If year-round sun, practically non-existent rain, and bountiful outdoor activities are your thing (hard sell, right?), Phoenix, Arizona is the place for you.

While this sprawling city may be stereotyped as a retirement paradise, it’s actually so much more. Thanks to its growing population and strong local economy, it’s a popular spot for everyone — from young professionals to families to, yes, retirees.

Based on the U.S. Census Bureau data for 2019, Phoenix attracted more new residents than any other city in the U.S. — and it wasn’t just that year. 2019 marks the fourth consecutive year that the city has held the title. Where are these newcomers living in Phoenix moving from? According to the University of Arizona’s Economic and Business Research Center, California, Texas, Washington, Illinois, and Colorado make up the top five U.S. cities.

If you’re planning on moving to Phoenix — or simply want to learn more about what makes this sunny locale so special — we think there are 15 things you should know. 

Before we dive into the details, though, take a virtual tour of Downtown Phoenix to get a sneak peek of what the city has to offer.

Phoenix At-a-Glance

  • Phoenix is located in the south-central portion of the state, about 120 miles north of the Mexican border. It’s located between El Paso, Texas, and Los Angeles, California.
  • It’s the only state capital with a population of more than one million residents, with over 1.66 million people.
  • It’s the most populous state capital in the nation, the fifth most populous city in the U.S., and the most populous city in the state of Arizona.
  • The median age is 33.5 (lower than the national average), and the median income is $57,957.

1. The city has a hot nickname.

And we’re being literal here. Phoenix is known as the “Valley of the Sun” because it sees more sunny days (around 330) than any other metropolitan city in the nation.

It rarely rains — accumulating an average of just eight inches per year — and, when it does rain, it happens only during a few large summer storms, called “monsoons.” Phoenix is also sometimes referred to as the “Salt River Valley,” or, to locals, typically just “the Valley.”

2. Saying the weather in Phoenix is “warm” is an understatement.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the desert. Phoenix weather is what draws many people to the area, but it can also be tough to get used to, especially during the summer months.

While the spring and winter seasons are lovely, with average highs in the 70s, it’s not unusual for summer days to be more than 100° F. In fact, between May and September, there’s an average of more than 100° F days, with temps in the 100–105° F range. The hottest temperature ever recorded was 122° F on June 26, 1990. Stock up on sunscreen and ditch the leather car seats. These summers are no joke.

Similarly, if you’re looking for a white Christmas, this might not be the place for you. Snow is rare in Phoenix. It didn’t see snow until 1898, and accumulations of 0.1 inches or greater have only occurred a total of eight times.

A haboob seen from a residential backyard in Phoenix, Arizona

3. Haboobs are real — and Phoenix residents have to endure them.

No, we’re not being silly or inappropriate. During the driest months of the year — usually between June and September — there can be dust storms called “haboobs.”

Getting their name from the Arabic word for “blown,” haboobs are giant walls of dust created from the high winds of a collapsing thunderstorm. They feature gusts of sand and dust and last around three hours. They can be large and dangerous, so be prepared if one’s in the forecast.

4. There’s a “Greater” Phoenix.

Geographically speaking, there’s the city of Phoenix and Downtown Phoenix, then there are surrounding valleys. This is what makes up Greater Phoenix — the entire area measuring about the size of Delaware and comprising more than 20 cities and towns, including Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, and Glendale.

5. The cost of living in Phoenix is lower than the national average.

Compared to coastal metropolitan cities like San Francisco, San Diego, and New York City, Phoenix is much more affordable. In fact, it’s five percent lower than the national average, and, thanks to the thriving tourism industry, locals save approximately $1,000 per year on taxes.

For those who live on a fixed income, like retirees, Phoenix is an ideal location because not only does it have a low cost of living, but property taxes are also lower than other large retirement destinations like Boca Raton or Orlando.

6. The Phoenix real estate market is relatively affordable, with a variety of housing options.

Phoenix’s population growth has increased the demand for housing on both the purchase and rental sides. The median home value has crossed the $300,000 mark, but it’s still cheaper than a starter home in coastal California. 

To add to the convenience, there’s a variety of home styles in the area. While most are single-family residences, there are also condos and townhomes. The large retiree market means there is strong demand for one- and two-bedroom houses and condos, and those units are a fraction of the cost of a three-bedroom home.

If included amenities are your thing, check out the master-planned communities, which appear in much of the Southwest. These large-scale neighborhoods come with recreational and commercial features like golf courses, parks, swimming pools, playgrounds, and even restaurants and shopping centers.

7. Renters can find something in their price range, too.

According to data from RENTCafe, these are the most affordable neighborhoods for rentals, with average rents right around $1,000 a month.

  • Estrella Village
  • Maryvale
  • Alhambra

For other areas that fall below the city average, try North Mountain Village, Camelback East, and Deer Valley Village.

On the higher end of the scale are the Sonoran Foothills, Desert View, and Downtown Phoenix neighborhoods. There, average rent ranges from $1,400 to $1,800 per month.

8. The best places to live include Downtown Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, and Arcadia.

  • Downtown Scottsdale: Filled with luxury apartments, mixed-use buildings, corporate offices, and a thriving arts scene, this is a popular place for young professionals.
  • Paradise Valley: Nicknamed the “Beverly Hills of Phoenix,” this once-rural area now has million-dollar homes, golf courses, resorts, and spas. Sounds like paradise to us!
  • Arcadia: For those who like to balance work and play, Arcadia has not only picturesque, family-friendly neighborhoods but also vibrant dining and shopping options.

Other top places to live include:

  • Chandler
  • Glendale
  • North Tempe
  • Ahwatukee Foothills
  • Gilbert
Snagged your perfect Phoenix home? Compare moving costs for rental trucks, full-service movers, and portable containers. To get a personalized moving quote on local moves, visit PODS, or call 877-350-7637 for long-distance moving.

9. When it comes to selecting a school, you’ll need to do your research.

As you can imagine, in a city as large as Phoenix, there are several options for where your kids can go to school. Maricopa County has almost 1,000 schools in its districts, so consult a realtor or do some independent research to find the best option for your situation.

According to Niche, these are the top five districts in Maricopa County:

  1. Chandler Unified School District No. 80
  2. Scottsdale Unified School District
  3. Gilbert Public Schools
  4. Peoria Unified School District
  5. Tempe Union High School District

If you’re interested in a private education, high-rated schools include Phoenix Country Day School, Brophy College Preparatory High School, Rancho Solano Preparatory School, and Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy.

And for higher education, Phoenix is home to Arizona State University, The University of Arizona College of Medicine, and Grand Canyon University.

10. Say goodbye to springing forward.

Can’t stand setting your clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Saving Time? So do Arizonians. In fact, they disliked it so much that they did away with Daylight Saving Time entirely in 1968.

Arizona is in Mountain Standard Time, and they stay in that zone all year long. So during Daylight Saving Time (March through November), Arizona has the same time as the Pacific Time Zone. Trust us, it’s less confusing than it sounds.

11. Forget what you think you know about deserts.

Phoenix is located in the Sonoran Desert, a piece of land that covers approximately 100,000 square miles and includes most of the southern half of Arizona, Southeastern California, most of the Baja California peninsula, the Gulf of California, and a significant portion of Sonora, Mexico.

While you may think of a desert as a dry, beige, flat area of land with cacti and tumbleweeds, the Sonoran Desert offers a bit more — at least in the springtime. It gets more rainfall than other deserts, creating a beautiful green landscape and abundant patches of wildflowers. Of course, if you want to see a cactus, you’re in the right place. The Sonoran has plenty of those, too. It is still a desert, after all.

12. You’ll need a car to get around, but driving is a breeze.

While walking in Phoenix is a nice activity, it can’t be your sole method of transportation. But thanks to a well-planned grid road system and High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes that alleviate congestion, driving isn’t a total headache. If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly option, try the affordable light rail transportation system or metro bus service.

If you want some exercise as you travel and you live in or near Downtown Phoenix, the Bicycle Boulevard is a 4.6-mile stretch of bike lane that cyclists use to safely commute throughout the area.

For longer commutes (say, to another state), two commercial airports are in the Phoenix area: Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

Boulders Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, AZ
Boulders Resort & Spa Scottsdale
(Source: Visit Phoenix via Facebook)

13. There’s something “fore” all outdoor lovers.

Phoenix is a golfer’s dream. With more than 200 courses and home to the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the largest annual PGA event, there’s no shortage of ways to hit the links or watch the pros in action.

And for those who like to be closer to nature, Phoenix has more than 180 city parks and more than 33,000 acres of desert preserves. There are several hiking trails in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, or you can kayak on Tempe Town Lake. To see wildlife in its natural habitat, check out the Desert Botanical Garden.

14. Sports fans have their bases covered.

No matter your favorite sport, Phoenix has you covered. It’s home to the following franchises:

  • Arizona Coyotes (NHL)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB)
  • Phoenix Suns (NBA)
  • Arizona Cardinals (NFL)
Fun Fact: Only 13 other U.S. cities have the same professional sport representation.

Downtown’s PHX Arena (formerly the Talking Stick Resort Arena) is home to the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, the Indoor Football League’s Arizona Rattlers, and the United Soccer League’s Phoenix Rising FC.

15. There’s never a dull moment in Phoenix.

All work and no play has no place in Phoenix. Sure, there are vast employment opportunities, thanks to a growing tech scene and tourism industry, but there’s something to be said about balancing your professional pursuits with some much-deserved down time. And here are some great places to do it:

For family-friendly fun

For the thrillseekers

2020 World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.
2020 World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at Heard Museum
(Source: Heard Museum via Facebook)

For art and theatre aficionados

For foodies

We could go on and on about what makes this city shine, but we think it’s time to check it out for yourself. If you’re planning a move to the Greater Phoenix Area, we can help. Whether you’re relocating from a nearby city or across the nation, we’ve thought of it all, with moving and storage options that are customized for your situation.

Sources:

  1. US News & World Report (Phoenix)
  2. tripsavvy (Phoenix)
  3. LifeStorage (Phoenix)
  4. Zumper (Phoenix)
  5. AZ Golf Homes (Phoenix)
  6. Wikipedia (Phoenix)
  7. Neighborhood Scout (Neighborhoods)
  8. Zumper (Neighborhoods)
  9. Niche (Schools)
  10. Wikipedia (Time zone in AZ)
  11. Tripadvisor (Restaurants)

LB Gabriel is a freelance writer and frequent PODS blog contributor. When she’s not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.