May 3, 2016

Arizona in Summer? Surprise … It’s Not Just for Reptiles and Cactus!!

We have been pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoy being in the Tucson area in summer. Bird activity is at its peak (doves, hummingbirds, song birds, ...), the pool settles in at a very comfortable temperature without needing to be heated, and the evenings and mornings cool off enough to draw us out to the courtyard, patios and Bali-bed for reading, socializing, and enjoying the surrounding wildlife.

We even hang out around the fire pit at night. Not for the warmth, but for the ambiance of the flickering flames, which along with the pool light and landscape lighting, helps attract our beloved nighthawks. They mesmerize us with their acrobatic tricks above the backyard. We’ve seen as many as eight nighthawks at once, but they move so fast, it’s hard to keep count. They silently dodge and weave picking off airborne bugs and somehow never smash into each other, although we’ve seen many of close calls. The nighthawks return to our area late spring and stay through the summer before migrating to Mexico and Central America.

From mid-summer through September monsoon season settles in and is a welcome change to the dry heat of June/July. The storms are a source of entertainment bringing in big black cracking thunder clouds some afternoons and occasional downpours harder than anything we’ve ever seen even in soggy Seattle. They tend to roll in and out again fairly quickly leaving the whole area invigorated and with an amazing desert smell unlike anything else. “Fresh” is the only word to describe it.

When we first developed Casa Campana into a vacation rental property, we assumed it would sit dormant for two months every summer. To our surprise, that has not been the case. We still seem to have a steady stream of couples and families who, like us, aren’t deterred from vacationing in Arizona in the summer.

Besides enjoying the setting and wildlife of Casa Campana itself, there are many great activities around the Tucson area to enjoy, even in summer. You just have to be mindful of timing avoiding the hottest part of the day, packing a cooler with snacks and beverages, and choosing the right activities for the season.

For instance, we wouldn’t recommend a mid-afternoon visit to Tombstone, or a trip to the arts community of Tubac. Besides the heat, a number of the shops, galleries, and tours in those tourist locations close up for the summer.

Here are 5 summer-‘friendly’ activities that we enjoy once we can tear ourselves away from our own private little resort …

1. We love the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum any time of year. The animal exhibits, gardens, galleries, and even gift shops are among the best in Arizona. In the heat of the summer, many animals stay out of sight during the day, but become very active in the evening.

From June to September every year, the museum runs its “Cool Summer Nights” program staying open late on Saturday evenings and focusing on the nocturnal habits of the resident animals. Their Ocotillo Café, which we thoroughly enjoy, also stays open for late dinner. Being cooler in the evening, this is a great way to see the museum and all the animal exhibits without roasting during the day.

2. For a daytime adventure any day of the week, Kartchner Caverns offers amazing cave tours. It is a little bit of a drive, probably a little over an hour from the house, but well worth it. Buy tour tickets on-line ahead of time to ensure your place in the cavern.
The area has been developed as an Arizona State Park and is very well run and maintained.

While the two main cave “rooms” are quite impressive, one side benefit to the 90-minute tour is the year-round 72-degree temperature inside the caves! Ahhhh! Although the park staff asks you to arrive an hour early, we think it is just so you have time to shop in their gift shop! Bring a book because it only takes a few minutes to walk through the gift shop and watch their intro video in the information center. We go about once a year and always enjoy it.

Hoodoo - Mt Lemmon

3. Mt. Lemmon is a great destination when it is hot in Tucson. At an elevation just over 9,000 feet, the daytime temperatures can easily be 30 degrees cooler than Tucson. The scenery along The Catalina Highway on the way up is pretty incredible, as is the view from the top of the ski area looking westward over the entire Tucson basin.

You can drive all the way up or stop at the ski area and take the chairlift up to the top for a picnic. The lift remains open all summer even though there’s no snow. There are also a few restaurants in Summerhaven, about 3 miles before the top.

Stop at some of the scenic pull-outs on the way to enjoy a close up look at the incredible hoodoos and other rock formations. (“hoo-doo”: a column or pinnacle of weathered rock)

One warning, if anyone in your party is prone to motion sickness, start the Dramamine early. The road is curvy!

4. After stopping at The Good Egg in Oro Valley for an early breakfast, we like to catch the first tram of the day (9:00 AM) heading up Sabino Canyon .

The tram is a great way to get up into the foothills of Santa Catalina Mountains. Whether you ride the tram round trip for the 4 mile route as a sightseeing adventure, use the tram as a head start to get up to some of the hiking trails heads, or ride one-way and walk back down for exercise (it’s paved), going early will enable you to beat the heat, enjoy the wonderful natural setting, views and wildlife, and still get back to enjoy the afternoon poolside at Casa Campana.

5. If you've been out enjoying one of the many wonderful local activities, consider catching up with the Tucson Food Truck Roundup before heading back to 'the casa'. It is a moving foodie’s feast perfect for groups with differing likes and palates. Check their Facebook feed to see upcoming events and locations.

One of the big local “delicacies” is the Sonoran Dog. It originated in Hermosillo, the capital of the Mexican state of Sonora. It is a hot dog that is wrapped in bacon and grilled, then topped with pinto beans, onions, and tomatoes. It is usually smothered in some sauce along with helping of jalapenos. While it’s not something we’ve come to love ourselves, it holds quite a local cult following. Eat like a local and give it a try!

These are just a few of the summertime activities that we enjoy. For many more options, we recommend visiting the website.

By coming to Southern Arizona in the summer you can have a great time mixing in fun activities, very active birds and wildlife, and some intense relaxation. You’ll also miss the winter peak season travel prices and likely still find some open dates on our summer calendar.

We look forward to hosting you at Casa Campana. Enjoy!!