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|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 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 natures most glorious perfumes.
Just west of North Central Phoenix is the Chris-Town neighborhood , anchored by the Chris-Town 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 Patriots 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Ruths 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 Tempes 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.
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 Eds Satisfied Frog inside Frontier Town.
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 worlds tallest fountain jetting water 560 feet from the center of the lake in the towns 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.
Wherever you decide to visit, the Valley of the Sun gives rise to fabulous scenic drives sprinkled with plenty of western folklore and entertainment. See you soon!