- Author: Robrt L. Pela
- Category: Lifestyle
- Issue: May 2012
Whether you’re relocating or just recreating, the Valley’s diverse and distinctive neighborhoods offer a host of haunts to explore. From family friendly enclaves to hidden historic ’hoods, plus meccas for outdoorsy types, foodies anD creatives, here are 30 of our favorite neighborhoods.
Best Family Friendly ’Hoods
Sandwiched between the Arizona Canal and Camelback Mountain, Arcadia is not just gorgeous and livable but also a great place to pick a lemon. Once home to hundreds of acres of sweet-smelling citrus groves, Arcadia is today the residential jewel of east Phoenix, and many homes are still hugged by lush fruit trees. Immaculately maintained, mostly mid-century ranch-style houses with wide lots – perfect for backyard baseball games and family barbecues – are Arcadia’s signature. Highly respected area schools add to the allure.
Those of us who don’t live in this ’hood envy its proximity to La Grande Orange (4410 N. 40th St., 602-840-7777, lagrandeorangegrocery.com), one of Phoenix’s favorite epicurean epicenters. A patio-equipped café, pizzeria, coffee bar, and hip organic market all rolled into one, LGO also serves award-winning pizza and entrées at its indoor-outdoor Arcadia Room restaurant. And just down the street at Chelsea’s Kitchen (from the same owners; 5040 N. 40th St., 602-957-2555, chelseaskitchenaz.com), kids eat free on weekdays from 3-6 p.m.
Arcadia is one of the few local neighborhoods that hosts its own Fourth of July parade (arcadiaparade.com). The 17-year-old tradition is a kid-centric celebration featuring a fun promenade of bikes, trikes and little red wagons decorated with Arcadian pride and beaucoup red, white, and blue bunting. Vintage automobiles bring up the rear, followed by the local chapters of the Military Order of the Purple Hearts and the American Legion Color Guard.
Arcadians who require a more-than-once-a-year march love the nearby Camelback Mountain hiking trails and their breathtaking views of the Valley. Kids can lope along the picturesque and breezy Bobby’s Rock Trail, while Mom can stairmaster up the more strenuous Summit Trail for its view of lovely Echo Canyon (phoenix.gov/recreation/rec/parks/preserves/locations/camelback/index.html).
This Del Webb development, named one of Parenting magazine’s best places to raise a family, boasts both curricular and extracurricular selling points. While Anthem kids study at some of the highest-achieving public schools in the city, moms can stock up at the Outlets at Anthem (4250 W. Anthem Way, 623-465-9500, outletsanthem.com). Anthemites have their own water park and rec center, as well as numerous bike and walking trails.
Paradise Valley Oasis
At this modern-day Mayberry in the desert, mall life is the name of the game, thanks to its proximity to Paradise Valley Mall. But kids can stay fit surfing cement at Paradise Valley Skatepark (17402 N. 40th St., Phoenix, phoenix.gov/PRL/skate.html#paradise), hitting Phoenix Mountain Preserve’s hiking trails from the 40th Street trailhead (phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/piestewapeak/hikingmap/index.html), or enjoying the pond, play areas and farmers’ market (arizonafarmersmarkets.com) at Roadrunner Park (3502 E. Cactus Rd.).
Best Historic ’Hoods
Robson Historic District in Mesa
Bungalow fans, rejoice! Most of the homes in this Mesa enclave were built in the late 1920s and early 1930s, architectural heyday of the ever-popular bungalow, in all its gabled, one-and-a-half story glory. But given the neighborhood’s 50-year, mostly pre-WWII development history, Robson also offers an eclectic blend of structural styles. A recent grassroots effort saved several architecturally significant homes once on the brink of demolition, including Mitten House (the 1936 residence of Mesa Journal Tribune publisher Charles Mitten) and Pomeroy House (one of Mesa’s last Tudor Revival homes). Beautifully maintained by residents who revere their rustic buildings, Robson homes are often more affordable than those in Downtown Phoenix’s tonier historic districts.
With its colonnades and brick buildings, Downtown Mesa (downtownmesa.com) is a historic throwback. Visit during 2nd Friday (2ndfridaynightout.com) or MACfest (select Saturdays, September-April, macfestmesa.com), when the sidewalks swell with musicians strumming six-strings and artists selling their wares.
The Mitten and Pomeroy homes were once located on the nearby site of the Mesa Arts Center (1 E. Main St., 480-644-6500, mesaartscenter.com). At 212,755 square feet, it’s the largest arts venue in the state, encompassing 14 classroom studios, four theater spaces and five art galleries. The stunning complex hosts world-class concerts and events throughout the year, including the National Geographic Live series.
Earthier art can be found among the paleontological relics at the Arizona Museum of National History (53 N. MacDonald Rd., 480-644-2230, azmnh.org), where nearly 60,000 objects of natural, anthropological, and historic significance reside. History buffs know it’s also home to the 1896 Sirrine House, a gorgeous Queen Anne-style home and the only fully restored Victorian-era house in Mesa.
F.Q. Story Historic District
Established in the 1920s as a diverse, upper-middle-class district of English Tudor cottages, Spanish Colonial and California Craftsman homes, F.Q. Story has reemerged as a thriving, well-tended place to live. It’s close to Downtown Phoenix’s hotspots and restored historic hangouts like homey pizzeria Cibo (603 N. Fifth Ave., 602-441-2697, cibophoenix.com) and retro lounge SideBar (1514 N. Seventh Ave., 602-254-1646, sidebarphoenix.com).
Country Club Park
The Coronado Historic District’s best-kept secret is its funky, pre-war Country Club Park. Founded in 1939, the subdivision’s curved streets encircle a verdant 2-plus-acre park (Windsor Avenue, between Eighth and 10th streets). Many of the beautifully restored Ranch-style homes were built by noted architectural firm Lescher and Mahoney and are within walking distance of casual, hip haunts like Tuck Shop (2245 N. 12th St., 602,354-2980, tuckinphx.com) and The Main Ingredient Ale House (2337 N. Seventh St., 602-843-6246, tmialehouse.com).
Best for Outdoorsy Types
With its diverse floor plans; panoramic, postcard-perfect mountain and city views; and easy access to hiking and biking trails, this East Valley community is a bastion of bucolic pursuits. Built on 2,500 acres of Usery Mountain land, this neighborhood of mostly new homes in northeast Mesa boasts a broad range of home prices, a Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course, and half a dozen parks.
Usery Mountain Park (3939 N. Usery Pass Rd., 480-984-0032, maricopa.gov/parks/usery/) is an expanse of 3,600 desert acres at the foot of the Goldfield Mountains. It features the only five-star outdoor archery range in the state, with close to 100 field practice targets on six courses – all surrounded by breathtaking desert views. But Las Sendas – Spanish for “the paths” – is all about hiking and biking. The popular, 3-mile roundtrip Wind Cave Trail leads to sweeping scenery and a cave cascading with plants. The gnarly, 7.1-mile Pass Mountain Trail is a technical thrill ride for mountain bikers or a scenic challenge for hikers and horseback riders. The park also offers regular bird-watching walks, a Fitness Challenge hiking series, guided hikes for kids, nature classes and yoga.
After a hike or bike ride, soothe your tired muscles with a syrah and live music on weekends at nearby D Vine wine bar (2837 N. Power Rd., 480-654-4171, dvinewine101.com), or with Four Peaks beer and other microbrews on tap at Red White & Brew (6740 E. McDowell Rd., 480-807-9393, rwbaz.com).
The lucky residents of Glendale’s Arrowhead Ranch enjoy both aquatic and arid amenities. They have private boating privileges on the manmade lakes and a desert back yard in the form of Thunderbird Conservation Park (glendaleaz.com/ParksandRecreation/ThunderbirdPark.cfm). Proud home of American Idol Jordin Sparks, Arrowhead Ranch is on the pricey side but perfect for the outdoorsy homeowner who wants a larger, new home.
There’s no need to joust for a parking spot at the Peak when you can hike from your front door to the Summit or Circumference trailheads (phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/piestewapeak/index.html), or bike to popular trail No. 100 (mtbikeaz.com/trail-index/phoenix/trail-100-phoenix-mountains-preserve/). Pre- or post-ride, pedal to nearby Trailhead Bike Shop & Cafe (6825 N. 16th St., 602-264-2328, trailheadbikecafe.com) for a tea smoothie and a tune-up. Or beeline to the Rokerij (6335 N 16th St., 602-287-8900, richardsonsnm.com) for $5 happy hour drinks and sizzling Santa Fe-style fare. Most of the xeriscaped, 1960s ranch-style homes in the Peak’s southwestern foothills offer spectacular city views and come in a range of prices – from $250,000 to more than $1 million.
Best for Car-Free Living
If you’re tired of gorging on gas and want to shrink your carbon footprint, head to the well-beaten paths on the Central Corridor – that spinal stretch of Phoenix between Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue, from Roosevelt to Camelback. An estimated 60,000 people work within a 3-mile radius of this arterial road, and it’s built to fit the lifestyle of those bold enough to walk, bike, or ride to work. With houses in every architectural era (new, old and mid-century), configuration (high-rise, warehouse loft and single family homes) and price range, the Corridor is the eco-urban place to be.
Central Avenue boasts more light rail stops (10) than any other street, and with a stellar selection of cultural and culinary hotspots dotting the line, you can create numerous constellations of itineraries. Take your pick from Phoenix Public Market (phoenixpublicmarket.com), Portland’s Wine Bar (portlandsphoenix.com), Cheuvront Restaurant and Wine Bar (cheuvronts.com), Giant Coffee (1437 N. First St., 602-396-7215), Phoenix Art Museum (phxart.org), Heard Museum (heard.org), the new incarnations of Lux (luxcoffee.com) and Pane Bianco (pizzeriabianco.com/pane), Music Brokers (musicbrokers.com) at Central Pawn for used musical instruments, Maizie’s (maiziescafe.com), Lola Coffee (lolacoffeebar.com), Stinkweeds (stinkweeds.com), Frances (francesvintage.com), Smeeks (smeeks.com), and All About Books & Comics (allaboutbooksandcomics.com).
Coming home late from all this shopping and dining isn’t a problem, because the Central Corridor has more marked, lighted bike paths than any other midtown neighborhood. On weekends, pedal a portion of the Phoenix Sonoran Bikeway (www.trimbleoutdoors.com/ViewTrip/381987) down Third Avenue from Maryland Avenue to Jefferson Street (or cruise it all the way from the Carefree Highway to South Mountain). For a more recondite ride, pedal west on Colter from 10th street to Central, take Central south to Campbell, and head west on Campbell to Third Avenue. From there, you can continue peddling south down Third Avenue towards Earll Drive and finish the trip with some shopping at Park Central Mall.
Let’s hear it for the City of Scottsdale’s downtown trolley, a free, year-round shuttle service that runs every 15 minutes, seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. (scottsdaleaz.gov/trolley). The City even provides you with a place to stash your car (at one of five downtown garages) while you enjoy a free ride to and from the Old Town Arts District, the Fifth Avenue Shops, Scottsdale Fashion Square, and SouthBridge.
University Park Historic District in Tempe
Thanks to a recent City Council-approved grant for a tree-planting project, this architecturally distinctive ’hood – bounded by Apache Boulevard, McAllister Avenue, and Mill Avenue – should be shady and (relatively) cooler come summer. If it’s too toasty, a refreshing Irish beer at Rula Bula (401 S. Mill Ave., 480-929-9500, rulabula.com) and the air-conditioned Harkins Valley Art Theater (509 S. Mill Ave., 480-446-7272, harkinstheatres.com) are just an Orbit bus ride away (tempe.gov/tim/bus/orbit.htm).
Best for Foodies
SouthBridge area, Scottsdale
SouthBridge, stretched fetchingly along Stetson Drive, is a tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly riviera that offers the best in shopping, dining and imbibing. Epicureans and locavores are thrilled that SouthBridge crams so many locally- and independently-owned restaurants and bars into its glittery three acres. The restaurant scene here has played musical chairs in recent years, but hopefully its current lineup is here to stay.
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s hotly anticipated Barrio Queen (7114 E. Stetson Dr., 480-656-4197; barrioqueen.com) spotlights regional Mexican cuisine (think: squash-blossom quesadillas) and 375-plus tequilas. Cowboy Ciao (7133 E. Stetson Dr., 480-946-3111, cowboyciao.com) continues to satisfy foodies with its spaghetti-Western fare and diverse wine selection. Recently relocated Marcellino Ristorante (7114 E. Stetson Dr., 480-990-9500, marcellinoristorante.com), an upscale Italian restaurant known for handmade pastas and a superb wine list, has landed on several “best” lists. Foodies also favor friendly FnB (7133 E. Stetson Dr., 480-425-9463, fnbrestaurant.com) for its simple, veg-heavy menu and Arizona wine list.
Speaking of wine lists, the one to beat belongs to Kazimierz Wine Bar (7137 E. Stetson Dr., 480-946-3004, kazbar.net), which boasts more than 2,000 wines from 40-plus countries (and some pretty cushy sofas, too). Casablanca Lounge (7134 E. Stetson Dr., 480-970-7888, thecasablancalounge.com) takes its craft cocktails just as seriously; try the apple-infused Seasonal Buck. Head across the canal to Olive & Ivy (7135 E. Camelback Rd., 480-751-2200, foxrc.com) for its see-and-be scene and drinks like the Cactus Blossom, a scrumptious gin concoction mingled with elderflower.
North Central area (Central and Camelback)
Gastronomes in North Central enjoy a host of local eateries within walking distance. Long-time fave Aiello’s (5202 N. Central Ave., 602-277-8700, aiellositalianrestaurant.com) serves up classic east-coast Italian, while perennially popular Postino Central (5144 N. Central Ave., 602-274-5144, postinowinecafe.com) puts a modern twist on Mediterranean. St. Francis (111 E. Camelback Rd., 602-200-8111, stfrancisaz.com) is all about shareable plates and wood-fired fare, and Windsor (5223 N. Central Ave., 602-279-1111, windsoraz.com) wins over habitués with its cool patio.
Wedged between the Biltmore area and the Arcadia neighborhood, Arcadia Lite is a mid-century-modern lover’s dream. This clutch of smaller ranch and transitional homes built in the ’50s and ’60s are all within walking distance of some of midtown’s most popular eateries, most notably The Vig (4041 N. 40th St., 602-553-7227, thevig.us.com) and Beckett’s Table (3717 E. Indian School Rd., 602-954-1700, beckettstable.com).
Best for Retirees
For those not ready to commit to golf carts and 4 p.m. suppers, Thunderbird Retirement Resort in Glendale (5401 W. Dailey St., 602-904-7964, watermark-communities.com/thunderbird) is a nice transition. Convenient to the downtown Glendale antiques district and not too far from public transportation options, Thunderbird offers both independent senior living and assisted living for the elderly, and many units are available as rentals. The resort also offers activities for residents, including knitting classes, and hiking and picnics at the White Tank Mountains.
A blend of the historical and the zoological awaits at nearby 17-acre Sahuaro Ranch Park (9802 N. 59th Ave., 623-930-4200), where 13 original buildings (including an 1895 house and a barnyard) neighbor an array of animals, including chickens and peacocks.
Shoppers on the lookout for both chichi and recherché retro goods have a haven in downtown Glendale’s (goglendaleaz.com) more than 20 antique shops, including A Mad Hatter’s (5734 W. Glendale Ave., 623-931-1991, amadhatter.com) and the folk-art-focused Country Maiden (7146 N. 58th Ave.)
The quaint, cobblestone streets of downtown also host a variety of annual festivals, such as the Chocolate Affaire in February (glendaleaz.com/events/chocolateaffaire.cfm), Glendale Jazz & Blues Festival in April (glendaleaz.com/events/GlendaleJazzBluesFestival.cfm), and the holiday light spectacular Glendale Glitters in December (glendaleaz.com/events/glendaleglitters.cfm).
Apartment courts on 17th Avenue between Glendale Avenue and Maryland Road
Stuck in time, these kicky mid-century apartment courts (with fun names like The Palmera, The Crest, and The Serena) have long attracted both retirees who want to stay in town and snowbirds looking for low rents. Area golf courses include Palo Verde (6215 N. 15th Ave., 602-249-9930, phoenix.gov/golf) and the Encanto 9 Hole Executive Course (2300 N. 17th Ave., 602-262-6870). It’s also a short drive to several Phoenix lunchtime mainstays. Tacos Atoyac (1830 W. Glendale Ave, 602-864-2746) is popular for its mouthwatering $1 tacos. The menu at Persian Garden Cafe (1335 W. Thomas Rd., 602-263-1915, persiangardencafe.com) is a myriad of Mediterranean delights, and diners can score delicious desserts at Mary Coyle Ol’ Fashion Ice Cream Parlor (5521 N. Seventh Ave., 602-265-6266, marycoyle.net).
Sun City Grand
Located in Surprise, this popular retirement community bounded by Highway 60 and Bell Road is designed for active seniors. Four 18-hole golf courses surround a community center where seniors can get physical at a fitness club, swim, play tennis, or go bowling. The action at Surprise Stadium (15930 N. Bullard Ave., 623-222-2000 surpriseaz.gov) and Surprise Lake is just a few par 5s away. For the age-be-damned adventurous, the Surprise Aquatic Center (15831 N. Bullard Ave.) has two water slides and a vortex whirlpool, and when it’s time to eat, Amuse Bouche (17058 W. Bell Rd., 623-322-8881, amusebouche.biz) serves super beignets and eggs Benedict, or fill up on chic meatloaf at Vogue Bistro (15411 W. Waddell Rd., 623-544-9109, voguebistro.com).
Best for Shopping
Scottsdale Quarter/Kierland area
Now this is what we call living: city districts built entirely around the joys of shopping. Consumerism achieves a certain master-planned artistry in both Scottsdale Quarter, a new dining/entertainment district that’s becoming a national destination, and Kierland, home to the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, a professional-league golf club, and the mixed-use utopia known as Kierland Commons.
Anyone who’s fantasized about living in a mall can’t help but love the Commons (15205 N. Kierland Blvd., 480-348-1577, kierlandcommons.com). The Plaza Lofts (plazaloftskierland.com), an upscale condominium complex, are arranged around an attractive, Main Street-style development that offers 75 restaurants and shops. Crate and Barrel, J. Crew, Michael Kors, Anthropologie, Coach, and Juicy Couture share space with popular local eateries Zinc Bistro (zincbistroaz.com), North (foxrc.com) and Greene House (foxrc.com).
Across the street, Scottsdale Quarter (15279 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480-270-8123, scottsdalequarter.com) affords high-end shopping in a streetscape setting. Exclusive, iconic retailers include Calvin Klein Performance, the Apple Store and Sephora, while budget-seekers browse H&M – the IKEA of clothing stores. Martha Stewart-esque moms and kids head to newly opened Make Meaning to craft soaps, candles, ceramics and more. For those who want a beer with their beard trim or blowout, Dry Bar and Minibar.ber.shop combine salon with saloon.
Biltmore Fashion Park (2502 E. Camelback Rd., 602-955-8400, shopbiltmore.com), with its exclusive anchor stores like Sak’s and Cartier, is a pillar of Valley lifestyle engineering. But denizens of the Biltmore neighborhood know that some of the best antiquing in the Valley is also close by at the 18,000-square-foot Antique Gatherings (3601 E. Indian School Rd., 602-956-8203, antiquegatherings.com) showroom. Outdoor mall Town and Country (2021 E. Camelback Rd., townandcountryshops.com) is the place for deal hunters, with stylish secondhand stores My Sister’s Closet and My Sister’s Attic.
Start at one end – say at Zinnias at Melrose (724 W. Indian School Rd., 602-264-4166, zinniasatmelrose.blogspot.com), where you’ll find cool collectibles at bargain-basement prices – and keep moving north on Seventh Avenue into the heart of the Melrose Shopping District between Indian School and Camelback. Along the way, stop at Paris Envy (4624 N. Seventh Ave., 602-266-0966, parisenvy.com) for imported French tchotchkes, and at Qcumberz (4429 N. Seventh Ave., 602-277-5133) for a big box of vintage dishware. Coffee and a danish at Copper Star (4220 N. Seventh Ave., 602-266-2136, copperstarcoffee.com) provide the perfect wind-up for an excellent shopping trip.
Best for Starter Homes
Peacock Village in Peoria
Sports fans, outdoorsy types and culture mavens alike love Peacock Village, a lower-priced community of newer homes in Peoria. The neighborhood offers easy access to Loop 101, the Arrowhead Entertainment District, and a raft of recreational activities – on earth, water, air and even outer space.
Peacock Village puts sports fans in the center of the action. It’s minutes away from football at Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium (1 Cardinals Dr., 623-433-7100, universityofphoenixstadium.com) and baseball at the Peoria Sports Complex (16101 N. 83rd Ave., 623-773-8700, peoriasportscomplex.com). Boaters, anglers and hikers can take advantage of the proximity to Lake Pleasant (maricopa.gov/parks/lake_pleasant/default.aspx), and aeronautics aficionados can learn to pilot a glider plane at Turf Soaring School (8700 W. Carefree Highway, 602-439-3621, turfsoaring.com).
Culture vultures may prefer the stunning Peoria Center for the Performing Arts (8355 W. Peoria Ave., 623-815-7930) – home to the award-winning Theater Works (theaterworks.org) playhouse and a first-rate lobby art gallery – or dinner and a musical at Arizona Broadway Theatre (7701 W. Paradise Ln., 623-776-8400, azbroadwaytheatre.com). For cerebral stimulation of a different kind, the Challenger Space Center (21170 N. 83rd Ave., 623-322-2001, azchallenger.org), in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute, offers simulated flights to Mars.
Moon Valley’s Lookout Mountain
Your friends will be impressed when you tell them that your first home is in a gated community situated on one of three mountain preserves. Many of the ranch-style houses in this hidden ’hood cozy up to horseback riding and hiking trails at Lookout Mountain Preserve (phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/lookout/hiking/index.html) and all are a succinct stroll from the Lookout Mountain Golf Club at Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort (11111 N. Seventh St., 602-866-6356, tapatiocliffshilton.com/golf).
A little-known treasure tucked between Third and Seventh Avenues near Indian School Road, Yaple Park is a tiny historic district of only three streets that packs a real wallop. Neatly tended ranch homes constructed primarily in the 1930s and 1940s are mere steps from the walking and biking paths of the Grand Canal, and nearby Steele Indian School Park (300 E. Indian School Rd.) is a spacious and shaded place to unwind with the kids. Catch aerial urban views from the Clarendon Hotel’s Skydeck lounge (401 W. Clarendon Ave., 602- 252-7363, goclarendon.com), host of a weekly rooftop yoga class (sutramidtown.com).
Best Small-Town Feel
You can wake up to a sunrise in a small town and stay down on the farm in Gilbert’s Agritopia, a multi-purpose community spread across 166 idyllic acres where a tractor shed becomes a coffee shop and modern porch-fronted homes punctuate active, productive pastures. A fine example of New Ruralism, Agritopia (“agri” as in farming, “topia” as in “utopia”) features newly built homes based in older Craftsman, Territorial, and French Revival styles and a working suburban farm.
In Downtown Gilbert, one can unearth vintage treasures and enjoy fragrant outdoor flora at C & J’s Antiques and Gardens (40 N. Gilbert Rd., 480-539-0401, cjsantiquesandgarden.com), a former 1920s bungalow. Some of the Valley’s best Texas-style ribs can be had at Joe’s Real Barbeque (301 N. Gilbert Rd., 480-583-3805, joesrealbbq.com), while Liberty Market (230 N. Gilbert Rd., 480-892-1900, libertymarket.com) dishes up wood-fired pizzas, grilled sandwiches, and an excellent selection of microbrews and espresso concoctions (Cuban latte, anyone?).
Organic produce – including peaches, oranges, dates, beets, lettuce, carrots, and basil, among other vegetables and herbs – from the 12-acre Farm at Agritopia (3000 E. Ray Rd.) is served at Joe’s Farm Grill (3000 E. Ray Rd., 480-563-4745, joesfarmgrill.com) and is available for sale at Agritopia’s Farm Stand (farmstandagritopia.blogspot.com), where one can browse for grapefruit and fresh kale on most weekends.
Not far from this pastoral paradise, city life beckons. Western Skies Golf Club (1245 E. Warner Rd., 480-545-8542, westernskiesgolf.com) offers a first-class public course with amazing views of the Superstition Mountains. After a round of golf, locals like to drink a round at Mulligans Grill, located in Western Skies’ handsome, adobe-inspired clubhouse.
Nearly nothing in the Valley says “small town” so much as Sunnyslope, seven miles north of Downtown Phoenix and nestled in the foothills of the North Mountain range. Locals linger over lunch at Eye Opener Family Restaurant (524 W. Hatcher Rd., 602-861-1468), sometimes stopping around the corner at the Sunnyslope Historical Society Museum (737 E. Hatcher Rd., 602-331-3150, sunnyslopehistoricalsociety.com) to peruse memorabilia and chat with neighbors they’ve known all their lives.
Buckeye’s Verrado community is based on society’s collective vision of an all-American dream town. So pristine and tasteful it almost looks like a movie set, Verrado offers a wide range of real estate price points and styles. Its Village Green (21029 W. Main St., 623-215-6000, verrado.com) is home to myriad shopping and dining options, and each neighborhood is situated around its own cleverly named park, including Poets Park and Turtles Landing.
Best for Creative Types
Desert landscaping just isn’t enough for some of the more creative among us, and so there’s Carefree, built around the lush Sonoran vistas that inspire so much of the Western art for which Arizona has become known. The houses here – mostly Territorial and other Southwestern-inspired architectural designs – incorporate cacti and other sturdy flora and fauna into their landscaping. Not far away is a bustling business district and plenty of ma-and-pa souvenir shops to keep tourism booming.
Carefree is home to some of the most renowned Southwestern artists in the world, and many have their own galleries here – like Bob Parks, owner of Bob Parks Gallery (14 Easy St., 602-469-5955, bobparks.us), who sells exclusive, western-themed bronzes. At Keskinis Gallery (7402 E. Nonchalant Ave., 480-661-1382, keskinisgallery.com), Daphne Keskinis peddles her popular oil paintings and copper work.
Both of these artists, as well as 150 others, display their work at the annual Carefree Fine Art and Wine Festival (thunderbirdartists.com/carefree-fine-art-wine-festival-november/) each November. This juried show of national and international art is Carefree’s magnum opus and attracts art and wine lovers from around the world.
Many desert dwellers simply find their art among the flora and fauna, and for them there’s the Carefree Desert Garden (101 E. Easy St., 480-488-3686, carefree.org), featuring rare Sonoran plants like the crested saguaro and the spiny, bizarre boojum tree.
Grand Avenue/Roosevelt District
Thanks to longtime local arts advocates Beatrice Moore and Tony Zahn, this once-run-down district is now vibrant with repurposed warehouses and storefronts with second lives as art galleries (like Bragg’s Pie Factory, 1301 Grand Ave., 602-391-4016) and shops (Kooky Krafts, 1500 Grand Ave., 602-252-3774). Affordable rents at Oasis on Grand (1501 Grand Ave., 602-358-8185, oasisongrand.com), which offers dual apartment/gallery spaces, make this the perfect place for young artist types, as does its proximity to zany boutiques and hipster hangouts like the Bikini Lounge (1502 Grand Ave., 602-252-0472, thebikinilounge.com) and Mel’s Diner (1747 Grand Ave., 602-252-8283).
Thanks to the South Scottsdale Art Alliance (5702 E. Wilshire Dr., 480-620-2658, southscottsdaleartalliance.org) and its annual studio tour, more creative types are moving to South Scottsdale. Rentals abound, and there are still neighborhood condos going for around $100,000. Downtown Scottsdale’s Thursday night Art Walk (scottsdalegalleries.com) and its many galleries offer a weekly source of artistic inspiration.