15 Best Places to Live in Arizona

Written by Darren Griffiths
Updated on
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When it comes to the best places to live in the United States, Arizona is not a frequent feature in the lists of many people. The elements have a large part to do with this. But if a hot, dry climate is not a factor that tilts your scale to the nay side, you’ll find there is a lot to love about The Grand Canyon State.

Endless mountain ranges, palm trees that give the place an easy vibe, rivers, lakes, acres of space, and crazy beautiful sunsets make it a dream place for outdoor lovers. It should come as no surprise then to know Arizona has one of the biggest resort collections you will find in a single state.

Beyond the natural lure, some of the things that make this state appealing include affordability, education (three of the top 10 high schools in the US in 2016 came from here), and employment opportunities.

In particular, we found the following areas the 15 best places to live in Arizona, based on the three aforementioned factors (cost of living, public schools, job opportunities), in addition to crime rate and local amenities.


GilbertSource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock

With a population that hovers around the 230,000 mark, home value, median household income, low crime rate, good public schools, affordable healthcare options, and idyllic nature, you will often find Gilbert on many a Best Places to Live Countrywide list.

The town is within close proximity to Phoenix, and is one of the areas in the state that showcase the best Arizona has to offer. The Grand Canyon. Ancient ruins. Farmland and fresh produce. Wineries. Golf courses. Arts bazaar. Wakeboarding even!

The overall cost of living may be a bit steeper compared to other places in Arizona (Phoenix included) but it easy to see why.

Generally, it’s is well worth it.


ScottsdaleSource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock

Scottsdale is one of the most ‘complete’ places you will find anywhere; a land of true contrasts.

On one hand, it still retains that Wild West vibe, and the city’s motto really says it all (The West’s Most Western Town). On the other, it is as modern a city as they come, ranked eighth on the list of best cities to launch a startup by DataFox in 2015.

This is also a city with one of the most concentrated AAA Four Diamond hotels in the country, not to mention golf course galore.

The conurbation of about 230,000 is often pigeonholed as a city for retirees, but you would be hard pressed to find a place better suited to raise a family – crime rate is low, median family income is high, abundant amenities, excellent quality of life, and top-notch education.

Even the weather itself is a bit different in Scottsdale, often described as mild even in summer.


ChandlerSource: wikipedia.org

Chandler has a population of about 250,000, and is a city that perfectly weaves family-friendly and cosmopolitan. This is largely thanks to its award-winning school district and bustling downtown area.

Homebuyers will love it here due to the affordable housing with plenty of room to spread out.

Couple that with great security and A-one amenities that range from great amazing restaurants to distinguished clinical excellence and you begin to understand why Chandler has been a constant feature on many a notable Top x list in the country through the last decade.

Best Places to Live. Most Thriving U.S. Cities. Best Cities for Young People. Best Fitness Walking Cities. Best Place in U.S. for Tech Startups. Chandler has it all.


TempeSource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock

A quick drive through Tempe and you cannot help but notice it is a city visibly on the rise.

Major construction projects are underway throughout the town of 170,000, as they look to carry from where they left off during the economic fall. Big-name tech companies are pitching tent here, or expanding operations, the result of which is an improvement in earnings, consequently having a positive ripple effect on the local economy.

Indeed, it is this growth that has seen Tempe land on many Top Cities to Live in the U.S lists. Its high concentration of tech firms also didn’t escape Google’s eye who named Tempe its eCity for the state of Arizona in 2014.

Tempe is a hotbed for the young, both college students and young professionals. Its suburbs are brimming with single-family homes constructed in a range of architectural styles to attract homebuyers. The average commute time is around 20 minutes, which is most definitely welcome by both work commuters and young school-goers alike.

The city has plenty of attractions to keep families occupied on the weekends, be it kayaking, biking or dining, with multiple fitness centres that ensure the residents stay active.


MesaSource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock

Mesa is a thriving metropolis with a population of about 460,000 people. It is a great place for anyone looking for a big city experience, albeit not on overwhelming scale as you would experience in a major city such as Phoenix.

Mesa has an array of options for homebuyers, whether you are looking for a single-family home on a large lot or on the hunt for a modern townhouse with on-site amenities. Equally diverse is its attractions, which range from museums (the Arizona Museum of Natural History is located here) to a Wild West town, golfing, horseback riding and more.

As far as safety goes, Mesa doesn’t rank as favourably as its counterparts, but that is just about the only blot on an otherwise impressive attraction rate. Public schools – top-notch. Diversity – right up there. Housing – good. Nightlife – thriving. Overall place for families – ideal.


GlendaleSource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock

If you are looking for an affordable place to live in Arizona, Glendale is a city that perfectly fits the bill (no pun intended). This is based on housing (be it rent or ownership) and overall cost of living. The median home value as of 2013 stood at $154,700, with the rent averaging $950.

Those in the IT sector might be better off in Scottsdale and Tempe, as tech jobs are quite scarce around these parts, save for a few courtesy of the big firms in town. If you work in the service industry, however, (think restaurants, bars and so on), there are just enough to go around in this town of over 230,000 people.

If you are into hockey or football, you will absolutely love it in Glendale. This is home to the Arizona Cardinals and the Phoenix Coyotes.

The largest water park in Arizona is also located here (Wet ‘n’ Wild Phoenix); so is the largest fighter-pilot training base on the globe – the Luke Air Force Base.

Paradise Valley

Paradise ValleySource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock
Paradise Valley

Its name is a dead giveaway because in reality, Paradise Valley is one of the most scenic spots in the state of Arizona. The serene, picturesque suburb is peppered with natural beauty everywhere you look – from the Piestewa Peak Park and Phoenix Mountains Preserve in the west, to the Echo Canyon Park to the south.

Just like its southern neighbor, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley has a well-known affinity for golf, even boasting some championship-level courses. Then again, for all the beauty, who can fault it, right?

This Valley of the Sun suburb features lovely modern condos and southwest style single-family homes. These go some way in complementing its natural beauty while ensuring the residents have ample space to spread out.

Expectedly, Paradise Valley is no place for small fry.

The average home price is well over the 1.2-million mark, and the area also ranks up high on the bacon chain, with each household netting an average $758,132. This, according to the Business Journal, easily catapults the area of about 14,000 people to the wealthiest places in America.

Cave Creek

Frontier Town, Cave Creek, ArizonaSource: tishomir / shutterstock
Frontier Town, Cave Creek, Arizona

If the idea of a close knit community appeals to you, few places in Arizona will do it for you as much as Cave Creek. Based on figures from the 2010 U.S. census, this charming Phoenix suburb boasts a population of 5,122.

The median home value stands at slightly under half a million dollars ($465,500) although this is a figure derived from roughly the same period. Compared to a national average of $178,600 (and a median rent of $1,377 versus $928), the numbers themselves paint a good picture of what to expect in Cave Creek.

Single-family Southwest style homes and modern condos are guaranteed splendid mountain views, but it’s not like this rural, Western community is devoid of amenities. There are multiple art galleries in town; ditto quaint restaurants where you can dine carefree as you chomp on mouthwatering steak.

Golf lovers will appreciate the courses in Cave Creek, and Frontier Town offers the most unique shopping experience you’ll find anywhere, thanks to its theme that is reminiscent of the 1800s.

And oh, children can be guaranteed some of the best education opportunities in the country.


Phoenix, ArizonaSource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock

The big town itself. Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, and as far as capital cities go, this is one of the few cities in America that best paint a picture of the America that was and the America that is rapidly emerging.

For one, Phoenix is downright beautiful and there is a thriving pulse to it that is hard to beat for most cities. It is quickly growing, and today boasts a population of about 1.5 million. It is as cosmopolitan as they come, with many, including Hispanics, Asians, Blacks and White Americans calling the city home.

Median home value in the capital stands at $215,800, which is neither too low, nor too high compared to the smaller cities in Arizona. The median home value in the state itself is $225,000, so it’s fair to say this is a bit reasonable bearing in mind it is the largest city.

The economy is thriving; the city has a good college scene; amenities are in abundance, as you would expect; and the nightlife is truly well and alive. And with the government revitilising the downtown area, Phoenix remains, largely, a pretty appealing city for most people.


PeoriaSource: shutterstock

Peoria warrants a mention on our list of best places to live in Arizona for the simple reason that it has its basics well sorted out. And then some.

The public school system is highly rated, with 26 of the 38 educational institutions classified as either Excelling or High Performing by the state. The housing market in Peoria is just about there – not too expensive for the buyer, and sellers cannot fret either.

The small city of about 164,000 is within touching distance of the city of Phoenix. This makes it the perfect place for anyone in search of a good mix of being able to ply to the big city for work, while basing their life and play in the quiet of the suburbs.

There is a host of rejuvenating outdoor family activities for both the young and old, and the scenery itself is breathtaking. The streets are clean and landscaped, and the city goes the length to ensure the buildings match this.

In terms of overall appeal, not many places in the state of Arizona can rival Peoria, and this is evident in the manner most residents wax poetic about their beloved town. It is hard to find better places that give you so much value for money.

Litchfield Park

Litchfield ParkSource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock
Litchfield Park

We probably should have followed this up with Cave Creek because the two are almost similar, at least in terms of a close community of residents.

But no matter.

Litchfield Park has a population of just over 5,000 residents, and anyone looking to be part of it won’t have so much trouble finding a home. There are a few newly constructed properties, ranging from single-family homes to condos with on-site amenities.

Litchfield Park is just the perfect place to raise a family (or retire even).

There is a strong dedication to community. It is one of the safest places not just in Arizona, but across the U.S. Education is high quality and the high school graduation level stands at an impressive 97%, way more than the state average. There are plenty of amenities on offer, with all the camps and sports you could want for your kids housed at the Litchfield Park Recreation Center.

For all these benefits, it naturally follows that the cost of living be on the higher end of the scale, and the median home value of $262,300 says it all. If you can swing it though, you couldn’t wish for a better neighborhood to wake up to every day of your life.


Prescott, ArizonaSource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock

Think 5,000 people is too small a community for you? Then consider Prescott, a secluded area in Arizona with a population of just under 40,000. It has an elevation of over 5,000 feet, and this means no other part of Arizona has a greater climate variation.

Prescott has all the trappings of a small-town city – but in all kinds of good ways. Not desolate, and not too crowded either.

There is always some action happening at the Courthouse Plaza, whether it’s live music or art openings. In fact, it was even shortlisted in the Ten Great Public Spaces in 2014 by the American Planning Association. That’s a pretty big deal by any city standard.

Anyway, the Courthouse Plaza also provides for small boutique shopping, picnics in their grassy zone, as well as leisurely strolls. There are two beautiful lakes in this area which provide a welcome break from the sweltering summer heat.

Goldwater Lake is more widely known and also serves as a day park, complete with a volleyball park, playground for kids and a large Ramada. Lynx Lake is more of a boating destination, while also offering camping grounds and good fishing.

So unique is Prescott that it even has a Night Sky Ordinance. This sees the city put limits on night lighting so that the light pollution does not interfere with the natural beauty of the night sky!

Cost of living is steeper in Prescott compared to other parts of the state, with the average house value playing at the $236,000 mark. But it is one of the best places to live in Arizona by a stretch.

Fountain Hills

Fountain HillsSource: Marilyn D. Lambertz / shutterstock
Fountain Hills

Speaking of unique cities, ever heard of a city planned to perfection?

Well, Fountain Hills is.

It was designed in 1970 when the area was still a cattle ranch, and the small town of slightly above 23,000 residents has grown into what is known as a ‘master planned’ community. The original goal was to have the design prominently feature the beauty of the natural desert vistas, and this is something it has managed to maintain even to this day.

The fountain after which the city is named is located smack in the middle of the city, and its ability to thrust water a whopping 560 feet high has to be one of the most impressive fountain engineering feats. It is palisaded by a 64-acre public park known as Fountain Park, which features playgrounds and walking paths.

And being in Arizona, it was only thoughtful to have a golf course in the park; a championship 18-hole golf course.

The small city is an arts and cultural hub, and even has its own community chorus and band. Fountain Hills has three superb schools in its Fountain Hills Unified School District, and easily passes for one of the best places to live in Arizona.

In fact, in 2009, Business Week named it the Best Affordable Suburb in Arizona.


Surprise, ArizonaSource: Tim Roberts Photography / shutterstock
Surprise, Arizona

Surprise was only a square mile of land at the time it was founded by Flora Mae Statler in 1938. She said it would really be a ‘Surprise’ if the area ever grew into something, and – surprise, surprise – the city of Surprise today is home to over 120,000 residents!

It has one of the best public art collections in Arizona, and most of its collections heavily borrow from the scenic desert environment and native cultures. Surprise is very child-friendly as is evident from its plethora of public activities.

For instance, the Second Sunday in the Park event provides live music for free, with many other live entertainment events in spring and fall.

The city has its fair share of schools with an impressive ranking of 8 and above on the GreatSchools.com website, and the overall high graduation rate is a clear 10% from the state average. As well, the crime rate is low (50% lower than state average), making this a great place to not just live, but also start a business.

Oro Valley

Oro ValleySource: sevenMaps7 / shutterstock
Oro Valley

Rounding up our list of 15 best places to live in Arizona is Oro Valley, a small city of just over 41,000. It was incorporated in 1974, which makes it fairly new, but its growth rate has been phenomenal.

This can be attributed to a tech boom that has engulfed the area. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2008, Oro Valley made the top 50 of Best Places to Live and Launch list by Fortune Small Business. For anyone looking to start a business in Arizona, Oro Valley provides some of the most ideal conditions.

Median income is higher than the rest of the U.S. by an impressive 50%, with most individuals plying their trade in the ever growing tech industry (there are more than 10 high-tech firms here).

This is a place also known for its extremely low crime rate (it is one of the safest places in Arizona) as well as a generally high standard of living. Residents take their outdoor recreation seriously, and they regularly host sporting events, such as the Tour de Tucson and Pac-10 Women’s Golf Championship held in the recent past.


15 Best Places to Live in Arizona:

  • Gilbert
  • Scottsdale
  • Chandler
  • Tempe
  • Mesa
  • Glendale
  • Paradise Valley
  • Cave Creek
  • Phoenix
  • Peoria
  • Litchfield Park
  • Prescott
  • Fountain Hills
  • Surprise
  • Oro Valley