Living in Arizona

Whether you are a longtime resident or are just considering moving to the Grand Canyon state, there is a limitless number of activities and attractions to help occupy your time. And because asking people what you should know about Arizona living is likely to get a lot of vague, “It’s a dry heat,” responses, we have put together this helpful guide detailing some of our favorite reasons to call Arizona home.

Living in the Phoenix West Valley Area

Phoenix’s West Valley is especially popular with locals and newcomers alike. The geography allows for an unmatched mix of different types of activities. With lots of modern amenities (along with easy access to the downtown area via the freeway system) and plenty of recreational activities nearby, the West Valley affords a lifestyle fitting a diverse range of preferences.

Activities

More than 600 species of exotic and endangered animals call the West Valley home. More specifically, they live at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park in Litchfield Park. There, visitors can get an up-close look at white rhinoceroses, baboons, hyenas and more. For an extra dose of aww-inducing cuteness, be sure to check out the adorable animals at the zoo’s baby animal nursery.

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Parks and Recreation

If you have a love for the outdoors, you will love the large variety of parks and outdoor recreation options available in the West Valley. With so many options let us recommend some of our favorites to help you narrow down your search.

Pioneer Park

This park is a great destination if you have kids in tow. <br>There is a splash pad area which also houses the playground so families can enjoy the outdoors year round. <br>Pioneer Park also features a dog park, softball and baseball fields, and a fishing pond.
This park is a great destination if you have kids in tow.
There is a splash pad area which also houses the playground so families can enjoy the outdoors year round.
Pioneer Park also features a dog park, softball and baseball fields, and a fishing pond.

Sahuaro Ranch Park

Sahuaro Ranch was founded in the 1800s and still features many historical structures that have been restored. <br>
Open to the public and on the National Register of Historic Places, this park (now maintained by the City of Glendale) is a good pick if you want to get your dose of Phoenix-area history.
Sahuaro Ranch was founded in the 1800s and still features many historical structures that have been restored.
Open to the public and on the National Register of Historic Places, this park (now maintained by the City of Glendale) is a good pick if you want to get your dose of Phoenix-area history.

Rio Vista Recreational Park

With baseball and softball diamonds, a playground area, splash pad, skate park, fishing ponds, an indoor recreation center and more, Rio Vista Park has something for everyone. <br>
It is even the hub of the New River and Skunk Creek Trails where people can bike, skate, run, and walk for miles along the dry river and creek beds.
With baseball and softball diamonds, a playground area, splash pad, skate park, fishing ponds, an indoor recreation center and more, Rio Vista Park has something for everyone.
It is even the hub of the New River and Skunk Creek Trails where people can bike, skate, run, and walk for miles along the dry river and creek beds.

Alta Vista Dog Park

Speaking of dogs … Alta Vista Dog Park in Peoria is another great option. <br>
This 10 acre park features separate spaces for large and smaller dogs, water fountains, and shaded areas for their human companions.
Speaking of dogs … Alta Vista Dog Park in Peoria is another great option.
This 10 acre park features separate spaces for large and smaller dogs, water fountains, and shaded areas for their human companions.

Lakes

There are many lakes in and in close proximity to the West Valley. The foremost among them is Lake Pleasant. Located in the city of Peoria,  and just a short drive from the Vistancia Community, Lake Pleasant definitely lives up to its name. With numerous fish species, boat docks, and easy beach access, the lake offers a number of activities. You will even find two marinas featuring restaurants and boat rentals.

Thrill seekers will also enjoy a ride down the world’s largest floating water slide. However, you like to enjoy your afternoon at the lake, having it so close-by is a huge reason to appreciate the unique Arizona lifestyle.

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Need another excuse to visit Lake Pleasant? Annual events like the Lake Pleasant Paddlefest and Bill Luke Bass Days feature additional activities, rides, live music and more!

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Hiking

With all of the West Valley’s modern amenities and proximity to downtown Phoenix, many people are shocked when they realize how many hiking opportunities there are.

Peoria Sunrise Mountain Preserve, Deem Hills Recreation Area, and Thunderbird Conservation Park are just a few examples of the hundreds of miles of hiking within minutes of West Valley suburbs. Whether you are already an avid hiker or just getting started, with a little bit of research, you will be able to easily find a great trail system for your next hike!

Sports

With all of the West Valley’s modern amenities and proximity to downtown Phoenix, many people are shocked when they realize how many hiking opportunities there are.

Peoria Sunrise Mountain Preserve, Deem Hills Recreation Area, and Thunderbird Conservation Park are just a few examples of the hundreds of miles of hiking within minutes of West Valley suburbs. Whether you are already an avid hiker or just getting started, with a little bit of research, you will be able to easily find a great trail system for your next hike!

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Shopping

If you are in need of some retail therapy, you have plenty of options to choose from! During the summer months, indoor malls are especially great. Add to your shopping bucket list Arrowhead Town Center, Scottsdale Fashion Square, Kierland, and Scottsdale Quarters to get an idea of the variety of malls in the area.

shopping-malls

Arts and Culture

Concerts at Gila River Arena

From Sugarland to Smashing Pumpkins, Sam Smith to Elton John, Gila River Arena is host to some of the best touring artists in the world. <br>
Anchoring the Westgate Entertainment District, when the 18,200-capacity arena isn’t hosting a home game for the Coyotes, fans enjoy concerts from the thoroughly modern facility. <br>
Multiple seating levels and luxury suites make it easy to enjoy your show your way – whether you prefer to be on the floor in the thick of the action or enjoying from a distance.
From Sugarland to Smashing Pumpkins, Sam Smith to Elton John, Gila River Arena is host to some of the best touring artists in the world.
Anchoring the Westgate Entertainment District, when the 18,200-capacity arena isn’t hosting a home game for the Coyotes, fans enjoy concerts from the thoroughly modern facility.
Multiple seating levels and luxury suites make it easy to enjoy your show your way – whether you prefer to be on the floor in the thick of the action or enjoying from a distance.

Arizona Broadway Theatre

Located in the P83 entertainment area in Peoria, the Arizona Broadway Theatre hosts an impressive number of live productions, enjoyed by guest over dinner and cocktails. <br>
In addition to the array of professional productions, the theatre’s youth academy offers young aspiring actors the opportunity to explore theatre through a number of age-specific classes.
Located in the P83 entertainment area in Peoria, the Arizona Broadway Theatre hosts an impressive number of live productions, enjoyed by guest over dinner and cocktails.
In addition to the array of professional productions, the theatre’s youth academy offers young aspiring actors the opportunity to explore theatre through a number of age-specific classes.

West Valley Arts HQ

The West Valley Arts HQ, a 2,500 square foot gallery space with an adjacent outdoor courtyard, hosts a number of exhibits, performances, and special events for artists and their supporters. <br>
Furthermore, when you support West Valley Arts HQ, you are helping the organization to bring art educations and resources to local public schools.
The West Valley Arts HQ, a 2,500 square foot gallery space with an adjacent outdoor courtyard, hosts a number of exhibits, performances, and special events for artists and their supporters.
Furthermore, when you support West Valley Arts HQ, you are helping the organization to bring art educations and resources to local public schools.

West Valley Art Museum

Located in Peoria, the West Valley Art Museum boasts a permanent collection with more than 1,600 items. This is in addition to numerous temporary exhibits that are constantly updated at the venue. <br>
Check out the “Arizona Artists” exhibit for a truly unique look into the variety of work produced by artists right here in the Grand Canyon state.
Located in Peoria, the West Valley Art Museum boasts a permanent collection with more than 1,600 items. This is in addition to numerous temporary exhibits that are constantly updated at the venue.
Check out the “Arizona Artists” exhibit for a truly unique look into the variety of work produced by artists right here in the Grand Canyon state.

Wine and Dining

Located right in the Vistancia Community, V’s Taproom offers a variety of  comfort-food favorites and a beer selection worthy of the restaurant’s name, V’s Taproom has quickly become a local favorite. And with Arizona’s exceptional weather, the great patio at this gem of an eatery is the perfect spot to enjoy your dinner in the spring or fall.

vs-taproom

City of Peoria

The City of Peoria located in Northwest Valley has become a top cities to consider for those looking to relocate to Arizona.  Recently WalletHub.com, a leading finance outlet, ranked Peoria, Arizona as the Ninth Least Stressed City in America. In addition, Yahoo Finance recently ranked Peoria, Arizona as the Number 7 Top Places to live in the US.  These rankings are a result of Peoria having among one of the lowest crime rates in the country, a growing city economy, a 10% growth in population over the last five years and housing costs that are 14% lower than the national average.

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With an above-average median income and solid employment numbers, the most amazing part about Peoria is the relative affordability of housing there despite the booming economy. Peoria currently boasts over 160,000 residents who enjoy the vast variety of recreation, entertainment and housing options available.

Further, great accessibility to other parts of the Valley and numerous amenities within the suburb itself means that residents of Peoria have little trouble accessing anything that they could possibly desire. From recreational opportunities to cultural experiences, everything is either right at their fingertips or a short drive away.

Phoenix West Valley Area Schools

The West Valley has some terrific schools. And they only seem to be getting better with time. More specifically, Peoria Unified School District serves more than 36,000 students in 34 elementary schools & seven high schools and one non-traditional high school. In addition PUSD has a 93% high school graduation rate in addition to award-winning teachers, specialized choice programs & championship sports programs.

The Lake Pleasant and Vistancia Elementary Schools located in the Vistancia Community for example, are both A+ schools.

Liberty High School boasts an outstanding 96 percent graduation rate and outperforms other schools in the district and the state on measures of math and reading proficiencies of its students.

peoria-schools

Meanwhile Basis Peoria, a grades 5-12 charter school, was recently ranked #8 of all U.S. public high schools by US News and World Report. Peoria is also home to award winning charters schools such as Legacy Traditional and Great Hearts Archway Glendale.

Phoenix West Valley Among Safest Cities

The most recent thorough compilation of crime statistics shows that the West Valley is home to some of Arizona’s safest cities. Ranking near the top of the list, Peoria, Buckeye and Surprise are all exceptionally safe places, according to a recent report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

And while Phoenix is a reasonably safe city overall given its large population, it is little wonder that so many families are choosing to make their homes in the relative safety of the West Valley’s suburbs.

Phoenix West Valley Economy and Jobs

While the economy in the West Valley has been performing well for some time, thanks in large part to manufacturers and other employers like Luke Air Force Base, the outlook continues to get even better. Key strategic investments in infrastructure, the relative affordability of the area, and the geographic location in relation to key cities in California and U.S. ports of entry have positioned the West Valley to become the relocation destination of choice for many companies who are sick of the high overhead in California.

The West Valley area is also home to companies such as REI, UPS, Amazon, a Walmart Distribution Center, and The Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which employs more than 600 people. In nearby Northwest Phoenix, companies like USAA, Discover Card, Cigna, Honeywell and American Express all have large campuses just a short drive away.

Furthermore, the strong workforce provided by the state’s university system means that companies have a growing pool of educated talent to recruit – for far less than it would cost them to hire similar workers in neighboring states. This bodes well for Arizona workers across the economic spectrum, ensuring that the West Valley can build a diverse economy across key industries like healthcare, aerospace and more.

Places to Visit in Arizona

Which places do you need to visit in Arizona? It is too hard to narrow down the list, even if we break it down by different categories. Instead, here is a snapshot of multiple favorites of different types of destinations. Whether you are putting on your hiking shoes or looking to indulge yourself for a weekend, hopefully we have found something for everyone!

Lakes

As mentioned previously, Lake Pleasant is a particularly popular destination for locals, due in part to the huge number of recreational opportunities and the Lake’s close proximity to the Phoenix area. Whether you are looking to lounge on the beach, cast a line or enjoy some water sports, Lake Pleasant is just a quick drive north!

lake-pleasant

Hiking

Hiking might as well be a state past time. Arizona is definitely prime real estate for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy adventure and being close to the natural beauty that is abundant in this state. If you enjoy a good time filled with wanderlust, here are some of the most well-known places in Arizona to go hiking and camping.

Superstition Mountains

Just east of Mesa, the Superstition Mountains offer a huge array of hiking trails to fit any skill set. <br>
Hikers in the area will enjoy views of some of the most unique geology in Arizona, including Weaver’s Needle and the Flat Iron. 
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In addition to the multiple hikes to fill your time, the richness of the area’s history and local legends help make the Superstition Mountains an enduring part of Arizona’s history.
Just east of Mesa, the Superstition Mountains offer a huge array of hiking trails to fit any skill set.
Hikers in the area will enjoy views of some of the most unique geology in Arizona, including Weaver’s Needle and the Flat Iron.
In addition to the multiple hikes to fill your time, the richness of the area’s history and local legends help make the Superstition Mountains an enduring part of Arizona’s history.

Mt. Humphreys Peak

Eleven miles north of Flagstaff, Mt. Humphreys Peak is the highest spot in the whole state of Arizona. 
<br>While it is not exactly a convenient location for a quick afternoon for Phoenix-area residents, the elevation means that you should really stake out a larger part of a day to make the trip worth your while anyway. 
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That being said, the trail is very well maintained and typically not crowded. Once you hit the summit, the view from 12,633 feet will make all of your hard work worth the effort!
Eleven miles north of Flagstaff, Mt. Humphreys Peak is the highest spot in the whole state of Arizona.
While it is not exactly a convenient location for a quick afternoon for Phoenix-area residents, the elevation means that you should really stake out a larger part of a day to make the trip worth your while anyway.
That being said, the trail is very well maintained and typically not crowded. Once you hit the summit, the view from 12,633 feet will make all of your hard work worth the effort!

Fossil Springs Trail

A wide and easy trail complimented by lush vegetation and beautiful springs of water makes a hike at Fossil Springs a great pick for the whole family. <br>
However, because there is very little shade on this hike, you would be best served to save this trip to the trail near Camp Verde for a date in the early spring or late autumn when temperatures are friendlier. It is easy to get so caught up in the beauty of the trail that you could overestimate your endurance on a hot day!
A wide and easy trail complimented by lush vegetation and beautiful springs of water makes a hike at Fossil Springs a great pick for the whole family.
However, because there is very little shade on this hike, you would be best served to save this trip to the trail near Camp Verde for a date in the early spring or late autumn when temperatures are friendlier. It is easy to get so caught up in the beauty of the trail that you could overestimate your endurance on a hot day!

Prescott National Forest

With around 1.25 million acres, Prescott National Forest has more hiking trails than most of us will ever tackle in our lifetimes. <br>
This makes it an especially good choice for hiking enthusiasts who are interested in combining camping with their hiking excursion. <br>
As a bonus, your route to and from the trailhead will mean you will be driving by some of the fine wineries we have also raved about elsewhere in this article!
With around 1.25 million acres, Prescott National Forest has more hiking trails than most of us will ever tackle in our lifetimes.
This makes it an especially good choice for hiking enthusiasts who are interested in combining camping with their hiking excursion.
As a bonus, your route to and from the trailhead will mean you will be driving by some of the fine wineries we have also raved about elsewhere in this article!

Camping

Located above the town of Payson (about 2.5 hours by car from Phoenix), the Mogollon Rim is a popular camping destination for locals. Stretching across the Colorado Plateau, there are dozens of campsites available to accommodate numerous styles of camping. Whether you are a camper of the car, tent, or RV variety, there will be something for you. Check out the Mogollon Rim Ranger District’s website for specific information about each campground and whether or not you will need to plan on making reservations.

mogollon-rim

Wineries

Many people do not associate the Arizona desert with great wines. But the Grand Canyon state is actually home to 110 wineries, vineyards, and cellars producing amazing wine of multiple varieties.

Whether you are a seasoned wine enthusiast, or just interested in shaking things up and trying something new, visiting one of them is an exceptionally interesting way to spend an afternoon.

winery-arizona

Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery

Located in Cornville, just south of Sedona and a short hour and a half drive from Peoria Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery has both a boutique and a tasting room. Their light menu and scenic views make for a perfect combination. Load up a picnic basket with some delicious snacks (and a bottle of your favorite varietal, of course) and find a shady spot on the winery’s grounds for a picnic.

Caduceus Cellars

Located in Jerome (owned by Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of the rock band Tool) and Dos Cabezas Wineworks in Sonoita.

Want to hit up multiple vineyards on a single excursion? After designating your driver, head north to Cottonwood and then hit up the multiple wineries dotting the road between there and Sedona.

Historic Cities

While relatively young as a state, Arizona has an extensive history from its early Native American roots to the first Spanish and American settlers that occupied the territory before it became the 48th and last of the contiguous states to join the Union. Because of this rich history, Arizona is home to many cities and towns with historic charm.

Sedona

A town well known for its striking geography and new age arts scene, Sedona is a popular destination for folks looking to take advantage of its luxurious spas and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. <br>
In addition to things like stargazing and Jeep tours, the town is also home to many small art galleries and boutiques.
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If you are looking to check out Sedona on a holiday weekend like Labor Day or Memorial Day, be sure to book your accommodations in advance! If you are able, try visiting during a non-holiday to avoid the crowds. And don’t leave without checking out the Chapel of the Holy Cross!
A town well known for its striking geography and new age arts scene, Sedona is a popular destination for folks looking to take advantage of its luxurious spas and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities.
In addition to things like stargazing and Jeep tours, the town is also home to many small art galleries and boutiques.
If you are looking to check out Sedona on a holiday weekend like Labor Day or Memorial Day, be sure to book your accommodations in advance! If you are able, try visiting during a non-holiday to avoid the crowds. And don’t leave without checking out the Chapel of the Holy Cross!

Jerome

Located in central Arizona between Sedona and Prescott, Jerome is historically a mining town. <br>
And while the population has decreased significantly since its heyday in the 1920s during peak copper-mining operations, the tiny town (current population around 400) has recreated itself as a top destination for tourists. <br>
Between historic attractions and outdoor recreational opportunities, there is plenty to keep you occupied in this seemingly sleepy town.
Located in central Arizona between Sedona and Prescott, Jerome is historically a mining town.
And while the population has decreased significantly since its heyday in the 1920s during peak copper-mining operations, the tiny town (current population around 400) has recreated itself as a top destination for tourists.
Between historic attractions and outdoor recreational opportunities, there is plenty to keep you occupied in this seemingly sleepy town.

Tombstone

If you are a fan of the town’s namesake movie starring Sam Elliott and Val Kilmer, Tombstone should be one of the first historic towns in Arizona that you visit. (And if you are not a fan of the movie, honestly, who are you?)
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Best known as the place where the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral went down, the town has retained numerous historic buildings along its Main Street. In fact, you can watch reenactments of the gunfight at the corral where it all happened.
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Take a tour of the Birdcage and grab some lunch at Big Nose Kate’s. Then take in all of the unique souvenirs sold at the multiple galleries and boutiques intermingled with the bars and restaurants on the primary drag.
If you are a fan of the town’s namesake movie starring Sam Elliott and Val Kilmer, Tombstone should be one of the first historic towns in Arizona that you visit. (And if you are not a fan of the movie, honestly, who are you?)
Best known as the place where the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral went down, the town has retained numerous historic buildings along its Main Street. In fact, you can watch reenactments of the gunfight at the corral where it all happened.
Take a tour of the Birdcage and grab some lunch at Big Nose Kate’s. Then take in all of the unique souvenirs sold at the multiple galleries and boutiques intermingled with the bars and restaurants on the primary drag.

Cave Creek

Just 27 miles north of Phoenix, Cave Creek is a convenient small-town getaway with just around 5,000 residents.
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Frontier Town and the Cave Creek Museum are both great destinations for checking out historic buildings – the Cave Creek Museum’s Tubercular Cabin is even on the National Register of Historic Places. That cabin was used as a sanitarium in use during the 1920s. 
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Other historic buildings have been repurposed for multiple things ranging from restaurants to boutiques. If you have got an afternoon to kill, it is definitely worth checking out. Be sure to grab lunch at Indian Village!
Just 27 miles north of Phoenix, Cave Creek is a convenient small-town getaway with just around 5,000 residents.
Frontier Town and the Cave Creek Museum are both great destinations for checking out historic buildings – the Cave Creek Museum’s Tubercular Cabin is even on the National Register of Historic Places. That cabin was used as a sanitarium in use during the 1920s.
Other historic buildings have been repurposed for multiple things ranging from restaurants to boutiques. If you have got an afternoon to kill, it is definitely worth checking out. Be sure to grab lunch at Indian Village!

The Grand Canyon

What guide to Arizona living would be complete without a tribute to the Grand Canyon? Over a mile deep in some areas and an impressive 277 miles long, there are multiple ways to enjoy the Canyon which warrant multiple trips.

The North Rim is typically only open from the middle of May through the middle of October, whereas the South Rim is open year round. Plan accordingly.

The next step is to decide which type of Grand Canyon experience you are up for.

LEARN MORE

Whether it is a helicopter tour, a hike, skydiving, rafting or casually checking it out from select scenic spots (like the Skywalk), whichever way you do it, you are sure to be amazed at the striking depth of the Canyon as it has been worn down by the Colorado River for billions of years. It is little wonder that the Grand Canyon is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.