Summer in the Sonoran Desert means hot, sunny days and warm nights. To combat the triple-digit temperatures, Phoenicians find relief in the region’s most valuable resource: water.
Arizona without swimming pools is like New York City without hot-dog carts. And with more than 50 public pools and thousands of backyard swimming holes scattered throughout the Phoenix  metropolitan area, finding one of these shimmering oases isn’t too hard.
Most hotels and resorts have at least one pool, though the most elegant has to be the main pool at The Phoenician (6000 E. Camelback Rd., 480/941-8200, www.thephoenician.com ), which is lined with mother-of-pearl tiles. Sorry, it’s only open to guests, though you can take a peek if you have dinner or a cocktail at the hotel.
Where would Phoenix patios be without the mister? You’ll see them producing a fine mist of water at homes, restaurants, and bars throughout the city. This simple machine produces water droplets as fine as the diameter of a human hair, and when they make contact with the dry desert air, the droplets “flash evaporate,” resulting in a dip in temperature by as much as 25 degrees — and all with just a slight increase in noticeable humidity.
Thanks to a series of dams around the Valley, there are seven large lakes within an easy drive of Phoenix . The most convenient body of water, though, has to be Tempe Town Lake . Created by inflatable rubber dams along the Salt River, the manmade lake is a popular gathering spot for festivals, joggers, and rowing clubs. You can rent a paddleboat at the park or let the little ones enjoy the Splash Playground water park (10 a.m.–7 p.m. daily, Apr.–Sept., free).
In summer, nothing beats the heat like gliding down a slide into a clear pool of water. There are a half-dozen water parks throughout the Valley, including a few at the larger resorts, but only Wet ’n’ Wild (4243 W. Pinnacle Peak Rd., 623/201-2000, http://phoenix.mywetnwild.com , $35 adults 12–64, $27 seniors and children 3–11) can claim the title of “Arizona’s largest.” The Glendale retreat opened in summer 2009 with $30 million worth of slides, rides, and splish-splashin’ good times.
Many Phoenicians regularly make the 20-minute commute northeast of the Valley to the mountain-fed Salt River. Tubers can float by majestic sandstone cliffs, spiraling hawks, wading blue herons, and towering saguaro cactus — as well as beer-soaked partiers on the river and jacked-up trucks blasting classic rock on the shore. It’s an inimitable experience, and tour company Salt River Recreation (480/984-3305, www.saltrivertubing.com ) will rent you a tube and give you a ride in an old school bus to and from the river for $15 a person.
Head out to the aptly named suburb of Fountain Hills to see the Valley’s answer to Old Faithful, The Fountain, a 560-foot-tall jet of water. One of the world’s tallest fountains, the slender column rises only 330 feet most days in the center of Fountain Park (12925 N. Saguaro Blvd., 480/816-5151) for 15 minutes at the top of every hour (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.). On special occasions, the town turns on all three pumps to send it soaring to its maximum height of 56 stories.
To see it, visit the park, which has a great playground for children. Take Shea Boulevard 15 minutes east from central Scottsdale  and turn north on Saguaro Boulevard.