PHOENIX – Winter turns the Valley of the Sun into a destination, luring visitors from colder climates around the world to the warmth of the desert.
Once the searing heat of summer hits, the tourists tend to stay away and even the locals look to escape, heading off to the mountains of Flagstaff or beaches of Southern California.
But here's a little secret for you value-conscious travelers out there: Summer is the best time to get deals in the desert.
Rooms up to 70 percent off, deals on spa and golf packages, resort and dining credits — all at the same luxury resorts with same stellar service others pay hundreds of dollars more for during the high season.
If you can stand the heat, or at least find a way to avoid it, the bargain-basement price for high-end leisure is more than worth it.
"The services don't change, it's the same resort, the same great location whether it's March or July," said Shane Allor, director of sales and marketing at JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix. "From a value standpoint, you're experiencing the same staff, the same very high service levels in the summer that you would get during the peak season when folks are paying $500-600 a night for those same packages."
Just 20 years ago, many Phoenix-area resorts shut down for the summer because of the heat.
That changed when resort operators realized they could get people to still come out by lowering the prices — a lot.
From around the start of June into September, rates at resorts drop precipitously, starting around $109 up to about $199 at the higher-end places.
And included in those rates are a variety of amenities: a round of golf, an hour massage, $100 credit toward dining or shopping, and activities for kids and adults.
Many of the guests who go to the Valley's resorts during the summer are locals looking for a short getaway, but more out-of-towners have headed to the desert in recent years to take advantage of the hi-end pampering at low-end prices.
It's also a great time for meeting planners to take advantage of low rates, booking meetings at luxury resorts they might not have been able to afford during the winter season.
"So much of it is these wonderfully affordable rates," said Ann Lane, senior director of advertising and public relations at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch. "Sometimes people will be here on meetings and they go home and rave about it, and say 'hey, let's try it.' And they can do it with rates that are within reach."
Potential visitors unfamiliar with Arizona may be concerned about the recent spate of fires.
Those aren't an issue in the Valley; the Yarnell fire that killed 19 firefighters is 85 miles (about 237 kilometers) northwest of Phoenix and most of the resorts here are far away from the mountains where lightning-strike blazes usually spark.
The heat is another story.
The running joke about the desert is that it's a dry heat, but when the mercury soars over 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius), it doesn't matter how dry the air is — it's uncomfortable.
The key to summer trips in the Valley is finding ways to cool off and avoid the hottest part of the day.
Most of the resorts in the area have spectacular pools — the Hyatt at Gainey Ranch has 10 pools and a 30-foot (9-meter) water slide — so cooling off is usually not a problem.
Anyone wanting to play golf or any outside activity that doesn't involve the water should do it early, before things heat up. Dining or 5 p.m. happy hours, those are better indoors than outside on the patio.
And drinking plenty of water is always vital in the desert.
"People usually know that the rates are discounted for a reason and we make sure we keep folks hydrated and don't have any ill guests, make sure they have the best time when they're here," Allor said.
As long as they can handle the heat, it's hard not to have a good time, especially at these prices.
Here's a few of the deals available at Phoenix-area resorts this summer:
— Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale has summer rates of $139 that include a $30 daily credit for the resort's FlowRider wave machine. Available Memorial Day through Labor Day. http://www.kierlandresort.com.
— The Hotel Palomar, located in downtown Phoenix's CityScape shopping and entertainment hub, is offering "Laugh Like a Local," with two tickets to Stand Up Live from $129. There's also the "Downtown Discovery Family Package" where guests get two children's tickets to the Children's Museum of Phoenix or Arizona Science Center, along with two welcome packs for kids, starting from $124. Available through Sept. 3, http://www.hotelpalomar-phoenix.com.
— The Marriott Courtyard Phoenix has a "Baseball Fan Package" for Arizona Diamondbacks fans. It includes room, breakfast for two adults and children under 12, a baseball souvenir and complementary hotel parking. Baseball tickets are not included. Valid through Sept. 30, http://www.marriott.com.
— The JW Marriott Desert Ridge in north Phoenix offers the "Family Fling & Swing," which included unlimited free golf, free meals for kids 12 and under with paying adult, no resort fee, daily $50 resort credit, complimentary appetizer or dessert with an entree, free parking, in-room Wi-Fi and free access to the Family Escape Center. Starting at $149 and good through Sept. 5, http://www.jwdesertridgeresort.com.
— The Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley offers a summer package started at $169 a night that includes a $25 food and beverage credit, a free room upgrade, daily cabana rental, afternoon snack and two welcome drinks. Through Sept. 2, http://www.hermosainn.com.
— The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa in Phoenix has a "Guilt-Free Getaway" with a half-day of edu-tainment at the Sheraton Adventure Club for kids starting at $99. Through Sept. 8, http://www.wildhorsepassresort.com.
— The Carefree Resort and Conference Center is commemorating its 50th anniversary by offering "Fifty days for $50," which offers a room rate of $50 a night through Sept. 6, http://www.carefree-resort.com.