By Cara LaBrie
Summer is upon us, which means a few things: longer days, hotter temperatures, and—if we have anything to say about it—a fantastic vacation. This year, skip the beach crowd and check out a destination that’s the hottest around. Literally.
When it comes to fun in the sun, the Southwest offers getaways that are hip, luxurious, and often remarkably affordable during the summer months. Whether you’re an arts enthusiast or a foodie in search of taste bud inspiration, the Southwest has plenty of ways to show that when it comes to fun in the sun, it’s really no sweat.
Where to Spend the Longest Day of the Year
Recommended Fodor’s Video
This northern Arizona haven is famous for its majestic red rocks, cooler temperatures (there are non-desert destinations in Arizona), and earthy vibe. Travelers flock to Sedona to get in tune with themselves and nature. And there’s no better time to see the city than during the Summer Solstice this June. Celebrate the longest day of the year during “A Celebration of Peace” at Mii amo, Sedona’s finest destination spa. This weeklong event from June 14-20 invites travelers to participate in Native American-inspired traditions conducted in honor of the solstice. Festivities range from hiking on Sedona’s heralded trails to meditating, stargazing, yoga sessions, and sessions on astronomy.
Where to Stay: Home to Mii amo, Enchantment Resort offers one of the most luxurious escapes in the red rocks of Sedona—which is saying something in a town that’s equal parts luxury and Zen-like spiritual awakening. Pueblo-style rooms are decorated with Southwestern furnishings and appointed with the most luxurious linens and toiletries. Dine in style, play tennis, swim, golf, or hike—or do nothing at all. This summer, the resort is offering rates at $325 a night, with a fourth night free on reservations booked and traveled through Aug. 30.
Where to Eat: Everyone has an opinion on where you can enjoy Sedona’s most breathtaking views, but the folks at Shugrue’s Hillside have one advantage—their fantastic food. A feast for the senses, any meal at Shugrue’s gets a boost for its perch atop the red rocks. But people keep coming back for their inspired American cuisine, ranging from roasted half duck in drunken cherry sauce to salmon baked in a puff pastry with roasted pepper hollandaise. Don’t miss dessert.
Beat the Heat: Sedona’s temperatures don’t climb too far past the low 90s in June—downright chilly for Arizona standards. But if those temps get your own thermometer rising, never fear. Take a dip in nearby Oak Creek Canyon, famous for its swimming holes and beautiful scenery.
Best Place to Have a Short Attention Span
You spend your workweek in total focus. It’s almost mind numbing, right? Toss those TPS reports aside and leave multitasking in their wake. Head to Palm Springs, and approach life in more manageable bites at the 18th annual Palm Springs Short Film Festival, from June 19 to 25. The city will be awash in celebrities during the festival, which will showcase more than 300 short films from 40 countries. It’s the largest short film festival in the nation. Events include screenings, seminars, nightly receptions and more. “Reel deel” ticket packages to attend six screenings cost $51.
Where to Stay: A favorite of the Hollywood crowd, The Parker Palm Springs (summer rates from $225/night) isn’t shy about its priorities. Think fantastic design, ’40s glamour, and poolside lounging. Rooms feature private patios or balconies, and are decorated in chic furnishings that make you wish you had Jonathan Adler as your own personal designer. Don your best sunglasses, find a poolside chaise, and practice the phrase, “No autographs, please.” Summer rates start at $225.
Where to Eat: Nothing says quick eats quite like a good burger, but one bite into a creation at Tyler’s Burgers and you’ll be wishing you could make the moment last a bit longer. Burgers start at a mere $6.75, so you won’t need a celebrity’s budget to enjoy the best bite in town. Wash it down with some fresh lemonade or, what the heck, a pitcher of beer. You’re on vacation.
Beat the Heat: A nearby pool and a well-placed cocktail can soothe any stress from the heat, but if you really want to cool off, take the Palm Springs Tramway. Abandon that sweltering desert floor and hop the world’s largest rotating tramcars that take you to 8,000-plus foot elevation and temperatures up to 30 degrees cooler. Hike. Enjoy the scenery. Plan a picnic. Just don’t say you’re cold.
Where to Oggle Some Art
Art lovers are passionate about Santa Fe, and those in the arts community flock to New Mexico each year for ART Santa Fe, a weekend festival of the arts. In its 12th year, ART Santa Fe is a time for dealers, artists, and art enthusiasts to interact with one another. The festival has a worldwide following, so be prepared to see art lovers of all shapes, sizes, and accents. The city is home to more than 200 art galleries, so get your best walking shoes and perfect your “this piece inspires me” pose.
Where to Stay: Tranquil, historic and perfect for an arts enthusiast, Don Gaspar B&B (summer rates from $219/night) is home to three historic houses. Rooms are decorated with one-of-a-kind art and handcrafted works from local artists. Stroll through the famous on-site gardens, read a book in a courtyard, and relax.
Where to Eat: The lines are there for a reason. Everyone wants to eat at Cafe Pasqual’s, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Breakfast and lunch feature more traditional Southwest fare, but things get kicked up a notch at dinner, when you can enjoy dishes like pomegranate-glazed molasses double lamb chop. Don’t miss the on-site gallery. It’s Santa Fe; there has to be a gallery.
Beat the Heat: Oh, that tricky topography of the Southwest can make it confusing. While it’s common to assume New Mexico is always hot in the summer, not so here. Santa Fe’s summer temperatures typically don’t get out of the 80s. With those kinds of temps, you might actually want to stake out a few-dozen of those 200-plus galleries in town.
Best Place to be a Foodie
Phoenix and Scottsdale
Our nation’s fifth-largest city is so much more than chips and salsa (though we highly recommend those). Bring your appetite to the Valley of the Sun this September, during the annual Arizona Restaurant Week. Held from September 15-23, this 8-day event features price fixe menus from the area’s finest restaurants. Whether you’re seeking French cuisine or something authentically Sonoran, the Valley will tempt and delight your taste buds.
Where to Stay: This boutique resort started out as a haven for tennis players, but now Sanctuary Camelback Mountain (rates from $160/night) is more known for its luxurious dining and world-class spa. It’s a sanctuary for a reason—the rooms are uber modern and ultra secluded, and the service is impeccable. The on-site restaurant, elements, is home to executive chef Beau MacMillan. You might know him for beating Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America,” locals know him for whipping up creative American cuisine with Asian accents. Get 20% off if you book 14 days in advance on their website.
Where to Eat: There’s no need to do dinner and a show when you plan to dine at Kai. Your dinner is the show, presented in perfect choreography by a wait staff so attentive you’ll want to whisper, “Really, I’m not that important. It’s OK.” You’ll dine on fare ranging from Hudson Valley foie gras to a suckling pig torta with epazote mole or red deer venison loin with sage-infused gnocchi. For the full experience, order the “Journey” tasting menu and give your taste buds the ride of their life.
Beat the Heat: The Valley of the Sun got its name for a reason, but that doesn’t mean you need to be held captive. A spa day is the perfect antidote to the sun’s rays, and Sanctuary Camelback Mountain’s on-site spa will delete any worries you have about heat. Day packages start at $300. Don’t-miss treatments include water massages, salt scrubs, and revitalizing facials.