What started as a farming community in the 1860s now reigns as one of the biggest metro areas in the country. People continue to flock to Phoenix, AZ, to soak up the sun and the economic opportunities that this Southwest city has to offer.
Living in Phoenix has its perks. For example the cost of living is 5 percent lower than the national average. While median home prices were up last year, real estate costs are still lower than other big cities in the country and 20 percent lower than their pre-recession peak in 2005. More good news for homeowners: property taxes in Arizona are lower than most other places as well.
You’ll never run out of things to do in Phoenix, either. The majestic Grand Canyon and sublime Sonoran Desert are both within driving distance, as are countless other nature spots like Camelback Mountain. We’ve also got plenty of professional sports, not to mention being an important top on the PGA Tour.
Before you pack up to head to the Valley of the Sun, here are 20 more things you need to know about Phoenix.
1. Get used to the phrase “the Valley.”
Phoenix is so big that people tend to just refer to the entire metro area as the Salt River Valley. West Valley cities include Gilbert, Peoria, Avondale, Goodyear and Buckeye; East Valley cities include Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler and Queen Creek. About 4.5 million people call the Valley home.
2. Don’t bother packing your umbrella.
Phoenix averages just 8 inches of rain a year, most of it coming in just a few large summer storms called monsoons. Rainy days just don’t happen here.
3. Think Yankees-Red Sox is a nasty rivalry?
Entire families in the Valley are torn by the major sports rivalry of the state, Arizona State University vs. the University of Arizona. Pick one early (maybe find out your boss’ alma mater before you pledge allegiance).
4. You’ll never get lost.
Downtown Phoenix is one of the easiest cities in the country to navigate, with nearly all streets fixed to a clear north-south-east-west grid. Ever feel disoriented? Just look for South Mountain, which conveniently runs across the south side of town.
5. Never say, “It’s a dry heat.”
That’s one of those sayings that make locals roll their eyes. The heat is, indeed, dry in the summer. It’s much like sticking your head in an oven. Tell locals that it’s preferable to humidity, and you’re in.
6. Everyone is from somewhere else. Seriously.
There are very few native Phoenicians. Whole chunks of the city hail from Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York, Los Angeles and more. The good news? There are great restaurants that serve food just like your hometown, wherever that may be.
7. If you’re a sports fan, learn to deal with disappointment.
Valley residents have a love-hate relationship with their sports teams. They love them, but they just hate the pain they cause. As recently as the 2013 season, the Cardinals, Suns and Coyotes each missed the playoffs by one game.
8. Vacations are a lifestyle here.
The Valley is home to some of the finest resorts in the United States, which means world-class spas, golf and dining are just a few minutes from your front door.
9. Plan on wearing jeans — a lot.
Phoenix is one of the most un-formal places around. You can go just about anywhere in a pair of jeans. Anything beyond that and you might be showing off. Yes, the concept of “dressy jeans” actually exists.
10. Learn to love haboobs.
Don’t worry, it’s not a naughty term. The famous dust storms that envelop the Valley a few times each summer are something to behold — as long as you’re not in your car when they hit.
11. You’ll learn to love the desert.
It’s an acquired taste for some, but soon you’ll see how beautiful the desert can be. Don’t believe us? Check out the Desert Botanical Garden.
12. Rock yards are normal.
It could be the water-conscious aspect of living in a desert or just the realization that grass takes too much work, but yards of gravel are pretty common in the Valley.
13. No, snakes aren’t everywhere.
But scorpions might be lurking, especially if you live near a mountain. Always check your shoes, and invest in a blacklight (scorpions glow under black light).
14. Someone might not have liked his boss.
Take a good look at Sparky, the mascot of the Arizona State University Sun Devil. He was created by a Disney artist and bears a striking resemblance to Walt Disney.
15. Saguaros are amazing.
The next time you see a saguaro cactus, take a real look. Each arm takes more than 50 years to grow. Nature takes time to create its majesty.
16. Each March, drive at night with your windows down.
Orange trees bloom this time of year, and in March the air is magically fragrant.
17. Mexican food is a wonderful thing.
In no time, you’ll find your favorite salsa, taco, enchilada and tamale — and each likely will be at a different restaurant. Get advice from coworkers and neighbors. Everyone has a worthy favorite worth sampling.
18. Be prepared to see famous folks.
Athletes flock to the Valley to train in their off-seasons or soak up the sun in the winter months. Scottsdale and resorts in Paradise Valley are havens for entertainers. You never know who you might run into at a coffee shop, restaurant or golf course.
19. Plan on driving just about everywhere.
Just about everyone avoids public transportation with the lone exception of the light-rail system, which is popular for Suns and Diamondbacks games, and downtown concerts.
20. Want to blend in? Don’t get tan.
The Valley of the Sun label isn’t an accident. Phoenix gets more than 300 days of sunshine a year. Locals use sunscreen and stay out of the heat, while visitors bathe in the sun.