Summer Survival Guide
We’re counting down our favorite tips for surviving summer! Bookmark this page on your desktop or pin the RAK icon to your mobile home screen. Visit daily through July 31 for new ideas from RAK’s staff and Readers Advisory Panel.
Summer Survival Tip #26: Stargazing
Challenger Space Center hosts entertaining and interactive Family Stargazer Nights from 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Saturdays, July 8 and Aug. 12. Admission is $7; free for ages 3 and younger at 21170 N. 83rd Ave. in Peoria. The presentations are by Stargazing for Everyone’s Tony and Carole LaConte, who also make summer appearances at Glendale’s Public Main Library and Buckeye’s Skyline Park. If you get inspired, you can travel to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff or Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson — to gaze the galaxy at cooler altitudes. For a shorter commute, don’t forget the Arizona Science Center’s Dorrance Planetarium.
Summer Survival Tip #25: Slime!
For parents, it’s one of those 2017 head-scratchers — like the ever-popular fidget spinners. Making and playing with slime is a huge pastime for kids right now. There may be some big STEM/STEAM lessons, here — or at least learning about fractions and DIY recipes. Elmer’s glue offers several slime recipes on its website.
RAK’s expert, Taylor Collet, shared her favorite slime recipe: 4 ounces white glue, food dye, 4 cups shaving cream and borax water. To make the borax water, add a teaspoon of borax to one cup of warm water and mix until the borax is fully dissolved. Add a teaspoon of borax water at a time to your glue and shaving cream mixture until it is slime! Taylor also likes to add textures — everything from beads to sequins to Styrofoam. “It’s so fun because you get to make it, and you get to add different things to to make it crunchy or fluffy or jiggly,” she says. “When you have made a bunch, you can add it together and make something really big, and it feels like a lot of textures.”
Summer Survival Tip #24: Summer Sundays at the Heard
This free program for families is back, just as the Heard Museum hosts an important exhibition: “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera” through Sunday, Aug. 20. That exhibit is $7 per person, even on Summer Sundays, but every fourth Sunday during the summer (June 25, July 23 and Aug. 27), you can enjoy free performances, artist demonstrations and family activities from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the Heard is also free (except for the Kahlo & Rivera exhibit) from 6-10 p.m. on First Fridays. 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. 602-252-8840 or heard.org
Summer Survival Tip #23: Staycations!
Because so few visitors show up during our hottest months, we can swoop in to enjoy the Valley’s many posh resorts at rates more reasonable than a trip out of town or a single day at a big theme park. Here are a few grand places to stay and play in metro Phoenix.
Arizona Grand Resort boasts a seven-acre Oasis Water Park with an eight-story Slide Canyon.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort near Old Town Scottsdale and Scottsdale Fashion Square opened in July 2016.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess celebrates its 30th birthday and three decades as a favorite staycation destination this year.
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch offers 10 pools, 20 fountains, 45 waterfalls, a sand beach and a three-story waterslide.
The Wigwam resort offers all the musts (pools, water slides, golf, tennis) plus sand volleyball, dive-in movies, family game nights, character breakfasts and Wildlife World Zoo animal encounter shows.
Summer Survival Tip #22: Throw a pool party!
When it’s too hot for anything else, and you have an empty pool, hire a lifeguard and invite friends over for a late-afternoon or evening pool party. Hiring a lifeguard is a must, because even a “designated pool watcher” can avert his or her eyes for a moment or get distracted by a conversation. With a lifeguard, the host and guests can relax and have fun.
“Anyone having a pool party of any type should have a lifeguard,” says Laurie Ball, a partner/supervisor at Kidtastics, a Scottsdale recreation center, which offers lifeguards with liability insurance and CPR/first-aid training for $35 or more per hour per lifeguard; three-hour minimum. Find more lifeguard services here.
Summer Survival Tip #21: Tucson nights
The Pima Air & Space Museum features 300 historical aircraft — from a Wright Flyer to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner — plus five exhibit hangars and tram tours of the grounds. From 1-2:30 p.m. on first Saturdays, kids can build model airplanes and experiment with rockets. From 5-9 p.m. select Saturdays (June 24, July 22 and Aug. 26) the museum hosts affordable Night Wings family events ($10; free for ages 12 or younger) with aviation-related kids activities, tours and entertainment. 6000 E Valencia Road, Tucson. 520-574-0462 or pimaair.org.
While you’re in the area, check out Cool Summer Nights at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, which is more of an outdoor-zoo-meets-botanical-garden. It stays open from 5-10 p.m. on summer Saturdays and offers different themes each week. $15.50 (Arizona/Sonora residents); $8 ages 3-12; free for ages 2 and younger. 2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson. 520-883-2702 or desertmuseum.org
Summer Survival Tip #20: Arizona Science Center
Get through summer in comfort with memberships to air-conditioned play-and-learning venues, such as the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For a limited time, the center is offering a Summer Fun Pass for only $38.95 that gives up to four people free admission through Labor Day and includes two passes to the new “Get Animated!” exhibit.
Exhibits are geared toward all ages, but are especially good for school-age kids. “Get Animated!” explores the history and science of animation and offers tons of hands-on activities, including drawing and stop-motion animation stations. The center’s Create space next door offers workshops where kids can explore 3-D printing, laser-cutting and more. Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix. 602-716-2000 or azscience.org
Summer Survival Tip #19: Summer movies
It’s the summer of animated trilogies with Disney/Pixar releasing “Cars 3” on Friday, June 16 and Illumination Entertainment’s “Despicable Me 3” debuting on June 30. Gear up for them by watching the originals.
You could take all summer getting ready for the December release of “The Last Jedi” by watching all the Star Wars films and prequels. Don’t forget to see what’s playing locally on IMAX and giant-screen theaters this summer. Through June 39, see “Dream Big” about human innovation and engineering on the Arizona Science Center’s giant screen. $7.95; $6.95 ages 3-17. azscience.org.
Summer Survival Tip #18: Dinosaurs!
The Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa offers a Prehistoric Preschool program from 9-11 a.m. every Monday in June for ages 4-5. $15-$20. Families can explore this museum’s Dinosaur Hall, pan for gold in the courtyard and much more from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. $12; $7 ages 3-12; free for ages 2 and younger; discounts for students and seniors. 53 N. Macdonald, Mesa.
Summer Survival Tip #17: Arizona Authors Summertime Storytelling & Craft Saturdays
Meet Arizona authors and enjoy children’s storytelling and crafts from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday in June at Pueblo Grande Museum. The event is good for kids in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade. $5 admission includes a light snack. All participants must be accompanied by an adult (no program fee for adults).
Featured books/authors are: “A Squirrel’s Story” by Jana Bommersbach (June 3); “Burro’s Tortilla’s” by Terri Fields (June 10); “Bad Monkey Business” by Michael Hale (June 17); “Starry’s Haircut” by Phoebe Fox (June 24). While there, check out the museum’s other summer programs. Pueblo Grande Museum, 4619 E. Washington St., Phoenix. 602-495-0901 or pueblogrande.com
Summer Survival Tip #16: Phoenix Mercury Games
The championship WNBA Phoenix Mercury team plays all summer in the air-conditioned Talking Stick Resort Arena, 201 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix. In addition to pro-level women’s basketball and an exciting team roster, Mercury games are full of family fun. There’s team mascot Scorch, the Mercury’s co-ed Hip Hop Squad, the COURTyard (where young fans can play corn hole, foosball and ping pong), plus post-game free throws and frequent giveaways and promotions.
Students can get $5 tickets via the Mercury Student Pass that gives high school and college students access to last-minute seats. Regular tickets are $9 and up; and ticketholders (carrying their tickets) can ride Metro light rail for free four hours prior to the game until the end of the transit day.
Summer Survival Tip #15: i.d.e.a. Museum
This Mesa children’s museum is dedicated to art and play, which makes for a great morning or afternoon with the kids anytime but Mondays, when the museum is closed. Their new “My Favorite Monster” exhibit opens Friday, June 16, offering dragons, ghosts, zombies and vampires and hands-on activities, including making monster movies, building 3-D creatures in the “monster lab,” and joining in monster dance parties.
Artville, a socks-only area for ages 5 and younger, offers a sprawling play space with giant (soft) building blocks, a dress-up area and art projects. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. $8; free for children younger than 1. 150 W. Pepper Place, Mesa. 480-644-4332 or ideamuseum.org
Summer Survival Tip #14: Free concerts
Many of the Valley’s outdoor malls and parks offer free summer concerts. Hear live music Fridays and Saturdays at Desert Ridge Marketplace (21001 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix); Thursdays-Saturdays at Westgate Entertainment District (6751 N. Sunset Blvd, Glendale) and Fridays and Saturdays at Tempe Marketplace (2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe).
Another favorite is Glendale’s long-running Summer Band Concert that hosts community musicians performing marches, polkas, movie medleys and other classic favorites from 8-9:15 p.m. Thursdays through July 20th at Murphy Park Amphitheatre, 59th Avenue and Glenn Drive. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park hosts free concerts from 7:30-9 p.m. Sundays through July 2 at 7301 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale.
Summer Survival Tip #13: Musical Instrument Museum
Throughout July, the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix is honoring teachers (and administrators, principals, registered student teachers, and homeschool educators) with free admission and special events. If you’re not an educator, you can still enjoy lots of family-friendly summer events here, including concerts, musical instrument and memorabilia displays and festivals, including Experience Brazil on June 10-11 and Experience France on July 8-9 celebrating the music and culture of those countries.
Kids can also take classes to become Junior Museum Guides or simply try out instruments in the Experience Gallery. The MIM, which opened in 2010, has welcomed 2 million guests in seven years and is TripAdvisor’s No. 1 Phoenix tourist attraction. (Note: Because many displays are behind ropes and not under glass, it’s an easier trip with school-age kids than with feisty toddlers.) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. $20; $15 ages 13-19; $10 ages 4-12; free for ages 3 and younger. 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix. 480-478-6000 or mim.org.
Summer Survival Tip #12: Discount Tire Free Family Weekends
The Phoenix Art Museum offers free general admission on the second weekend of each month during Discount Tire Free Family Weekends. The events include family activities, scavenger hunts, live performances, story time, free tours and a chance to make art with a featured local Valley artist. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. second Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. second Sundays. June’s theme is symbols, and July’s theme is hats. Admission to Phoenix Art Museum is also free on First Fridays and 3-9 p.m. Wednesdays, although donations are always appreciated.
Summer Survival Tip #11: Legoland Discovery Center
Here’s an indoor playground that offers two amusement-park rides and lots of creative play with Lego bricks. The kids-only play structure is supervised, so adults can sip coffee from the cafe while kids run, climb and slide.
There are also 4-D Lego movies, a testing and racing area for Lego cars, a Lego Friends area with pink and purple bricks (and high-rise architecture), and a Duplo playground for babies and toddlers.
Miniland, with Lego replicas of Arizona’s major landmarks and attractions, is also worth exploring. Prices and times vary. Legoland Discovery Center is inside Arizona Mills Mall, 5000 Arizona Mills Circle in Tempe.
Summer Survival Tip #10: Splash pads
They’re everywhere in metro Phoenix, and with good reason. When you can’t take the heat and don’t want the stress of supervising a pool visit, take younger kiddos to a splash pad at an outdoor shopping center or local park — preferably before noon or at dusk. Some of our favorites are the Pioneer Community Park splash pad in Peoria and the elegant fountain/splash pad at Scottsdale Quarter. Find a splash pad near you.
Summer Survival Tip #9: Children’s Museum of Phoenix
For ages 10 and younger, downtown Phoenix offers the perfect indoor summer playground in the historic Monroe School Building. There’s enough here to tire out the kids: a three-story climber, unlimited crafts and painting, fort-making, a pool-noodle forest and oodles of pretend play — including a well-stocked grocery store and pizza parlor — plus delightful reading nooks.
During June and July, the museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $11 per person; free parking. 215 N. Seventh St., Phoenix. 602-253-0501 or childrensmuseumofphoenix.org
Summer Survival Tip #8: Free outdoor movies
At 6:30 p.m. on second Fridays, families can bring blankets and chairs to watch a feature film on the outdoor screen at CityScape in downtown Phoenix during City Lights Movie Nights in Patriots Park.
Goodyear Ballpark and UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle in Maricopa also offer free outdoor summer films.
If you’re headed up north, you’ll find Movies on the Square in Flagstaff’s Heritage Square every Saturday night through Sept. 2.
Tucson’s Reid Park Demeester Outdoor Performance Center offers movies on First Fridays.
Summer Survival Tip #7: Flashlight tours and full-moon hikes
Dusk in the desert is beautiful. Many of Maricopa County’s parks offer full-moon night hikes for families to get outside and enjoy the scenery at more tolerable temperatures.
The Desert Botanical Garden attracts crowds during the hottest months with its family-friendly flashlight tours 7-9 p.m. every Thursday and Saturday through Sept. 2. Bring your own flashlight to light up the trails. Kids can see desert critters up close, make crafts and learn fun facts from garden volunteers.
Summer Survival Tip #6: Bowling
Kids Bowl Free is a national program designed by bowling centers to give children a safe, secure, fun — and free — way to spend time in the summer. Each child who registers receives two free games of bowling daily. Let It Roll Bowl in north-central Phoenix participates, as does Glenfair Lanes in Glendale. The offer is available daily to children 15 or younger; others can participate at discounted rates, making it a great family outing. Bowlers still have to rent shoes for about $3.50.
Other bowling lanes offer family summer discounts, including AMF’s Summer Game Pass, which is $39.95 for adults and $34.95 for kids 15 or younger. The pass gets you three free games of bowling (including shoes) every day, all summer long.
Summer Survival Tip #5: Pogo Pass
Not sure which family memberships to buy for the summer months? Try a Pogo Pass. The discounted Phoenix passes are about $50 per person and include free admission to 17 local kid-friendly attractions, including two Arizona Diamondbacks games, one visit to Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa, two visits to the Phoenix Zoo and i.d.e.a. Museum and much more, including laser tag, trampoline parks, and bowling. The pass also eases summer boredom by helping you plan family outings.
Summer Survival Tip #4: Free summer reading programs
Stop that “summer slide” in learning with Maricopa County Reads, a free program at all public libraries within Maricopa County that aims to strengthen children’s literacy skills and instill positive reading habits. This year’s program is “The Great Reading Adventure.” Kids who read 20 minutes per day and track their progress can earn a book and prizes.
Changing Hands bookstores in Tempe and Phoenix (changinghands.com) also offer a Summer Reading Road Trip program. Kids can ask for a free map to plot out locations where the stories they are reading take place and earn prizes.
The Shops at Norterra in North Phoenix offers a Summer Reading Rewards program where kids ages 6-12 can get prizes and rewards depending on the reading hours they log by Monday, July 31. Rewards include a key chain, treats from Jamba Juice, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or Yogurtini, and free indoor ice skating at the shopping center.
Summer Survival Tip #3: Indoor playgrounds
Urban Jungle Fun Park, which originated in San Diego, offers trampolines, indoor climbing walls that look like skyscrapers, a ninja play area, super slides, an obstacle course, interactive video games, a ball-blaster arena and a multi-level play structure built for kids and adults. There’s also an Urban Tot play space for ages 5 and younger. Adults can either play, supervise or relax in the parents’ lounge with free Wi-Fi. The Mesa facility opened in March, and a second Arizona location will open in Avondale this summer. Hours vary. 5741 E. McKellips Road, Mesa. $8-$18 for up to two hours. Jump socks are required or can be purchased for $2.50.
Makutus Island, 6919 W. Ray Road in Chandler (makutusisland.com), PlayGrounds Fun Zone & Cafe, 8190 W. Union Hills Drive in Glendale (playgroundsfunzone.com) and even Ikea’s free Smaland play center in Tempe are other good indoor play options.
Summer Survival Tip #2: Cheap movies
The Harkins Theatres Summer Movie Fun program offers 10 animated kids movies for $7 (or $2 per person per movie) playing throughout summer at select Valley locations.
Studio Movie Grill, 15515 N. Hayden Road in Scottsdale, offers a Children’s Summer Series for $2-$3 per ticket; kids can sit in a regular movie seat with a tray or eat at a lunch counter while watching films.
Pollack Tempe Cinemas, 1825 E. Elliot Road in Tempe, offers $3.50 movies anytime, including recent blockbusters and animated films.
Fat Cats, 4321 E. Baseline Road in Gilbert, offers $5 movies (current feature films) all day every Tuesday.
Summer Survival Tip #1: Chase Field
Take the kids out to the ballgame all summer in this air-conditioned, domed stadium. Right now, the Arizona Diamondbacks are selling $50 D-backs Ballpark Summer Passes that give passholders (via a smartphone app) Outfield Reserve seating at all 25 June and July home games.
Chase Field offers many kid-friendly amenities, including the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Sandlot, where they can bat Wiffle balls on a small diamond, play on a playground, or (for older kids and adults) swing away in a batting cage. Near the Sandlot is the D-backs Kid’s Club headquarters; kids ages 3 to 15 who sign up can get freebies for each game attended plus a free ticket to Sunday home games. See fireworks after every Friday home game, and on Sundays, kids can run the bases.
Time your visit right and arrive early on special giveaway nights to get anything from a kids ball-and-bat set (Sunday, June 11) to a Paul Goldschmidt Star Wars bobblehead on Star Wars night (Saturday, June 24). Chase Field, 401 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix. 602-462-6500 or dbacks.com.