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Just as Phoenix is the “hub” of commercial activity in the Southwest, it is also the core around which twenty-plus communities have grown. Collectively they are known as the “Valley of the Sun” and they cover a small part of the sprawling 9,127 square miles of Maricopa County.

Some Valley cities are well-known to those outside Arizona: Scottsdale, as the resort destination of choice for discriminating sun and recreation worshippers; Tempe, as the site of Arizona State University; Paradise Valley, as a residential town as idyllic as the name implies; and Sun City, as home to active retirees.

No matter what their interests, newcomers find a community waiting to welcome them. Two communities with burgeoning populations that deserve a close look are Mesa and Glendale, the state’s third and fourth largest cities after Phoenix and Tucson. Chandler and Gilbert (to the southeast) are becoming well-known as magnets for both young families and high-tech manufacturing firms.

Fountain Hills, located above the Valley to the northeast in the McDowell Mountains, is fifteen minutes from the nearest city and prized for its solitude. The sister communities of Cave Creek and Carefree to the north comprise another secluded area, with rustic ranch spreads and million-dollar adobe homes inspired by Hohokam designs.


Great Climate


The three primary reasons people relocate to the Valley of the Sun are warm weather, wages and weekends. Shining brightly more than 300 days each year, the sun does much more than generate a good tan.

It attracts industries searching for a warm, dry climate that won’t interfere with their distribution networks, telecommunications systems or administrative operations. It attracts tourists who contribute an estimated $5 billion annually to the Valley economy.

Tourism also draws a steady flow of newcomers looking to set down roots in a community that is socially, economically and culturally hospitable.

For every three people who come to the Valley, two leave, helping somewhat to balance the influx. Nearly a third of these newcomers arrive from the Midwest, bringing with them the friendly characteristics known to that region.

A survey in the fall of 1999, conducted by The Arizona Republic (the Valley’s largest circulation newspaper) and analyzed by Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute, estimated that 33 percent of the Valley residents picked climate as the factor they value most about living here.

Nine months out of the year, Valley residents enjoy pleasant, spring-like temperatures. It’s rare to have a golf game rained out. The summer is a different story. It’s hot here, no two ways about it. Temperatures often break 100 degrees during July and August. However over-used, the common defense, “But it’s a dry heat,” is true.
Given a choice, most Midwesterners would rather be in Phoenix at 105 degrees than Chicago at 85 degrees. Humidity is almost nonexistent here until August, when the monsoons drop sheets of welcome rain and replenish the water table. These evening thunderstorms, with their dramatic lightning displays, are almost an attraction in themselves. The average annual rainfall is only 7.66.


Natural Attractions

While the city of Phoenix is situated in the desert, Arizona is far from being a dry, desolate land. Palm, olive, pine and citrus trees are prevalent as landscaping for parks, homes and boulevards. Orange blossoms, in particular, perfume the air throughout March and April. Roses, poppies and hundreds of other flowers bloom spectacularly almost all year-round. Desert conditions actually exist in only 40 percent of Arizona.

The sun has shaped the Valley’s active, outdoor lifestyle, allowing people to pursue their recreational passions almost any time of year. There are over 1,000 tennis courts and 150 golf courses.

Within a couple of hours drive from Phoenix are large, blue lakes, cool pines, the historic Colorado River, the majestic San Francisco Peaks and the awesome Grand Canyon. To illustrate the diversity of the Arizona landscape, consider the fact that Phoenix boasts the highest per capita boat ownership in the nation and that major snow-skiing facilities are within several hours drive.

Trailered boats are a common sight zipping along the Valley’s thoroughfares. The five lakes within a short drive from metropolitan Phoenix offer water-skiing, power boating, sailing and fishing. Raft trips down the alternately tranquil and turbulent Verde and Salt rivers also are popular.

A series of mountain ranges encircle the Valley, creating a recreational mecca for hikers and campers. Maricopa County’s diverse regional parks offer everything from a popular shooting range to a wave pool with water slides. The Valley’s backyard peaks — Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak and Papago Park — are favored by those who like to have fun close to home. Horseback riders, hikers, bicyclists and picnickers flock to South Mountain Park, which, at 16,500 acres, is the largest municipal park in the world.

In 1998 the Arizona Diamondbacks began play in the new stadium in downtown Phoenix. The World Series win in 2001 was further acknowledgement of Phoenix’s “arrival” to big-league status.

Warm weather also attracts several major-league baseball teams and their legions of fans for Cactus League spring training. Teams playing at sites around the Valley include the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, Milwaukee Brewers, L. A. Angels of Anaheim, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox and Colorado Rockies train in Tucson.