With more than 1.6 million residents, Phoenix is not only Arizona's largest city, it's also the fifth-largest city in the country. In all, the Phoenix metropolitan area has nearly 5 million people, and a thriving, diverse economy.
The Salt River Valley, known by locals as the Valley of the Sun, has been occupied for thousands of years; in fact, the modern city was built around the irrigation canals dug by the ancient Hohokam. While today, the Valley is a hub of commerce and high-tech industry, for centuries, residents relied on farming.
The current incarnation of Phoenix began in 1867, when Jack Swilling, a prospector from Wickenburg, noticed the old, Hohokam irrigation canals. Swilling formed the Swilling Irrigation and Canal Company, to re-dig the canals, and begin farming the valley once again.
More people migrated from Wickenburg, including an eccentric Englishman named “Lord” Darrell Duppa, and George Henry Luhrs, a wagon maker from Germany. Duppa is credited with naming the settlement after the mythical Phoenix bird since the burgeoning town rose from the ashes of the ancient Hohokam settlement. You can still see Lord Duppa's adobe house at 115 W. Sherman Street, in downtown Phoenix. Early on, Luhrs invested in Phoenix AZ real estate, eventually becoming one of the wealthiest men in the valley. You can still visit the iconic, art-deco Luhrs Tower on the southeast corner of Jefferson Street and First Avenue.
Since its founding in 1868, Phoenix hit the ground running, growing by leaps and bounds over the next 150 years. The post-WW II years saw high-tech industries moving to the Valley. Air conditioning spurred growth during the 1950s. And, the “snowbird” phenomenon began in earnest, as retirees from colder regions moved here.
But, It's a Dry Heat
It's true, the low humidity in the Valley makes the intense, summer heat much more bearable. With 300 days of sunshine and 6-months of nearly perfect weather, the Phoenix area is a top choice for people to retire. Moreover, air conditioning makes the summer months comfortable.
People who live in the Valley simply shift outdoor activities, such as yard work and walking the dog, to the early morning or evening hours during the summer. Also, once the sun sets, Phoenicians come out to have fun with summertime backyard parties.
While May through September is hot, the rest of the year sees perfect daytime temperatures; the average daytime temperature in January and February is a mild 65 degrees.
Cooler temperatures are also just an hour and a half north; Phoenicians who want to escape the heat, or play in the snow, can spend the weekend in towns like Flagstaff, Payson, and Prescott.
With its central location in the state, Phoenicians are never far from Arizona's varied landscape and temperatures, ranging from the desert to pine forests. While the legendary Phoenix summers are hot, it's not as bad as you think.
If you feel like escaping the Valley over the weekend, there are plenty of places to go around Phoenix. For example, there are six beautiful lakes around the edges of the valley. Lake Pleasant, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, and Bartlett Lake are all within 50 miles of Phoenix. The lakes have long been a place for Phoenicians to cool off during the summer, go fish, and enjoy boating.
Less than 100 miles to the north, you'll find yourself in the dense, cool ponderosa pine forests of Flagstaff, Payson, and Prescott. Weekend camping trips under the pines have long been a favorite thing for Phoenicians to do. Also, owning a summer home in Pine, Payson, or Strawberry is something to consider if you can afford it.
Of course, during the winter, the stunning, Sonoran desert around Phoenix is the perfect place to be. Phoenix is surrounded by regional parks, that preserve the environmental integrity and beauty of the desert. South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the country, spanning 16,283-acres. It's just a short drive to South Mountain, where you can hike the trails for a birdseye view of the valley below.
Other desert parks in the surrounding mountains are the White Tanks, Vulture Mountain, Usury Mountain, McDowell Mountain, Estrella Mountain, and the San Tans. These regional parks offer valley residents hundreds of thousands of pristine acres to hike, bike and enjoy.
If you like a multi-cultural environment, you'll like living in Phoenix. Phoenix scores 92 out of 100 for diversity, which is very high.
While the Hohokam are long gone, Native Americans maintain a strong presence in the valley. The Yavapai and O'odham maintain communities around the valley, and the Heard Museum is a world-class museum of Native American art and culture. The Heard hosts events such as The annual Indian Fair and Market in March. The fair features more than 600 Native American artists, where visitors can purchase the finest Native American jewelry, pottery, and basketry in the country. The museum also hosts the world championship Hoop Dance Contest, where visitors can see this fascinating, unusual dance in person.
Less than 200 miles from the Mexican border, the Valley of the Sun also has a longstanding relationship with Mexican culture. Much of the architecture has a Spanish influence, as does the local arts community. If you love Mexican food, Phoenix has some of the best in the entire country. From hearty Sonoran enchiladas in the winter to cool ceviche in the summer, Mexican cuisine is second nature to Phoenicians.
When it comes to food, music, and diversity of culture, you'll find it in Phoenix.
Phoenix has lower than average unemployment rates, and a diverse economy. Good-paying, high-tech jobs are available, as are jobs in education, construction, healthcare, hospitality, retail, and the financial industry. No matter your education or skills, there are good jobs available in Phoenix.
Surprisingly, motion picture and music industry jobs are expected to grow at an accelerated rate of 39.8% faster than any other industry in the Arizona economy.
From quaint, craftsman-style cottages close to downtown, to million-dollar mansions on Camelback Mountain, Phoenix real estate is diverse. You can find reasonably priced condos and single-family homes to move into, fix and flip, or purchase as rentals.
No matter where you live in Phoenix, you'll never be far from both a vibrant, city life and pristine nature. Arizona is an amazing state, and Phoenix is at the center of the action.
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