It has been unBEARably hot, but don’t sweat it—there are all sorts of cool escapes you and your family and friends can make this summer break!
And what makes this summer fun even cooler is the fact that you don’t need to turn off your brain to enjoy these super special places. How about experiencing sea creatures up close and personal? Or maybe hitting the high country up in Eastern Arizona with your family? You can even learn firsthand what it’s like to be a packrat, exploring a giant midden to gain an eye-opening and lasting appreciation for these impressive desert hoarders!
It’s Not Just a Zoo—It’s an Aquarium, Too!
Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park “was developed with our hot summers in mind—we’re usually about 10 degrees cooler than anywhere else outside of the zoo because we have so many shade trees and irrigation,” points out Media Relations Director Kristy Morcom.
Located on the southeast corner of Northern Avenue and the State Route 303, there are thousands of creatures from around the world to see and learn about, including dozens of endangered species.
"We ALWAYS have babies!” ~ Kristy Morcom, Wildlife World Zoo
The baby animals are always a big hit with visitors. “With more than 6,000 animals, we have babies year-round,” Morcom says. “So you never know what baby you’re going to see when you come out. We ALWAYS have babies!”
The baby giraffe, Austin, is the zoo’s big draw right now. The energetic calf, born in February, is almost 7 feet tall already (he was 6 feet tall at birth). “He is so playful, always putting on a show for our visitors,” Morcom says.
In the Wildlife World Zoo’s nursery, you can see a month-old bobcat kitten being raised by hand. “The reason we hand-raise our cats, it helps establish that basis of trust through positive reinforcement,” Morcom points out. He won’t stay a cute and cuddly kitten for long, though, and eventually the interactions will be through protective barriers.
“The Baby Animal Nursery is a great place to escape the heat as well. It’s nice and cool in there. So he’s in our nursery, and folks can come out and see him and get really close to him,” Morcom says.
Sunny, the zoo’s baby sea lion, is part of the popular sea lion show at the Shipwreck Cove area.
But the coolest part of Wildlife World Zoo is its aquarium. Four big, air-conditioned buildings house more than 80 displays, with the largest tank being a 60,000-gallon shark tank!
Morcom suggests arriving when it opens at 9 a.m. to take in the zoo portion, including doing the popular Lory Parrot Feeding. As temps start rising, head over to the nursery and even do the log flume ride, which will splash you with cool water. Then finish your visit in its air-conditioned aquarium!
Inside, there’s the Stingray Touch Tank, where kids can feed the stingrays flying around in the water. “And we have Dillon’s KC Style Barbecue inside the aquarium so they can have a drink by our flamingos or dine next to our 60,000-gallon shark tank,” she adds.
And for an amazingly cool experience for animal fans, Wildlife World Zoo still has a few spots left for its Safari Camp. This is a very hands-on camp for those ages 7–12, where they get to do sea lion and otter training, feed sharks and meet a variety of the zoo’s animal ambassadors! The June session starts June 11, while the July session starts July 16.
Visit WildlifeWorld.com for ticket prices and camp details.
Escape to the Mountains!
A great way to escape the summer heat in the desert is to head to the mountains. The White Mountains in eastern Arizona boast temperatures that are usually 20 to 30 degrees cooler than the normal highs and lows in the Valley or Tucson. So why swelter in 100-plus-degree weather when you can take a three- to four-hour drive and enjoy temperatures in the 80s?
Some popular summer getaway spots in the White Mountains include Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside and Greer. Families may choose to rent a cabin for an extended stay or maybe go camping in the forest. There are lakes and streams for boating, fishing or just enjoying a cooling breeze off the water.
Hit the trails to get the most out of the fresh mountain air. Whether you choose to go hiking or take a trail ride, you’ll experience a real change of scenery with pine trees, fields of wildflowers and local wildlife—birds, deer and elk are just a few of the critters you might encounter on your outing. Horseback riding is available through the various ranches and stables located in the White Mountains. Mountain biking is another great way to explore the trails and appreciate the Arizona flora and fauna that we desert dwellers don’t often get a chance to see.
In the summer, you can get an eagle’s eye view from a scenic lift ride at Sunrise Park Resort. There are other fun activities like a bungee trampoline jump, a super slide and a rock climbing wall.
Hidden in the Midden!
For those into desert critters and desert ecology, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a must-see. And to draw more kids and families to this award-winning destination, it has just opened its amazing Packrat Playhouse: Hidden in the Midden!
Located west of Tucson at 2021 N. Kinney Rd., the 98-acre zoo features creatures and plants of the Sonoran Desert. New to this nationally recognized zoo is an indoor play/educational area. “Packrat Playhouse is our newest exhibit, and it’s air-conditioned, which is a huge sell, especially in these hot summers. And it’s basically a Honey, I Shrunk Yourself, kids type of thing, except a desert edition!” explains Kat Rumbley, Desert Museum marketing manager.
“Kids can climb around prickly pear cactus pads, they can slide down a slide made to look like the ribs of a cholla cactus, they can climb through dice, they can go through netting, they can slither through an oversize rattlesnake,” ~ Kat Rumbley, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
The lighting for this 4,000-square-foot area is sort of dim. This makes sense because packrats are active at dusk and at night—and you’re the packrat! The centerpiece is an almost two-story tall climbing area, representing a packrat midden (packrat house).
“Kids can climb around prickly pear cactus pads, they can slide down a slide made to look like the ribs of a cholla cactus, they can climb through dice, they can go through netting, they can slither through an oversize rattlesnake,” Rumbley says. Up at the top, there’s a beautiful view of a desert landscape!
The playhouse is full of fun, informational activities so kids (and their parents) leave with an appreciation of the important role packrats play in the desert ecosystem. There’s also a toddler area, a gift shop, a place to buy snacks and beverages, and restrooms.
Packrat Playhouse opens at 10 a.m. and is included with admission. But admission is free for young people (ages 6–12) who join the Kids Coati Club.
Other cool Desert Museum offerings are Stingray Touch, the natural-looking enclosures for the animals plus Cool Summer Nights that happen every Saturday now through Sept. 1. Plus, there are a few spots left for some of its summer camps!
Rumbley says to get to the Desert Museum when it opens at 7—it’s cooler for you and the animals are more active, too.
Go to DesertMuseum.org for details on membership, schedules, etc.
SUMMER COOL ESCAPES LISTING
When the temperatures rise in the Valley, you need to find fun things to do to cool off. There are many options to avoid the heat—here’s a list with a few things that Boomer Bear came up with that are guaranteed to make your summer the coolest one yet!
Altitude Trampoline Park Phoenix:
With over 17,500 square feet of indoor trampolines and other amenities and a total of nearly 25,000 square feet of total space, this place is jumping! Enjoy the Gymnastics Tumble Tracks, the rock climbing wall, dodgeball courts, foam pits, dunk lanes and more! Visit www.altitudephoenix.com for more information.
Arizona Broadway Theatre:
Enjoy dinner and a show at Arizona Broadway Theatre. They even have a children’s menu and yummy desserts. In June you can see “Mary Poppins” or “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s a great time for the whole family. Visit azbroadway.org for show times and tickets.
Big Surf Waterpark:
Located in Tempe is America’s original waterpark. You can cool off riding the waves or going down thrilling slides like the Hurricane, the Black Hole, the Tornado Twisters, the White Serpentine or the Cyclone & Tsunami. There is also a special area for younger kids where they can splash in Bora Bora Bay, go down the Otter Slide and play at Captain Cook’s Landing. During June and July you can enjoy the park on Sunset Fridays until 9 p.m. Visit www.bigsurffun.com for hours and special pricing.
Visit the largest butterfly conservatory in the country. There are over 3,000 butterflies floating around. You can also visit the 3D Theater, The Rainforest Reptile Exhibit, The Honey Bee Extravaganza, Tropical Waters of the World and more. Visit butterflywonderland.com for more information and discounts.
Children’s Museum of Phoenix:
Learn about animals, create an art project, make snow cones or sign up for a summer camp with themes like Culinary Kids, Storm Chasers, World of Wizards and Fairies, Island Castaways and more! The first Friday of each month is Target FREE First Friday Night. Everyone gets in free from 5-9 p.m. Visit www.childrensmuseumofphoenix.org/events/ for more details.
Interact with dolphins. Have a land or water experience with the dolphins. Learn how dolphins are cared for by the trainers and take a behind-the- scenes tour. Visit www.dolphinaris-arizona.com for information and discounts.
East Valley Children’s Theatre:
Enjoy a performance of Peter Pan this month or have fun using your own musical and acting skills. EVCT offers acting classes, summer camps, show auditions, Improv groups and many more options. Visit evct.org for schedules and information.
Visit Arizona’s ONLY Trampoline Park and Gymnastics/Dance Center. Experience jumping, tumbling, gymnastics, cheer, summer camps and more.
Offering great specials and summer pricing. Visit Flipdunksports.com for more information.
Imagine an air-conditioned playground where you can climb a giant tree full of tunnels, slides and mole holes. You can explore caves, go bungee jumping and try out the zipline. Hours of fun await you. Visit Makutusisland.com for hours and rates.
Explore the ocean! Take a shark tour, interact with penguins, board the OdySea Voyager and learn about turtles and rivers of the world, check out the touch pools and ride the deep ocean escalator. You can enjoy the summer evenings for $25 per person after 5 p.m. Visit Odyseaaquarium.com for schedule and special pricing.
Pangaea Land of the Dinosaurs:
Over 50 life-sized animatronic exhibits, that are so real looking they will make you think you went back in time. Activities include dino rides, face painting, etching, fossil digs and a magnetic wall. Visit
Pangaealandofthedinosaurs.com for information and specials.
Phoenix Public Libraries:
Stay cool this summer at the library! Play games, learn to cook, enjoy story time, make a craft, join the summer reading program and more! Attend the reopening of the Burton Barr library on June 16th and enjoy free family activities. Visit Phoenixpubliclibrary.org for events and information.
Ride the Endangered Species Carousel, visit Monkey Village, Stingray Bay or take a camel ride. Cool off in the 4-D Theater or splash and play in the wet and wild play areas. You can beat the heat in the Enchanted Forest and the Discovery Farm. There are special events like Prowl & Play nights, Winter in July and family night camps. Visit www.phoenixzoo.org for schedules and special events.
Valley Splash Pad Links:
Chandler: www.chandleraz.gov/default.aspx?pageid=683 or call 480-782-2752.
El Mirage: www.cityofelmirage.org/1415/Parks---Gateway-Park or call 623-876-2977.
Gilbert: www.gilbertaz.gov or call 480-503-6200.
Glendale: www.glendaleaz.com or call 623-930-2820.
Mesa: www.mesaparks.com/parks-facilities/splash-pads or call 480-644-7529.
Peoria: www.peoriaaz.gov or call 623-773-7137.
Phoenix: www.phoenix.gov/parks or
Scottsdale: www.scottsdaleaz.gov/parks or call 480-312-2888.
Tempe: www.tempe.gov or call 480-350-4311.
Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium:
Special Aquarium Evening Hours from 5–9 p.m. Check out fish, mammals, birds, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles at the aquarium. Explore the four aquarium buildings: The Diversity of Life in Water, The Wild and Wonderful, Predators and River Monsters. Visit Wildlifeworld.com for more information.