Coronado, California; Photo: Corporate HelicoptersIt’s that time of year again. The temperatures are rising. The tourists are thinning out. Summer is making its approach and for those of us in the Valley who aren’t snowbirds, there’s no alternative except to tough it out. Or is there?

Thanks to Sky Harbor International Airport, there’s a plethora of vacation spots just a short flight away that offer considerably cooler temperatures and a wealth of activities sure to entertain even the pickiest of travelers. Many are even just a brief car ride away, with most being 12 hours away or less by car. That may sound like a long time in the car now, but try hiking Camelback Mountain in 110 degrees and then ask yourself if 12 hours would be worth it for a cool breeze.

Good deals are hit-and-miss, whether you’re booking everything yourself individually, buying vacation packages, or using a travel planner. Do your research before finalizing your plans to get the most optimal vacation.

We took a look at the states bordering Arizona and selected our favorite stops. So pull out your frequent flier miles and pack your bags. It’s time for a road trip!


2H6 Dolphin, SeaWorld, California; Photo: SeaWorld San DiegoIf it’s the beach you’re craving, head west. California has roughly 1,100 miles of coastline stretching from Oregon to Mexico. The terrain varies from rocky slopes in the north to pristine, sandy beaches in the south. California also caters to the shopaholic, with shops varying from those carrying merchandise priced moderately to high-end boutiques. Animal enthusiasts, adrenaline junkies and roller coaster fans can get their thrills at hot spots such as the San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld San Diego and Disneyland.

Casino Point Underwater Park, Catalina Island

Shipwrecks and varying reefs and marine life await your exploration under the sea. Be sure to get your diving permit before diving in.

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Coronado Island

No visit to the San Diego region is complete without an afternoon at the famous Coronado Island. Frolic on the beach or enjoy a picnic on this picturesque island.

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Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim

Disney’s West Coast headquarters is always building something new and 2011 is no exception. Be sure to check out Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, a new, dark ride attraction at Disney’s California Adventure.

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Gaslamp Quarter National Historic District, San Diego

This historic district contains more than 16 blocks filled with shops, restaurants, nightclubs and entertainment venues.

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Imperial Sand Dunes, El Centro

If you find yourself missing the desert, then visit the largest area of dunes in the state, with 40 miles of dunes. View what remains of a wooden road that was built across the dunes in 1916.

LEGOLAND California, Carlsbad

More than 50 rides and attractions can be found at this amusement park. Be sure to visit the new Octopus Garden next door at SEA LIFE Aquarium.

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Pacific Park on the Pier, Santa Monica

For a more laid-back afternoon, visit this free amusement park that offers a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, miniature golf, midway games and restaurants.

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Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills

Stroll down Rodeo Drive and venture into the boutiques of some of the world’s most popular designers.

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San Diego Zoo, San Diego

It’s said that you’ve never really been to the zoo until you’ve been to the San Diego Zoo. Home to hundreds of animals, several new additions have been born in the past year, including a royal antelope in January that weighed just 10 ounces at birth.

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San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine

Bird enthusiasts will enjoy exploring this sanctuary’s trails, where they’ll encounter more than 200 species of birds.

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SeaWorld, San Diego

Get up close and personal with marine life from around the world. Advisory: If you visit any of the live shows, a rain poncho might be a good accessory to bring with you.

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The Wedge, Newport Beach

The waves at this popular beach destination offer bodysurfers a thrilling adrenaline rush.

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Stay tuned for the rest of this Summer Getaways series.
Next stop? Colorado!