It's a Dry Heat! 5 Desert Destinations Where the Deals Are Sizzling

David Landsel, August 25, 2015
Fares from Washington DC:

    Summer fun budget running low? Can't handle the humidity? Done with beach traffic? No need to huddle by the air conditioner – head for the desert, where great deals, abundant monsoon rains, and relatively moderate temperatures are making a handful of seasonally unpopular destinations all but irresistible. So grab a floppy hat, some sunscreen, your favorite pool noodle and get it in gear – fall weather and higher prices are around the corner.


    Average daily high in August:
    103 degrees

    Why: With things at a fever pitch anywhere near SoCal's much-adored coastline right now, a few nights in the desert can be just what the vacation doctor ordered. Long breakfasts, lots of pool time, blissful afternoon naps, and quiet evenings with civilized cocktails will have you feeling like a million bucks without spending anywhere close to that. You may never venture out from your resort, but if you do, there's the smart Uptown Design District to browse, restorative waters in nearby Desert Hot Springs to sample, and the cool pine forests of Mount San Jacinto to explore. (To get there, hop the city's famous aerial tramway, offering unlimited admission through August 31 for just $75 – rides are typically $25 a pop.)

    Stay: Park yourself on one of the most happening strips in town – home to the scene-y Ace and happening Saguaro – without giving up a good night's sleep. Here, the 20-room Sparrows Lodge, an architectural knockout with rustic chic (and glossy mag-ready) guest rooms, is worth a lot more than you'll pay at this time of year (from $139 in August).

    For the lowest available fares to Palm Springs right now, click here.


    Average daily high in August: 103 degrees

    Why: Much of what makes Sin City so much fun happens indoors, in air-conditioned comfort – even on the hottest day of the year, it's easy to lose yourself in the insanity of Las Vegas without breaking a sweat. If you're more the outdoors type, join the line of locals heading up nearby Mount Charleston, where monsoon rains have the pine forests looking even greener than usual and afternoon highs barely crack 80 degrees – you won't believe you're just 45 minutes or so from the Strip. Once the sun disappears and walking around town becomes more manageable, get yourself downtown, where the scene east of Las Vegas Boulevard is as close to authentically cool as Vegas has ever come.

    Stay: This is the time of year when the hotel prices your parents used to take for granted come back in style – for example, $23 at Circus Circus, say. (Although, in the old days, there wasn't a $22 "resort fee" tacked on to that.) Looking for something more stylish? The Mandarin Oriental hotel is just about the best hotel in town – at this time of year, a nightly rate of $199 (or even less) isn't out of the question.

    For the lowest available fares to Las Vegas right now, click here.


    Average daily high in August:
    103 degrees

    Why: The same world-class golf courses, spectacular hiking trails and Instagram-worthy resort pools that draw well-heeled snowbirds are yours for the taking at this time of year. Best of all, it's late August, which in time change-ignoring Arizona already means 7 o'clock sunsets and long, lovely evenings, some temperate enough to allow for outdoor dining (no, seriously, it's a thing, you'll see). During the heat of the afternoon, the city's pleasantly walkable downtown offers plenty of air-conditioning inside its art galleries and shops – or, and we won't tell anyone, you can disappear into Arizona's largest shopping mall, the Scottsdale Fashion Square.

    Stay: Book in at Scottsdale's best resort – the Four Seasons, because obviously – August 27-31 for an end-of-summer party to remember; rates start at $179 and festivities include daily giveaways, late check-out times, a $48 prix-fixe seasonal menu at Talavera, special programming for kids and complimentary upgrades in the spa. Call the hotel directly at (480) 513-5039 to book that weekend – similar rates are available online for the rest of the month, however.

    For the lowest available fares to Phoenix right now, click here.


    Average daily high in August:
    87 degrees

    Why: New Mexico's big city offers cool neighborhoods, historic charm, miles of riverfront trail to explore, piles of Route 66 nostalgia and memorable mountain hikes just a quick tram ride up from the valley floor. So it's not Santa Fe, but why pay those prices when you're within easy day-tripping distance? Best of all, no matter how hot it gets, you're in the high desert here - evenings can be rather pleasant.

    Stay: Located in the of-the-moment EDo (East Downtown) district, the Hotel Parq Central (arguably the best hotel in town) is a stylish rethink of a handsome hospital campus. The rooftop bar, The Apothecary Lounge, winks at the past and offers terrific skyline views (from $158 in August).

    For the lowest available fares to Albuquerque right now, click here.


    Average daily high in August:
    97 degrees

    Why: From early morning strolls among the saguaros to late nights at Club Congress downtown – not to mention some of the best Mexican food north of the border – Tucson is all about taking it easy and soaking up the Southwest vibe. Make sure to crash one of the city's many resort spas during the day – some, such as the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, offer a nicely-discounted summer menu – then rest up for late night stargazing, a Tucson must.

    Stay: If you're just looking to crash, you can find perfectly acceptable rooms from as little as $50 or $60 a night; spend a little more and check into a piece of regional history at the graceful Arizona Inn, a throwback resort hotel located in a classic in-town neighborhood just minutes from downtown (from $125 in August).

    For the lowest available fares to Tucson right now, click here.