This 4th of July I took a trip to Arizona to spend some time with family and enjoy my favorite season there, summer. Most would assume that I should have my head examined for such a statement, but what most people don't know is not all of Arizona is overwhelmingly hot, dry and miserable in the summer, some of it is actually quite nice. Arizona has a spectacular monsoon season that begins in mid-July but as luck would have it, the monsoon season began a bit earlier than usual. The monsoons bring cooler-than-average temperatures, delightful warm rain that brings a nostalgia-inducing smell from the earth and some dazzling thunderstorms.
On my drive out to the Grand Canyon state – which I did at night this time to avoid being scorched by the sun for 8 hours as I drove through the desert – I was greeted by a fantastic lightning storm that lasted for miles and miles. A bolt of lightning every second, I scarcely needed my headlights as I motored through the desert, windshield wipers on, mouth agape in wonder. It was a surreal experience I hope to have again next year.
I was born in Arizona and also lived there until I was 7 years old, so I've still got a special place in my heart for the Southwest and what it represents. Although I've grown up in California I still have a part of me that just wants to light up the BBQ, crack open a cold one and sit outside with the family, a good dog and just soak it all in. I suppose one can have those feelings anywhere, but there's not a place I know of where one's yearning for the simple life can be so adequately satisfied than Arizona.
The 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays. Between the weather, the spirit of celebrating freedom with others who love this country as much (or perhaps even more) than I do; and the excuse to eat a steak, a hot dog and a burger and not be judged as some sort of meat-glutton-freak; I don't know which I enjoy more. Arizona, for me, is an embodiment of the things America is supposed to be about (politics left aside), so naturally, on the most American of holidays, I don't think there's a better place to be. My family lives in Arizona, so I also have a strong family connection to Arizona. I grew up spending my summers in Southern Arizona doing the things kids should do: Throw rocks into the gorge, spray each other with the hose as we jump on the trampoline, build a raft, and just run wild. Those days still sort of exist for me and it all comes together to make this place the beautiful place that it is.
I highly recommend for anyone to visit Arizona in the summertime. It's incredible. Eat some grilled corn in the rain and drink a cold beer and watch the lighting.
For the adventurous traveler: Find a BRBO or an Air BnB Rental in northeast Tucson, light up the BBQ and stock the fridge. You can take jeep tours, visit Biosphere 2 (highly recommend!), and hike in Sabino Canyon for picturesque hiking and nature-walks. This is the Arizona you see on postcards. Then stop by El Guero Canelo for a Sonoran-style hot dog.
For the luxurious traveler: Stay at Hacienda Del Sol in Tucson, right next to the Westin (also a good choice). The northeast side of Tucson is easily the most beautiful and it backs up to a gorgeous view of the Catalina mountain range. Also, there's the nearby La Encantada, home to the only designer-shopping in Tucson and some fantastic restaurants. I recommend North (get the chef's board), they've got an excellent happy hour and amazing northern italian food.