Summer has officially arrived in Phoenix, which means we will now take any chance we get to escape the heat. This usually means joining the hordes of traffic headed north on the weekends.
Although these northern towns are small, there are still plenty of things to do in the White Mountains of Arizona.
Within a 2 to 3 hour drive, the scenery changes from cacti to pine trees. You’ll soon find yourself among friendly country folk who, in recent years, have taken pride in livening things up for out-of-town tourists. Not to mention, the temperatures are always at least 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix!
To celebrate Andrew’s birthday in May, we spent a weekend in Show Low, Arizona. That weekend happened to hit triple digits in Phoenix for the first time this year, and we were more than OK exchanging it for a high of 78.
Our main goal was to slow our busy schedules down a notch and take it easy. But we also had a great time exploring Show Low and the surrounding areas while we were up there.
Some of you might remember we hosted our micro wedding in a Show Low cabin back in February. Ironically, spending our three-month anniversary, which so happens to be Andrew’s birthday, in the same town was completely unplanned.
Unlike Phoenix, there is a vast difference between seasons and seasonal activities in the White Mountains.
Snow covered the ground during our ceremony. We had all three cabin fireplaces roaring to combat the 38-degree weather.
While the winds still pick up in the summer, too, temperatures are mild and dry, except for an occasional afternoon monsoon.
Thus, while Show Low, Pinetop, and other White Mountain towns tend to hibernate in winter months, they come alive for campers and weekenders in summer.
What to Know before You Go: A Summer Weekend in Show Low, AZ
Due to the state’s dry climate, Arizona’s high desert and mountains become a tinderbox in the summer. To prevent wildfires, White Mountain counties place strict fire bans.
Open flame campfires are often prohibited and promise a hefty fine if violated. While this can put a damper on your trip up north, it really is in everyone’s best interest to abide by these rules.
But even though summers are generally warmer, you are more likely to experience a short storm in the afternoons. Bring a light rain jacket and close-toed shoes just in case!
Also, since the highways can be crowded over the weekend, we recommend coming up on a Thursday and leaving Saturday. If you have to come up on Friday, try to leave Phoenix early, and come back down the mountain as late as possible on Sunday to avoid backups outside of Payson.
Where to Eat
We arrived in Show Low around 1 PM and were thankful to discover Persnikkity’s is open from 7 AM to 3 PM every day. However, breakfast is only served until 11 AM while lunch is served all day.
I had been looking forward to trying this place for a while. I try not to get my hopes up and to let my taste buds simply be surprised, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have expectations.
Since we were too late to order breakfast, I went for the lettuce-wrapped, Twisted PBB & J burger. Basically, I saw strawberry shishito jam and said “fine, twist my arm.” Andrew ordered a double-patty Big Hawaiian and could not stop raving about the Korean BBQ sauce. For our sides, I paid the extra $1 for waffle-cut sweet potato fries (hint: they were worth it) while his basket came piled high with shoestring parmesan fries.
Not on the menu: Persnikkity’s makes their own lemonades. They can doctor up any regular lemonade with their collection of simple syrups, as well. I got mine with a squirt of lavender while Andrew tried the daily special – watermelon cucumber mint lemonade. Both were incredible and not overly sweet!
Persnikkity’s Sweet Confections
Located a half mile away from the café, Sweet Confections is where all the sugary magic is made.
Admittedly, I lean more toward savory foods than sweet. You’d have a difficult time tempting me with cake. However, it is hard for me to deny a good cookie!
They had several gluten free options available and take custom orders as well.
Andrew loved the Oreo flavored cupcake, topped with a giant Oreo cookie dipped in chocolate and decorated with colorful sprinkles.
The best part? Their prices are incredibly reasonable!
There’s a good chance you could see the entire population of Show Low in one night at this restaurant, and for good reason.
A spacious, bistro-lit outdoor dining features firepits, yard games and a stage for live music on the weekends.
While their menu boasts mainly of hearty burgers, they have a revolving daily menu as well.
From the latter, I ordered street tacos, one of each meat, and watched them grill it all up for me at the outdoor grill area.
Our friend ordered the White Mountain Donut Burger and barely spoke to us because he was enjoying it so much. He also took half of it home for late night leftovers, if that tells you anything.
You will want to save room for dessert, though, if for no other reason than to step inside the adorable Red Barn creamery located on The House property.
Here, you can sample homemade ice creams, build your own ice cream sandwich, or whip it up in a thick milkshake.
Their menu offered several dairy-free sorbets as well as about eight other regular ice cream flavors.
Although it is another 20 minute drive east into Pinetop, I’d argue this coffee shop is worth the extra gas.
While I could never go wrong with a pumpkin pie latte again, I decided on their lavender matcha latte with oat milk (it has a fancier name, it just eludes me at the moment). No matter what you order, I’m confident you will not be disappointed!
Not only is their menu superb, but their eclectic shop of cycling-inspired wares, the modern indoor lounge, and shady outdoor patio with free cornhole make this local café a must for anyone traveling through.
Where to Stay
You won’t find any 5-star hotels in Show Low or Pine Top (or 4 or 3-star, for that matter), but there are many charming and affordable AirBnBs in the area. Ranging from $80 to $200 per night, most vacation rentals are entirely yours for the stay and many are pet friendly, too, like this Cozy Pines Cabin Paradise with room for 7 guests and their pets.
More guests means more ways to split the cost of the stay.
However, if you’re looking for a romantic getaway or solo retreat, check out a place like the Bali Mountain Retreat or the Wild Saddle Cabin. Both are located deep in the pines where you are likely to be visited by elk, deer, and other wildlife.
For a unique place to stay in the White Mountains, consider the Cabin Caboose in Pinetop. While it isn’t a real trolley car, it is a tiny home adorably designed like one. Sounds cool to me!
Last minute bookings can be sparse, though, so if the pickings are slim there are solid hotel options like Days Inn, Holiday Inn, and Best Western.
Of course, if you would rather be as close to nature as possible, camping is always an option. The nearby Fool Hollow Lake has reservable campsites.
What to Do
If all you want to do is chillax on your weekend in Show Low, more power to you! We definitely did our fair share of that, as well. But if you are looking for some activities, these might pique your interest.
- Show Low Main Street Farmer’s Market and Art Walk happens every Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM, late May through September. Featuring handmade products, local produce, live entertainment, and more, this leisurely walk in downtown Show Low to sure to appeal to everyone’s senses.
- Kayaking at Fool Hollow Lake is our number one activity choice! Since we still don’t have our own kayaks, we rented a tandem kayak down at the docks for $25 an hour. They also had single kayaks for $20/hr, and other watercrafts for rent. That might sound pricey, but once you get out there and start working your arms, you might decide a couple hours is all you need. Especially if you go out on a windy day like we did! Keep in mind, rentals are first-come first-serve.
- Hiking the 7.6 mile loop Timber Mesa Trail is a good way to spend a summer day in Show Low. Or, for less challenge, there’s an easy 3.2 mile Fool Hollow Lake Trail, too.
- Golfing at Show Low’s public golf courses, the most popular being either Silver Creek Golf Club or Bison Golf Club.
- The Show Low Museum is free to visit. We haven’t checked it out yet, but it is highly rated and, hey, free is free!
- Gun classes and target practice at The Hub shooting range could be a good indoor experience as well. Depending on the gun type and size, adults pay $15 to $25 for an hour. A professional instructor is present to assist and ensure safety measures.
Upcoming Events in Show Low
If you are planning a getaway over Independence Day weekend, consider heading to Show Low for the 4thof July Parade and Freedom Fest.
The parade is free and starts at 9 AM. For tasty foods, live bands, fair rides, head to the Freedom Fest at 3 PM.
As darkness settles, find a great space to watch fireworks, which launch at 9 PM.