Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course
Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course

6 Summer Thrills to Keep You Cool

Pump up your summer vacation's cool factor with 6 family-friendly activities built to beat the summer heat.

Arizona's famously dry heat may be ideal for lazily lounging by a pool, but the state also offers plenty of thrilling summertime adventures sure to keep your family cool.

This summer, why not...

1. Swing from the trees

Childhood memories of tree climbing are brought back to life in a big way at the new Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. Just minutes outside of Flagstaff, in historic Fort Tuthill County Park, families can ascend into the treetops and swing from ropes, brave wobbly bridges and zoom through the cool pines on more than 30 zip lines. A separate kids course gives younger adventurers an exciting obstacle challenge on a smaller scale. (Don't worry, safety equipment and training are provided.)

2. Float through the fresh mountain air

Families take in the view on SnowbowlTake in the view aboard Arizona Snowbowl's Scenic Chairlift / Credit: AOT

Despite the seasonal absence of snow, Arizona Snowbowl's Scenic Chairlift in Flagstaff continues to draw summertime visitors for its cool mountain air and breathtaking scenic sky rides to the top of the San Francisco Peaks. Skip the skis and take in a bird's eye view of the Grand Canyon from Snowbowl's chairlift—right to the top of an extinct volcano at 11,500 feet!

Sunrise Park Resort, nestled in the heart of the White Mountains at 9,200 feet, also offers relaxing scenic sky rides through a picturesque ponderosa-pine forest. Families can keep the fun going with zip-line tours, downhill mountain biking, a 3D archery course, water sports, horseback tours and more.

Both sky rides operate seasonally, but check the websites for days/hours of operation.

3. Tour a cool modern marvel

Visitors on the bridge of the Hoover Dam look out at the towersVisitors atop the Hoover Dam pause by the towers / Credit: CrackerClips-AdobeStock

A National Historic Landmark and named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century by the ConExpo-Con/Agg exposition, it's no wonder the Hoover Dam draws more than a million visitors each year. And why shouldn't it?

Visitors have the opportunity to stand atop a modern engineering wonder, then traverse through concrete tunnels within the dam (children must be at least 8 years old to tour the dam, and the tours are not wheelchair accessible).

4. Focus on the cosmos

The Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter TelescopeThe Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope searches the night sky / Credit: Paul W Schulz

Take a guided tour at a cool 10,720 feet on Mount Graham, located in the Coronado National Forest, to see the world's most powerful binocular telescopes at MGIO—Mount Graham International Observatory.

Full-day tours of this world-renowned observatory begin at Eastern Arizona College's Discovery Park Campus in Safford. Here, exhibits encourage visitors to ponder the origins of the universe as well as the complexities of building the tools to explore it. Lunch is even provided.

While Discovery Park Campus is open year-round, the MGIO tours run mid-May through October (weather permitting) and must be booked in advance. Children must be at least 8 years old and well-supervised for the tours.

5. Slip, slide, and splash

Family enjoying Mammoth Falls at Six Flags Hurricane HarborMammoth Falls at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor/ Credit: Paul W Schulz

Metro Phoenix's summer climate provides the ultimate backdrop for water park fun.

Arizona's largest water park, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (formerly Wet 'n' Wild) Phoenix, features more than 30 thrilling rides, including the first-of-its-kind dueling H2O coaster! Splashwater Beach is one of three kid-friendly areas in the park for the younger family members.

On the other side of Greater Phoenix is Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa. During summer, the water park hosts Night Splash, a late-night event that adds a thrilling dimension to its chutes, slides and other water features (safely lighted, of course).

6. Encounter earth's wonders

University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 complexExperience off-planet life at Biosphere 2 in Oracle/ Credit: AOT

Explore a tropical rainforest, savannah grasslands and a million-gallon ocean all in one place. It's possible under the glass domes of the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 in Oracle, north of Tucson.

Tour this world-class research facility to see scientific discovery in action and get a behind-the-scenes look at how this miniature world beneath 7.2 million cubic feet of sealed glass operates. The Biosphere 2 offers various tours from those with a historical twist to others geared toward families and younger visitors.

About the Author

Melissa Wenzel

A native of Phoenix, Melissa Wenzel is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. Her writing can be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Raising Arizona Kids Magazine and Veteran's Magazine.

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