Summer is a good time to explore Arizona and adjacent states. Because there are fewer tourists in the summer, everything is less crowded; plus, there are nearby places where the temperature is actually below 110 degrees.
If you’ve lived in Arizona for any length of time, you’re probably already weary of taking out-of-town guests to the same in-demand locations: the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Meteor Crater, Jerome, Sedona, and Whisky Row in Prescott.
There are many other wonderful places that you may never have considered visiting, and we’ve compiled a short list of summer destinations for weekend getaways.
If you find Las Vegas a little overwhelming, just a four-hour drive away on the Arizona/Nevada border, is Laughlin, Nevada. It’s smaller, closer, and on the beautiful Colorado River, where water taxis are the best means of transportation. If don’t want to spend all your time in casinos, you’ll find fishing, jet-skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and golfing on lush courses to keep you occupied.
Three hours west of Phoenix is Lake Havasu. If you have visions of out-of-control college students on spring break, that is so 1990s MTV. Today, Lake Havasu brags about its 400 miles of coastline and 60 miles of navigable waterways. While the spring breakers still show up in March and April, the rest of the year there’s cycling, fishing, golfing, hiking, off-roading, shopping, and dining. And, of course, Lake Havasu has the London Bridge, but no one’s sure why.
While the Grand Canyon gets all the glory, a six-hour drive will get you close to perhaps the most incredible landscape in the world—the Wave at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument—but you have to have a fair amount of luck to see it. Hikers are chosen by lottery, with only 20 permits given out per day, and you have to sign up four months in advance. Then, if you’re one of the lucky few, you’ll still need luck hiking there and back. It’s only about five miles round trip, but several people have become terminally lost, so you’ll need the right supplies, including a GPS. Still, the landscape may be worth the risk.
Tucson’s location in the southeast part of the state is ideal for visiting Mexico, New Mexico, and even Texas. Just four hours away is the city of El Paso, where visitors can tour local vineyards and visit historic sites, beautiful state parks, and lush golf courses. Visitors will also want to spend time enjoying the local Tex-Mex cuisine.
Also about four hours east of Tucson is beautiful Las Cruces, New Mexico. Las Cruces has a vibrant art scene, beautiful architecture, and nearly perfect weather. Stunning mountain views combine with desert landscapes, including the spectacular White Sands National Monument, the world’s largest gypsum dune field, located east of the city.
Of course, you live in the best state, so you may want to stay in Arizona. Just two hours east of Tucson is one of the state’s most overlooked areas, Chiricahua National Monument. The other-worldly landscape is not like anyplace else in America, with thousands of rock pillars, many topped with huge balancing boulders. While you would probably expect to pay a high price to see something so spectacular, admission to Chiricahua National Monument is always free.
There are 15 blazing hot weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so start planning your getaway now, before the heat addles your brain.