“Are you crazy?” ask my friends from the north.
“Certifiably,” I reply with a wry smile.
August has been my family’s go to month to vacation in the southwest for over a decade. We love heading down there mid-August for a couple of weeks or however long everybody’s schedule allows.
“Isn’t it like 110 degrees down there this time of year?” they continue.
“Absolutely,” I reply holding strong with my smile.
These friends, who have never been to the hot southwest, are incredulous as to why we would vacation, or as my Canadian friends say, “holiday,” in such hot locales, when there are so many cool(er) weather destinations to check out.
There certainly is some weight to that argument. We bought our first vacation home in Arizona in December of 2003, and no one said “boo” about that decision based on the time of year. Heading to the great southwest, from any of the heavily wintered Canadian provinces or U.S. states when it’s well below freezing with several inches of snow on the ground for a good thaw out in the hot desert is almost a must to survive the rest of the winter spent in the frozen tundra.
“What can you even do in that kind of heat?” their questions continue.
“Everything!” I reply and go on a sales-pitch rant.
These people live in areas where it can get to 30-40 below, for weeks on end, and they say I’m crazy for doing the same, just at the opposite end of the temperature spectrum. You can get frostbite in a matter of minutes at those kind of cold temps. And you can sunburn in a matter of minutes in temps of 110+. Cars can freeze up, wheels break, electronic systems shut down in freezing temps. Cars can overheat, asphalt streets get soft, you can singe your hands and legs on hot steering wheels and seats in intensely hot temps.
But my family and I have found August is a very enjoyable time of year to be in the desert. The pool temperatures are absolutely perfect. The heat of the sun, and the overnight warm temps, keep the pool at a comfortable 90 degrees – naturally – no heater needed. Just cool enough for an overheated body. Floating on a partially submerged floatie, with a cool-beverage in hand, and life is pretty darn good. Take a quick dip to cool down the whole body, and if a little breeze comes over the pool you can actually feel chilled in 115 degree temps.
Because there are not enough hardy souls that head to the southwest in the dead of summer it’s a great time to take advantage of empty golf courses at greatly reduced prices. A foursome who doesn’t dawdle too much can easily finish in well under 4 hours. With a beverage cart driving by every few holes and a cooler on the cart with multiple ice-cold bottles of water as well as towels doused in ice-cold water to wrap around your neck, playing golf can be a very enjoyable activity in the heat of the summer.
But if weathering the great outdoors is just too much to ask, then jump in your air-conditioned car and head to one of the many air-conditioned malls – i.e. Fashion Square, Scottsdale Quarter, Kierland Commons, Desert Ridge, Tempe Marketplace. Or to one of the many movie theaters with stadium seating, comfy leather reclining seats, bar and food service – i.e. iPic Theaters, Studio Movie Grill, Ultra Cinemas. Or how about the interesting and interactive Musical Instrument Museum.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and have extra time on your hands, rent a fun little sports car and hit the road. A four-hour drive will have you in Vegas – make a quick pit stop at the Hoover Dam. Spend several hours in the mega air-conditioned casinos, take in a show, or feast at some of the best restaurants in the country.
Or make the 2 1/2 drive to Williams, AZ, just west of Flagstaff, to jump on an air-conditioned train into the Grand Canyon. A 2 1/2 train ride in; several hours to wander around the canyon; and a 2 1/2 hour train ride back.
After you have worked up a good appetite, it’s time to settle into one of the many great eating experiences in the valley. No matter where you are staying, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Fountain Hills, Mesa…there are multiple options for great food within a very short drive. Mexican is obviously a favorite food in the southwest, but the demands of even the most picky tastebuds will be fully satisfied. Some of our favorites include:
Los Dos Molinos – authentic Mexican eats; try any of the pork dishes, slow roasted all day long. Very spicy. $$ South Phoenix
Mastro’s Steakhouse – fine dining w/live music; best steaks in town (in my family’s humble opinion). $$$$ N. Scottsdale
Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn – fine dining – great outdoor seating; a little bit of everything food wise. $$$$ Paradise Valley
True Food Kitchen – good food that’s good for you. $$ Scottsdale
Blue Adobe Grill – American Mexican; great flavors. $$$ Mesa & Scottsdale
Casa Mia – authentic Italian with homemade pastas. $$$ Scottsdale
T. Cooks at Royal Palms – fine, dining – fresh and flavorful American cuisine. $$$ Phoenix
Pure Sushi – fresh sushi and flavorful Asian dishes. $$$ N. Scottsdale