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You might be surprised to learn that Phoenix is the fifth most populous city in the U.S., with one in every four Arizona residents living in this state capital. It’s a city of sunshine, occasionally blistering heat (with an average July temperature 106 degrees), authentic Mexican food, and a large helping of culture and tourism.
If you’re moving to Phoenix, get ready to be inundated with things to do, see, and experience. Start with this list to feel at home in the Valley of the Sun.
Phoenix lies in the Salt River Valley in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. That means you haven’t really seen Phoenix until you’ve hiked Camelback Mountain and peered down on the city from 2,700 feet. It’s a fairly easy 2.5 mile hike that you can complete in an afternoon.
Prepare for scorching days that can damage your car’s dashboard if you don’t park in the shade and crash your smartphone if you leave it out in the sun. But if you’re moving to Phoenix you should also bring your cool-weather clothes, because you’ll need them for half of the year. And yes, it does rain—there’s about 30 days or 8 inches of rain a year, so don’t forget your umbrella!
Immerse yourself in towering cacti, wildflowers, succulents, and 50,000 other varieties of plants by taking a trip to the Desert Botanical Garden.
There’s a lot of sky over your head in Phoenix, and a number of organizations including schools, observatories, and private clubs offer star parties throughout the year. Always open to the public, these gatherings are a great opportunity to meet other Arizonians and view celestial bodies through a high-powered telescope.
Roadrunner Park is a beautiful outdoor spot to wander around on a lazy weekend thanks to its scenic lake and areas for sports and play. But it’s also home to the Roadrunner Park Farmer’s Market, which takes place year-round every Saturday morning. It’s home to dozens of vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, and more. It’s a tradition that dates back to 1990.
Some art installations virtually define the city they’re in, and Her Secret is Patience is just that sort of sculpture. This 145-foot-tall illuminated fabrication, named after a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, resembles a sort of colorful, kinetic cloud, and needs to be experienced firsthand by any new Phoenix resident. Just head to Civic Space Park any day of the week to see it for yourself. Keep in mind that the sculpture is most impressive after sundown.
Phoenix is also home to the Mystery Castle. Back in the 1930s, the rambling 18-room “castle” was built by one man using an eclectic array of found or makeshift materials. A memorable, if not tragic, backstory makes the castle a compelling destination. You can get a guided tour of the castle from October through May.
In a city of 1.6 million people that plays host 22 million tourists each year, is there anywhere you can eat that’s just for the locals? Not really, but you can improve your chances by eating somewhere that doesn’t even advertise itself with a sign. Dick’s Hideaway is rustic, casual, and upscale all at the same time, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner to only those who know about it.
You may also consider moving to Phoenix if you enjoy desert plant life—cacti are everywhere. Immerse yourself in towering cacti, wildflowers, succulents, and 50,000 other varieties of plants by taking a trip to the Desert Botanical Garden. You can wander on your own, get a guided tour, or even join in on activities like concerts and family activities.
The First Friday Art Walk has recently become one of the largest self-guided art walks in the nation. On the first Friday of every month, the character of Phoenix shines on the downtown streets through art, boutiques, street food, music, and a festival atmosphere that’s sure to infect you with joy.