Arizona at a Glance
A land of contrasts — not to mention breathtaking sunrises and sunsets — Arizona is defined by hot, cacti and creosote-studded, low-elevation desert, offset by the world’s largest stand of evergreen ponderosa pine trees. More than half of the state lies at an elevation of at least 4,000 feet above sea level.
The Grand Canyon State is also home to the incomparable, immense Grand Canyon National Park, its bands of red rock — a mile-deep chasm carved by 278 miles of the Colorado River — revealing millions of years of geological history. Set on the ancestral homeland of 11 associated tribes, it stands as one of the globe’s most spectacular examples of erosion.
Meanwhile, in northeastern Arizona, Canyon de Chelly National Monument is another natural wonder, situated on Navajo tribal lands that were inhabited by several Native American peoples for millennia. Home to an 800-foot-tall Spider Rock spire, towering sandstone cliffs and a verdant canyon, it also features fascinating prehistoric rock art.
Offering a change of pace and an unmistakable Southwest vibe, the bustling capital city of Phoenix — dubbed the Valley of the Sun — joins Mesa and Tucson as cosmopolitan centers of culture and industry, ensuring Arizona has appeals for almost anyone.
Weathering the Move to Arizona
Given the state’s significant variations in elevation, Arizona sees a number of localized climate conditions. In the lower elevations, primarily expect a desert climate, with mild winters and harsh, hot summers. Weather from late fall to early spring typically offers relief, when lows average around 60° F.
By the middle of February, temperatures begin to rise, with warm days and cool, breezy nights. June through September is when the dry heat really sets in, with temperatures that range from 90° F to 120° F or more at their peak.
The state’s coldest months occur from November through February, with temperatures usually range from 40° F to 75° F, offset by occasional frosts.
Sunshine in Arizona is plentiful, with Yuma seeing an average of 313 sunny days, followed by about 296 in Phoenix, 284 in Tucson, 276 in Winslow and 264 in Flagstaff.
In line with all that sunshine, Arizona’s rainfall is minimal, with an average annual rainfall of 12.7 inches that arrives during two rainy seasons — when cold fronts come from the Pacific Ocean during the winter and when the monsoon arrives each summer. Then, hot moisture brings lightning, thunderstorms, wind and brief — but potentially torrential — downpours that can lead to flash floods. During the driest months, the state’s arid and semi-arid regions are prone to sudden dust storms, which can be miles long and thousands of feet high.
Considering a move to Arizona? Wondering about the best time to move? Your best bet is during fall, generally from September to November when temperatures are mild and weather events are fewer and farther between.
Advantages of Moving to Arizona
There are plenty of reasons people decide to move to Arizona. For one thing, Arizona’s job market is fairly strong, with an unemployment rate of 3.5% in August 2022, 0.2% lower than the national level.
The state is also a favorite among health care and social assistance providers, employing 420,500 professionals as of August 2022, a 4.8% increase year-over-year. This is the greatest source of employment in the state. Meanwhile, the administrative and waste services sector had 233,900 employees on the payroll, followed by manufacturing, with 194,200 employees statewide.
Accordingly, occupations in this sector offer some of the highest annual wages. For example, nurse practitioners earn an average of $117,476, while general dentists bring home an average of $199,665; family medicine physicians earn about $218,921; anesthesiologists collect $285,473 annually; and surgeons — with the exception of ophthalmologists — earn $284,264 on average.
Best Places to Live in Arizona
If you’re considering a move to Arizona, you’re likely wondering about things like the cost of living, median home value and top employers.
The state added over 750,000 new residents between 2010 and 2020. Phoenix saw an increase of nearly 200,000 residents and was estimated to welcome another 20,000 in 2021. There, the home median sales price in August 2022 was $475,000, continuing a downward trend month-over-month. Per the U.S. Census Bureau, that’s much higher than the state’s median home value of $242,000 as of July 2021.
It should also be noted that Phoenix is the resident address of the largest private employer in the state, Banner Health. Other top employers in the state include Circle K, ON Semiconductor and Fortune 500s like Walmart, Amazon, ExxonMobil and Apple.
Tucson is the second most populous city in Arizona, adding over 22,000 residents in the last decade. Its median home sales price was $356,000. As for the third largest city in the state, Mesa, it saw a population growth of over 65,000 new residents, with an average home sales price of $486,000.
Things You Can Only See and Do in Arizona
Arizona is a nature-lover’s dream. Home to three national parks — Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Saguaro — there are near-endless things to see and do.
One of seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park abounds with an evolutionary history that spans from the Precambrian era to the Cenozoic periods. Semi-arid with raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States, the Grand Canyon protects 1,737 known species of vascular plants, 64 moss species of moss, 167 fungi species, not to mention 447 known species of birds, along with bats and bighorn sheep. Visitors may even spot mountain lions, elk, bison, lizards, snakes, as well as a number of endemic fish species and plenty of amphibians. While it’s hard to narrow down activities in the park, do be sure to catch a sunrise at Yavapai Point and walk along the South Rim of the Canyon to truly appreciate its splendor.
Set in northeastern Arizona’s high desert, Petrified Forest National Park is a drivable geologic wonder that runs between Interstate 40 and Highway 180. To its south is the Rainbow Forest, filled with colorful petrified wood. Take in the park’s largest concentration of it on the .9-mile Crystal Forest Trail loop, which takes you through an ancient forest, where 225 million years ago, 200-foot- tall conifers towered over a tropical lowland. To the north, the Painted Desert reveals vibrant badlands. Known for its fossils — namely ones from fallen trees from the Mesozoic era — the park also protects 11 places listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Named for the giant, iconic saguaro (sah-WAH-ro) cacti that stud the Sonoran Desert, Saguaro National Park in southeastern Arizona flanks the city of Tucson. Divided in two, the Tucson Mountain District (TMD) is located about 10 miles west of the city, while the Rincon Mountain District (RMD) sits approximately 10 miles east of Tucson. Each section of the park is quite distinct. The former features volcanic rocks, desert scrub, desert grassland, mixed conifer forest, oak woodland, pine forest and pine-oak woodland. It’s home to black bears, as well as Mexican spotted owls, white-tailed deer and Arizona mountain king snakes. By contrast, the uplifted, domed and eroded RMD is higher and wetter with great biodiversity, including many plants and animals not found in the TMD, such as coyotes, Gambel’s quails and desert tortoises.
Lake lovers will appreciate Lake Havasu State Park in Mohave County, a mecca for outdoor recreation, with opportunities for camping, boating and fishing — not to mention wide beaches with golden sands and palm trees.
Featuring rugged mountains, washes and canyons waiting to be explored, Tucson’s Catalina State Park harbors upwards of 5,000 saguaros and desert plants at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains.
Slide Rock State Park is another real draw just north of Sedona, complete with a natural water slide formed by Oak Bed Creek’s slippery riverbed.
Speaking of the desert town of Sedona — located near Flagstaff — it’s a marvel of red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests. On its outskirts, you’ll find Red Rock State Park, which offers outstanding hiking and birdwatching.
Truly, natural beauty never ends in Arizona, be it at Horseshoe Bend — a horseshoe-shaped portion of the Colorado River near Page — or spectacular, nearby Antelope Canyon. An undulating slot canyon on Navajo lands east of Lechee, it’s shaped by millions of years of wind and water erosion.
For those who prefer something indoors — or a break from the sun and heat is necessary — there’s the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, featuring 15,000 musical instruments and associated objects from nearly 200 countries and territories and every inhabited continent.
Additionally, consider exploring architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and studio, Taliesin West, and the site of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Offering public tours, it’s located in Scottsdale.
Want to catch a game? Chase Field — home of the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks — features a retractable roof.
You can also experience the softer side of Arizona at Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, an interactive indoor experience modeled after a rainforest.
Where Arizonans Eat
Whether it’s a dish rooted in Arizona soil or an indigenous ingredient unique to the state, Arizona’s cuisine is a showcase of its people and rich history.
Puffy fry bread dates to 1864, when the Navajo were forced to make the “Long Walk,” a 300-mile deportation from Arizona to a reservation in New Mexico. With limited supplies, they mixed flour, water, salt and baking powder, frying it in lard. Taste some of the best sweet and savory versions — including Navajo tacos — at the Hopi Cultural Center in Second Mesa or the Fry Bread House in Phoenix.
It’s said that the chimichanga was a happy accident that occurred when Monica Flin of El Charro Cafe in downtown Tucson dropped a burro into the deep fryer. Another Tucson restaurant also Macayo’s claims founder Woody Johnson accidentally dropped a burrito into his deep fryer, inventing the same. Whatever its origin, you can also try the specialty at El Norteño in Phoenix — just be sure to get it “enchilada style,” smothered with red sauce and blanketed in bubbly cheese.
Don’t forget to quench your thirst with a prickly pear margarita. Its namesake flavor comes from cacti — or nopal — that cover the Sonoran Desert. Made from the flat pads of this spiny plant that blooms edible fruit, you can try the refreshing sip at Javelina Cantina in Sedona.
Baked in a pan until bubbly and crunchy and served open-faced, cheese crisps are a dairy delight. Try one in all its gooey glory at family-run El Minuto Café in Tucson, a local hotspot for nearly 100 years.
A dish popularized by the O’odham and Pueblo communities, red chile stew is a bright, spicy bowl of yum. Get it — and fry bread — at the venerable Fry Bread House in Phoenix.
Not to be overlooked are killer Sonoran dogs — a Southwestern-style hot dog nestled into a sweet bolillo roll, topped with pinto beans; onions; chopped tomatoes; guacamole; cotija cheese; drizzles of ketchup, mayo and mustard; and a yellow chile. Whether you choose Mickey’s Hot Dogs in downtown Mesa or Nogales in Phoenix, you win.
Want to score Arizona classics from a James Beard-lauded chef? You’ve got to try Tucson’s El Guero Canelo, which dishes up expertly prepared burros to Sonoran dogs, tacos and tortas.
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