Moving to Arizona FAQs, part one

posted: March 19, 2022

tl;dr: Questions I am most often asked by others considering moving to Arizona...

What is the Arizona pitch?

Arizona is one of the few places where you can comfortably do outdoor activities 365 days a year. Even in the Valley of the Sun in the summer, you can enjoy the outdoors in the early morning hours, before it becomes too hot. The state ranges in elevation from a little above sea level in the southwest corner at Yuma to over 12,600 feet at Humphrey’s Peak near Flagstaff. Only Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington have greater spans in elevation.

As a result of the climate and elevation span, Arizona is a paradise for hikers, mountain enthusiasts, outdoorspeople, bicyclists, motorcyclists, golfers, and athletes of all types. More than a few professional athletes make Arizona their home. Many athletes train at elevation at Flagstaff in the warmer months and the Valley of the Sun in the winter months.

Arizona is heaven on earth for baseball fans and golfers. Fifteen Major League Baseball teams have their training facilities in the Valley of the Sun, which makes it very easy to catch a Cactus League game during spring training. Arizona State University (ASU) is a college baseball powerhouse that has sent many stars to the major leagues. ASU also is the alma mater of golfer Phil Mickelson, and the Valley is well known and regarded for its many golf courses and resorts. The WM Phoenix Open, held early in the season at the TPC Scottsdale course, is a popular kick-off tournament for the PGA Tour.

Although it is popular among retirees and snowbirds, Arizona’s median age is actually around the average of the United States. Arizona is economically vibrant and growing, which makes it attractive for workers and young families. It’s quite a change for me and others moving from Illinois, whose population has been in decline for years. Arizona was one of the quickest states to recover all the jobs lost in the COVID-19 endemic.

Cactus in the foreground, and in the background a small desert mountain, the side of which has an arrow and the word 'Phoenix' in large letters

This sign guides pilots entering the Valley to the Phoenix airport, one of several in the area

What are the downsides?

It is very hot in the Valley of the Sun in the summer, as almost everyone knows. If you don’t like sun and air conditioning, then Arizona is not for you. If you want the traditional four seasons a year, you’re not going to get them, aside from higher elevations around Flagstaff. There is more and better skiing in Utah and Colorado. If you greatly prefer the environment of New England to desert fauna and flora, then you should look elsewhere. Arizona is growing fast, so you have to put up with change and construction.

Arizona finishes near or at the bottom of surveys of school funding and teacher pay; whether that translates into poor educational experiences and outcomes is debatable. In the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, actress Lori Loughlin and her husband cited ASU as the school they did not want their daughter to have to go to, preferring the University of Southern California instead. ASU does not appeal to educational snobs, although I would argue that it is succeeding in its mission to bring higher education to as many as possible.

Some don’t like the politics in Arizona, although it is currently nearly balanced between the two major parties. There are some crazy politicians in Arizona, but I would argue that statement is true everywhere.

What is the biggest misconception about Arizona?

People who do not know the state well often confuse the Valley of the Sun with the entire state, and also believe that it is 120 degrees every day. The Valley is indeed where the majority of the state’s residents live, but there are a variety of local climates and weather patterns statewide, primarily based upon elevation. Flagstaff, at nearly 7,000 foot elevation, is one of the snowiest cities in the United States think of Denver, the Mile High City, but nearly two thousand feet higher, with more snow. Even in the Valley, daily highs ascend into the 100s only near and during the summer. The rest of the year, the Valley arguably has some of the best weather in the country. In the summer, when the highs do exceed 100, it is cooler at night and in the morning, so you can still enjoy the outdoors.


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