World Facts Index > United States > Phoenix

Phoenix, known as The Valley of the Sun for its 300-plus days of sunshine each year, is fragmented into many neighborhoods and suburbs. Visitors first notice the sprawling low profile of most of the valley, with two exceptional high rise downtown neighborhoods.

Greater Phoenix
Greater Phoenix includes the older North Central Phoenix area which extends through the central Camelback corridor to just past Northern Avenue. "North Central" is relative, as the area has grown so much in recent years. Beautiful upscale mansions and stately homes grace this area, as well as some of the more popular churches including North Phoenix Baptist Church and the Valley Cathedral. Citrus trees are abundant in the lush landscaped greenery--pass in the evening when the citrus is blooming, take a deep breath and experience one of nature's most glorious perfumes.

Just west of North Central Phoenix is the Chris-Town neighborhood , anchored by the Phoenix Spectrum Mall at 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road. Developed during the 50s, 60s and 70s, this area features mostly green landscaping and wide residential streets.

The downtown area has been undergoing a major facelift since the building of the America West Arena and Bank One Ballpark. Coffeehouses, restaurants, nightclubs and shopping in the Arizona Center continue to draw people downtown for the hopping nightlife. Many new restaurants have blossomed, including Dragon Inn. Be sure to visit the architecturally significant Burton Barr Central Library while you are here. Downtown parks such as Patriot's Square Park offer a place to relax for a sack lunch on the green. Other attractions in the downtown area are the Arizona Science Center, the Phoenix Museum of History as well as the Phoenix Art Museum.

West Phoenix
The inner neighborhoods like Maryvale and Moon Valley include moderately priced housing developed primarily in the 70s. Shopping in the west area is provided by Desert Sky Mall, and Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion offers an open-air entertainment ampitheatre for concerts and attractions.

Flanked by Glendale, Peoria and Tolleson, West Phoenix continues to spread outward. Visit charming Historic Downtown Glendale and Catlin Court if you have a hankerin' for antiques. Starting as a small farming and ranching community, the area now features the premier Peoria Sports Complex, the spring training home to the Padres and Mariners. Highlighting shopping for the area is the new Arrowhead Towne Center Mall.

Outlying Areas
Further out from the city you will find a small pocket of higher priced homes called Litchfield Park, developed in the 70s largely for the enlisted soldiers and officers of nearby Luke Air Force Base. Newer Garden Lakes neighborhood sports a lake ringed by upper middle class homes. Nearby Duncan Family Farms offers a U-pick garden as well as bi-annual festivals. Rooted in agriculture, the cotton fields are slowly giving way to new homes and businesses, and smaller communities like Avondale, Buckeye and Goodyear are seeing steady development as well.

Rainbow Valley and the Estrellas are a mix of newer stucco and tile homes edging out the existing prefab housing and trailers nearby. Golfers, hikers and campers, check out the scenery at Estrella Mountain Regional Park.

South Phoenix
Largely comprised of low-cost housing and industry, the walled and gated community of Ahwatukee is a notable exception to the older South area. Ahwatukee residents are mostly older adults and urban professionals, and upscale apartments coexist with middle class housing. Be sure to take the South Mountain Park scenic drive while you are visiting this area. Fabulous sunsets are the pride of Arizona and best enjoyed from a desert wilderness vantage point. Nearby shopping can be accomplished at the new Arizona Mills Super Mall just across the freeway.

Past Peoria and Glendale are the communities of Sun City, Sun City West, Youngtown and Surprise. Hikers will enjoy the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. The Sun Cities are largely retirement communities with immaculately manicured landscaping and a casual, leisure pace. Youngtown was also developed as a retirement neighborhood, but with the appeal of a very small-town atmosphere.

East Side
Home to the Paradise Valley and Sunnyslope neighborhoods near North Mountain Park, lower and middle income tract homes abound here, developed primarily in the last 30 years. Be certain to try dinner out at A Different Pointe of View on 7th Street or at the fabulous German Felsen Haus on East Camelback at 10th Street.

Paradise Valley
Bordering Phoenix is the Town of Paradise Valley, not to be confused with the Paradise Valley neighborhood in Phoenix. Northeast of Phoenix, this area draws middle to upperclass residents, and fine shopping is available at the Paradise Valley Mall.

East of Paradise Valley is Scottsdale, fondly referred to by residents as "the most western town in the west". Highly sought after for conventions and vacations, this area has upscale housing and topnotch restaurants such as Ruth's Chris steakhouse at Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road.

Located south of Scottsdale, Tempe is primarily a college town, and the home of Arizona State University. Local festivals such as Fall Festival of the Arts are extremely popular down on South Mill. Arizona State University is located in its center, ringed by family and student housing. North Tempe's residents are mostly middle-class while Southern Tempe sports upper-middle class and a few well heeled folks. The area boasts lots to do and see like concerts and special events held in the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium.

Eastern Towns
Continuing east we find Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert. Mesa encompasses 122 square miles and has seen tremendous growth in housing over the past 25 years. Downtown areas are wide and tree-lined, some with nostalgic grassy medians and diagonal parking. Housing is varied, but largely pre-World War II, with red brick, painted brick and stucco most frequent. Chandler remained largely an agricultural community until the growth spurt began in the 70s. Much of this area houses young families and middle-class professionals in stucco and tile developments. Local shopping is enjoyable at the Superstition Springs Center Mall at the NW corner of US Hwy 60 and Power Road.

Carefree and Cave Creek
The northeast Valley finds the towns of Carefree and Cave Creek, home to upscale resorts like The Boulders resort and spa. Carefree is a popular retirement village and many residents are upper-class. Cave Creek residents are more middle-incomes and families. Attractions here include unique shopping at El Pedregal or dining and drinks at Crazy Ed's Satisfied Frog inside Frontier Town.

Fountain Hills
Travelling far east to the edge of the McDowell Mountains brings you to the beautiful town of Fountain Hills. The centerpiece of the city is the world's tallest fountain jetting water 560 feet from the center of the lake in the town's park. This powerful white plume can be seen for miles around. Originally a cattle ranch, this planned community had eyes for retirees in the 70s. Recently named one of the top ten places to raise a family by Parenting magazine, the area continues to receive national attention and prides itself on its small town appeal.

Apache Junction and the Superstition Mountains
This virtual desert wilderness has yet to see grand scale development, although some newer stucco and tile communities provide stark contrast to the clusters of retirement mobile homes. Take a tour through Goldfield Ghost Town for an authentic desert experience.

History of Phoenix

Phoenix has a history dating back to 700 AD, evidenced by the Pueblo Grande Ruins, remains of a civilized, resourceful and industrious community that inhabited the area. This early civilization constructed an irrigation system consisting of 135 canals tapping into the Salt River which provided water for the fertile lands. Mysteriously, this ancient civilization disappeared in the 1400s, with a severe drought being the most widely accepted cause for their demise. Later Native Americans roving the area and witnessing the ruins and canals dubbed them the Hohokam, meaning 'the people who have gone.'

It was not until 1867 that the seeds for modern day Phoenix were planted. Traveling on horseback, Jack Swilling of Wickenburg stopped to take a rest, looked out upon the vast expanse of desert, experienced the favorable weather and envisioned a farming community. The lack of available water was the primary obstacle, so he organized the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company to divert water to the Valley's land. The year 1868 brought with it the area's first crops. A small colony, Swillings Mill was formed four miles east of modern day Phoenix. The idea for a new name for the tiny settlement was born from the idea that, just as the legendary phoenix rises up from the ashes, the new town would spring from the ruins of a former civilization.

The late 1860s and 1870s brought continued growth to the area with the addition of a post office and steam mill, sounding the horn of emerging industry. With the influx of pioneers continuing, by 1870 Phoenix became the trade center of the southwest and earned a reputation as a wild, lawless western town. The first county election held in 1871 resulted in a gun battle between candidates: J.A. Chenowth and Jim Favorite engaged in a shooting match resulting in Favorite's death and Chenowth's withdrawal from the race. Tom Barnum became the first sheriff of Mariposa County, which was formed when Yavapai County was divided.

The townsite was officially recorded on February 15, 1873 and incorporated in 1881. The beginnings of a bustling city could be seen, complete with the first electric plants in the west located here. Transportation progressed with the first horse drawn streetcar line built along Washington Street in 1887, and strides in transportation would be the primary factor in the growth of the city. The long anticipated arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad rolled into the station soon after. The next few years brought with them triumphs and tragedies with the installation of the first telephone system and the worst flood in Valley history. The 1902 signing of the National Reclamation Act made it possible to build dams on western streams, and the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association was formed to manage the city's most precious commodity, its water supply.

Arizona gained its statehood with the approval of President William Howard Taft on February 14, 1912. Thus began a new era; the farming community declined and Phoenix became a booming metropolis. Within eight years Phoenix boasted a population of 29,000, a total of 1,080 buildings had been constructed and the Heard Building, Arizona's first skyscraper, loomed over the city.

The first true economic boom in Phoenix history was in the 1940s, fueled by the declaration of war. Home to Luke Field, Williams Field, Falcon Field and the giant training center at Hyder, Phoenix became the temporary home to thousands of military men. Having been smitten with the Arizona lifestyle, many of these men returned with their families after the war. Determined to continue the economic rise, local economic boosters targeted companies like Motorola, General Electric, and Reynolds Aluminum, describing Phoenix as the 'new modern city of the West'. Banks issued loans freely and newspapers praised the Valley as a great place to live. The opening of Sky Harbor Airport and the newly affordable air conditioning systems in homes, businesses and cars gave a major boost to the tourism industry, which still flourishes today.

The 1950s brought with it the beginning of a cultural community with the Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum and the Phoenix Symphony at its core. The community supported the growth of a small teachers college into what is now Arizona State University in Tempe, another important step in the Valley's expansion.

Migration to the Valley has continued throughout the decades with Phoenix earning the distinction as one of the fastest growing areas in the country. Each year golfing enthusiasts converge in droves, earning Phoenix a reputation as a premier golfing location. Arizona is now one of the few states in the country to host a major league team in all sports. Following the happenings of local teams has become an integral part of the Phoenix lifestyle. The Arizona Cardinals, tracing their roots to 1898, have the distinction of being the oldest continuously run professional football franchise in the nation. The Phoenix Suns burst onto the scene in 1968 and have entertained Valley residents for decades with their superb skills on the court. The new franchise known as the Phoenix Coyotes debuted in 1996, and the long awaited dream to have a baseball team became a reality in 1998 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Residents and visitors alike eagerly anticipated the construction of the Bank One Ballpark, the only sports facility in the world featuring a retractable roof. This forever sealed the fate of downtown Phoenix as a sports icon.

Just as the phoenix rose from the ashes of ruin, so has this city grown from a lost civilization to a major economic, cultural and sports center in the short span of 130 years. There is no indication that the present migration to the Valley of the Sun will be slowing any time soon, as the climate continues to lure snowbirds and businesses alike. Today's new pioneers owe a debt of gratitude to their counterparts who so graciously paved the way to the magnificent modern day city we now enjoy. Traces of the past may be viewed daily at the Phoenix Museum of History downtown.

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 65 70 75 84 94 104 105 104 98 88 74 66
Avg. Low 41 44 48 55 64 72 81 78 72 60 48 41
Mean 54 58 62 70 78 88 94 92 86 75 62 54
Avg. Precip. 0.7 in 0.7 in 0.9 in 0.2 in 0.1 in 0.1 in 0.8 in 1.0 in 0.9 in 0.7 in 0.7 in 1.0 in


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