Moving to Phoenix

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Moving to Phoenix with little kids

June 2006

Hi, My family will be moving to Phoenix, AZ shortly and I was wondering if anyone out there had any recommendations about parents lists or things to do out there with little kids. Any help will be appreciated Sheela

I went to college in Tempe and my husband's family are native Phoenicians and we visit every year occasionally in the summer. mostly I left for the summer but had perhaps a month at a time of it.

If you enjoy 80 degree heat it is really nice weather most of the year, and for me the summers were tolerable enough to walk or bike ride early morning or late evening, mainly stay inside but swim some, and it was most tolerable when I sort of fasted in the daytime- ate fruit for breakfast, small lunch, then a late regular dinner and I had both air conditioning and a swamp (evaporative) cooler, which is much more pleasant than ac except when there's too much (relatively) humidity in the air, then they don't work and you need the ac. Can get as low as 50's in the winter. beautiful lightening storms in summer monsoon season (August?) and of course, rarely rain, beautiful skyline (due to not many trees; though many non-native trees are planted and hence more allergies than some think.)

Phoenix and surrounding areas are so vast and even with wide and good highways there's still a lot of traffic, you should look to live relatively near work, or work relatively near where you want to live. Some of our friends with kids moved to north central Phoenix which is pretty convenient to a lot of different areas and the easterly part of north central Phoenix (ask a realtor for zip codes) gets your children into the Paradise Valley School district which would be one of the highest rated, and wealthiest districts without paying to live in PV. Scottsdale is east of Phoenix and gets more expensive the further north you are (south Scottsdale being near ASU, very affordable, but perhaps with some fraternities renting houses in the neighborhood.) Paradise Valley is north of Scottsdale and very expensive. I like the houses in South Mountain if you are going to be near the university. My in-laws live in Moon Valley, which is part of north central Phoenix, it's very pretty (miles of luminarias at Christmastime) and has good public schools, community park, nice desert trails.

If you want a smaller liberal community that might be more likely in Tuscon; or in parts of northern Arizona none of which will be anything like Berkeley, but Sedona, Cornville, Prescott (rhymes with biscuit if you go there) and Flagstaff have some artistic, environmental subcultures happening.  Chris c

I grew up in Phoenix, and my siblings and father still live there and yes, it is really that hot. How hot? Imagine the air conditioning going full blast all day, and it is still warm inside. I don't let my kids go swimming in the summer until late in the day when there is shade over the pool because the sun is so brutal. It is almost painful to be outside in the middle of the day. The heat starts in May and doesn't break until October. And it isn't just a dry heat -- in the late summer, the monsoons hit and so does the humidity. Winters of course, are beautiful. We went this spring to dry out in the midst of the rains and the place never looked more attractive to me.

But it is a very different place from the Bay Area. Few neighborhoods where anything is walkable, power malls on every corner, you spend a lot of time in your car, traffic is getting worse, and a long history of conservative politics. But it does offer some good school districts, low crime, affordable housing and in the winter, lots of potential for outdoor activities. The desert can also be an enchanting place, with fascinating natural history and beautiful flora and fauna. I suggest you visit in the summer (you can get great deals on hotels) and see how you react to the heat. If you can deal with it, and find the right area to live in, it can be a great place to raise a family Former Phoenician

I grew up in Arizona in Mesa which is a suburb of Phoenix. I would say Phoenix has changed a lot over the years. It does get very hot in the summers, between 108-115 is the average. So this means you can get third degree burns from your seatbelt and steering wheel. August is monsoon season for them which means thunder storms nightly and dust storms and very humid days usually low 100's with a high humidity. AZ is a beautiful place in the winter and there is lots of hiking spots and skiing is only about two hours away in Flagstaff. They have a nice zoo and major league football, baseball and hockey. The Phoenix area is growing quickly which accounts for traffic just as bad as here on some freeways and the cost of housing has gone up a lot in the past 5 years. AZ has great schools as well. Let me know if I can help with anything else. Jennifer

don't know of a network, but here's some things I've done with my kids as tourists (in-laws in Phoenix) Phoenix Zoo nice smallish and Desert Botanical Gardens I'd probably join if we lived there- nice for walking(south Phoenix near Tempe) and nearby Papago Park with a ''tv'' rock (window formed in the rock can climb, etc. Heard Museum great Native American museum and cultural events interactive kids area even for little ones, Arizona Puppet Theatre company, Encanto park (all 3 in/ near downtown) Out of Africa cheetah/ large cat refuge/ rescue also featuring snakes (outskirts probably a 25++ from anywhere) There is a third zoo really nice don't remember where but also outskirts. desert trail walks look for jackrabbits, etc. Tempe beach the rio salado is a naturally dried up riverbed now a manmade (or man filled) river/ lake beach. Or, swim in pools. horse drawn carriage ride in Gilbert at xmas time, xmas lights at the biggest Mormon temple in tha world (Mesa,) Guadalupe town festivities for Day of the Dead. train ride and model trains in Lincoln(???) Park. hint: Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin west- school of architecture is not for little ones CHris

Hi, We just moved to Phoenix area 1 year ago. Of course they have nothing remotely close to BPN, but it seems to be a bit more family friendly than I found the Bay area to be. (ie restaurants, activities, retail shops that cater to kids and families) The only ''network'' I've found so far is that most neighborhoods have pretty active moms clubs. Check out and you can probably find a group meeting in the area you'll be living.

Things to do usually involve indoor activites due to the heat. There are Chuckie Cheese/Peter Piper places to let them play games and such, almoest every mall has an indoor play area like the one at Hilltop in Richmond, there are a few good youth museums, science center, indoor bouncey places, some indoor villages(kid's town in Tempe) and for outside. lots of splash parks at the public parks where they can run around in the water.

You didn't ask, but I'll just tell you that it is no Bay area in terms of sophistication, wages, liberal politics. After living in the Berkeley area for 10+ years, it has been a hard sell for us. Of course, we have a beautiful 5 BR house and $ in the bank, but if we could afford to come back, we probably would. I can't say I missed the rain this winter (of course a 150 day drought wasn't fun either), and our son was stung by a scorpion IN our home which was enough to send me packing. It is definitely a mixed bag. Best wishes to you Sign me, California Dreamin

Thinking of Moving to Phoenix

Feb 2004

Ok, I'm adding to the list of places to be reviewed for possible relocation. What do you think of Phoenix, Arizona? I'm looking for the usual recommendations- FAMILY COMMUNITIES (we are in our late 20s with a 9month old, would love a ''young'' community, also very family oriented), SCHOOLS (gotta' plan for that), HEALTHCARE (good hospitals, doctors groups), my wife loves to SHOP- even for groceries- will she be happy there? (Amazingly enough, good shopping is a big consideration in our decision!) Well...basically, what's LIFE like in Phoenix? And... Can I Stand the HEAT?

My husband and I grew up in Phoenix, but have lived here for 6+ years. Our families are still there. I think you will find Phoenix to be a very family-friendly place. It is my impression that people marry younger in Phoenix and have children sooner. Historically, the east side of Phoenix (Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler) has been more ''white-collar'' and the west side was more ''blue-collar''.

As to health care, I can say that Phoenix Children's Hospital is exceptional, as is Barrows Neurological Institute. Mayo Clinic's other campus is in Scottsdale, and there is a new Mayo Hospital.

It is hard to comment on schools, since we are comparing with CA. Phoenix (AZ in general) has a lot of the same problems that CA does - low funding for building maintenance and teachers' salaries, etc. That said, there are districts that are quite good and send kids to top-tier colleges. When I lived there, private schooling was not common (there were a couple of parochial schools and a few Christian schools), or at least, I was not aware of it. What movement there is away from public schools today is toward charter schools.

As to shopping, your wife would be in retail heaven - Phoenix, to our eye, is nothing but shopping and eating! Every time we go back, there are new retail centers and new restaurants. My mom is APPALLED that I have to drive to Dublin or Walnut Creek to find big-box retail. Fashion Square, in Scottsdale, is good for star-spotting as well as wardrobe augmentation. I believe Phoenix is also considered a good test market for shopping, so places like Great Indoors (Sears version of Home Depot Expo) open there before other places. Have no fear - shopping is plentiful and accessible. And it makes sense - what else do you do when it's 110 degrees outside? As to groceries, Whole Foods recently opened in Phoenix, and Wild Oats has been there for awhile.

Miscellaneous items: public transit is abominable, and will probably never get better. Part of it is geography - Phoenix doesn't have a centralized employment hub like we do here - people work all over the greater Phoenix area. The other part, though, is public resistance. Phoenix is a ''one-car, one-person'' place. The buses are not well used, so not very convenient. I was rather an oddity in my family for riding them (and it just so happened I could get a direct route, otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered).

The heat is definitely something to be reckoned with. Some people love it. You should definitely spend a week there in June to see how you tolerate it. It is bearable because you go from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office/mall/church. There is no such thing as an apartment without A/C. There is a ''heat culture'' that comes along with Phoenix (and the reason I can't bring myself to move back, as much as I miss my family). You just don't spend time outside in the summer - evenings are still in the 80s. You wear shorts and tank tops 7 months out of the year; forget wearing wool sweaters (so don't bother knitting them). But the climate also includes mild winters (but not much warmer than here, really), sunny skies, and monsoon storms in August (with lighting) which are the best part of Phoenix. The heat is, well hot, but people find ways to make it work for them. My friend is a marathoner and she gets up at 4 a.m. to run before the sun comes up.

Oh, one other thing I love about Arizona, though, is that there are National Forests within a couple-hour drive of Phoenix and you can camp wherever you can pitch your tent. Growing up with that, I never got this campground-camping stuff. Erin