The uncharacteristically cloudy skies and dip in temperatures earlier this week is likely the last we’ll see of cool weather for a while. Before it gets too hot out, there are lots of outdoor activities to take advantage of before the desert sun forces us all indoors and under refrigeration for a couple of months.
Here, some of our top picks for the last of the Valley’s mild spring heydays.
See a drive-in movie
What: Cruise over to this old-fashioned outdoor theater to watch a movie from the comfort of your car or truck bed. They play double features for kids (think “How to Train Your Dragon” paired with “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”) and adults (“Kick-Ass” followed by “Hot Tub Time Machine,” or “Clash of the Titans” with “The Losers”), and there’s a snack bar in case you’re too rushed to pack your own.
When: First movie starts at 8 p.m. nightly
Where: West Wind Scottsdale 6 Drive-In, 8101 E. McKellips Road
Cost: $6.50 adults, $1 kids ages 5-11, free for younger children; on Family Fun Night Tuesdays, adult ticket prices drop to $4.50.
Information: (480) 949-9451 www.westwinddriveins.com
Picnic to a backdrop of live music
What: Bring a blanket or folding chair and a basket of snacks for Gilbert’s remaining Spring Concerts in the Park. The two-hour lakeside concerts will feature jazz-blues-rock band Digital Blues and Rhythm FX, a dance band that plays rock, Top 40, disco, funk and standards. You can also purchase food and drink on site.
When: Digital Blues plays 7 p.m. May 13; Rhythm FX plays 7 p.m. June 10.
Where: the amphitheatre at Freestone Park, 1045 E. Juniper Road, Gilbert
Information: (480) 503-6200 or www.gilbertaz.gov/parks/concert.cfm
Hike without becoming buzzard bait
What: Usery Mountain Regional Park, a 3,648-acre swath at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains, offers hiking and programs on everything from photography to yoga all year long. But if you want to get out one last time before summertime temperatures relegate you to pre-dawn strolls, try their guided sunset and moonrise hike, a 2.5-mile stroll that allows you to watch the firey sun go down over an expansive view of the Valley, then see the glistening moon come up over the craggy silhouettes of mountains.
When: The sunset/moonrise hike is 7 p.m. Tuesday; the park is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Where: Usery Mountain Regional Park, 3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa
Cost: $6 per vehicle park entry fee
Information: (480) 984-0032 or www.maricopa.gov/parks/usery
Browse art without breaking a sweat
What: Painters, photographers, glassmakers, potters, jewelers, sculptors and other artists show off their creations in the streets at the Downtown Chandler Artwalk. Plus, musicians play live and restaurants and shops offer artwalk-only specials.
When: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. the third Friday of every month
Where: along San Marcos Place and Boston Street in downtown Chandler
Information: (480) 855-3539 or www.downtownchandlerartwalk.com
Walk through a cloud of butterflies
What: You’ve only got two weeks left to cover yourself in hundreds of delicate live butterflies at Desert Botanical Garden’s Spring Butterfly Exhibit. Seriously. You enter a lush enclosed garden, and the colorful, scaly-winged beauties flutter around your hair and face, perch on nearby plants and sip water from shallow puddles underfoot. It’s like an Alice in Wonderland fantasy.
When: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Where: Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix
Cost: $3.50 per person with paid regular garden admission of $5-$15 per person
Information: (480) 481-8188 or www.dbg.org