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Is Phoenix a good place to live? It’s certainly an ideal place to visit. More than 16 million people travel to metro Phoenix every year. In fact, a good number of those tourists eventually become residents, which helps solidify the area as a city of transplants. Moving to Phoenix was a deliberate choice for many of its 1.6 million inhabitants, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a ton of native Phoenicians that grew up in the area.
So why do people move here? Could it be the low taxes? Or the proximity to big attractions like Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon? Perhaps it’s the lack of a winter and the wide variety of things to do. Phoenix is diverse and is packed with influences from many walks of life, from Native American, Latin American and even Wild West culture.
Regardless of what brings you to the area, we’re here to explore if moving to Phoenix is the right choice for you. In this guide, we’ll give you an overview of some pros and cons, discuss where to live and even help you find a job.
What to Expect Living in Phoenix
Living in Phoenix can take some getting used to if you’re relocating from the East Coast. It is one of the few places that does not recognize daylight savings time and instead goes by Mountain Standard Time all year round. It’s very easy to grow citrus trees here, and the sunsets are some of the most vibrant in the country.
But not everything in Phoenix is a walk in the park. Be sure to watch out for scorpions, rattlesnakes and coyotes. Public transportation is not ideal for the area’s size, and sometimes the hot weather can burn you, literally.
Here are some factors you’ll want to explore before you decide to move to Phoenix:
If you’re hoping to move to Phoenix without a car, think again. There are a Light Rail and bus systems in place, but both are limited in size and cater more to tourists than residents looking to commute to work.
Commute times aren’t terrible and getting around in Phoenix by car is relatively easy because the streets are laid out on a grid system. Poke around a map for a little bit, and you’ll catch on quickly.
If you notice more congestion on the interstate during the winter, you can thank the many snowbirds that call Phoenix home between November and February.
Biking to work is a possibility if you live in the city depending on proximity. The Bicycle Boulevard is a 4.6 mile stretch of bike lane that helps bikers commute safely.
Phoenix is widely known as the Valley of the Sun. It’s located in the Sonoran Desert, the hottest desert in North America. The sun shines, and its intensity can be felt particularly in the summer when temps soar well into the 100s. Even with little humidity, the dry heat can be unbearable and be draining at times.
If the heat is not for you, but you still wish to move close by, consider this. Flagstaff is about two hours north of Phoenix, and it can be up to 20 degrees cooler.
If you’re moving close to Phoenix, be ready to embrace the heat and make sure you’re prepared.
Some hot weather tips to keep in mind include:
- If possible, try to park your car in the shade.
- Don’t immediately touch a steering wheel or leather seats with bare skin without cooling down the interior of your car first.
- Never leave pets or children in your car unattended. This is required all year round, but it is especially dangerous to do in the summer.
- Don’t leave your phone in the sun because it will overheat and shut off.
- Stay hydrated! Some say to drink half your body weight in fluids; others recommend eight glasses of water a day. Whatever the amount, just make sure you’re drinking enough for you.
- Don’t throw out all your winter clothes. When the summer heat finally passes, anything below 70 degrees is going to feel extremely cold.
Two weather patterns to watch out for are seasonal dust storms called haboobs as well as the few large summer storms that are known as monsoons. Neither are as bad as you might expect. Besides a few hot months, Phoenix weather is consistently pleasant the rest of the year.
Cost of Living Comparison
Living in Phoenix is significantly more affordable than places like Los Angeles and Sacramento, although many of the jobs are much lower paying. Overall, the cost of living in Phoenix is 4.5% above the national average, with more expensive housing costs making up the largest difference.
For retirees who live on a fixed income, moving to Phoenix can be ideal due to the reasonable cost of living balanced with a number of amenities available. Property taxes are low compared to other large cities, but unlike retiree destinations in Orlando, you will have to pay Arizona state income tax. Arizona also has a vehicle tax you pay when you register and when you renew your registration on your vehicle.
Even though home prices are on a steady incline after the housing market collapse around 2010, property values still fall well below comparable areas in California and are just slightly above the national average.
Phoenix, AZ Job Market Stats
The Phoenix job market was hard hit in 2007 and has been slow growing. In recent years, however, the job market has started to thrive in large part due to companies moving to the area, particularly in technology. Other industries to note include manufacturing and tourism.
As far as technology goes, Phoenix wants to become the next Silicon Valley. And with high taxes and an even higher cost of living in California, many Cali based companies are more than happy to expand into the Phoenix market.
Government officials and organizations do everything in their power to lure more technology opportunities to Metro Phoenix. In fact, the amount of tech jobs increased 18.6% from 2010 to 2015. Recently, tech companies like Uber, Yelp and Shutterfly have opened offices in the Greater Phoenix area.
Other large-scale businesses include Honeywell International, and Fortune 500 companies: Freeport McMoRan, PetSmart, Avnet, Republic Services and Insight Enterprises.
If you’re moving to Phoenix without a job, brush up that resume and start your job hunt as soon as possible.
Best Places to Live in Phoenix
Source: Google Maps
Phoenix is the largest city in the state of Arizona and the sixth most populous city in the US. The city and its surrounding areas are often referred to as Metro Phoenix or Salt River Valley and have an estimated 4.5 million residents.
The metro is positioned inside of Maricopa and Pinal Counties and is the 12th largest Metro Area in the country. It’s also one of the fastest-growing in the US. In 2016, Maricopa County showed the most significant population growth per county with 222 new people moving in every day.
We picked a handful of city neighborhoods and suburban areas to help you get an idea of what moving to Phoenix might look like for you. As always, figure out your priorities and narrow down your search based on what’s important to you and your family.
Regardless of your feelings on gentrification, there is a ton of it happening in the city of Phoenix. Alongside the modern landscape of Downtown, other areas that were once stricken with abandoned buildings and boarded up shops are now thriving with creative energy, artistic vision, and hopeful business ventures.
Communities Close to Downtown Phoenix
- Roosevelt Row — This highly walkable section of downtown Phoenix is known for its award-winning restaurants, locally-owned boutiques and live music. The Art’s District is one of the oldest in Phoenix, and it has undergone intense revitalization in the last 25 years. The neighborhood declined in the 1970’s through the 1990’s and eventually drew some artists looking for inexpensive studio space inside the blighted properties.
- Grand — Located Northwest of the Downtown Core, this Phoenix neighborhood is one of the most bike-friendly in all of Downtown Phoenix. You’ll find converted warehouses painted with colorful murals and lots of gallery space in this neighborhood.
- Coronado — This historic neighborhood is composed of three districts – Brentwood, Coronado and Country Club Park. You’ll find a mixture of bungalow, Spanish Colonial Revival and ranch style houses throughout, along with the occasional new build. The area is located in Midtown Phoenix and is in proximity to the freeway and downtown.
- Arcadia — This established neighborhood is located both in Phoenix and Scottsdale and is one of the most desired in the Greater Metro area. Not only are there spectacular views of Camelback mountain, but there are also some of the most mature citrus trees and greenery in all of Phoenix. By living here, you’ll be a short drive from both Downtown Scottsdale and Downtown Phoenix.
The Valley is huge and finding a place to call home is no small feat. Initially, the suburbs were segmented into East Valley and West Valley, basically separating surrounding cities and towns by whether they were east or west of Phoenix. Some favorite West Valley cities include Peoria, Avondale, Goodyear and Buckeye. Larger East Valley cities include Mesa, Chandler and Queen Creek.
Here are four more cities that offer proximity to Phoenix but also have all the suburban amenities so many residents desire.
- Glendale — You might remember Glendale as the home of Super Bowl XLIX. The city is located about nine miles outside of Downtown Phoenix and is home to over 225,000 residents. The area has named itself “Arizona’s Antique Capital,” making it an ideal destination for history lovers.
- Mesa — Located just 15 miles east of Phoenix, the city of Mesa is the third largest city in Arizona. Living in Mesa will give you the benefit of living in a growing metropolitan while still maintaining a distinctly suburban feel.
- Tempe — The city of Tempe is home to over 160,000 residents and is located in the East Valley. Even though the area has a highly suburban landscape, it’s also a college town since it’s home to ASU, one of the largest universities in the state.
- Gilbert — This suburb is one of the most affordable in the Metro area and offers a ton of green space, which is hard to find in Phoenix. The area is known for having little crime and great schools, which is a perfect combination for a family just starting out.
There are a variety of school districts within the Phoenix area. Each district has its own system and leadership as well as differing quality scores. There are four distinct high school districts and nearly two dozen elementary school districts.
There are 35 colleges and universities located in the Valley, most notably including Arizona State University in Tempe. Locals enjoy witnessing the long-standing yet playful rivalry between ASU and the neighboring University of Arizona in Tucson.
Fun Things to Do in Phoenix
Despite the heat, there are so many fun things to do in Arizona. Phoenix is home to some incredible attractions, outdoor adventures and cultural experiences that draw in more than 16 million tourists a year. After you make your move, be sure to carve out some time for any of the following activities.
Top Area Attractions
Because Phoenix is a large draw for tourists, the city has made sure to have plenty of family fun activities. Make like a tourist and explore any of the following Phoenix attractions.
- Phoenix Zoo — Since its opening in 1962, the Phoenix Zoo has welcomed more than 43 million visitors. Making a trip here is more than just admiring some exotic animals. The zoo’s aim has been to inspire its guests to care more for the natural world. In keeping with that promise, the Phoenix Zoo is world renowned for its contributions to conservation science.
- Desert Botanical Garden — Living and gardening in the desert is a much different experience than in wetter climates. Your visit to the Desert Botanical Garden will reflect that. Every plant has been adapted to thrive in harsh conditions. The Garden’s hope is to educate its visitors about sustainability and preserving the desert landscape through the example they set.
- Arizona Science Center — Science has a way of captivating people of all ages. The Arizona Science Center’s goal is to provide access to science based on the present demands of the community. Everyone is encouraged to visit the newly launched CREATE center and start building and innovating.
- Wet ‘n’ Wild Phoenix — Just because the people of Phoenix care about conservation and sustainability doesn’t mean they don’t know how to let loose and have fun, too. Plan a visit to Wet ‘n’ Wild Phoenix for a day in the sun. Just remember to apply and reapply your sunscreen!
- Need more? A two hour drive north will get you to ski destinations and less than six hours in the car will get you to San Diego or Los Angeles.
Where to Go Outdoors
Phoenix is host to 189 city parks and over 33,000 acres of desert preserves. Hikers can find their sanctuary on over 200 miles of designated trails. It won’t take long before you find your favorite outdoor oasis, but here’s where you can start your search.
- South Mountain Park and Preserve — With over 16,000 acres, this preserve is home to three mountain ranges. It’s one of the largest municipally maintained parks in the nation. Travel 2,330 feet up to access the highest publically accessible peak at Dobbins Lookout.
- Salt River Tubing — Quirky website aside, Salt River Tubing is what you do when you want a relaxing day beneath the mountains as opposed to a rigorous day climbing up them. Float trip times range between two and five hours.
- Ak-Chin Pavilion — If you want to be outdoors without all the exercise, visit the scenic outdoor amphitheater and listen to your favorite bands live. With lawn seating accommodating 12,000 people, lots of the major musical acts and festivals stop here.
Where to Eat
For a time, Phoenix had a less than thriving food scene. All that has changed. Areas that were once ghost towns less than a decade ago are now booming with creative eateries and craft beers.
Given the geographical location, it’s no surprise that much of the cuisine has a Southwestern, Mexican, and Native American flare.
Grab a bite at some of these acclaimed eateries after a bit of house hunting:
- Stockyards Restaurant — Proclaimed “Arizona’s Original Steakhouse.”
- Short Leash Hotdogs — Gourmet hotdogs served on naan.
- Southern Rail — Chef-driven food inspired by flavors of the American South.
- The Arrogant Butcher — A downtown staple serving burgers and comfort food.
If you’re not a fan of golf, you might want to start practicing. Phoenix is home to over 200 golf courses and the PGA Tour.
Phoenix is also one of the few cities to have professional sports teams in the four major sports. Can’t think of them all? They include:
- Arizona Cardinals — NFL
- Phoenix Suns — NBA
- Phoenix Mercury — WNBA
- Arizona Coyotes — NHL
- Arizona Diamondbacks — MLB
Moving Tips for New Residents
When moving to any new city, you’ll have to learn to roll with the punches and accept that you might love some things about Phoenix, but you might not like others. We’ve got some relocation tips to keep in mind for anyone heading to the Valley of the Sun.
Things to Remember
- Despite efforts to lower the crime rate, Phoenix still has a crime rate higher than the national average. Car theft has been a problem, so take extra precautions while moving to avoid burglary. Phoenix has also been named the kidnapping capital of the USA, so never leave children unattended. Explore this Phoenix crime map to get better acquainted with areas you want to avoid.
- If you need to rent instead of buy, Phoenix has a great rental market. Rental prices are inexpensive relative to the area’s size. But, renting isn’t always glamorous. If your landlord fails to fix something in your apartment, learn about your rights as an Arizona tenant.
Moving to Phoenix Logistics
- If you’re relocating from out of state, don’t forget to apply for an Arizona state driver’s license once you move. Also, register your vehicle at the DMV.
- Figure out when garbage day is in your Phoenix neighborhood.
- If you have access items from the move or you need a spot to stash your items while you’re in-between locations, a storage unit in Phoenix may be a great option.