Newcomers’ Guide to the Valley

Editorial StaffMarch 1, 2018
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 “What is the city but the people?” writes William Shakespeare in the tragedy Coriolanus about the downfall of prideful aristocrats who scoff at the democratic virtues of popular rule. One might ask a similar thing of language: What is a city but its words? Every big city has its own distinct patois – a set of particular words or phrases that take on special meaning for its people, a sort of code that lets you know you’re talking Phoenician-a-Phoenician.

Here: PHOENIX’s official glossary of Phoenix.




1. Short for air conditioning, as in the life force of all things from roughly May 1 to mid-October, and the impetus behind some truly terrible local advertising campaigns (we’re looking at you, Melvin). Have a good AC repair service on speed dial or risk literal death come summer.



1. A Del Webb master-planned community in the far northern foothills of the Valley often named one of the best places to raise a family by PHOENIX and Parenting magazines. Also, good outlet shopping. Anthem is the Valley’s version of Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes.”


Arcadia (ahr-KAY-dee-uh) 

1. Neither a city in its own right nor a neighborhood entirely in Phoenix or Scottsdale, Arcadia is bounded by 44th and 68th streets to the west and east, and Indian School and Camelback roads to the south and north. Established as a haven for citrus tree growers in 1919, the neighborhood morphed into one of the Valley’s most idyllic suburban communities, with lush green lawns and picket fences. It’s named after the mythical Arcadia in ancient Greece, where the god Pan ruled over his wood nymphs in a pastoral paradise. 2. Arcadia Lite: As everyone and their brother began coveting homes in Arcadia, developers, homeowners and entrepreneurs started pushing the Arcadia boundaries farther west, with some even past 32nd Street claiming to be in “beautiful Arcadia Lite.”


1. Not a reference to the nickname of the United States’ 44th president (who lost Arizona in 2008 and 2012) but to Barry Goldwater, Arizona’s five-term U.S. Senator until 1987 and the GOP’s failed presidential candidate in 1964. Opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not because of racism but because of federal overreach. Libertarian fanboys love Barry.


1. The colloquial snarky nickname for the proliferation of drive-thru Mexican joints with names ending in “berto’s”: Filiberto’s, Julioberto’s, Rolberto’s, Aliberto’s, etc. We even like the outlier Federico’s, which serves the same comida (food) but boldly forgoes the “berto’s.” These joints are not the most authentic, but sometimes a rápido breakfast burrito or late-night order of flautas smothered in cheese and guac is just what the doctor (or the tequila shots) ordered.

BOB, the

1. What many Arizona Diamondbacks fans still stubbornly call Chase Field. Short for Bank One Ballpark – the stadium’s original moniker – BOB was completed in 1998 and was the first stadium in the U.S. with a retractable roof.


Bolo tie

1. The official neckwear of Arizona (designated in 1971), typically made of braided leather straps adorned with metal tips and secured in the middle with a decorative slide, preferably made of turquoise. Once the “fancy clothes” of cowboys and wannabe cowboy politicians (see: Barry Goldwater), now the unofficial uniform of hipsters in tuba bands. Controversial spelling variant: bola tie. Nice bolo, bro.


1. A donkey. Wild burro herds are protected under the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, but the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is exploring methods of herd control as the animals’ explosive population growth is threatening the health of grazing lands in Arizona. 2. Another name for a burrito.


1. A mountain rising up from the middle of the Valley, between the Arcadia neighborhood and the town of Paradise Valley, named for its peaks resembling the head and hump of a kneeling camel 2. Phoenix’s most recognizable natural landmark. 3. Home of two of the Valley’s most popular hiking trails – Cholla and Echo Canyon – despite having no convenient public parking and constant clashes between surly, daily mountain runners in lululemon and visiting Midwestern relatives. 4. Site of numerous emergency helicopter rescues in the summer when some bozo thinks they can hike to the summit in 110-degree heat and inevitably fails.


1. A portion of any of the more than 180 miles of canals in the Phoenix metro area – more than the waterways of Venice and Amsterdam, combined. Phoenix was built on the ruins of the ancient Hohokam civilization, which used canals to harness the Salt River and grow crops. 2. Excellent jogging and bike paths, but NOT for swimming, as they were in the first half of the 1900s.


1. Short for the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix’s NFL team. 2. The Red Sea. 3. Bird Gang.
Chimi 1. Short for chimichanga – a deep-fried burrito typically filled with refried beans, choice of meat and gooey cheese, topped with salsa and sour cream. 2. The stuff of AZ legend, with two different restaurants claiming invention of the gut bombs due to accidental burrito blunders: The founders of Phoenix’s Macayo’s and El Charro Cafe in Tucson both say they accidentally dropped a burrito in the fryer to delicious results (the latter also claims the name, a derivative of the F-word in Spanish).


1. Our professional ice hockey team – yes, we have indoor ice rinks in the desert. Started as the Winnipeg Jets in 1971, entered the NHL as the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996, and were re-christened the Arizona Coyotes in 2014. See also: Yotes. 2. Actual wild canines, not an uncommon sight in Valley neighborhoods, particularly those abutting undeveloped desert areas.

Creosote (CREE-uh-sote)

1. A flowering, evergreen, drought-tolerant shrub; scientific name Larrea tridentata, also called greasewood, named for its distinct, dirty, tar-like smell. 2. What people are referring to when they say it “smells like rain” in the Sonoran Desert.

Daylight Saving Time

1. Huh? 2. In 1968, the Arizona Legislature opted out of the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that mandated saving daylight, since Arizona has plenty of sunlight already without the addition of an extra hour. So we have a time zone all our own. 3. A small sliver of the state actually does observe DST – the Navajo Nation.

Dry heat

1. As opposed to humid, muggy heat typically felt everywhere but the Southwest in summer; very hot with very low humidity. 2. Said in response to anyone who questions how you can survive five months of heat that regularly hits triple digits. But it’s a dry heat!

Fear the Fork

1. Rally cry for the Arizona State University Sun Devils; per, “the easiest way to recognize a Sun Devil is by seeing them sport the ‘Fork ‘em Devils’ hand sign,” which mimics the mascot Sparky’s three-pronged pitchfork. 2. Most often said in response to the “bear down” chant from rival University of Arizona in Tucson.


1. Short for Flagstaff, your best bet for seeing snow in the winter. 2. Home of Arizona Snowbowl, the closest ski slopes to Phoenix, and Northern Arizona University. 3. The next food mecca outside Downtown Phoenix. Let’s hit the slopes and grab some Pizzicletta in Flag this weekend.


Four Peaks

1. Prominent landmark in the Valley’s eastern skyline of four distinct peaks in the Mazatzal Mountains in Tonto National Forest. 2. One of Phoenix’s first craft breweries, known for its Kilt Lifter Scottish red and 8th Street amber ale and for selling out to Anheuser-Busch in 2016.

Gila monster (HEE-luh)

1. A venomous lizard native to the Southwest with colorful red or orange scales and black tongues. Can be seen doing “push-ups” on rocks or on the side of the road to claim territory.

Haboob (huh-BOOB)

1. A dust storm; from the Arabic word habb, meaning “a strong wind.” 2. According to a 2016 report from the NOAA National Weather Service in Tucson, haboobs are the No. 1 weather-related cause of injuries in Arizona and the third-highest for weather-related fatalities behind flooding and extreme heat. The haboob swallowed Downtown like a giant, galloping wall of brown charging from the east.

Heat Island

1. Your two-word answer the next time someone asks you why it’s so frickin’ hot in this town. 2. Heat-sponging effect caused the high concentration of buildings and asphalt in the urban core, preventing the city from properly cooling during summer nights and creating an artificial high pressure system that diverts monsoon storms.


1. A jackrabbit with antelope horns, known in Old West mythology for eerily mimicking the sad songs lonely cowboys would sing while out on the range alone at night. Now, like the “put a bird on it” refrain of crunchy hippies in Portland, Phoenix puts a jackalope on whatever it wants to be cool – restaurant logos, T-shirt designs, tattoos, etc. Put a jackalope on it.

Javelina (hah-vah-LEE-nuh)

1. A collared peccary resembling a wild boar but is actually not a boar, nor pig, nor hog, but a distant relative of the hippo. These critters smell terrible and roam in herds in mountain preserves surrounding the Valley, and have been known to attack humans and dogs out hiking. Last night, I found three javelina in the garage eating Fido’s food.


Katsina (kahts-ee-nah)

1. Carved representations of the Katsinam, the spirit messengers of the universe in the Hopi Native American tribe, traditionally given to young girls to teach them about different aspects of life and responsibilities, according to the Heard Museum. 2. Erroneously called “Kachinas (kah-chee-nuhs)” by non-Natives, the dolls have been popularized and now sell for a song at Old West gift shops in Old Town Scottsdale.

Kiva (kee-vuh)

1. An underground circular room used for religious ceremonies for the Pueblo Indians. 2. A beehive-shaped fireplace, found built into adobe homes or on sale at hardware stores for patio use during Phoenix’s one month of winter.

Liquid asphalt

1. A mirage caused by light refraction. In summer, the sun beats down on Phoenix’s roads, making the air immediately above the asphalt hotter and less dense than the air farther up. When light travels down through the changing density and temperatures, it bends, causing you to perceive a little bit of blurry sky where the road meets the horizon. I thought I saw a lake up ahead, but it turned out to just be liquid asphalt. Bummer.


1. Small paper lanterns dating back 300 years when Spanish villagers along the Rio Grande in New Mexico would display the paper bags lit up by candles at Christmastime. 2. Every holiday season at Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenicians like to walk among the thousands of magical lights while buzzed on hot toddies.

Mesquite (meh-SKEET)

1. The common name for any one of 40 species of leguminous trees found in plentiful supply through the Southwest and Mexico. 2. The three most popular types in Phoenix are the drought-tolerant and shady Chilean mesquite, and the velvet and honey mesquites. The latter constantly drop their sweet pods, which are subsequently ground into flour for mesquite chocolate chip cookies at Super Chunk Sweets in Scottsdale (see page 86) or eaten and then barfed up by dogs all summer long.


1. Derived from the Arabic word for season, mausim, it’s formally defined as the rainy phase of seasonal atmospheric and precipitation patterns in desert environments. 2. Informally, it’s a summer storm that will make you rejoice come July after the summer’s 50th consecutive triple-digit day – huge gusts of dusty wind followed by a sudden downpour of rain that can result in dangerous flash floods. Love it! 3. In Arizona, “season” is redundantly added to the term; the monsoon is a season, designated by the National Weather Service as June 15 to September 30, when westerly dry winds shift, bringing up moisture from the Gulf of California. Five years ago, Todd decided to go hiking during a monsoon and hasn’t been seen since.

Ocotillo (awk-ah-TEE-yo)

1. A desert shrub often mistaken for a cactus due to its large, spike-riddled stem; known for its ability to become lush with little green leaves seemingly overnight after a rainfall, and its bright orange edible flowers with nectar that tastes like honey. 2. A restaurant in Midtown Phoenix known for its locally sourced, seasonal grub with one of the best patios in town.

Open carry

1. The practice of openly carrying a firearm in public. Ranked the No. 1 state for gun owners in 2015 by Guns & Ammo magazine, Arizona allows anyone 18 or older who is not a prohibited possessor to openly carry a handgun without the need for a license (concealed is a different story). Did you see that mom open-carrying at Walmart while picking up diapers?

Palo verde (pal-oh vur-dee)

1. Literally: “green stick” in Spanish 2. A spiny desert tree with green bark that’s supremely adapted for life in the Sonoran Desert, with rare powers to photosynthesize sunlight through its trunk and go without supplemental water once established. 3. The official state tree of Arizona. 4. Each spring, palo verdes erupt in tiny yellow flowers, which are edible but do a number on your sinuses once they dry out and drop.

Phoenician (fuh-nee-shun)

1. Residents of Phoenix, Arizona; not to be confused with those from the ancient Middle Eastern society of Phoenicia, or “land of Palm Trees.” 2. A luxury resort near the base of Camelback Mountain on the grounds of the historic Jokake Inn as seen in Raising Arizona. 3. Often mispronounced “faux-nee-shin.” Don’t be that guy.


1. ERROR – no self-respecting Phoenician would ever refer to their city this way. 2. Unless referring to a new restaurant serving the Vietnamese noodle soup, don’t.

Praying Monk

1. The red sandstone rock outcropping on the tip of the camel’s nose on Camelback Mountain, so named because, from a number of angles, it looks like a kneeling bald man with clasped hands. 2. Now popular among rock climbers, the Praying Monk is also a geologic corroboration of the mountain’s holiness to the ancient Hohokam tribe: “Camelback… is the oldest church in the Salt River Valley,” writes Gary Driggs in Camelback: Sacred Mountain of Phoenix.

Prescott (press-kitt)

1. The former territorial capital of Arizona from 1864 to 1867, about 100 miles northwest of Phoenix. 2. Really, the pronunciation is what’s important here. Don’t you dare say “Press-cott.”

QC, The

1. Ironic term for the town of Queen Creek, coined by East Valley Tribune staffers in the late 1990s when teen soap The OC was a big hit on network TV. 2. Not ironic anymore.


Saguaro (suh-WAHR-oh)

1. Large, tree-like cacti that only grow in the Sonoran Desert. These old boys take a very long time to grow and do not develop their first branches (called arms) until they’re at least 50 years old. 2. The bloom of a saguaro is Arizona’s state flower 3. It is illegal under state law to cut down or remove a saguaro on your private property without a permit from the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

SB 1070

1. Senate Bill 1070, aka the “Papers, Please” law, was one of the strictest anti-illegal immigration measures in Arizona history, passed in 2010. One component of the law required state law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they stopped and suspected of illegal immigration, which had the ACLU, Democrats, Latino groups and national businesses cry “racial profiling.” Hey, did you hear Hall & Oates canceled their Phoenix show to protest SB 1070?


1. A terrestrial arachnid with crab-like pincers and a poisonous stinger at the end of its tail that carries dozens of its microscopic babies on its back and likes the warmth inside your home. 2. The Arizona bark scorpion is the most commonly sighted scorpion in Phoenix with a dangerous sting that causes severe pain in affected areas; stings can be fatal for babies, small children and animals, so seek medical help immediately for wee ones. 3. Literal nightmare monster.

Sheriff Joe

1. Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County for 24 years before losing re-election in 2016 while standing trial for contempt of court. 2. Self-styled America’s Toughest Sheriff, known for his extreme stances on illegal immigration enforcement and treatment of prisoners, and for Tent City, an open-air jail where inmates were forced to sleep outdoors in the summer and wear pink underwear. 3. Pardoned by President Donald Trump less than a month after being convicted of contempt of court. 4. Apparently, running for U.S. Senate. Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate was forged by Marxist Kenyans, according to Sheriff Joe.


1. A nickname for Scottsdale due to its perceived abundance of BMW 7-Series automobiles and plastic surgery offices. Alternate: Snobsdale. Snotsdale was ranked No. 1 in vanity in a 2016 WalletHub survey of the most sinful cities in America.


1. Someone, stereotypically retired and/or elderly, from a northern state or Canada who migrates to their second home in the Valley to “winter” and drive Phoenicians crazy with their inability to navigate a busy grocery store parking lot with any finesse. [yelled while driving] Get out of the left lane, snowbird!

Sonoran dog

1. Originating in Tucson, the Sonoran dog is a hot dog wrapped in bacon and grilled, stuffed in a fluffy bolillo bun and topped with pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, mayo, mustard and salsa. Typically served from street carts, usually after dark. Forget bad late-night burgers, Sonoran dogs are the hangover-inhibitors of the gods.


1. The Spanish-English hybrid in which all citizens of the Latino-centric Southwest must be fluent. Even the gringos here grew up using words borrowed from Spanish slang: chonies for underwear, panza for belly, chanclas for flip-flops, etc.


1. Plaster coating used on the exterior of many homes in the Southwest due to its energy efficiency and ability to trap heat, coolness and any pretense of individuality. 2. Most tract houses in the Valley built after 1980 are made of stucco tinted beige or brown to blend into the surrounding desert environs. I almost couldn’t find your house since the stucco camouflaged it so well.

Sun tea

1. Iced tea brewed outdoors in a clear plastic or glass jug using heat from the sun. 2. Not to be confused with the cloying, syrupy-sweet AriZona iced tea founded in Brooklyn.

Swamp cooler

1. An evaporative cooler that pulls in warm air from outside and passes it over water, causing it to evaporate, and spits out cool air indoors. 2. Will never get as cool as an air-conditioning unit. 3. The first, primitive version of air coolers in Phoenix consisted of wet sheets hung in doorways while people slept on their porches. According to Dr. John Watt’s Evaporative Air Conditioning Handbook, one of the first swamp coolers made its debut in Downtown Phoenix at the old Adams Hotel in 1916.

Teddy bear cactus

1. A cholla cactus known for its cylindrical stems and dense yellow spikes that appear fuzzy from a distance. 2. Also known as a jumping cholla for the ease with which its spurs detach and root themselves in your dog’s foot pads.


Tempe Town Lake

1. Not a lake. 2. A 2-mile-ish reservoir created in 1999 by damming a portion of the dry Salt River bed in north Tempe and adding water. Water recreation, outdoor activities and more than 40 annual events are held at the lake. At least three bodies have been pulled from Tempe Town Lake. Who wants to go swimming?

Temperature warning

1. An inevitability if you go outside for more than a few minutes with your iPhone in the summer.


1. Summer float trips in large, inexplicably black rubber tubes down the Salt River, which is a refreshing 70 degrees on crazy hot days. The season begins in early May and ends in late September. 2. How Phoenix embraces its redneck side. Don’t forget to rent an extra tube for your cooler filled with Bud Light when we go tubing.

Valley fever

1. A potentially lethal lung infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides, found in dirt in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. Typical symptoms – fever, cough, headache, fatigue – are often misdiagnosed as the flu. 2. An itch to leave Phoenix while simultaneously feeling horribly trapped; usually occurs in mid-August after an eternity of hellish heat.

Xavier girls

1. Tweed-skirted denizens of the Valley’s obligatory elite Catholic girls’ private school. Oh my god, that Brophy guy is totally perving on those Xavier girls.


1. Short for Coyotes, Arizona’s professional hockey team.

Zonie (zo-nee)

1. A derogatory term for Arizonans, typically used by Californians when complaining of the influx of Arizona license plates on their roads each summer. Who you calling a Zonie, broheim?


Flooding does happen. In the desert? Yes. The torrential downpours of the monsoon can cause roads and washes to flood. In 2014, record-setting rainfall led to flooding throughout the Valley and the submersion of an entire underpass on the I-10.

It’s a boom-or-bust town… and we’re currently booming. According to a January report, Valley cities command four of the top five slots in WalletHub’s Best Places to Find a Job list, encompassing the whole United States. Chandler is No. 1, Scottsdale is No. 2, Peoria is No. 4 and Gilbert is No. 5.

We’re lib’ral in the middle… but GOP got the back.
According to Pew data, Greater Phoenix evenly comprises voters who skew Democrat and those who skew Republican – both scored 40 percent, with staunch non-affiliates making up the last fifth. And they’re distributed like a bull’s-eye, with Democratic voters concentrated in Phoenix and Tempe, and Republican voters in the East and West valleys. Want to know who your federal representatives are?

Our Mexican food is mostly Sonoran. Because Arizona shares a border with the Mexican state of Sonora, our Mexican food shares similarities with the wheat- and cattle-centric region. Machaca and carne asada dominate our quesadillas and burritos, as do flour tortillas (see: Carolina’s, page 86). We also have some “Arizona Mexican”
dishes created here, like the chimichanga and the Sonoran dog.

We’re a gender equality oasis. OK, that might be an exaggeration, but we do pretty well. Ranked 5th nationally by U.S. News and World Report for gender equality – a study that factored employment, wages and business ownership – Arizona is most notably a trailblazer for women in leadership. We’ve had four female governors, the most of any state, and were the first to have three in a row.

Phoenicians love pools. They don’t always love us back. The Valley is just behind South Florida for the highest percentage of backyard swimming pools, according to a 2015 report. But while there are few things better on a July day then cannonballing into your own pool, it’s unlikely it’ll increase your home’s value by more than 5 percent, says the National Association of Realtors. (And that’s if it’s well-maintained and heated.)

3 Tells You’re Not From Here: 1. You use the word “Zonie.” 2. You wear shorts in December. 3. You post pictures of your car’s thermostat on 110-degree days to Facebook.

Airplanes can be grounded by heat. Hot air gets dangerously thin, making it hard for (mainly smaller) jets to take off and land safely since there’s less cushy air molecules buoying the wings. In June 2017, about 50 flights were canceled at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport when temps pushed 120 degrees.

Many of us are Californians. According to a Census-based migratory study by The New York Times, 9 percent of modern Arizonans were born in California – more than twice the number born in Illinois, despite the old saw that “Everybody in Phoenix is from Chicago.”



You saw the SB 1070 protests on TV. You’ve heard ominous things about our teacher diaspora and our dearth of any real culture besides endless breadsticks at Olive Garden. Just what have you gotten yourself into? 

In a May 2014 article on, freelance journalist and Phoenix native Troy Farah bashes his hometown. Part of a series of why different cities around the globe stink, Farah’s editorial lays out nine reasons “why Phoenix is the worst place ever.” A sampling: politicians “piss all over the public like drunken apes.” Ouch.

Naturally, Farah was bashed right back on social media. Though “it wasn’t my best writing,” he says now, “I don’t feel like anything in [the article] was inaccurate… It was a way to list all the things that are wrong with Phoenix and say, ‘We gotta do something about it.’” Now living in California, Farah says he felt a lot of people misinterpreted his intent. “I don’t hate or even dislike Phoenix,” he insists. Instead, when he first read about the VICE series, he thought, “If anyone’s going to write about Phoenix, it’s going to be me. It was kind of a love letter in a way.”

It’s a point that likely resonates with many Phoenicians ambivalent about this sprawling beige basin: It’s too spread out; it lacks diversity; it’s way too freaking hot. But it’s also enchanting, with unrelenting warmth and sunshine that make it hard to leave, sucking you back into its balmy grasp again and again, like a mother does to a squirming child who doesn’t even know he needs a hug. Phoenix, in this way, is like family. Only her people can talk smack. Outsiders beware.

First, it’s necessary to separate the Valley from the state when considering politics. Phoenix was one of the first U.S. cities to adopt the progressive council-manager form of government with voter ratification of a new charter in 1913. According to a report 100 years later from the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, this form of government was created as a rebuke against dominating, oppressive political machines. Instead, it disseminates power over a governing body – citizens elect the mayor and eight city council members to set policy, then the mayor and council appoint a city manager to oversee day-to-day operations. Basically, Phoenix is run like one big business, which is unsurprising, given the number of business top 10 lists it lands on: most small business/entrepreneurial/tax-friendly, etc.

Phoenix’s 51st mayor, Phil Gordon (2004-2012), says the city is also rare in that “if you go to the council with a problem, you get not only attention, but you get answers – or at least proposed solutions.” It’s a participatory city, he says, one where it’s not unheard of for an average Joe to run for office and win, or affect zoning decisions, or build a bike lane.

Moreover, Phoenix mayoral elections are officially nonpartisan, part of the reason “most people didn’t know what party I was,” the registered Democrat says. Where city-level politics are concerned, Democrats can win in heavily GOP-registered districts and vice versa, Gordon says, because “at the local level, parties don’t matter – they want the trash picked up, they want the neighborhood safe, they want the potholes filled.”

Let’s not sugarcoat things: Like a fridge emitting a mysterious pungent smell, Arizona’s education system could use a deep clean. Our schools are woefully underfunded and slow to recover from billions in spending cuts enacted since the Great Recession and 20 percent of teacher positions remain vacant due to lousy pay.

Zeroing in on the local level, Phoenix is home to 325 public schools in 30 school districts and 200 charter and private schools, according to the city website. It’s tough to find consensus on the best district in the Valley, with the honors mainly going to suburban districts in the far East or North Valley or charter schools. Looking only at non-charter public high schools, Chandler Unified School District had the highest SAT scores in the Valley in 2014.

“The funding formula in Arizona is pretty well influenced by property taxes, so there’s a disparity in [school funding]… and that can cause financial hardships for some schools,” says Sam Ballard, who taught government at four different high schools around the Valley for 25 years before moving to Mesa Community College to coach basketball. “Education is like any other thing in life – you get what you pay for.” Of course, the best teachers, updated technology, arts education and athletics largely aren’t going to be possible in underserved, underprivileged areas of the city – just like anywhere else in the country.

Though Ballard says he sensed a true value was placed on K-12 education in Phoenix, it was more about getting a high school diploma. “Then that’s it… everybody talks about college, but mostly [students] aren’t prepared,” he says. If you don’t have a familial support system or access to college prep, it seems you’re on your own after graduation.

Life & culture
This sort of lone ranger mentality permeates many aspects of the Phoenician persona, says tour guide and Arizona’s self-styled “hip historian,” Marshall Shore. “Phoenix, from its name, has always been a place of revision. People come here to reinvent themselves and become something new.”

According to Shore, one of the best things he’s experienced since moving here 20 years ago from New York City seeking “adventure,” is just how much the Phoenix “scene” has grown. Two decades ago, he thought, “It’s the fifth largest city in the country. I was like, ‘It’s gotta have great stuff,’” he says. But after setting up his mid-century modern apartment close to Downtown, Shore found himself twiddling thumbs. “I had theater tickets in three months – that was the next big thing I was doing. And now it’s so great to see the migration to where now, on any given night, there are three or four different things happening,” from new art gallery openings to live music to a red-hot dining scene.

Shore points to the confluence of old and new around town, like a bird that continually dies and rises. “Say you hit Valley Bar, where you have to go through our historic Skid Row district to get to, but then you get to this alley basement bar that’s really cool… you can get these flashes of history in Phoenix meets new Phoenix.” It’s a constant reinvention that’s exciting to witness. “This place has a way of getting under your skin. – You say, ‘I’ll be here two more years,’ then two more years, two more years, then finally, ‘I’m just here.’”

Farah has to agree. “In Phoenix it felt more authentic,” he says wistfully about reporting on the local proletariat. Remembering an anti-Islam protest outside a Phoenix mosque that he covered for VICE in 2015, Farah contrasts those closed-minded Phoenicians with “all these other people trying to make the city better and sustainable and who care about things… sometimes you can feel small and insignificant, [but] sometimes it feels like you’re part of something really huge.”

Maybe that’s the Phoenix archetype, then. Yes, it can feel like a vapid desert wasteland. But it’s also a blank pile of ashes from which to form yourself into whatever it is you want to be. Yes, it can feel like your politicians don’t enact the changes you’d like to see in your community. But you can just make the changes yourself. Yes, it’s really damn hot. But at least it’s a dry heat.

3 Things To Know: POLITICS

  • Though the city of Phoenix leans Democrat, Arizona as a whole has voted red in every presidential election since 1952, with the exception of Bill Clinton’s win in 1996.
  • Arizona currently has four Democratic and Republican U.S. Representatives each, with one open seat in District 8 after the resignation of Trent Franks (R-Glendale) in December. A special election will be held on April 24 and is widely considered a lock for Republicans.
  • Want to know who your state representatives are? Access the Arizona State Legislature’s “Find My Legislator” tool at

3 Things To Know: EDUCATION

  • Arizona consistently ranks near the bottom in the nation – usually hovering around 48th – for per-pupil operational spending: $7,746 in 2016 vs. the 2014 national average of $11,066, per the Arizona Auditor General.
  • The average teacher salary in Phoenix is $38,869 per year, according to That’s 15 percent below the national average.
  • Arizonans love a charter. The state’s top five public high schools, according to U.S. News & World Report, are BASIS charter schools. No. 1 is BASIS Scottsdale. 

3 Things To Know: CULTURE

  • Phoenix is cultured, dammit. It might not have the Impressionists like Paris or the free admission like D.C. but it’s got an impressive list of museums on its roster, with nationally touring shows. In fact, the Heard Museum was the only North American stop of the Frida Kahlo exhibit last year.
  • Phoenicians have (fairly) weathered complaints that they bulldoze history or culture in favor of new development. But some are working to reverse course. In February, the Arizona Court of Appeals blocked the demolition of Phoenix’s Chinese Cultural Center.
  • In the 1920s Phoenix was a haven for Prohibition-protestors and is returning to those roots today with a slew of new speakeasies. Shore’s fave: UnderTow. The underground tiki bar in Arcadia scored a coveted nomination in the global Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.

Sailing the concrete seas of Greater Phoenix is a snap once you lock down some basic rules of the road.

We’re a grid… mostly.
Early Phoenix planners were an orderly lot, slavishly plotting its streets along a strict north-south/east-west grid, but there are some outliers – most notably Grand Avenue, which originates Downtown and cuts a violent, diagonal path through the West Valley. In the late 1800s, a powerful cabal of real estate investors wrote Grand into the city’s master plan to help service their farm holdings in Glendale and Peoria.

The Name-Change Game
As the Valley expanded, the surrounding cities and towns gamely adopted Phoenix’s cardinal grid – one can even find vestiges of it in the way-way-west town of Tonopah, where it ultimately peters out at 579th Avenue. But Phoenix streets do have a way of magically renaming themselves when they cross city limits. Know them.

Greenway Pkwy. Butherus Dr.
(Phoenix Scottsdale)
Glendale Ave. Lincoln Dr.
(Phoenix Paradise Valley)
Dunlap Ave. Olive Ave.
(Phoenix Glendale)
McClintock Dr. Hayden Rd.
(Tempe Scottsdale)
Rural Rd. Scottsdale Rd.
(Tempe Scottsdale)

Know the Loops
Less than two decades ago, the Valley had two major freeways: the mighty Interstate 10 connecting it to Los Angeles and Tucson, and the humble 202, which linked Downtown to the East Valley. It was a far cry from the complex circulatory system we enjoy today, including the advent of “loops” servicing different portions of town: the 101 (Central Valley and Scottsdale), the 202 (East Valley) and 303 (extreme West and North Valley).

Ride with Confidence
Conscious of the public-transit safety concerns, Valley Metro launched its “Respect the Ride” initiative, comprising several new rules.
A No loitering. Only ticketed light rail passengers on platforms.
A No music. Radios, CD players and smartphones must not be audible to other passengers.
A No solicitation. Keep those flyers to yourself, bub.


Explore Phoenix with a Valley Metro Rail pass. Bites, sips and art are all within a five-minute walk from stops along the route.





































Summer in Phoenix is a lot like winter in the Midwest. People burrow indoors and prepare for their utility bills to skyrocket. Except instead of riding out the cold, we’re inside to avoid the heat and relish the air conditioning. We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to the best local products for surviving a Phoenix summer, including cooling, lightweight clothing; pool party-friendly toiletries; and sweaters for when the grocery store gets a little too gung-ho on the AC.


AZ Love LightWeight Tank

Sun-shading baseball cap

water-resistant & Vegan mascara

Natural Allergy Formula for dust storm-Induced sneezing

sunscreen (Min. SPF 30)

LUA Sea Spray for After-pool “surf hair”

tote For summer pool reads

Arizona Birkenstock Sandals

Fortoul Bros.-Designed hoodie for freezing offices

ponytail holder for early A.M. Runs

Peach Pits Natural deodorant

“Milk Silk” leggings for frigid theaters

Polarized Sunglasses & Lifetime Leather holder

Mood Color-Changing water bottle


DINING- Food Day in Phoenix
Shorten your Phoenix foodie learning curve with our lightning-round overview of the local dining scene.

Munch your way through the Valley’s greatest food hits with this playlist of classics – with a few snack-y bonus tracks.

Matt’s Big Breakfast
When Matt and Ernie Pool opened their itty-bitty breakfast joint in Downtown Phoenix in 2004, the most important meal of the day was the purview of chains and a handful of mom-and-pop greasy spoons. The Pools took the farm-to-table movement transforming fine dining and brought it to the humble breakfast table, devoting as much attention to bacon and coffee sourcing as shmancy places paid to steak and seafood sourcing. Everything is made from scratch and sourced as organically, locally and seasonally as possible. Even better: With four locations, MBB fans no longer face hour-long waits for the Hog & Chick (two eggs, thick-cut ham, toast and choice of potatoes).

In Mexican food-loving Phoenix, our daily bread is likely to come in tortilla form, and nobody makes tortillas better than Carolina Valenzuela. She and husband Manuel opened their first restaurant in 1968. They now have three locations, and her masa minions turn tortillas into red chile burros, beef chimichangas and chorizo-and-egg breakfast burros. Pro tip: Buy a dozen tortillas to take home. Spread butter on one, roll up like a cigar, and microwave for 20 seconds. De nada.

Super Chunk Sweets & Treats
Sergio and Country Velador’s whimsical sweetshop is a media darling, and not just among local rags. Super Chunk’s mesquite chocolate chip cookie was heralded by Mental Floss as the best chocolate chip cookie in Arizona and by National Geographic as one of “10 Chocolate Chip Cookies to Travel For.” Luckily, Phoenicians need only venture to Old Town Scottsdale for this perfectly chewy, crumbly and smoky disc of Southwestern sweetness.
7120 E. Sixth Ave., Scottsdale

Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
Local boozehounds have rejoiced at the exponential growth of Phoenix’s cocktail scene in the last 10 years. No bar is more revered than Bitter & Twisted, where proprietor and “principal barman,” as he so charmingly and Scottish-ly self-identifies, Ross Simon creates an annually changing menu that is so long, intricate and illustrated (with a different theme each year, no less) that he literally presents it in a book. For a spicy sipper, try the A Jic-Up, starring Ancho Reyes Verde poblano liqueur, mezcal and fresh citrus juices boosted with jicama and pineapple.
1 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix

Chris Bianco thrust Phoenix into the national pizza conversation when he opened Pizzeria Bianco in a local grocery store in 1988. You wouldn’t be remiss to order a Wiseguy or a Rosa at the Heritage Square or Town & Country locations, but the hand-rolled pasta and roasted chicken at his newish trattoria, Tratto, are so delicious they’re worth pressing “pause” on your pizza plans.
4743 N. 20th St., Phoenix

Sugar Bowl
Spoon a “Super Fancy Sundae” from the Sugar Bowl into your kisser and feel yourself transported to 1958, when the Old Town Scottsdale legend opened. The savory menu is mostly skippable, but the shakes, malts, Camelback Sodas (ice cream floats with extra soda water) and sundaes are so scarf-able that they were memorialized in artist Bil Keane’s Family Circus comic strip.
4005 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale

Hungry for more?
Check out our website (, Desert Digest blog ( and Instagram profile (@phxmagazine) for more reviews, recipes and food porn galore.


Fortunately for Valley dwellers, you can get great food everywhere in the Phoenix metro area if you know where to look. Some cuisines tend to cluster in certain geographic areas, though. Here’s a cheat sheet for where to satisfy specific cravings.

West side: Mexican
The Valley is the land of plenty when it comes to comida Mexicana. You can go super authentic or gringo-ized – we like it all, and you can find it all over. However, for legit street tacos, burritos like Abuela makes and eloteros hawking street corn, the west side is the best side. Try Super Tacos in Glendale and Tacos Tijuana in Peoria.

East side: Asian
Every time we hear culinary scuttlebutt about a hole in the wall serving hand-pulled noodles (Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House), authentic regional Chinese (Original Cuisine), Malaysian laksa (BP Street Café), Vietnamese banh mi (Mekong Sandwiches) or badass bulgogi (Gen Korean BBQ House), the address is invariably in the East Valley, often in Mesa. Is our own Chinatown or Koreatown percolating?

North: Barbecue
North Phoenix is your go-to for ’cue cravings, thanks to its full rack of rib shacks. Naked BBQ, Pork on a Fork, Danky’s BBQ, Bootleggers Modern American Smokehouse and HEK Yeah Barbecue are keeping the pecan burning until Arizona’s undisputed barbecue queen Little Miss BBQ makes her debut at a second location at Seventh Street and Dunlap Avenue.

Downtown Phoenix has a deliciously high concentration of breweries and taphouses with solid food menus. Plan a pub crawl with some configuration of Angels Trumpet Ale House, Phoenix Ale Brewery, Wren House Brewing Co., Mother Bunch Brewing and more.

Special Occasions
It’s cliché to locals, but it’s true: Fancy-pants Scottsdale corners the market on special-occasion dining, from sophisticated steakhouses like Dominick’s at Scottsdale Quarter to romantic Marcellino Ristorante in Old Town Scottsdale.

Craft Coffee
The cult of craft coffee is spreading, thank the caffeine gods, but you’ll find the best roasters and shops in Downtown Phoenix, Tempe and Old Town Scottsdale. Local coffee empires Press Coffee Roasters, Cartel Coffee Lab and Sip Coffee & Beer House have you covered in multiple zip codes.


What is this “Fox restaurant” everybody keeps talking about? Who is Lo-Lo and why is everyone crazy for his chicken and waffles? We demystify some of the people and companies behind the Valley’s restaurant empires.

Fox Restaurant Concepts
Restaurateur extraordinaire Sam Fox got his start in Tucson and now has 12 restaurant “concepts,” some with out-of-state locations; a food-centric event space; and a rentable pizza truck.

Upward Projects
Couples Craig and Kris Demarco and Lauren and Wyatt Bailey have turned their feel-good approach to hospitality into four restaurants – Postino WineCafé, Windsor, Federal Pizza, Joyride Taco House – and an ice cream shop, Churn, some with several locations around the Valley.

LGO Hospitality
Founder Bob Lynn’s La Grande Orange Grocery + Pizzeria has spawned a café, a bakeshop, a gelato shop and seven restaurants/bars in the Valley and Southern California.

Genuine Concepts
Wherever you settle, your neighborhood is likely to have an outpost of The Vig, Tucker Woodbury’s flagship bar/kitchen/lawn games haven. He’s added five bars/lounges (four in the Valley, one in Flagstaff), a deli/tavern and a Mexican taverna to his Genuine stable.

The Biancos
It’s a famiglia affair for Chris Bianco at his two Pizzeria Bianco locations, Pane Bianco, Bar Bianco and Tratto: His brother Marc bakes the bread, his mother Francesca makes the desserts and his father Leo creates the art that decorates the walls.

The Maggiores
Italian immigrant Tomaso Maggiore opened his titular restaurant Tomaso’s in 1977, bringing Italian fine dining to Phoenix. Now he, his son Joey, his daughter-in-law Cristina and his longtime friend Flora P. Tersigni run Tomaso’s, Tomaso’s When in Rome, Hash Kitchen and The Sicilian Butcher.

The Mastros
After opening and selling Mastro’s Steakhouse, Mastro’s City Hall Steakhouse and Mastro’s Ocean Club, the Mastro men (father Dennis and sons Jeff and Mike) opened Dominick’s Steakhouse, Steak 44 and the forthcoming Ocean 44 with business partner Scot Troilio.,

The Whites
Larry “Lo-Lo” White grew up in his grandmother Elizabeth White’s Downtown Phoenix soul food restaurant, Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Café. In 2002, he opened his own place, Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles, a perennial Best of the Valley winner that now has five Valley locations and several in other states.

Evening Entertainment Group
Nightlife impresarios Les and Diane Corieri have diversified their club portfolio to include a slew of restaurants including Stock & Stable, Hi Fi Kitchen + Cocktails, Bevvy and Bottled Blonde, and new high-end bowling alley Skylanes.


Being a Phoenician means knowing how to exploit our fantastic high-season spring weather before the triple-digit misery of summer. Our picks for the best spring festivals around the Valley:

Devour Culinary Classic
March 3-4, 2018
Devour is a torrid weekend of food love featuring top Valley chefs like James Beard Award nominee Silvana Salcido Esparza, pizza guru Chris Bianco and New American maestro Justin Beckett. The festival’s array of demos, drinks and chef-driven nibbles became so popular in recent years that Devour relocated from Phoenix Art Museum to new, more spacious digs at Desert Botanical Garden for 2018. “This is a really critical point for Devour,” says Kimber Lanning, executive director of event sponsors Local First Arizona and Devour Phoenix. “We ran out of space to do what we wanted to do.” But don’t expect a cattle drive. Despite having 140 acres of garden trails to work with, the event attendance cap only increased by 15 percent. Tickets were sold out by December, with only admission to chefs’ dinners and special events remaining. “Our goal is not just to be bigger, but to be better,” Lanning says. “We don’t need to look outside the state for talent. But in order to attract the best Arizona chefs, you have to keep attendance manageable.” After all, even Chris Bianco and his pizza minions can’t make 50,000 samples in a day.

Devour the World
Getting last-minute tickets for the Classic is like scoring pit passes for the Stones – nigh impossible. Might we suggest this hack? Get tickets for Devour the World (Thursday, March 1) instead. Programmed and co-sponsored by PHOENIX magazine, the inaugural 2018 event at the Japanese Friendship Garden will include 15-20 of our editors’ favorite ethnic, mom-and-pop-style eateries from across the Valley. And at $60 a head, instead of $105 for the Classic, it’s a steal. Some highlights:

Hana Japanese Eatery
Lori Hashimoto’s beloved uptown sushi spot will not appear in the Classic this year – all the more incentive to make DTW your backup plan.

Claudio Urciuoli’s South American seafood grill makes its festival debut.

Sonata’s Restaurant
Once you go Baltic, you don’t go back, agree fans of owner Sonata Tuft’s Lithuanian cuisine.

Flavors of Louisiana
Arguably America’s most exciting indigenous style, Cajun gets the royal treatment from chef-owner Jennifer Landry Goff.

The inimitable Giovanni Scorzo brings his Old World Italian cooking to Phoenix.

Dragon Flame
No ho-hum Cantonese restaurant, this – owner Kun Mao specializes in bracingly spiced Dongbei-style Chinese food.

El Chullo
It’s the Binkley’s of Peruvian food. (Translation for newcomers: really, really good.)

The Valley has only one Belizean restaurant we’re aware of, and its salbutes are off the hook.


  1. M3F
    March 2-4, Margaret T. Hance Park
    Now in its 15th year, M3F (formerly McDowell Mountain Music Fest) is 100 percent nonprofit, which means you won’t feel guilty about springing the dough for a mega-concert. Catch DJ GRiZ, The Revivalists, Australian electronica group Cut Copy and 35-plus other bands – all rocking it out for a good cause. Pro tip: Spring for the VIP passes, which include copious drink tickets and side-stage access. Worth the money. $45 and up. or
  2. Country Thunder
    April 5-8, Florence
    More than 30,000 devoted fans turn out for Arizona’s long-running country & western jam each year – many decked in Stetsons and spurs just like their idols. Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Toby Keith headline the all-star 2018 lineup. $75 and up.
  3. Innings Fest
    March 23-25, Tempe Beach Park
    The producers of Chicago’s Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits are behind this inaugural music fest set to coincide with Spring Training, so we’re expecting a home run right out of the gate. Wind down post-game with tunes from the Gin Blossoms, Cold War Kids, country crooner Chris Stapleton and 30+ more acts. $89 and up.
  4. Honorable Mention
    Phoenix Lights Festival
    April 7-8, The Park at Wild Horse Pass


Arizona Aloha Festival
March 10-11, Tempe Beach Park
Shop for plumeria candles and Polynesian leis, chow down on SPAM musubi and bring a lawn chair to watch hula dancers sway on the mainstage. Don’t miss the haka, a Maori warrior dance with chest pounding and chanting.
Free admission.

Arizona Renaissance Festival
February 10-April 1, Gold Canyon
This is the best-parts re-enactment of the Renaissance era – no plagues, beheadings or unbathed masses! – with 30 acres of vendors, jousts, street performers in period costumes, and stage acts like wisecracking puppet Ded Bob and whip-master Adam Crack. $25 adults; $15 children.

Phoenix Scottish Games
March 3-4, Steele Indian School Park
Come just for the caber toss, a traditional sport in which kilted rogues throw logs the size of telephone poles. There’s also a British car show, bagpipe bands and Scotch whiskey tastings to further your “educational” experience.
$15-$20 adults; $5 children 6-12.

Honorable Mention
Arizona Dragon Boat Festival
March 24-25, Tempe Town Lake

Scottsdale Culinary Festival
April 14-15, Scottsdale Civic Center Mall
Now in its 40th year, SCF is largely focused on spirits and music (20-plus bands on four stages). Little ones can get their faces painted while mom and dad relax on the Tito’s Vodka Deck or choose from 250 brews in the beer garden.
$12-42; $125-150 VIP Access.

The Great American Barbecue & Beer Festival
March 24, A.J. Chandler Park
Award-winning grilled meats washed down with craft beers. Need we say more? You’ll have to spring extra dough for tasty ’cue and brew samples, but VIP access includes 4-6 drinks with homemade jerky or barbecue meal provided. $10-25; $75-$175 VIP Admission.

Spring Arizona
Restaurant Week
May 18-27, Varied locations
Feast on prix fixe dinners at dozens of the Valley’s hottest eateries. Last year’s memorable offerings ranged from a Stockyards strip steak and lemon-tinged poached turbot at Artizen to James Beard Award winner Nobuo Fukuda’s artful bento boxes. Make advance reservations to ensure you get a taste of your top choice.

Honorable Mention
Great Southwest Cajun Fest
April 21, Downtown Chandler

Art Detour
March 15-20, Downtown Phoenix
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Artlink’s annual self-guided tour gives locals a glimpse inside the studios – and the minds – of Downtown artists. Visit the opening night gala for a preview of this year’s featured artists, or download a map and visit workshops from Roosevelt Row to Grand Avenue. Free.

Phoenix Film Fest
April 5-15, Harkins Scottsdale 101
The Valley’s largest film festival, screening more than 250 independent flicks. Walk the red carpet at the swanky opening night gala or catch Alice Cooper’s “Proof is in the Pudding” winner, Vintage Wednesday, at Sunday night’s Copper Wing Award ceremony. $13-$300.

Scottsdale Arts Festival
March 9-11, Scottsdale Civic Center mall
Expect a stellar assortment of 175-plus artists from the U.S. and Canada, plus live music, drink specials at Old Town bars and complimentary admission to Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. $10-15.

Honorable Mention
Fountain Hills Fine Art
& Wine Affaire
March 23-25, Avenue of the Fountains

Spring Training
Through March 27
Watch 15 Cactus League clubs including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs work out their off-season kinks in exhibition play at the Valley’s 10 state-of-the-art spring training ballparks.

Get thee to Tempe
Having scored big in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, the Los Angeles Angels look to be the league’s hot ticket, with curious fans hoping to score a look at the two-way Japanese power pitcher and slugger at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Hancock hack
Autograph-chasing is a cinch at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. Unlike most teams, the Oakland A’s take batting practice on the game field. Simply loiter near the dugout with a pen to pick them off.

Rookie to watch
(who’s not Shohei Ohtani)
Curious what a 105 mph fastball looks like? Caravan to Camelback Ranch, where 21-year-old fireballer Michael Kopech will attempt to make the White Sox roster.

Phoenix Comic Fest
May 24-27
Phoenix Convention Center
The event formerly known as Phoenix Comicon is nerd heaven for some 100,000 pop culture lovers – whether your fandom is Spider-Man, Star Wars or the latest video game. Get Stan Lee’s autograph, march in the zombie parade or just people-watch the thousands of Deadpool and Harley Quinn cosplayers walking by. Full event memberships start at $80.

Arizona Bike Week
April 11-15, WestWorld of Scottsdale
Go hog wild for chopper demos, stunt shows, flat track racing and concerts with Chevelle and Collective Soul. RV and tent camping is allowed, and motorcycles can be rented on-site. $58 full event pass.






What’s so appealing about the Valley’s collection of neighborhoods and communities? Find out from the people who love them.


You might have already noticed, but the city of Phoenix is huge. Like, literally massive, with 518 square miles of incorporated land – greater than the five boroughs of New York City combined. Beginning in 1979, city managers formally divided the city into urban villages, both to aid planning and “promote the unique character and identity of the villages,” according to the official city handbook. Currently, Phoenix has 15 villages, but that may change – the city boundaries include a vast tract of undesignated land in the New River area east of Cave Creek.


(central city)
Population: 120,629
Folks You’ll Find: Artists; activists; Sikh families; tolerant blue-collar types
Median Household Income: $31,026

Living “Downtown” isn’t just about high-rise apartments and bail bonds – it also means access to the Valley’s coolest pre-War homes and richest human interactions, according to 12-year Encanto resident Sam Mittelsteadt. “You’ve got a UPS driver and mom who homeschools on one side of the street, and a 90-year-old retiree on the other – it’s one of the Valley’s true real melting pots,” the Phoenix-based magazine editor says. Though not the starter-home jackpot that it was three decades ago, when a wave of improvement-minded buyers flooded into historical neighborhoods like Willo, F.Q. Story and Coronado, it remains one of Phoenix’s most affordable areas, and one of the few places where you can walk to an owner-operated maker space and kill a Saturday, as is Mittelsteadt’s wont. “I don’t go Downtown on First Friday – too rowdy! – but I will go to Hazel & Violet Letterpress and rent some time. They’re the kind of makers who teach you to be a maker, too.”

Why I Love Downtown phoenix: “I like the fact it’s still a genuine part of town… off 15th Avenue, you’ll see Latin high school kids jogging past a vegan sandwich shop, and neither is an intruder or interloper. They both feel right.”
— Sam Mittelsteadt, editor, Farran Media



Population: 147,066
Folks You’ll Find: Married mixologists; adaptive reuse enthusiasts; yuppies galore
Median Household Income: $66,603

Encompassing some of the Valley’s trendiest “urban core” neighborhoods – including Arcadia, Piestewa Peak and the Seventh Street dining drag – Camelback East was the right choice for executive recruiter Jacque Linaman and her family when they moved from South Phoenix nine years ago. “We’re close to a million great restaurants, which I love,” says Linaman, who lives north of Camelback Road in an affluent neighborhood PHOENIX once playfully dubbed Paradise Valley Light. “And we’re close to the canal and Squaw [Piestewa] Peak and Camelback Mountain, so there are a lot of [amenities] from a family and exercise perspective. We love biking down to the canal and going to O.H.S.O.” Her favorite local dish: the chef charcuterie board at North Italia.

Why I Love East Phoenix: “When we moved in [nine years ago], there were a lot of older residents – older homes, people who had lived here 30, 40 years. But those are turning over. The new residents definitely tend to be families.”
— Jacque Linaman, recruiter, Govig and Associates


Population: 83,250
Folks You’ll Find: A diverse crowd of middle- and upper-middle-class people who like to kegstand; young lawyers in love
Median Household Income: $57,600

The older and more hemmed-in half of “the West’s Most Western Town,” South Scottsdale encompasses Old Town and the city’s legendary nightlife district – important factors when sales professional Todd Becker was house-shopping 15 years ago. “As a 30-year-old, I wanted to be close to the action but not on top of the action,” says Becker, who has a side business renovating vintage radios and converting them into amplifiers (pictured). “Being a mile away from Old Town works out nicely that way.” Becker also likes the close proximity to the freeway and airport, the robust selection of nearby Mexican greasy spoons (his rec: the California burrito at Los Betos) and the recent wave of renovations on his street. “With that kind of appreciation and home value, my guess [is that new residents] would typically be more young professionals and couples.”

Why i Love south Scottsdale: “The Scottsdale greenbelt is two blocks away, which is nice for a walk or bike ride. And I like being close to the Pima Indian reservation, which is more natural and pristine than our built-up suburban society over here.”
— Todd Becker, sales pro and musician


Population: 119,630
Folks You’ll Find: Doctors and CEOs, oh my; wealthy Canadians who “winter”; coyotes
Median Household Income: $101,000

It’s funny to think the Phoenix suburb nicknamed “Snobsdale” started out as a humble dirt tract of 640 acres purchased for $3.50 per acre in 1888 by a curmudgeonly Army chaplain named Winfield Scott. But that contradictory spirit remains, especially in North Scottsdale, a high-dollar region of large, xeriscaped lots that fueled most of the city’s spectacular growth between 1990 and 2010. Informally defined as the half of the city north of Doubletree Ranch Road, North Scottsdale can actually be pretty rugged. On the eastern rim, the stuccoed Spanish colonials arrayed along the McDowell Mountain foothills are often inundated with poisonous pests and hit hard by monsoons. “Most folks enjoy wildlife in this neighborhood,” says artist Melanie Frey, who lives in the Saguaro Highlands development north of the 101 freeway with husband Keith, a doctor and executive at Dignity Health. “It’s typical to see javelina, coyotes, many birds, hooting owls, rabbits and the occasional snake.”

Why i Love North Scottsdale: “The beauty of the Sonoran Desert, with limitations on building height, commercial signage and nighttime artificial life – what gorgeous, star-filled evenings to enjoy!”
— Melanie Frey, artist



Population: 5,253
Folks You’ll Find: Wealthy bikers, reclusive celebrities, nature-loving seniors
Median Household Income: $86,608

Interestingly, Hells Angel godfather Sonny Barger and troubled hip-hop star DMX have both called Cave Creek home – a fact that speaks both to the community’s affluence and its appeal to people who want to stay out of the spotlight. “[We’re] a little different here,” concedes nature photographer Linda Covey, who moved to the handsomely rugged community 20 years ago. “Creekers are custom, unusual… they’re free spirits, and they love music – we have four different establishments playing live music every night. And a lot of equestrians.” Another plus: Cave Creek and adjacent Carefree have the highest ratio of restaurants to residents in the Valley – a fact Covey exploits regularly at gastropub Liberty Station, where her favorite dish is the brisket quesadilla. (It’s technically in Scottsdale, but we’ll let CC claim it just this once.)

Why I Love Cave Creek: “Clean air. Less traffic. Less populated. And really close to nature. We have almost every wild critter here. I put out water pans at night so I can get a glimpse of them in the morning. Bobcats, hawks… and roadrunners, which I hate. They eat all my fat lizards.”
— Linda Covey, nature photographer, The Boulders Resort and Spa


Population: 172,816
Folks You’ll Find: Sun Devils and rich millennials to the north, wealthy horse jumpers and starter tract homeowners to the south, LGBTQ and allies
Median Household Income: $50,474

Like its larger neighbor to the west, Tempe was named by 19th century English settler Darrell Duppa. Laying eyes on the area’s signature volcanic butte and riparian wilderness on the banks of the Salt River, the well-read Brit was reminded of the Vale of Tempe at the base of Mount Olympus in Greece – a bucolic, water-filled gorge that inspired poets from Virgil to Emerson. Now Tempe is mainly known as home to the massive main campus of Arizona State University. But it’s also a front-yard community, says publicity pro Ty Largo, an ASU Alumni Assocation member who’s called Tempe home for 18 years. “People are really attracted to the chill vibes and neighborly love,” he says. That, and the No. 3 combo at Restaurant Mexico – “the enchiladas dinner with green sauce, whole beans and rice is everything.”

Why I Love Tempe: “Imagine tree-lined streets, lush lawns, dinners at home with great neighbors a few times a week, bike rides to Casey Moore’s, hikes up A Mountain, walking to shows at Gammage – that’s my neighborhood.”
— Ty Largo, CEO and creative director, AWE Collective



Population: 237,120
Folks You’ll Find: Mommy bloggers; nascent foodies; Latinos;
McMansions aplenty
Median Household Income: $91,576

Once an uninterrupted expanse of pastures and farmland, Gilbert has a new identity: realm of high-earning young families, including the highest median income for Hispanics in the U.S., according to WalletHub. The fresh suburban vibe sat well with transportation manager Corky Clark when he moved his family from Chicago to south Gilbert two years ago: “The reason I selected this [area] is because the homes are embedded in the park spaces… I step out of my backyard, and a walking path takes me through the community.” A disc-golf enthusiast, Clark is particularly keen on a planned 272-acre mega park that will bring a lake, amphitheater, dog park and more to “within steps” of his house in late 2019. Though he also appreciates the “school choices” and emerging food scene, Clark – a devout Mormon – says the clincher for his neighborhood choice was its proximity to the town’s LDS temple. Approximately 7 percent of Gilbertians are Mormon.

Why I Love Gilbert: “Something else I love about Gilbert are all the new restaurants coming in. It sounds corny, but I love the food truck scene downtown. [The town] gives them a spot to operate Friday night. I like the nightlife scene down there.”
— Corky Clark, transportation manager


Population: 464,704
Folks You’ll Find: Mega-church-goers; home flippers; boba tea connoisseurs
Median Household Income: $49,453

Mesa “used to have the reputation of being all Mormon families, but it’s diversified so much recently with a peaked interest in real estate and young working professionals and families looking to renovate beautiful old homes in the area,” says downtown Mesa sandwich-shop owner Kelsey Strothers, who lives in such a house in the city’s Evergreen District with her husband and shop co-owner, Jim Bob. Still, Mesa wouldn’t be Mesa without its Mormon settlers, sent from Utah by Brigham Young to expand the church’s reach. Today, Mesa is massive – stretching about 18 miles wide – with a diverse roster of residents, including craft brewers and artists in the old downtown and the Valley’s own “Little Asia” along Dobson Road in the far southwest corner of the city.

Why I Love Mesa: “Mesa seems to attract the unconventional type. Our community is full of individuals who think outside the box, appreciate the arts and history, and are not afraid to strike up a conversation with their neighbor. ”
— Kelsey Strothers, owner, Worth Takeaway



Population: 247,459
Folks You’ll Find: Techies and yuppies downtown; young families throughout
Median Household Income: $75,369

The hub of Arizona’s “Silicon Desert” lies in downtown Chandler and the city’s Price Corridor, where tech titans including Intel, PayPal and Microchip Technology employ thousands. Our buzzy tech capital has come a long way since Dr. A.J. Chandler, Arizona’s first territorial veterinary surgeon, opened the Chandler townsite office in May 1912. “Chandler is a bit suburbia and clean-cut, but it’s still hip with lots of life,” PR pro Angela Menninger says. She lives with her husband Nick and 3-year-old son Mateo in the gated community Pueblo at Anderson Springs. The Menningers bike downtown for their weekly family date night at The Hungry Monk (burger for mom and dad, mac and cheese for Mateo) and are regulars at Cyclo, SanTan Brewing Co., Downtown Chandler Café and Paletas Betty, among others.

Why I Love Chandler: “I absolutely love living in Chandler because it truly feels like a small town smack in the middle of a big city… We absolutely love going downtown – either on a date night, girls’ night or as a family. I can’t wait for Overstreet to open. Our beach cruisers are pumped and ready!”
— Angela Menninger, co-founder,
Duality Public Relations


Population: 35,525
Folks You’ll Find: Peach farmers; pumpkin patch farmers; olive oilers; young parents who don’t mind a long commute
Median Household Income: $90,687

Most Phoenicians know Queen Creek only for their biannual treks east to pick pumpkins in the fall and peaches in the spring at Schnepf Farms, with a pit-stop for olive oil at Queen Creek Olive Mill. But this old farm community is exploding with young families attracted to the affordable housing and slower way of life. Steve Sossaman – son of longtime farmers Sue and James Sossaman (pictured below) – hails from one of the town’s founding families, those who headed east from Phoenix in search of more fertile land, setting up corn, cotton, alfalfa and small grains farms. Today, the Sossaman name appears on a school, a major road and, of course, the family farm, which is also home to Hayden Flour Mills – perhaps Arizona’s best known grain producer.

Why I Love Queen Creek: “Our family has been in the QC for 100 years – I was born at the old Williams Air Force Base, which is now Phoenix Mesa Gateway [Airport]. I love the QC for the great people and the opportunity to watch the town grow, and also to be integral in shaping that growth.”
— Steve Sossaman, farmer



Population: 186,030
Folks You’ll Find: More diversity and colorful businesses (smoke shops, strip clubs) near North Mountain; predominantly white middle- and upper-class families and retirees on the outskirts
Median Household Income: $88,683

When American Express project manager Erica Lucci moved to Phoenix from Texas as a single gal 13 years ago, she bought a house at Seventh Street and Union Hills Drive because it was close to her office and cost-effective. “I couldn’t afford to live in Scottsdale,” she says. “As I lived [in North Phoenix], I realized that the access to Downtown was perfect, that it really wasn’t too far away.” She and realtor Chris Altman married, started their family and, last October, moved into a bigger house farther north in Stetson Valley – part of the Phoenix village known as Deer Valley – to be close to Lucci’s parents. They’re figuring out their new neighborhood haunts, and they continue to rep North Phoenix – whatever that is. “What defines North Phoenix, right?” Altman says. “Is it just North Mountain and north? Or is it north of the 101? Or is it north of Northern [Avenue]? I think the fact that it’s pretty amoebic does allow some interpretation.”

Why i Love North Phoenix: “We’re kind of in the city – I can drive five minutes to a Safeway and 10 minutes to a highway, no problem – but also, I can walk out my door and cross the canal and I’m in state land and a nature preserve.”
— Chris Altman, realtor, Keller Williams Realty Biltmore Partners



Population: 164,198
Folks You’ll Find: Young families; intense PTA moms; CCV attendees; retirees
Median Household Income: $68,882

In 1888, Peoria’s first post office opened to serve its booming population of 27. The northwest Valley suburb – the epitome of suburbia, with tract houses, manicured lawns, good schools and middle-class families – continues to blossom. “It’s developing still, so you have a lot of new restaurants and stores going in pretty regularly, because Peoria spreads pretty far northwest,” church ministry assistant Cassi Esh says. She and her husband, Arizona Christian University library technician Ben Esh, built a house in The Reserve at Plaza del Rio in 2015 and enjoy regular trips to the Rio Vista Recreation Center, Sunrise Mountain Library, Dutch Bros. and Brushfire Tacos y Tapas. “Our neighborhood is still close to the freeways, Westgate and Arrowhead, but also it’s kind of tucked away, so there’s not much traffic,” Ben says. “It’s also next to the New River canal, so we can walk out of our neighborhood straight to the canal.”

Why i Love Peoria: “Obviously we’re not Scottsdale, like the cliché [of] Scottsdale people, but there is something nice about living in an area that is publicly taken care of, and Peoria noticeably is.”
— Cassi Esh, ministry assistant,
Northwest Community Church


Population: 132,673
Folks You’ll Find: Young families; retirees; churchfolk; homeschoolers
Median Household Income: $60,521

After years as a sleepy suburb bordered by agriculture and Luke Air Force Base, Surprise is waking up to expansion with the proliferation of shopping centers and restaurants and better freeway access thanks to the Arizona State Route 303 (aka “the 303”). “Everybody was excited when the Oregano’s opened up near our house, and the Sumo Snow,” sports broadcaster Michael Potter says. He lives in a four-bedroomer in the Surprise Farms II development with his educator wife Lori and their children, who range in age from 10-18 and shuttle to Downtown Phoenix regularly for their arts activities with The Phoenix Symphony and Ballet Arizona. Potter’s mother, Sandra, lives in the Happy Trails Resort retirement community a mile from the family home and spends a lot of time with them, a typical multigenerational dynamic in the area. “The stability of our neighborhood has been fantastic,” Potter says.

Why I Love Surprise: “[It’s a] great community with parks and greenbelts. [When we moved here in 2004] they were building a school, Canyon Ridge Elementary School, right behind us, so we could walk to school.”
— Michael Potter, radio voice for Grand Canyon University men’s basketball



Population: 47,950
Folks You’ll Find: Dairy farmers; South Mountain weekend hikers; one of Phoenix’s highest concentrations of black families
Median Household Income: $63,690

Shaped like a thick slice of pizza, Laveen – one of the 15 villages that constitute the city of Phoenix – is a cool oasis at the base of South Mountain, a lush floodplain formed by the confluence of the Gila and Salt rivers that originally attracted cotton and dairy farmers. Before the 1970s, South Phoenix was the only part of the city where African-Americans and Hispanics could own homes, and it still retains that reputation of being diverse, open and accommodating, according to Plus, you can get more home for less money, says businesswoman Marvina Thomas, who moved here nine years ago to expand her addiction recovery group home and recently launched a line of cannabis-infused soaps. “I love how quiet and peaceful it is in Laveen,” she says. “It attracts people drawn to a quieter ranch lifestyle, while still having close access to big-city amenities.” Also a draw: Mandy’s Fish and Chips. “They have the best catfish sandwich, probably the best in the Valley.”

Why I Love Laveen: “It is really a very eclectic mix of friendly people. I think it would surprise people to know Laveen has many beautifully designed homes with larger than average rooms nestled among the ranches and commercial business properties.”
— Marvina Thomas, CEO and founder, 420 Skin Care, Vina Soaps and Start Living Recovery Home


Population: 59,470
Folks You’ll Find: Cowboy-boot-wearin’ Buckeysians; golf-cart-driving Verradoans
Median Household Income: $61,939

Call it A Tale of Two Buckeyes. On one hand, you have the longtime rural residents who helped settle this geographically massive (400-plus square miles) town on the Valley’s western perimeter. And on the other: the residents of Verrado, a brash master-planned community that sprang to life two decades ago promising a return to neighbor-oriented “porch living.” According to naturopath Jennifer Elton, a 14-year resident, that ethos – along with Verrado’s almost colony-like seclusion – created feelings of solidarity that have lasted a generation. “It’s perfect for [people] who want to be mutually involved… we have friends whose kids [babysat] for my kids, and now my kids are watching their grandkids.” Citing the community’s robust calendar of monthly events and get-togethers, her husband Dave agrees: “It’s the only place I’ve ever lived where I know every person on my street.”

Why I Love Buckeye: “We hike every week in the [nearby] White Mountains, right off the Verrado trailhead… then go to Ciao Grazie for their Emiliana salad.”
— Jennifer Elton, naturopath, Live Well Natural Medicine