckily, there are zillions of restaurants where you can enjoy a summer of trying new foods.

Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

24. And what’s summer without a cool sweet treat? Head to Novel Ice Cream for their famous dough melt (warm glazed doughnut stuffed with ice cream?) or to Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream for one of their 100 irrestible ice cream flavors (Graham Central Station or Cotton Candy for starters).

25. You can also go on a food crawl at the farmers’ market which will give you an opportunity to taste the best Arizona fruits, veggies, and other foods. Several farmers’ markets are open during the summer.

26. No list of iconic summer foods would be complete without the classic hot dog.

27. And speaking of dogs the Sonoran hot dog is a must-try on many foodie enthisiast’s list. Sonoran hot dog, also known as a Sonoran dog, is a regional specialty and a type of hot dog that originated in the Sonora region of northern Mexico specifically in the city of Hermosillo.

28. Stay with me on this one: Arizona has some pretty cool bug life and you could spend the summer learning all about it. For example, did you know that summer is peak tick season in Arizona? Here’s how to keep these biters off you and your dog. 

29. Consider the scorpion, that symbol of the desert. Don’t be surprised if a scorpion shows up in your pool or even your toilet. Pools and other damp areas can attract scorpions seeking water especially during extreme dry periods. Scorpions can survive in water for up to two days.

30. Its also good to read up on black widow spiders since they’re plentiful in the desert.

31. You could spot a rattlesnake anytime in warm weather. They’re rarely aggressive if you’re careful.

32. If you’re determined to spend the summer outside of Phoenix, there are lots of in-state getaways perfect for a weekend or much longer.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

34. For time travel without all the butterfly effect nonsense take a drive to Bisbee. In its mining heyday, it was Arizona’s largest city for a time. Today it’s a laid-back artsy and historical community.

35. If you’re traveling north this summer you can explore myriad interesting museums along the way from the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott which covers Arizona’s territorial history to the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff which presents a comprehensive look at the people and natural history of the Colorado Plateau.

36. Kids can get some summer learning with a side of fun at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. It has three floors of interactive exhibits for kids up to age 10. There are weekly summer camps to get them even more involved.

37. Another fun, hands-on option is the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Ranked nationally as a top destination for families it’s easy to see why with kids able to play, hear, and experience music in new ways.

38. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is beautiful in the bright sunshine but you should check it out under the beam of a flashlight for a cooler experience. During the garden’s Flashlight Nights you can see its beauty while strolling under the night sky with cool drinks and treats.

39. If you want to explore Arizona’s wildlife from the safety of your own vehicle, check out Bearizona Drive-Thru Wildlife Park in Williams to see bison, bighorn sheep, goats, wolves, and bears.

40. If you’re more into classic animal excursions the Phoenix Zoo opens at 7 a.m. for nonmembers and 6 a.m. for members and closes at 1 p.m. to avoid the hottest times of day making it the perfect early outing.

41. If you love birdwatching or want to pick up the hobby explore the Base and Meridian Wildlife Area at the confluence of the Salt and Gila rivers in Avondale. You could see hawks, doves, Western yellow-billed cuckoos, and many more species. Bats, bobcats, Sonoran Desert tortoises, and other wildlife also live here.

Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

42. For a one-stop wildlife experience you can visit Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park in Litchfield Park to see over 600 species and over 6,000 animals.

43. For rock climbers summer temps can be deadly. Thankfully, there are plenty of indoor climbing gyms in metro Phoenix and Tucson. Try out ClimbMax Climbing Gym or Phoenix Rock Gym in Tempe, Ape Index in Peoria, or AZ on the Rocks in Scottsdale. In Tucson check out Rocks & Ropes, the BLOCK Climbing + Fitness, and Rock Solid Climbing.

44. Want to expand your dining horizons? Arizona is home to many James Beard award-winning chefs. Recent winners include Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Café in Phoenix, Rene Andrade and Roberto Centenoat Bacanora in Phoenix, Jaren Bates and Brett Vibber at The Table at Junipine in Sedona, and Wendy Garcia at Tumerico in Tucson.

45. Do you have a need for speed? Metro Phoenix has a plethora of indoor and outdoor go-karting venues including the new Andretti Indoor Karting. Many have arcade games and other attractions too.

46. Many people have opinions on the ultimate summer drink. In Arizona, the michelada is the one to beat.

47. If you’re truly trying to avoid the sun, go underground. Outside Benson in southern Arizona is Kartchner Caverns State Park where you can explore amazing living caves.

48. And don’t discount how fun a night bike ride or hike can be. Maricopa County Parks offer after-dark mountain bike rides, scorpion hunts, and other family-friendly outings.

49. Looking to learn a new skill? Tempe Town Lake offers classes for kids and adults to learn rowing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Plus, they occasionally throw a nighttime glow paddle party.

50. Take a relaxing sit at WaterWorks at Arizona Falls in Phoenix. Sitting in the water room will give you the feeling of being behind a real waterfall. Arizona Falls is a natural 20-foot drop along the Arizona Canal.

51. It doesn’t matter if you are headed to your local public library, the school library open for summer hours, or even just the library at your church or a friends house, reading is a great summer activity that can take you anywhere you want to go from the comfort of your air conditioned living room. 

Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

52. A favorite getaway of Tucsonans is Mount Lemmon where it’s about 20 degrees cooler than Tucson. 

53. If you haven’t checked out Changing Hands Bookstore and First Draft Book Bar in Phoenix or Changing Hands in Tempe (which just celebrated 50 years) go peruse the stacks, get yourself a little gift and if you go to the Phoenix location grab a drink or snack at the bar to enjoy with your new summer read.

54. Test your daring spirit at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course at Fort Tuthill County Park. This elaborate above-ground obstacle course has aerial challenges like cable bridges, zip lines, swings, and more.

55. The new Slick City Action Park in Peoria has 10 indoor slides, an acrobat alley with a trapeze and swing, and a few sports courts to keep kids and adults entertained for hours.

56. The Scottsdale Arts District is home to dozens of unique art galleries and Thursday ArtWalks. You can find a new treasure for your home or RV while strolling the streets and trying some of Scottsdale’s best restaurants and bars.

57. You also shouldn’t miss out on the First Friday art walks on Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue in downtown Phoenix.

58. The Great Arizona Puppet Theater has been introducing children to the magic of puppetry and live theater since 1983 and they have several fun shows to take the kids to. 

59. Ice skating in the summer? Heck yeah. Three AZ Ice arenas around the Valley have multiple public skating times, allow you to rent skates, and they’ll even teach you how to lace them properly.

60. See 70 species of butterflies, learn about how they live, and even watch them hatch out of their cocoons at the Butterfly Wonderland on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale. 

61. Want to learn the science behind bubbles? What about being immersed in a 360-degree planetarium? The Arizona Science Center has that and more and is open seven days a week.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

62. Every summer, Catalina State Park hosts its “Music in the Mountains” concert series. Head on up the mountain to hear various compositions from jazz swing music, blues, Latin, bebop, ballads, rock, gypsy, and oldies.

63. At an elevation of 9,157 feet, you will find Mt. Lemmon’s SkyCenter. Here, the two largest dedicated public telescopes in the Southwest guide visitors through a unique and awe-inspiring galactic adventure with a bonus dinner. 

64. Descend into a cool experience (literally) underneath the surface of your feet at Colossal Cave. Like an underground rock climbing adventure, this cave system features unique rock formations with a fascinating science behind its creation. 

65. Take a tour of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home Taliesin West in Scottsdale with the gorgeous McDowell Mountains as a backdrop. 

66. While it’s no longer known as Bedrock City after the Flintstones, Raptor Ranch is the perfect day getaway to learn more about raptors and learn more about the wildlife conservation they’re doing with the Northern Arizona Raptor Foundation. 

67. Fishing is a classic summer activity and there are 27 city-park lakes around the Valley that allow you to fish from their shores. If you’re 10 years of age and older, you’ll need a fishing license. 

68. Take golfing to a new level by going to TopGolf and make it a party with friends, drinks, and snacks while listening to some tunes all from the comfort of a mister-cooled golfing bay.

69. If you have a kiddo obsessed with music, Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers offer a place for ages 12-20 to get free music, vocal, and dance training.

70. Stay cool indoors and throw it back to the good old days by roller skating at USA Skateland. 71. Pack a picnic and head up to Kitt Peak to take advantage of the cooler temperatures at the Peak! At 7,000-foot elevation temperatures on Kitt Peak are typically 15-20 cooler than the valley floor. The day-use area closes at 4 p.m. but if you have tickets and are so inclined you can remain at Kitt Peak for a cool evening of astronomical wonders during their Night Observation Program.

72. The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is one of the most unique museums you will find in the West. It’s a must-do for any Tucson visitor particularly if your visit falls during the heat of the summer. At this unusual museum, you will be able to explore over 400 mini dollhouses spread out through three sections: The Enchanted, History, and Exploring the World rooms.

73. The Happy Saguaro sells all sorts of beautiful Southwestern style decor and knick knacks. If shopping is your preferred means of escaping the heat then keep it local. At this little Tucson gem you will find all sorts of unique treasures including hand painted pottery pieces, glass blown art, eccentric decor, handcrafted furniture, and much more.

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

74. The 14 mile picturesque Oak Creek Canyon drive includes scenery ranging from towering red rocks to tranquil creeks to the tall ponderosa pines. It’s a drive like no other in the country.

75. Set your alarm for a sunrise hike. About the only time you can even consider hiking on a hot summer day is during the early morning hours. Plan on a short hike (preferably under 2 miles) and be sure to complete your hike before 8 a.m. Carry plenty of water and choose a nature stroll over a vigorous uphill climb.

76. The Tohono Chul Garden Bistro offers one of the shadiest patios in Tucson thus making it a prime choice for outdoor dining during the hot summer season. There are so many trees here that it feels like a mini oasis in the middle of the desert which of course is not a bad thing during the brutal summer season.

77. Plan a day of fun at Castles N Coasters where you can experience 20 rides and attractions, spend hours winning tickets in the arcade, and play 18-hole mini golf. 

78. What has bowling, arcade games, movies and glow golf all under one roof? Fat Cats, of course! Spend the day knocking down pins and testing your mini-golf skill then end the day with a movie. There are locations in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, and Surprise.

79. Travel back to the days of gold mining at Goldfield Ghost Town at the base of the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction. There’s a pottery shop, a museum, a church, livery stables, and a reptile exhibit; plus, you can pan for gold, go to a shooting gallery, and ride on a zipline, train, or a horse.

80. Take a trip to the Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff and ride the chairlift to the top of an extinct volcano about 11,500 feet above sea level. Just don’t forget a jacket!

81. Catch an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game at Chase Field.

82. Or maybe basketball is more your sport? If that’s the case, you can catch the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury play at Footprint Center.

83. Explore Arizona’s newest state park Rockin’ River Ranch State Park. The Verde River runs right through it making it the perfect place for swimming, fishing, or lounging. Plus, there are 6 miles of flat trails.

84. Explore the new $66.4 million, 85-acre Frontier Family Park in Queen Creek.

85. Located in the Talking Stick Entertainment District on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, Medieval Times transports you back in time with jousting knights, horsemanship, falconry, and a four-course dinner.

86. You know what has great air conditioning, a fun atmosphere, a variety of food and beverage options and is a kid-free zone? Casinos. The newest one in the Valley is the Santan Mountain Casino on the Gila River Indian Community near Chandler.

87. Las Vegas is a getaway from Arizona and the Eagles recently announced a residency at the trippy new Las Vegas Sphere at The Venetian Resort.

88. For those wanting to say closer to home, Jerome is an easy Arizona day trip. Go for galleries, restaurants, and ghosts.

89. The best way to avoid the scorching sun? Become a night owl and go stargazing, of course! Arizona has numerous dark-sky cities and parks where you can see the stars, planets, and Milky Way.

90. Splash in a cool mountain stream at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park northwest of Payson.

Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

91. Keeping your family entertained on a budget sometimes feels nearly impossible. Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is free and you can fish, feed ducks, and peer at the night sky through a telescope.

92. Feel the wind in your face and embrace the cooler temperatures when riding Arizona’s first mountain coaster at Canyon Coaster Adventure Park in Williams.

93. And a new mountain coaster is coming soon to Sunrise Park Resort in the White Mountains that sports 3,287 feet of track, thrilling drops, heart-pounding turns, and breathtaking mountain views.

94. Ride a gondola to the top of the San Francisco Peaks. Marvel at the vistas spilling away in all directions as you glide up the slopes before being deposited at 11,500 feet. Pause to enjoy incredible panoramas, the sweet chilled mountain air, and some memorable photo opportunities before returning. You may not be on the roof of Arizona but you’re pretty darned close.

95. Drive up the highest mountain in southern Arizona. Travel through five life zones on this twisting climb up the slopes of Mount Graham, southern Arizona’s highest peak. For 35 miles State Route 366 makes a switchbacking ascent from desert scrubland to high forests.

96. A summer’s worth of adventure awaits at Lyman Lake State Park. At 1,500 acres, Lyman Lake dwarfs all bodies of water in the White Mountains. With such an expanse, there are activities for everybody including a sheltered swimming beach, a no-wake zone for anglers, twisting canyons kayakers will love, and plenty of wide-open water for speed-boaters and skiers.

97. Stop and smell the flowers at the Arboretum at Flagstaff.

98. Instead of going north, dodge some traffic by driving south to Chiricahua National Monument. Forming an island of sculpted stone and forest in a sea of arid grasslands, the 12,000-acre park southeast of Willcox shelters an exotic array of massive columns, slender spires, and impossibly balanced boulders. Elevation at Chiricahua National Monument ranges from 5,124 feet at the entrance station to 7,310 feet at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.

Parker Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

99. Rent a rowboat or kayak at Parker Canyon Lake. At 5,400 foot elevation, it’s a lot cooler up there than on the desert floor.

100. The Titan II Missile Museum tour will warm you up and then drop you into the cool underground silo where the mighty missile still stands at attention.

101. Ramsey Canyon Preserve near Sierra Vista is owned by the Nature Conservancy. This is a beautiful, cool forested area with a year ’round stream and amazing plant and wildlife diversity including 15 species of hummingbirds and dozens of other bird species such as the rare elegant trogon. Here you will also find bears, deer, and other wild critters. Bring your camera.

102. Waterfalls are a welcome surprise at the end of several hikes in and around Tucson such as Hutch’s Pool or Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon, Romero Pools in Catalina State Park, Bridal Wreath Falls off East Speedway Boulevard, or Tanque Verde Falls off Redington Road. 

103. Show Low’s unique name comes from a legendary card game played by two early settlers to determine the town’s name. This charming town situated in the White Mountains offers a cool escape with summer temperatures averaging around 80°F. Embrace the laid-back mountain lifestyle, enjoy fishing and boating on Show Low Lake, and savor the fresh mountain air.

104. Considered one of the most beautiful places to swim in Arizona, Rattlesnake Cove is on the Bartlett Reservoir near Carefree but is completely protected from motorized watercraft. A gentle slope allows swimmers of all abilities to enjoy the cove and you can bring your own grill to enjoy a picnic

105. Located over 8,500 feet above sea level, Greer is much cooler than the surrounding deserts. You can travel up to the 9,500 foot level to explore Big Lake where you can camp, fish, and swim.

106. Tubing is a great summer pastime in Arizona and the Lower Salt River located near Mesa offers exceptional tubing conditions. 

Looking for more Arizona travel tips?

Worth Pondering…

The trip across Arizona is just one oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there.

—Will Rogers