Cities built in deserts tend to be (prepare for a shock) hot, dry and dusty. And because they lack natural boundaries such as oceans or mountains, they encourage unchecked sprawl. Guilty as charged of all of the above is Phoenix. But it's also a lively, diverse city with an extensive sports menu.
The metro area is home to all six of Arizona's pro sports franchises: the NFL Arizona Cardinals, NBA Phoenix Suns, MLB Arizona Diamondbacks, NHL Phoenix Coyotes, WNBA Phoenix Mercury and AFL Arizona Rattlers. Throw in the big-time baseball, football and basketball teams fielded by Arizona State University (ASU), the eight MLB teams that play Cactus League spring training games in and around Phoenix, and the Phoenix International Raceway for NASCAR events, and this city can feed voracious sports fans year-round.
Phoenix anchors the Valley of the Sun, which covers nearly four times the area of greater Los Angeles and is still growing, with a population of just over 4 million. Greater Phoenix includes eight cities that have more than 100,000 residents, including Phoenix (population 1.5 million), Mesa (453,000), Chandler (246,000), Scottsdale (236,000), Gilbert (208,000), and Tempe (174,000).
The metro area is also home to another 18 places with 10,000 or more people. One of these is Sun City (population 36,000), the age-segregated community founded in the 1960s that helped pioneer the notion of "active retirement." Many communities in the valley are bicycle-friendly, and Phoenix has one of the country's highest ratios of parkland per 1,000 residents. In 2008, city voters extended a tax that should bring in an additional $900 million for parks over the next three decades. That same year — but following decades of debate — Phoenix opened a 20-mile commuter rail system.
Entertainment seekers have a full slate of options, including the Phoenix Symphony (founded in 1948), Ballet Arizona, Phoenix Theater and one of the country's more serious Cinco de Mayo festivals. The area's golf courses are legendary; if you don't relish the tee-and-green scene, parks in and around the city boast top-tier hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and camping.
Phoenix residents have low mortality from cancer and heart disease and low rates of obesity. Several teaching hospitals are here. A high proportion of residents say they are satisfied with life.
Yes, temperatures routinely exceed 110 degrees in the summer, and air pollution — another side effect of building a city in a desert, and known by locals as "the Brown Cloud" — is a serious problem.
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