There is no doubt about which is the most frequent question that I get asked by visitors to the About Phoenix site. That question usually comes in some form of "I want to move to the Phoenix area. Please tell me where you think I should live." Or, "I am moving to the Phoenix area with my family. I am looking for a safe neighborhood with good schools. Where should I look?"
I'll be honest. I dread those questions every time I get them. That's because I can't really answer them. I wish people would stick to the simple questions, like, "How do I find a swap meet?" or "Where is the best place to get baseball players' autographs during Spring Training?" or "How do I apply for food stamps?" Those I can answer! Without knowing you or your family, it is impossible for me to advise where you should live. So when I get asked this question, I usually break it down into questions right back at you. At least maybe this will help to organize all the parameters down into manageable pieces. Then you can do the research and come to reasonable conclusions.
The Metro Phoenix Area
Many people don't realize how big the metro Phoenix area is. The City of Phoenix, itself, is the 6th largest city in the country. Geographically, metro Phoenix is pretty spread out. It covers over 9,000 square miles. Phoenix is the largest city in Maricopa County. Maricopa County has a population of over 4,000,000 people (2013). It is the fourth most populous county in the nation. Maricopa County has more people than 20 states and the District of Columbia.
The Metro Phoenix area, as defined by the U.S. Census, includes both Maricopa and Pinal Counties, and is made up of many cities and towns. This can make the decision of where to live a bit complicated.
Incorporated Cities and Towns in Maricopa County
Apache Junction (partial), Avondale, Buckeye, Carefree, Cave Creek, Chandler, El Mirage, Fountain Hills, Gila Bend, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Guadalupe, Litchfield Park, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Peoria, Phoenix, Queen Creek, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tempe, Tolleson, Wickenburg and Youngtown.
Of these, Gila Bend, is usually not considered part of the greater Phoenix area since it is quite a bit farther away, although there is no hard and fast definition that I know of.
Unincorporated Communities of Maricopa County
Agua Caliente, Aguila, Anthem, Arlington, Camp Creek, Chandler Heights, Circle City, Cotton Center, Desert Hills, Freeman, Gladden Hassayampa, Higley, Hopeville, Laveen, Liberty, Maricopa Colony, Mobile, Morristown, New River, Nortons Corner, Ocotillo, Palo Verde, Perryville, Rio Verde, Santa Maria, Sentinel, St. Johns, Sun City, Sun City West, Sunflower, Tonopah, Wintersburg and Wittman.
Of these, only Anthem, Chandler Heights, Desert Hills, Higley, Laveen, New River, Ocotillo, Perryville, Sun City, and Sun City West are close by and could be readily considered part of metro Phoenix.
Some cities that are in other counties are actually relatively close, and it is common to find that people who live in those cities work and play in Maricopa County. Those cities are Apache Junction (partial), Florence, Globe, Miami, all southeast of Phoenix; Maricopa, which is southwest of Phoenix and Casa Grande which is south of Phoenix.
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