Summer survival guide: 25 cool ways to beat the heat

2011-05-26T00:00:00Z 2013-06-13T12:49:07Z Summer survival guide: 25 cool ways to beat the heatBy Polly Higgins Phiggins@tucson.com Arizona Daily Star
May 26, 2011 12:00 am  • 

While it's easy enough to hibernate during a Tucson summer, to basically live on the couch with an ice pack on your head, that's no way to be. The phrase, after all, is summer fun.

The city doesn't stop dead during the hot months, so neither should we. Here are some suggestions for getting out and experiencing the Baked Apple - and maintaining your sanity at the same time.

1. Watch day turn to night in the Tap Room

There's something about wandering into Hotel Congress' Tap Room in the afternoon and staying until the sun goes down. Longtime bartender Tiger will hook you up with beverages, and the only way you'll really notice that time is passing is when his afternoon shift gives way to the evening bartender's slot.

Cozy up in a booth with some friends, sip on margaritas or whatever the day's special is, listen to the jukebox and appreciate a slice of life that can only be found in Tucson.

Tap Room: in Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., 622-8848.

2. Eat a raspado

Or, drink a raspado. These chilly treats split the difference between food and beverage and, unlike a snowcone, can actually fill you up.

We have a number of places to grab raspados (there's even a spot at Tucson Mall), including at Sonora Snow Cones (937 W. Congress St.). The mangoyada con rielitos ($2.50 for a small) at Sonora comes with a sweet, tangy combination of mangos, chamoy sauce and tamarind candies.

3. Make the Tumamoc Hill trek in the off-hours

The only time you can't hike Tumamoc Hill is Mondays through Fridays, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. If you're a night person, grab a buddy and a couple of headlamps and walk the paved road at midnight when the temperatures are reasonable. Or, set the alarm and hit it around 5:30 a.m.

The hill offers a good, steep workout - it rises some 700 feet and is about 3 miles round-trip.

Tumamoc Hill: 1675 W. Anklam Road, 629-9455.

4. Stargaze at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter

Housing the Southwest's largest telescope for public viewing, the UA's SkyCenter atop Mount Lemmon opens up the cosmos to everyone. Most days of the year, the popular SkyNights draws groups of about 20 people for a five-hour program that covers the constellations and other wonders (and dinner too). It's $48 per person, and you'll want to make a reservation: 626-8122 or skycenter.arizona.edu

Other programs include AstronomerNights, where you play professional, and Discovery Days ($8 per), which cover topics from solar observing to tree rings.

5. Enter a dreamy exhibit at the TMA

June 11 to Sept. 18, the Tucson Museum of Art culls from its permanent collection for "The Legacy of Surrealism" exhibit. As an artistic movement, surrealism officially ceased in the mid-1940s, but many artists continued - and continue - to draw upon it for inspiration. Get lost in artists as diverse as Mark McDowell and Marc Chagall.

Adding to this dreamy, rich exhibit: great a/c and free admission the first Sunday of every month.

Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block: 140 N. Main Ave., 624-2333.

6. Take advantage of area resort deals

Maybe it's the slight change in elevation, maybe it's the lush gardens. Or, it could be the simple shift in head space. Whatever the reason, the temperature always seems a little better when you're luxuriating in the confines of a resort.

And during the summer, when those wimps from out of state stay far, far away, Tucson's resorts slash prices. This equals staycation potential for us locals.

The Westin La Paloma, for instance, offers rooms from $109, Westward Look Resort from $99.

7. Tap into your inner vampire at Grill

Open "later than you think" - i.e., 24 hours a day - Grill gets even more David Lynchian in the wee hours. It also makes a great burger and serves endless, and fairly strong, coffee.

So stay up late and rub elbows with the other summer vampires who know the days are too hot and the freaks come out at night.

Grill: 100 E. Congress St., 623-7621.

8. Sip into paradise at the Kon Tiki

Yes, a Kon Tiki-strength cocktail or two at can make a person forget a lot, even the heat. But it's the dark interior that really encourages escape.

After passing by the large aquarium and nodding at the bird sanctuary, nestle into a cool booth until the punishing sun sets.

Kon Tiki: 4625 E. Broadway, 323-7193.

9. Dive into a public pool

Sometimes only a dip in a pool can wash away that land-locked feeling.

With budget cuts came pool closures, but we do have 10 public pools to choose from. Catalina, Clements, Sunnyside and the indoor Adaptive Recreation Center at Reid Park are open year-round; Archer, El Pueblo, Fort Lowell, Quincie Douglas and Udall are open April 1 to Nov. 15; and Amphi is open mid-May to early November.

Daily admission is $2, or you can buy an annual pass for $100. You'll find more information at the Parks and Recreation site, cms3.tucsonaz.gov/parksandrec.

10. Take an evening tram ride through Sabino Canyon

If you've never taken the tram ride into Sabino Canyon, it's a 45-minute, narrated jaunt along a 3.8-mile paved road. You hear a bit about the history of the road and what it was meant to lead to, as well as some basics about the flora and fauna.

During the warmer months, riders can see the evening critters and sights on select nights: at 8:30 p.m. June 11, 12 and 13 and 8 p.m. Sept. 8, 9 and 10. For the June rides, Sabino Canyon Tours has started taking reservations; for September, it begins Aug. 15. Rides are $9.

Sabino Canyon tram: 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road; 749-2861, sabinocanyon.com

11. Swing a tiny golf club

What is it about miniature golf that says "summer"? One answer: Golf N' Stuff has summer hours that extend until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and midnight the rest of the week.

Golf N' Stuff: 6503 E. Tanque Verde Road, 296-2366.

12. Fish at Rose Canyon Lake

Not far up Mount Lemmon is a seven-acre lake that's shaded by pine trees. Bring a reel, bring a picnic - heck just drive up to dip your toes in. The main thing is you'll be seeing water, at an altitude of 7,000 feet.

From Tucson, take Tanque Verde Road to the Catalina Highway and follow the highway to a turnoff for the lake near Milepost 17.

You'll pay a $5 per vehicle fee on the highway and an additional $8 per-vehicle day-use fee at the lake.

13. Take a night group bike ride

The 20-year-old Southern Arizona Mountain Bike Association organizes a number of evening rides, including 6 p.m. Wednesdays at Sweetwater Preserve in Oro Valley and 6:30 p.m. Mondays at the 50-year trail. (The schedule may change a bit as the summer wears on, so check sambabike.org for the most current info. Evening rides will likely get later, requiring lights, and look for rides in Patagonia, on Mount Lemmon and other cool locations.) Membership is $20, though it's not required.

Tucson being a big cycling town, another group, the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists, organize group rides as well. They have a social ride Wednesday evenings on Starr Pass. Head to sdmb.org for more. Membership is $25.

14. Catch a wave at Breakers Water Park

There is that 1.3 million gallon wave pool, but we're all about the wet rides at Breakers: The Riptide, with its 32-foot drop, the Bonzai Pipeline slides and Splash Canyon, where you can wind your way down on an inner tube. 

Breakers Water Park: 8555 W. Tangerine Road, 682-2304.

15. Run/walk/amble through Meet Me at Maynards

The weekly run (actually, that's "run," as you can go as slowly as you like) has been going on for more than two years, and here's the amazing part: It doesn't thin all that much when the weather warms.

Check-in for the free event is at Maynards from 5:15 to 7 p.m., and then you travel up to a 4-mile route through downtown. Maybe it's the camraderie, maybe it's the deals awaiting you at the finish line - $5 off entrees at Maynards and El Charro, $1 off any smoothie at Xoom Juice, $3 import pints at the Shanty and many more - but hundreds of Tucsonans still head to the Monday Meet Me at Maynards, even in July and August.

Maynards Market and Kitchen: 400 N. Toole Ave., 545-0577.

16. See green in Madera Canyon

Just about a 45-minute drive from downtown you lose about 10 degrees, and as anyone who's survived a Tucson summer knows, that can be the difference between crazy and just sort of. Save yourself, save your relationships, with a quick trip to Madera Canyon.

It's vivacious with green - lovely for hiking, birdwatching and picnicking. (From Tucson, drive south on Interstate 19 to Green Valley and take the Continental exit. Then continue southeast about 13 miles.)

You'll get charged $5 per vehicle.

17. Hike by the moonlight

Plenty of groups in and around Tucson take advantage of cool dessert nights by banding together for nighttime hikes. We recommend joining one them if you plan on doing a night hike, for obvious reasons. Safety first.

Saguaro National Park (East and West) offers guided, interpretive hikes after dark, some short, some longer. (Entrance fee is $10 per vehicle, which is good for a week.) Info: 733-5100, nps.gov

The Southern Arizona Hiking Club does Monday night hikes at Sabino Canyon. You can join the group as a guest hiker; $10 gets you a month of hikes. Info: sahcinfo.org

Full moon hikes add that extra dimension of awe. Campus Rec Outdoor Adventures organizes small group hikes during some full moons, with registration due several days in advance. Info: 621-8233, campusrec.arizona.edu

18. Get happy at Empire Pizza & Pub

Stay in the urban confines of Empire's bricked back room with one of the most extensive happy hours around.

The Empire happy hour is seven days a week - 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and all day Sundays - and is all about the two-fers. Two-for-one well drinks, wine and beer, slices of cheese or pepperoni. Or, for $4, get a slice and domestic draft.

Empire Pizza & Pub: 137 E. Congress St., 882-7499.

19. Tour Colossal Cave

The weather in Colossal Cave is perpetually perfect at 70 degrees and dry. No, you can't live there, but you can tour it daily.

Various tours are available, including some by candlelight, but the general, 45-minute option doesn't necessitate any planning. You purchase your ticket ($11 adults, $6 ages 5-12) and, within about 30 minutes, you'll be headed some six stories underground to check out the stalactites, stalagmites and helictites. Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with a $5 entry fee per car.

Colossal Cave Mountain Park: 16721 E. Old Spanish Trail, Vail, 647-7275.

20. Run with the Roosters

While a 5 a.m. 5-miler may not sound like a great time to everyone, Tucson runners wouldn't have it any other way: Start a July race much later than that and it's just another stage of hell.

So, the Everyone Runs folks are getting up early for this July 10 run (and walk), which starts at Old Tucson Studios. Think of it: Running through Tucson Mountain Park as the sun comes up. We also hear there will be a Slip 'n Slide at the end.

Head to everyoneruns.net to register ($35 before June 26, $40 after).

21. Don't miss the misters at Ghini's French Caffe

Have a favorite mister in town? One of the best is at Ghini's, allowing for lingering brunches on the patio, complete with mimosas and biscuits, if you bring Fido along.

Ghini's French Caffe: 1803 E. Prince Road, 326-9095.

22. Take an air-conditioned car ride to a Phoenix concert

If you're going to see Britney, baby, you might as well be cool. 

23. Hide out in the lushness of the Tucson Botanical Gardens

We're not suggesting heading to the midtown gardens at, say, 2 p.m., but strolling through the gardens in the morning hours a) provides much-needed fresh air and b) reminds us that things do indeed survive outside in this here desert. The numerous gardens - focused on shade plants, herbs, succulents and more - are simply refreshing.

Tucson Botanical Gardens: 2150 N. Alvernon Way, 326-9686.

24. Grab a gelato at Allegro

Tucson is quickly becoming a gelato town, and a new(ish) favorite is right near campus. The hip interior features cooling stainless steel, but then there's that gelato. Made made with fresh ingredients in the true Italian style, flavors on a given day might include everything from chocolate to rose water.

Allegro Il Gelato Naturale: Sam Hughes Place, 446 N. Campbell Ave, 207-1991.

25. Rock climb near Windy Point

Tucson is home to a number of rock-climbing destinations, including Windy Point. Near milepost 14 on Catalina Highway and about 6,600 feet high on Mount Lemmon, the temperatures are naturally cooler. Of course, you can simply take in the view - and it is spectacular.

This is a spot for experienced climbers (it isn't named Windy Point for nothing), but you can take a casual stroll west of the parking lot and ramble about the rocks. For a safer, temperature-controlled climb, there's always the indoor Rocks & Ropes, 330 S. Toole Ave.

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