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Phoenix: The Essential Guide for Moving

by Team NextBurb 16 December 2020

Moving Guides By City

Considering Phoenix for your next move?

This sunny city is a wonderful place for affordable housing and outdoor adventures.

Read on to learn more about the Valley of the Sun.

Phoenix – wonderful place for affordable housing and outdoors!
Phoenix – wonderful place for affordable housing and outdoors!

Quick facts about Phoenix

  • Phoenix’s location in the Sonoran Desert brings diverse desert life to the city, including quick access to national parks and trails, extreme desert heat that requires hydration and caution when getting into hot cars, and wildlife (rattlesnakes, horned owls, and tarantulas included!).
  • The city is surprisingly lush and colorful. Oases like the Phoenix Botanical Garden and parks bring color and fun to the landscape.

    Phoenix’s legendary restaurants, museums, and historical sites celebrate and share the city’s vibrant Southwestern roots, and in early spring, the desert turns green from flowering plants to new growth.
  • Newcomers often underestimate Phoenix’s size and the spread of its metro-area, which extends for 14,600 square miles.

    Public transportation doesn’t entirely cover the city, and commute time is an essential factor in choosing a place to live in this sprawling metropolis.

Living in Phoenix

Population & History

Nicknamed Valley of the Sun, the Phoenix metro area is home to 4.5 million people and is the fifth-largest metro area in the country.

Phoenix was founded as an agricultural city in 1881 and has since become the Arizona state capital and a national destination for desert landmarks, southwestern culture, and high-class resorts.

Weather in Phoenix

Phoenix’s desert climate brings mild winters and hot, arid summers. High temperatures during the summer top 106℉.

Phoenix gets the most sun out of any major U.S. city, and heat exhaustion is a risk taken very seriously by residents.

Between July and September, the monsoon season raises humidity and brings dust storms, flash floods, and rain showers.

During the winter, the average minimum temperature stays in the 30’s, with highs in the upper 60’s.

The weather is perfect for outdoor adventures and weekend hikes.

Top Attractions in Phoenix

Phoenix has something for everyone, whether it’s world-class golfing or professional basketball. Here are some of the best-recommended places to see in and around the city.

To Eat

Phoenix is known for its Southwestern cuisine and Sonoran-style Mexican dishes, which can be found either at award-winning restaurants or casual cafes across the city.

  • Barrio Cafe is an award-winning spot that showcases Southwestern cuisine in all its flavorful glory, including an award-winning Cochinita Pibil (smoked pork) and Oaxacan-style tacos. Of course, there are margaritas as well.
  • As a throwback to times past, visit Durant’s for a trip back to the ’60s. Phoenix is famous for its steakhouses, and Durant’s was one of the first.

    Step into a dark restaurant with red leather booths and order a martini, oysters, and steak for a classic, bygone experience.
  • For a brunch of your dreams, check out Matt’s Big Breakfast, where breakfast is served all day in style.

    Matt’s serves all the breakfast classics with natural, local ingredients. Order a waffle with thick-cut bacon or a scramble with salami and farm-fresh eggs.

To Drink

Phoenix has a great range of bars, hands-down.

Whether it’s to taste local beer or experience the ambiance of a speakeasy, a night out on the town won’t disappoint.

  • UnderTow is arguably Phoenix’s most famous speakeasy. Located below a coffee shop, this bar is designed to look like the underbelly of a ship.

    With tiki-inspired cocktails and an intimate seating area, it’s a good idea to make reservations for your “deep-sea” experience.
  • For a more casual experience that will still satisfy your taste buds, head to Arizona Wilderness.

    This lively beer garden is the perfect place to sample beers and even local Arizona wines. Order delicious pub food to complete the experience, whether it’s green chili pork sliders or their famous “Wilderness Fries.”
  • For drinks paired with spectacular Jamaican food, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar provides another essential Phoenix experience.

    Reserve a table to experience farm-to-table seafood along with rum tastings.

    There’s even a humidor for their renowned collection of cigars available to enjoy on their patio.

To Visit

Here are some of the top spots to visit in Phoenix.

Keep in mind that at high temps, you’ll want sunscreen, water, or an indoor back-up plan in case it gets too hot to handle.

  • For sports fans: catch a game of basketball with the NBA Suns at the Phoenix Suns Arena in the center of downtown.
  • Roosevelt Row (affectionately known as RoRo) is a great place to live for an urban lifestyle (more on that later), but it’s also a fantastic area to visit.

    Colorful murals line the streets alongside art galleries and unique locally owned stores. For lunch or dinner, stop by Short Leash Hot Dogs, a Phoenix favorite that serves gourmet hot dogs on handmade naan.

    On the first Friday of every month, RoRo opens its streets to one of the largest art walks in the country.

    Galleries open late, local artists sell work from booths, and bars are open and busy late into the evening.
  • The Desert Botanical Garden covers 140 acres and features winding trails through thousands of plants and trees.

    The open-air experience comes with views of the surrounding mountains and features art installations, dog-friendly days, and year-round events.

    During the winter holidays, visit Las Noches De Las Luminarias, an evening event complete with spectacular lighting, holiday music, and festive cocktails.
  • The renowned Heard Museum pays homage to Arizona’s original inhabitants.

    The history and culture of the American Indian tribes who lived in present-day Maricopa County are illustrated and displayed in exhibits and events like traditional hoop dancing contests.

    The Museum’s lush outdoor courtyard and southwestern fare from its restaurants make it a great place to relax after touring the galleries.

Living in Phoenix

Phoenix’s top employers

Phoenix is known for its ever-growing job market, which has thrived despite the nation-wide rise in unemployment due to COVID-19.

Since the Great Recession in 2007, the city has prioritized job-growth strategies that incentivize advanced-industry positions across the finance, aerospace, and hospitality fields.

Top employers in the city include household names like American Express, Amazon, PetSmart, and Chase. Honeywell, an aerospace and technology manufacturing company, also has a large branch in the Phoenix metro area.

Working from home in Phoenix

As a place with mild winters where you can eat almost every meal outdoors and take a hike on weekends in January, Phoenix is a great place to work from home. You won’t even have to face the traffic of a daily commute!

Phoenix has several co-working spaces if you need to get out of the house for a change of pace.

CO+HOOTS promotes a collaborative, social workspace for its members and hosts events to foster engagement with other remote workers.

Workuity provides world-class amenities for its workers, including craft beer, and offers a pay-as-you-go membership for dedicated office spaces or conference rooms.

CenturyLink and Cox are the two top internet providers in Phoenix, with high-speed plans starting at $49/month for your home office Wi-Fi needs.

Cost of Living

Despite its high-performing job market and growing population, Phoenix’s cost of living remains affordable at 5% below the national average.

The median home price is $330,000, and the median rent is $1,035/month.

Gas is especially low at 8% below the national average. While the cost of living varies throughout the metro area, expect to find far more affordable prices than in other cities across the country.

Sales tax in Phoenix is 8.6%, which is 1.48% above the national average of 7.12%.

The sales tax is a little lower in nearby towns like Scottsdale (8.05%) or Tempe (8.1%).

Arizona property taxes are much lower than the national average at .67%, which is great news for anyone looking to buy in or around the city.

Transportation & Commute

Phoenix traffic can be a headache, but it’s a far less congested city than other significant urban areas like Los Angeles or New York.

The city ranked as the 63rd most-congested metropolitan city, so while some traffic is inevitable, it could be worse.

Phoenix’s large size can be deceiving, and it can take an hour to get from one side of the metropolitan area to the other.

Even if traffic isn’t an issue, keep distance in mind when planning where you want to live.

Phoenix provides a light rail and bus system to navigate the downtown area.

If you plan on using public transportation as a primary way to get around, pay careful attention to your home’s proximity to a bus or train stop.

Although public transit provides reliable access to downtown Phoenix and within the neighboring city of Tempe, its access to other parts of the metro area is relatively limited.

Most residents commute by car. Keep in mind that it’s no fun to wait 15 minutes for a bus to arrive in 110℉ heat!

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) serves the Phoenix metropolitan area and is one of the country’s busiest airports.

The airport serves as a hub for Southwest and American airlines and is just a short 8-minute drive from downtown.

3 Things that Make Phoenix a Great Place to Live

  1. Award-winning hospitality

    While you might not expect a city’s booming tourism industry to improve life for residents, Phoenix’s high-class hotels provide waterparks, expansive golf courses, and fine dining that anyone can enjoy.

    The city’s mild winters attract seasonal tourists in droves to award-winning resorts like Biltmore, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, or the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa.

    Book a luxurious facial, play a game of golf or take the family to a waterpark without traveling far from your home.

  1. Breathtaking nature on all sides

    Phoenix is literally surrounded by mountains, meaning that hikers, bikers, and backpackers can find trails in all directions. If you want to stay closer to home, parks throughout the city still have great views of mountain ranges and legendary Arizona sky.

    To get out in nature without leaving the city, make an evening visit to Papago Park, where you can take a quick hike to watch the sunset from the Hole-in-the-Rock.

    If you’re up for a more serious expedition, head on a short drive out of the city to Pinnacle Peak Trail for a medium-difficult hike or to Tom’s Thumb for incredible rock formations and more challenging gains in elevation.

    And don’t forget–the Grand Canyon is only a 40-minute drive from downtown Phoenix.

    You can also make the journey by train or bus, or, if you’re willing to pay some extra money, even by helicopter.
  2. Southwestern Culture

    With roots in Southwestern, Native American, and Sonoran culture, Phoenix celebrates its history with festivals, flavorful cuisine, and museums dedicated to preserving history and tradition.

    We’ve already covered some of the best restaurants and the Heard Museum.

    The Pueblo Grande Museum is a historical park home to pre-Columbian irrigation canals and ruins. Hike up “A” Mountain in Tempe to see hieroglyphs covering the mountainside.

    Phoenix also holds festivals year-round, including massive celebrations for Cinco de Mayo and Dia de Los Muertos.

Best neighborhoods in and around Phoenix

For young professionals

  • For a hip, urban neighborhood, Roosevelt Row (RoRo) is the city’s hot spot for shopping, art, and dining, making it a great place to live if you want to be in on the action.

    The median home price is $415,310 for residential areas primarily comprised of condos and townhouses, so it’s definitely on the more expensive side of what Phoenix has to offer.
  • For an energetic neighborhood, Tempe is home to Arizona State University and has a great nightlife and shopping experience.

    It’s only a 15-minute drive into Phoenix and is also readily accessible via public transportation.

    Median home prices run at $255,800, much lower than the national average of $305,000.
  • Affordable accessibility: Mesa’s median home price is only $209,700, which is a steal considering its amenities and the 25-minute drive into the city.

    From Mesa, you can access dozens of trails, parks, and even river access for all kinds of outdoor activities.

Best Places to Live in Phoenix for Families with Kids

  • For a small city feel: Scottsdale is more its own town than a suburb, but it’s such a great place to live that we couldn’t leave it off the list.

    Scottsdale is one of the premier destinations for golfers, but it has much more to offer, including excellent schools and cultural events.

    It’s only a 22-minute drive to downtown Phoenix, and the median home price is $455,000.
  • For urban calm: Located happily between Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arcadia has urban homes with green parks and spaces that add comfort and luxury to the area.

    Arcadia schools are some of the best in the state, and the area offers shopping and quick access downtown and the airport.

    The median price is high at almost $820,000, and the market is unsurprisingly competitive.
  • For quick downtown access: North Central Phoenix has large homes with private yards and beautiful tree-lined streets.

    The median home price here is $687,000, but the quick access to the city helps justify the price. NCP has its own restaurants, bars, and shopping and provides the perfect blend of residential and urban experiences.

Best Places to Live in Phoenix based on Good Schools

The top public school districts in the Phoenix area are Carefree, Gilbert, and Anthem.

If you want to live close to the city, look at Paradise Valley, which also has top-ranked schools.

Phoenix is also home to the top universities in the state. Undergraduate and graduate programs are offered by Arizona State University, University of Phoenix, and DeVry University. Phoenix is also home to Grand Canyon University, the largest Christian school in the country.

Crime in Phoenix

Phoenix's crime rates are 67% higher than the national average, making it higher than cities like New York or Los Angeles.

However, crime rates have decreased steadily over the past few years, and many neighborhoods and well-established suburbs like Scottsdale and Tempe have consistently low crime activity.

Check out crime rates in each specific neighborhood in Phoenix to see how they affect the city-wide average.

Are you considering Phoenix as your next home?

With nearly endless sunshine and space, Phoenix is a laid-back city full of nightlife, celebrations, and entertainment for all.

With affordable neighborhoods, a growing job market, and plenty of clean parks and good schools, it’s a fantastic location for families and young professionals alike.

Whether you’re moving for work or experiencing the wonders of the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix offers mild weather and low cost of living that make for a fantastic place to live.

Here at Nextburb, we’re committed to providing you with the facts you need to know about any area you’re considering as a future home.

Discover the best places to live in the United States to find out more about neighborhoods to live in, school ratings, crime data, and real estate options.

We’ll provide you with recommendations based on your lifestyle and budget preferences to help you discover where you want to go.

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