Is the Best Time to Visit Phoenix in the Summer?

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Have you ever thought about a visit to Phoenix in the summer? Now, you might be scratching your head wondering why the @#$% I’d even ask that. I mean—I live in Phoenix, so I know EXACTLY how hot it gets in Phoenix in the summer!

I jokingly (though not really joking) call Phoenix “hell” during this time of year. With average temperatures over 110°F and highs that sometimes hit 120°F, it’s ridiculously hot.

So, why would you visit Phoenix in the summer? And have I lost my mind even recommending you do? Read this to find out!

view of downtown phoenix, phoenix summer days, best time to go to phoenix
Phoenix skyline

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Living in Phoenix in the Summer

If you’re wondering how people living in Phoenix survive the summer, it’s due to one thing: air conditioning. Locals go from their air-conditioned homes to their air-conditioned cars and air-conditioned offices.

Life, as you might expect, is mostly indoors during the summer. It’s hard not to be when it’s so stinkin’ hot! And when we go outside, it’s for short stints, and often early in the morning or late at night.

But, if you think it gets cool when the sun goes down, think again. Temperatures in the height of the summer may cool to the 90s, and sometimes the high 80s if you’re lucky.

Unless you have a remote car starter and give your car lots of time to cool down, it’ll still be scorching inside. Try peeling the back of your legs off of your comfy car seat!

Or have you ever seen that meme of the person wearing oven mitts with their hands on the wheel? It’s not really funny once you’ve lived through a Phoenix summer.

Flash floods are a thing because the ground is so dry that it won’t even absorb that water that falls like sheets during the monsoon rains. It can really come down, and quickly

Of course, some people have more tolerance for heat than others. So, it really depends. But, it’s not all bad in Phoenix in the summer. There are some reasons you might want to consider a visit then.

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Why You Should Visit Phoenix in Summer

I’ll confess that I have little tolerance for the heat and often try to travel as much as possible in the summer. I really can’t stand the excessive heat! It’s quite miserable during this time living here.

Sometimes I joke that the summer sun here has fried my brain. After all, I have lived in Phoenix for over 15 years! Crazy, right? So, it can’t be all bad. And it’s not.

So, why would I suggest you consider the summer for a visit to Phoenix? Here are a few reasons. Though they generally aren’t staying in hotels, they are going to the top tourist attractions. This can drive up the costs and make them rather crowded at this time of year.

Also, the tourists tend to come in the cooler weather, and winter is a popular time to visit Phoenix. So, between these populations, you have a lot of competition for the top things to do in Phoenix, Arizona.

1. Less People Visit Phoenix in the Summer

The cold weather brings an influx of people to the Valley of the Sun. First off, the “snowbirds.” The people who live in colder northern climates in the United States and even Canada come in droves to the Phoenix area in the wintertime.

The population in the Phoenix area increases substantially in the winter due to the snowbirds. You’ll see crowds everywhere as it’s a really popular place to visit once it gets cold in the rest of the country.

But in the summer—not so much. You won’t find snowbirds here and you won’t find a ton of tourists. Perhaps it’s because they fear they may burst into flame when they go outside. And truth be told, that could be a risk! But if you have heat tolerance, summer is a great time to come to Phoenix.

2. Less Traffic in the Summer

Phoenix traffic is no joke! It has gotten substantially worse since I moved here given the increase in housing developments going up all around the valley. A lot of people are moving here as the cost of living is reasonably low for such a large city.

Phoenix is actually the fifth-largest city in the United States. It’s huge! Both in the volume of people living here and the geography. It’s very spread out so it can take a while to get where you want to go. And, it takes even longer in the winter with the influx of so many people.

The area has spread out massively in the last decade. No longer is traffic centralized around downtown Phoenix and downtown Scottsdale. It’s now pretty much within the 101 loop surrounding the city, and even out towards the 202 and 303 loops.

In the summertime, not only are there fewer tourists and fewer snowbirds, but you don’t have to contend with school busses as well.

traffic in phoenix
Typical Phoenix traffic

3. It Costs Less in Phoenix in the Summer

If you want to save a few bucks, summer in Phoenix is a great time to visit. Hotel rates go down pretty substantially during the summer.

You’ll even find a lot of great deals with hotels with summer packages. And the resorts and spas all over Phoenix often offer crazy deals during the summer. You can stay at really fancy and exclusive places for a fraction of their usual cost.

This is a not-so-secret “insider” tip. Locals can often be found going on “staycations” during the summer as we know we can get the best deals for the top resorts at this time.

Top Things to Do in Phoenix in the Summer

As you might expect, the list of things I’d recommend in Phoenix is quite a bit shorter for summertime. Many of the activities that I’d recommend during the summer are more indoors or indoor/outdoor, however, not all!

There are still quite a few fun things to do in Phoenix in the summer. Here are some favorites.

summer weather and palm trees in phoenix, best time to go to phoenix, phoenix in the summer

Visit the Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center has a lot going for it for kids of all ages. If you’re traveling with kids, or if you are curious and enjoy learning, it’s a great place to visit. It’s also great for adult-sized kids who just like to have fun.

They often have really interesting exhibits worth checking out. A few years ago, I went to a Pompeii exhibit and saw some artifacts found in this city that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It was fascinating!

They also have a planetarium and some really interesting permanent exhibits. So, if you like to learn and get your hands on things, this is the place to be!

The Arizona Science Center is located at 600 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85004. It’s open daily from 10:30 to 4 and costs $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids.

arizona science center exhibit, indoor things to do in phoenix
Pompeii victims, Arizona Science Center exhibit

Enjoy the Musical Instrument Museum

The Musical Instrument Museum is one of my favorite places in the valley and in my top five of all museums in the world. Yes, I love it that much! It’s an incredibly well-curated and unique museum filled with a treasure trove of musical instruments and information.

You get to wander around all of the countries in the world. See the instruments unique to each area, watch a video of them being played, and hear their beautiful sound. It’s a completely immersive experience and a lot of fun.

They also offer shows and concerts that are worth seeing, so check out their schedule!

The Musical Instrument Museum is located at 4725 E Mayo Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85050. It’s open from 9 to 5 daily, and costs $20.

musical instrument museum, mim, chello and instruments
Musical Instrument Museum, photo credit: MIM

Diamondbacks and Spring Training

I’ll be honest—I’m not really into sports. (GASP!) But, I know a lot of people who are. If you’re so inclined, the home team, the Diamondbacks, play all summer long. They’re an institution and if you’re into the game, check them out.

Phoenix is a big place for Spring Training given the gorgeous weather in February or March. So, while not the summer, if you’re a big baseball fan, it’s another great option for you!

Tubing on the Salt River

Tubing down the salt river is a fun adventure and a great way to cool off in the summer. When the temperatures soar, you’ll see hoards of people lazily floating down the river.

Bring your own, or there are companies like Salt River Tubing that provide floatation devices and transportation so you can start far upriver. You can journey down the river on a three-hour float and have a great time in the process.

And if you’re lucky and it’s not too crowded, you could even see the famous Salt River horses.

horses in the salt water, phoenix summer days
Salt River horses

Go to the Heard Museum

The Heard Museum is another special place worth seeing in Phoenix. It’s dedicated to the advancement of Native American art. And while it’s not exclusive to the southwest, there is a strong focus in this local region.

You’ll see loads of different artwork from paintings and sculptures to jewelry and katchinas. It’s really an incredible place and I’ve been there quite a few times and keep going back to visit.

They also sometimes have really great temporary exhibits. I saw one a while back on the art of Frida and Diego that was really interesting.

If you want to learn more about the local heritage of Phoenix, you can’t choose a better place than the Heard Museum.

The Heard Museum is located at 2301 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004. It’s open from ten to four every day except for Monday and costs $20.

outside of the heard museum
Photo credit: Heard Museum

Enjoy the Local Wineries

California isn’t the only western state with lots of amazing wineries! If you’re into wine, Arizona is a great place to visit! There are a lot of wineries to choose from and three wine regions in the state. Two are near Tucson, and the Verde Valley is north of Phoenix.

Many of the local wineries have shops in the Phoenix area so you can enjoy their wines locally if you can’t make it out to them. Some great ones are:

Wine glasses, indoor things to do in phoenix

Have a Spa Treatment (or Two!)

You may not know this, but Phoenix is a resort town. Since the weather is so incredible for 8 months out of the year, and particularly in the winter, it’s a top resort spot. Phoenix hosts large conferences throughout much of the year at the incredible resorts around town.

These resorts, and many of the hotels, have truly incredible spas. Some of the most popular options that often have discounted summertime stays include:

hot stones on back, things to do in phoenix in the summer
Hot stone spa treatment

Meander at the Desert Botanical Garden

This one may be for the brave of heart, but if you are game for a challenge, give it a go! This is one of the most popular things to do in Phoenix, so you shouldn’t miss out in the summer. Pick a cloudy day to go, or go early if you can.

The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the top spots for tourists in Phoenix. If you’re one of those people who think the desert is nothing but dirt and brown, you’ll want to check this out. It’s filled with thousands of native plants, flowers, and cacti.

Wander the beautifully manicured pathways through this lovely garden to see just how beautiful the desert can be. You can spend hours here just wandering, and it’s a great place to visit.

Be sure to bring plenty of water with you and check out some of the indoor exhibits to cool off. There’s a beautiful gift shop as well worth checking out. And check out their events as they have some fun things going on!

The Desert Botanical Garden is located at 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008. It’s open daily from 8 to 8, and it costs between $24.95 and $39.95 to visit, depending on what’s going on. (Special exhibits like Chihuly in the Desert are on the upper end of the price range, but well worth it!)

desert botanical garden, best time to go to phoenix, phoenix in the summer
Photo credit: Desert Botanical Garden

Hang at the Local Pools

A lot of the swanky hotels sell passes to their pool facilities in the summer for people not staying there. You can lounge for the day in gorgeous surroundings and enjoy the pool and facilities.

It’s a lovely way to see what it’s like at some of the finest hotels and resorts at the valley without the price tag.

Of course, check out the pool where you decide to stay. But also, for a change of scenery, check out some of the other lovely pools in town. You can start with the resorts and spas listed above for some great options.

Go Boating on the Lakes

There are a number of great lakes in the Phoenix area. In truth, they are man-made, but they are really quite pretty.

Lake Pleasant north of the city is a large lake and a popular place for locals and tourists. And of course, Tempe Town Lake is a great option right near the central part of the city.

Canyon Lake in the east valley is beautiful. You can take the Dolly Steamboat or just hang out near the lake. They have boat rentals as well.

boats on the lake, best time to go to phoenix, phoenix summer days
Photo credit: Dolly Steamboat

Go for a Day Trip

If you get tired of the heat, then go for a road trip! There are a lot of great day trips from Phoenix at higher elevations with cooler temperatures to choose from.

You May Also Like The Best Day Trips from Phoenix

Day Trips North of Phoenix

There are a lot of great places to visit north of Phoenix within two hours of the city. This post on Phoenix day trips includes a roundup of many of them listed below.

  • Flagstaff for the mountains, pine forests, and a cute little town center with a university vibe
  • Sedona for gorgeous red rock buttes and a great spiritual feel
  • Prescott for an old west town square and the gorgeous Watson Lake
  • Payson for lots of hiking trails and a great small-town feel
  • Jerome to visit a former ghost town with lots of great boutique shops, artist studios, galleries, and wineries
  • Cottonwood for a beautiful state park and lots of amazing wineries

If you have the time, book an overnight stay! Any of these towns and cities are worth spending a little extra time in.

jerome in arizona, things to do in phoenix in the summer
Jerome

Day Trips South of Phoenix

If you want to head south of Phoenix, Tucson and that area are your best bet. This includes Elgin and Sonoita, a great Arizona wine region.

In Tucson, you can visit the Titan Missile Museum, the Pima Air and Space Museum for its fun airplane ‘boneyard,” or see the nearby mission, San Xavier del Bac. There’s a lot to do in and around this small city and it’s worth a day or more if you can.

outside of san xavier del bac mission, phoenix summer days, phoenix in the summer
San Xavier del Bac Mission

Where to Stay in Phoenix

There are a lot of amazing hotels in Phoenix to choose from. Be sure to shop around in the summer to score a great deal.

This article includes some of the areas you may want to consider and some great hotel options. I’ve seen some great deals for many of the listed resorts over the years, so check them out, too.

Best Places to Eat in Phoenix

If you’re looking for a foodie’s paradise, look no further than Phoenix. There are so many great restaurants to choose from, I couldn’t possibly list them all. Though I tried, and there are over 100 of my favorites in this extensive Phoenix restaurant guide.

restaurant in phoenix, indoor things to do in phoenix
Pomo Pizzeria, Phoenix

Why You Should Choose Phoenix in the Summer

I hope this guide gave you lots of good reasons to visit Phoenix in the summer. Not only can you score some great deals, but you’ll be dealing with fewer people at the most popular tourist attractions.

It’s a great option for those on a budget or if you hate crowds!

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