14 Actually Cool Things You Can Do in Phoenix This Summer

These are the most fun activities, tours, farmers markets, events, and more to make the most of the season.

We’ll be honest, summer in the desert isn’t for the faint of heart. Relentless sunshine followed by torrential rains, all while enduring 100+ degree temperatures can put a damper on summer fun, but that doesn’t mean you need to hide indoors all season. We promise, for those brave enough to spend a summer in the Valley of the Sun, there are some unforgettable experiences to enjoy—like staycation of a lifetime at a discounted rate, high-energy pool parties, a leisurely float down the Salt River, and some downright incredible meals.

Maya Dayclub

Dance the day away at a pool party

There’s no such thing as summer in Scottsdale without a pool party. This isn’t a casual poolside drink either—this is world-class DJs and craft cocktails. Head to the heart of Old Town to see EDM legends like Benny Benassi and Afrojack at Maya Dayclub, enjoy a more relaxing atmosphere at W Scottsdale’s WET Deck or take a nightswim at a Talking Stick Resort Arena’s RELEASE After Dark pool party.

Salt River Tubing
Salt River Tubing

Float down the salt river (and throw a marshmallow or two)

Floating down the salt river is a uniquely Arizona activity that might sound relaxing, but in reality is a giant party on inner tubes where people drink too much beer and throw marshmallows at each other for hours. It’s also a great way to check out the desert scenery, and if you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of the mysterious and beloved Salt River wild horses during your float. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.

Hotel Valley Ho
Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho

Book a luxe staycation

When the sizzling temperatures scare off the tourists, it’s time to enjoy hot hotel deals. Lounge poolside with a cocktail, book a massage or dine at one of the Valley’s most beloved hotel restaurants—like J&G Steakhouse or Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn—you deserve it. To make the most of your getaway, check out our full staycation guide.

Wonderspaces Arizona
Wonderspaces Arizona

Peruse modern art at Wonderspaces

If all else fails—or it hits 122 degrees again—head indoors. You can at least keep it interesting with engaging contemporary art experience, Wonderspaces. Plus, while you walk through the captivating exhibits you can cool off by sipping one of their craft cocktails.

Arizona Restaurant Week
Arizona Restaurant Week | Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert

Take your tastebuds on a tour of The Valley’s top restaurant and eateries

Arizona is rising in the ranks as a culinary destination. Consider that Tucson was the first city in the states to receive UNESCO’s City of Gastronomy distinction. And, an anomalous 15 chefs and restaurateurs from across Arizona were named semifinalists in the most recent run of the James Beard Awards—many from Phoenix. And from May 20 to May 29, the Arizona Restaurant Association is presenting Arizona Restaurant Week, a 10-day showcase that offers hungry epicureans the opportunity to support the local restaurant industry while savoring a multi-course, prix fixe meal. From swanky high-end restaurants to indie eateries, Arizona Restaurant Week offers something for every palate.

Pemberton PHX
Pemberton PHX

Gather with friends at downtown Phoenix’s hippest collective space

Downtown Phoenix
Pemberton PHX is part art piece, part dining destination with pop up eateries and bars by Saint Pasta, Hop Box, Melt Ice Cream, and more—making it the perfect place for dinner and drinks with friends. Just make sure you allow extra time to explore the colorful, quirky property for your next ‘Gram-worthy photo.

Photo courtesy of Fourtillfour

Swing by Fourtillfour Coffee for espresso with a side of vintage (or just really cool) rides

Recurring every Saturday
Old Town Scottsdale
Do you like cars? How about great coffee? We’ve got just the thing. Roll into Old Town Scottsdale and pull up at Cars and Coffee, an unmissable, laidback weekly auto meet hosted by the friendly folks at Fourtillfour Coffee. Each weekend has its own unique theme—think Aircooled Volkswagens, Adventure Machines, and Porsches.

Cloth & Flame
Cloth & Flame | Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert

Eat your way through a high-end dining experience outdoors

Multiple locations
Cloth & Flame’s dinners are a must-try experience, and a great way to meet new people by dining at their stunning community table. Their incredible menus and beautiful tablescapes have even attracted the likes of Google, Bentley, and Chanel—to name a few. Recent dinners have celebrated Phoenix Pride, incorporated cannabis or were themed around cult film Midsommar, so there’s something for everyone. Dinners sell out fast, so make sure to check their ticket page often.

Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix
Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix

Find tranquility and peace at the Japanese Friendship Garden

Downtown Phoenix
Let’s be real, we could all use a little zen these days, right? Modeled after the traditional strolling gardens throughout Japan, Phoenix’s own Japanese Friendship Garden provides a serene and peaceful setting that often plays host to traditional tea ceremonies, informative workshops, and socially distanced group activities including tai chi classes. We recommend a sunset stroll to avoid the blistering Phoenix heat.

Sauvage virtual bottle shop

Downtown Phoenix, online
Local bottle shop Sauvage has bottles on bottles just waiting to find a home on your personal wine rack. Really, they offer a rotating selection of craft ciders, orange vinos, hard-to-find spirits, canned options, and so much more. So, if you need a way to effortlessly impress your friends at a summer soiree or you’re searching for a natural wine to bring to your next gathering, any bottle, really, from Sauvage, is sure to spark a spirited conversation.

Phoenix Art Museum
Phoenix Art Museum

Appreciate Arizona’s best-loved visual art at the Phoenix Art Museum

Downtown Phoenix
Head out to the Phoenix Art Museum for exhibitions such as Desert Rider, an exhibit that features imaginative takes on automobiles and skateboards. And you can experience the immersive You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies. Want to keep the arts shining bright in your city? Adopt a digital firefly from the installation. You’ll get sweet perks like unlimited admission, invitations to exclusive members only events, free or discounted tickets to workshops, lectures, and films, plus some other cool benefits, too. Plot your visit and explore the world-class exhibits and comprehensive, and we mean comprehensive, collections right here. The Phoenix Art Museum is the largest art museum in the Southwest, after all.

Desert Botanical Garden
Desert Botanical Garden | Chris Curtis/Shutterstock

Take a leisurely stroll in the Desert Botanical Garden

Spanning 140 acres, this urban garden space is basically a living museum where art and nature collide. Home to thousands of species of trees, flowers, and cactus, including 485 rare and endangered species, the Desert Botanical Garden, one of only 24 botanical gardens accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is undeniably a plant-lovers dream. DBG also hosts experiences and events including dog-friendly days, large-scale art exhibitions, and seasonal showcases like Chihuly After Dark taking place June 7. See what’s happening in the garden right now, here. Advanced ticket reservations are required to visit DBG.

Federal Pizza
Federal Pizza

Hit the drive-thru, but not the fast-food type

Multiple locations
Hungry? Take your rumbling stomach to the drive-thru. Local joints like Federal Pizza, 32 Shea, Luci’s at the Orchard, and Melrose’s Copper Star Coffee all have really fantastic menus and convenient drive-thrus. Fast food just got a lot tastier. Now, who’s up for some sugar-coated, chocolate-dipped bombolini?

Shop your community farmers market, in person and online

Multiple locations, online
Whether you’re searching for locally made pasta, fresh-baked breads, cage-free eggs, seasonal organic veggies and fruits, or tapenades, Valley farmers markets including the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market, Uptown Farmers Market, and the Downtown Mesa Farmers Market have what just what you need to conquer your shopping list. You'll leave with a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you’re supporting local farmers, makers, and vendors during these uncertain times. And that feels good, doesn’t it? Just make sure to check for updated summer hours!

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Lauren Topor Reichert is a Phoenix-based writer, photographer, and certified nutritionist. Her work has been featured in travel guides, national publications, and the social feeds of some stellar local restaurants. Follow her around Arizona, and beyond, on Instagram @hungryinphoenix.
Jamie Killin is a Phoenix native and Arizona State graduate who specializes in lifestyle and features writing. You can usually find her at the spin studio, a concert, or trying new restaurants across the Valley. Follow her at @jamiefayekillin.