Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona
State capital
City of Phoenix
Images, from top, left to right: Papago Park at sunset, Saint Mary's Basilica, Downtown Phoenix, Phoenix skyline at night, Arizona Science Center, Rosson House, the light rail, a saguaro cactus, and the McDowell Mountains


Nickname(s): "Valley of the Sun", "The Valley"

Location in Maricopa County and the state of Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 33°27′N 112°04′W / 33.450°N 112.067°W / 33.450; -112.067Coordinates: 33°27′N 112°04′W / 33.450°N 112.067°W / 33.450; -112.067
Country United States
State Arizona
County Maricopa
Settled 1867
Incorporated February 5, 1881
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Body Phoenix City Council
 • Mayor Greg Stanton
 • City 517.948 sq mi (1,341.48 km2)
 • Land 516.704 sq mi (1,338.26 km2)
 • Water 1.244 sq mi (3.22 km2)
 • Metro 14,565.76 sq mi (37,725.1 km2)
Elevation 1,086 ft (331 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 1,445,632
 • Estimate (2014) 1,537,058
 • Rank US: 6th
 • Density 2,967.59/sq mi (1,145.79/km2)
 • Urban 3,629,114 (US: 12th)
 • Metro 4,489,109 (US: 12th)
 • Demonym Phoenician
Time zone MST (UTC−7)
 • Summer (DST) no DST/PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP codes 85001–85099
Area code(s) 480, 602, 623
FIPS code 04-55000
GNIS ID(s) 44784, 2411414
Major airport Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – PHX (Major/International)

Phoenix (/ˈfnɪks/) is the capital, and largest city, of the state of Arizona. With 1,445,632 people (as of the 2010 U.S. Census), Phoenix is the most populous state capital in the United States, as well as the sixth most populous city nationwide.

Phoenix is the anchor of the Phoenix metropolitan area, also known as the Valley of the Sun, which in turn is a part of the Salt River Valley. The city is the 13th largest metro area by population in the United States, with approximately 4.3 million people in 2010. In addition, Phoenix is the county seat of Maricopa County and is one of the largest cities in the United States by land area.

Settled in 1867 as an agricultural community near the confluence of the Salt and Gila Rivers, Phoenix incorporated as a city in 1881. Located in the northeastern reaches of the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix has a subtropical desert climate. Despite this, its canal system led to a thriving farming community, many of the original crops remaining important parts of the Phoenix economy for decades, such as alfalfa, cotton, citrus and hay (which was important for the cattle industry). In fact, the "Five C's" (Cotton, Cattle, Citrus, Climate, and Copper), remained the driving forces of Phoenix's economy until after World War II, when high tech industries began to move into the valley.

The population growth rate of the Phoenix metro area has been nearly 4% per year for the past 40 years. While that growth rate slowed during the Great Recession, it has already begun to rebound. Phoenix is the cultural center of the Valley of the Sun, as well as the rest of Arizona.


    Early history

    Map of Hohokam lands ca. 1350

    For more than 2,000 years, the Hohokam peoples occupied the land that would become Phoenix. The Hohokam created roughly 135 miles (217 km) of irrigation canals, making the desert land arable. Paths of these canals would later become used for the modern Arizona Canal, Central Arizona Project Canal, and the Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct. The Hohokam also carried out extensive trade with the nearby Anasazi, Mogollon and Sinagua, as well as with the more distant Mesoamerican civilizations. It is believed that between 1300 and 1450, periods of drought and severe floods led to the Hohokam civilization's abandonment of the area. Local Akimel O'odham settlements, thought to be the descendants of the formerly urbanized Hohokam, concentrated on the Gila River.

    When the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, Mexico sold its northern zone to the United States and residents became U.S. citizens. The Phoenix area became part of the New Mexico Territory. In 1863 the mining town of Wickenburg was the first to be established in what is now Maricopa County, to the north-west of modern Phoenix. At the time Maricopa County had not yet been incorporated: the land was within Yavapai County, which included the major town of Prescott to the north of Wickenburg.

    The U.S. Army created Fort McDowell on the Verde River in 1865 to forestall Native American uprisings. The fort established a camp on the south side of the Salt River by 1866, which was the first non-native settlement in the valley after the decline of the Hohokam. In later years, other nearby settlements would form and merge to become the city of Tempe, but this community was incorporated after Phoenix.

    Founding and incorporation

    The Phillip Darrell Duppa adobe house was built in 1870 and is the oldest known house in Phoenix. The homestead of "Lord" Darrell Duppa, an Englishman who is credited with naming Phoenix and Tempe as well as founding the town of New River.

    The history of the city of Phoenix begins with Jack Swilling, a Confederate veteran of the Civil War. In 1867 he saw in the Salt River Valley a potential for farming, much like that already cultivated by the military further east, near Fort McDowell. He formed a small community that same year about 4 miles (6 km) east of the present city. Lord Darrell Duppa suggested the name "Phoenix", as it described a city born from the ruins of a former civilization.

    The Board of Supervisors in Yavapai County, which at the time encompassed Phoenix, officially recognized the new town on May 4, 1868, and the first post office was established the following month, with Swilling as the postmaster. On February 12, 1871, the territorial legislature created Maricopa County, the sixth one formed in the Arizona Territory, by dividing Yavapai County. The first election for county office was held in 1871, when Tom Barnum was elected the first sheriff, actually running unopposed when the other two candidates, John A. Chenowth and Jim Favorite, fought a duel wherein Chenowth killed Favorite, and then was forced to withdraw from the race.

    The town grew during the 1870s, and President Ulysses S. Grant issued a land patent for the present site of Phoenix on April 10, 1874. By 1875, the town had a telegraph office, sixteen saloons, and four dance halls, but the townsite-commissioner form of government needed an overhaul, so that year an election was held in which three village trustees as well as several other officials were selected. By 1880, the town's population stood at 2,453.

    Aerial lithograph of Phoenix from 1885

    By 1881, Phoenix's continued growth made the existing village structure with a board of trustees obsolete. The Territorial Legislature passed "The Phoenix Charter Bill", incorporating Phoenix and providing for a mayor-council government, and became official on February 25, 1881 when it was signed by Governor John C. Fremont, officially incorporating Phoenix as a city with an approximate population of 2,500.

    The coming of the railroad in the 1880s was the first of several important events that revolutionized the economy of Phoenix. Phoenix became a trade center, with its products reaching eastern and western markets. In response, the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce was organized on November 4, 1888. Earlier in 1888 the city offices were moved into the new City Hall, at Washington and Central. When the territorial capital was moved from Prescott to Phoenix in 1889 the temporary territorial offices were also located in City Hall. With the arrival of the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad in 1895, Phoenix was connected to the Prescott, Flagstaff and other northern state communities. The increased access to commerce, expedited the city's economic rise. The year 1895 also saw the establishment of Phoenix Union High School, with an enrollment of 90.

    1900 to World War II

    Central Avenue, Phoenix, 1908
    The former city flag of Phoenix, adopted in November 1921.

    On February 25, 1901, Governor Murphy dedicated the permanent Capitol building, and the Carnegie Free Library opened seven years later, on February 18, 1908, dedicated by Benjamin Fowler. The National Reclamation Act was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, which allowed for dams to be built on waterways in the west for reclamation purposes. The first dam constructed under the act, the Theodore Roosevelt Dam began in 1903. It supplied both water and electricity, becoming the first multi-purpose dam, and Roosevelt himself would attend the official dedication on May 18, 1911. At the time, it was the largest masonry dam in the world, forming Theodore Roosevelt Lake in the mountain east of Phoenix.

    On February 14, 1912, under President William Howard Taft, Phoenix became the capital of the newly formed state of Arizona. This occurred just six months after Taft had vetoed, in August 1911, a joint congressional resolution granting statehood to Arizona, due to his disagreement of the state constitution's position regarding the recall of judges. In 1913 Phoenix adopted a new form of government, changing from a mayor-council system to council-manager, making it one of the first cities in the United States with this form of city government. After statehood, Phoenix's growth started to accelerate, and by the end of its first eight years under statehood, Phoenix's population had grown to 29,053. In 1920 Phoenix would see its first skyscraper, the Heard Building. In 1929 Sky Harbor was officially opened, at the time owned by Scenic Airways. It would later be purchased by the city in 1935, who operates it to this day.

    Phoenix skyline – ca. 1940

    On March 4, 1930, former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge dedicated a dam on the Gila River named in his honor. However, the state had just been through a long drought, and the reservoir which was supposed to be behind the dam, was virtually dry. The humorist Will Rogers, who was also on hand as a guest speaker joked, "If that was my lake I'd mow it." Phoenix's population had more than doubled during the 1920s, and now stood at 48,118. It was also during the 1930s that Phoenix and its surrounding area began to be called "The Valley of the Sun", which was an advertising slogan invented to boost tourism.

    During World War II, Phoenix's economy shifted to that of a distribution center, rapidly turning into an embryonic industrial city with mass production of military supplies. There were 3 air force fields in the area: Luke Field, Williams Field, and Falcon Field, as well as two large pilot training camps, Thunderbird Field No. 1 in Glendale and Thunderbird Field No. 2 in Scottsdale.

    Postwar explosive growth

    A town that had just over sixty-five thousand residents in 1940 became America's sixth largest city by 2010, with a population of nearly 1.5 million, and millions more in nearby suburbs. Shermer argues that after the war Phoenix boosters led by Barry Goldwater and other ambitious young businessmen and politicians, often with an Eastern education, created a neoliberal pro-business climate. They attracted Eastern industry by rejecting the New Deal formula of strong labor unions and tight regulation of industry. They told prospects that Phoenix had excellent weather, cheap land, good transportation, low-wage rates, a right-to-work law that weakened unions, minimal regulations, easy access to the West Coast markets, and an eagerness to grow. They pointed out it was highly attractive place for young couples to raise their families. Hundreds of manufacturing firms were attracted to Phoenix, especially those that emphasized high technology, along with corporate headquarters. Shermer argues that the Phoenix plan was widely admired by other ambitious cities in the South and Southwest, and became part of national conservatism as exemplified by Goldwater and his supporters. The Phoenix plan was not built on libertarian low-government ideals. Rather, Shermer argues, it involved active government intervention in the economy to promote rapid growth. For example, the state played the central role in giving Phoenix a guaranteed water supply, as well as good universities.

    When the war ended, many of the men who had undergone their training in Arizona returned bringing their new families. Large industry, learning of this labor pool, started to move branches here. In 1948 high-tech industry, which would become a staple of the state's economy, arrived in Phoenix when Motorola chose Phoenix for the site of its new research and development center for military electronics. Seeing the same advantages as Motorola, other high-tech companies such as Intel and McDonnell Douglas would also move into the valley and open manufacturing operations.

    By 1950, over 105,000 people lived within the city and thousands more in surrounding communities. The 1950s growth was spurred on by advances in air conditioning, which allowed both homes and businesses to offset the extreme heat experienced in Phoenix and the surrounding areas during its long summers. There was more new construction in Phoenix in 1959 alone than during the period of more than thirty years from 1914 to 1946.

    As in many emerging American cities at the time, Phoenix's spectacular growth did not occur evenly. It largely took place on the city's north side, a space that was nearly all white. In 1962, one local activist testified at a US Commission on Civil Rights hearing that of 31,000 homes that had recently sprung up in this neighborhood, not a single one had been sold to an African-American. Phoenix's African-American and Mexican-American communities remained largely sequestered on the town's south side. The color lines were so rigid that no one north of Van Buren Street would rent to the African-American baseball star Willie Mays, in town for spring training in the 1960s. In 1964, a reporter from the New Republic wrote of segregation in these terms: "Apartheid is complete. The two cities look at each other across a golf course."

    The city's explosive growth also had important inputs from outside of the city's boundaries. As the historian Andrew Needham has demonstrated, the air-conditioned Phoenix subdivisions relied on the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant on Navajo lands.

    The 1960s through current

    Phoenix in 1972

    Over the next several decades, the city and metropolitan area attracted more growth and became a favored tourist destination for its exotic desert setting and recreational opportunities. In 1960 the Phoenix Corporate Center opened; at the time it was the tallest building in Arizona, topping off at 341 feet. The 1960s saw many other buildings constructed as the city expanded rapidly, including: the Rosenzweig Center (1964), today called Phoenix City Square, the landmark Phoenix Financial Center (1964), as well as many of Phoenix's residential high-rises. In 1965 the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum was opened on the grounds of the Arizona State Fair, west of downtown, and in 1968, the city was surprisingly awarded the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise, which played its home games at the Coliseum until 1992. In 1968, the Central Arizona Project was approved by President Lyndon B. Johnson, assuring future water supplies for Phoenix, Tucson, and the agricultural corridor in between. The following year, Pope Paul VI created the Diocese of Phoenix on December 2, by splitting the Archdiocese of Tucson, with Edward A. McCarthy as the first Bishop.

    In the 1970s the downtown area experienced a resurgence, with a level of construction activity not seen again until the urban real estate boom of the 2000s. By the end of the decade, Phoenix adopted the Phoenix Concept 2000 plan which split the city into urban villages, each with its own village core where greater height and density was permitted, further shaping the free-market development culture. Originally, there were 9 villages, but this has been expanded to 15 over the years (see Cityscape below). This officially turned Phoenix into a city of many nodes, which would later be connected by freeways. 1972 would see the opening of the Phoenix Symphony Hall, Other major structures which saw construction downtown during this decade were the Wells Fargo Plaza, the Chase Tower (the tallest building in both Phoenix and Arizona) and the U.S. Bank Center.

    Nominated by President Reagan, on September 25, 1981 Phoenix resident Sandra Day O'Connor broke the gender barrier on the U.S. Supreme Court, when she was sworn in as the first female judge. 1985 saw the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the nation's largest nuclear power plant, begin electrical production. 1987 was marked by visits by both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

    Downtown Phoenix, lit up at night

    There was an influx of refugees due to low-cost housing in the Sunnyslope area in the 1990s, resulting in 43 different languages being spoken in local schools by the year 2000. The new 20-story City Hall opened in 1992, and 1993 saw the creation of "Tent City" by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, using inmate labor, to alleviate overcrowding in the Maricopa County Jail system, the fourth-largest in the world. The famous "Phoenix Lights" UFO sightings took place in March 1997.

    Phoenix has maintained a growth streak in recent years, growing by 24.2% before 2007. This made it the second-fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States, surpassed only by Las Vegas. In 2008, Squaw Peak, the second tallest mountain in the city, was renamed Piestewa Peak after Army Specialist Lori Ann Piestewa, an Arizonan and the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military, as well as being the first American female casualty of the 2003 Iraq War. 2008 also saw Phoenix as one of the cities hardest hit by the subprime mortgage crisis, and by early 2009 the median home price was $150,000, down from its $262,000 peak in 2007. Crime rates in Phoenix have gone down in recent years, and once troubled, decaying neighborhoods such as South Mountain, Alhambra, and Maryvale have recovered and stabilized. Recently, downtown Phoenix and the central core have experienced renewed interest and growth, resulting in numerous restaurants, stores, and businesses opening or relocating to central Phoenix.


    Landsat 7 satellite image of the Phoenix metro area in 2002

    Phoenix is in the southwestern United States, in the south-central portion of Arizona, and about halfway between Tucson to the south and Flagstaff to the north. The metropolitan area is known as the "Valley of the Sun", due to its location in the Salt River Valley. It lies at a mean elevation of 1,117 feet (340 m), in the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert.

    Northern skyline, downtown Phoenix, Sunnyslope Mountain clearly visible in background

    Other than the mountains in and around the city, the topography of Phoenix is generally flat, allowing the city's main streets to run on a precise grid with wide, open-spaced roadways. Scattered, low mountain ranges surround the valley: McDowell Mountains to the northeast, the White Tank Mountains to the west, the Superstition Mountains far to the east, and the Sierra Estrella to the southwest. On the outskirts of Phoenix are large fields of irrigated cropland and several Indian reservations. The Salt River runs westward through the city of Phoenix, and the riverbed is often dry or contains a little water due to large irrigation diversions. The community of Ahwatukee is separated from the rest of the city by South Mountain.

    According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 517.9 square miles (1,341 km2); 516.7 square miles (1,338 km2) of it is land and 1.2 square miles (0.6 km², or 0.2%) of it is water. Even though it is the 6th most populated city, the large area gives it a low density rate of approximately 2,797 people per square mile. In comparison, Philadelphia, the 5th most populous city has a density of over 11,000.

    As with most of Arizona, Phoenix does not observe daylight saving time. In 1973, Gov. Jack Williams argued to the U.S. Congress that due to air conditioning units not being used as often in the morning on standard time, energy use would increase in the evening. He went on to say that energy use would rise "because there would be more lights on in the early morning." He was also concerned about children going to school in the dark, which was quite accurate.


    The Phoenix skyline at night from South Mountain


    Downtown Phoenix skyline looking northeast toward Camelback Mountain
    Map of the urban villages of Phoenix
    Phoenix sunset from Papago Park – 2010

    Since 1979, the City of Phoenix has been divided into urban villages, many of which are based upon historically significant neighborhoods and communities that have since been annexed into Phoenix. Each village has a planning committee that is appointed directly by the city council. According to the village planning handbook issued by the city, the purpose of the village planning committees is to work with the city's planning commission to ensure a balance of housing and employment in each village, concentrate development at identified village cores, and to promote the unique character and identity of the villages.

    The 15 urban villages are:

    The urban village of Paradise Valley is different than the nearby town of Paradise Valley. Although the urban village is part of Phoenix City, the town is independent.

    In addition to the above urban villages, Phoenix has a variety of commonly referred-to regions and districts, such as Downtown, Midtown, West Phoenix, North Phoenix, South Phoenix, Biltmore, Arcadia, and Sunnyslope.


    Phoenix has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh), typical of the Sonoran Desert in which it lies. Phoenix has long, very hot summers and short, mild winters. The climate is arid, with plenty of sunshine and clear skies. Average high temperatures in summer are the hottest of any major city in the United States, and the city has more days when the temperature exceeds 100 °F (38 °C) than any other city in the United States. On average (1981–2010), there are 107 days annually with a high of at least 100 °F (38 °C), including most days from late May through early October. Highs top 110 °F (43 °C) an average of 18 days during the year Every day from June 10 through August 24, 1993, the temperature in Phoenix reached 100 °F (38 °C) or more, the longest continuous number of days (76) in the city's history. Officially, the number of days with a high of at least 100 °F (38 °C) has historically ranged from 48 in 1913 to 143 in 1989. For comparison, since 1870, New York City has seen a temperature of 100 °F (38 °C) or more a total of only 59 days. On June 26, 1990, the temperature reached an all-time recorded high of 122 °F (50 °C). However, despite Phoenix's claim to the most extreme temperatures, it does not have the highest average temperature. In that respect it comes in second to Miami, with an average high of 75 °F (24 °C), compared to Miami's 77 °F (25 °C).

    Most deserts undergo drastic fluctuations between day and nighttime temperatures, but not Phoenix due to the urban heat island effect. As the city has expanded, average summer low temps have been rising steadily. The daily heat of the sun is stored in pavement, sidewalks and buildings, and is radiated back out at night. During the summer, overnight lows greater than 80 °F (27 °C) are commonplace, as the daily normal low remains at or above 80 °F (27 °C) from June 22 to September 8. On average, 67 days throughout the year will see the nighttime low at or above 80 °F (27 °C). July 15, 2003 officially saw the record high daily minimum temperature, at 96 °F (36 °C).

    A 2011 haboob

    The city averages over 330 days of sunshine, or over 90%, per year, and receives scant rainfall, the average annual total at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport being 7 in (180 mm). Precipitation is sparse during most of the year, but the monsoon brings an influx of moisture. Historically, the monsoon officially started when the average Dew point was 55 °F (13 °C) for three days in a row; on average this event occurred around July 7; however, in 2008 the National Weather Service decreed that from that point forward, June 15 would be the official first day of the monsoon, and it would end on September 30. The monsoon raises humidity levels and can cause heavy localized precipitation, occasional flooding, large hail, strong winds, the rare tornado, and dust storms, which can rise to the level of a haboob in some years.

    July is the wettest month of the year (1.05 in (27 mm)), while June is the driest (0.02 in (0.51 mm)). On September 8, 2014, the city of Phoenix recorded its single highest rainfall total by the National Weather Service with a total of 3.30 in (84 mm). This total rainfall on this day measured more than Phoenix's annual rainfall average and broke a 75-year-old previous record of 2.91 in (74 mm), set back on September 4, 1939. This storm was created from the remnants of Hurricane Norbert that had moved up from the Gulf of California and turned the city's major interstates and low-lying roadways into flood plains, stranding hundreds of motorists. Dewpoints range from 39.0 °F (4 °C) in June to 58.2 °F (15 °C) in August.

    A graupel fall in February 2013

    On average, Phoenix has only one day per year where the temperature drops to or below freezing. However, the frequency of freezes increases the further one moves outward from the urban heat island. Frequently, outlying areas of Phoenix see frost. Officially, the earliest freeze on record occurred on November 4, 1956, and the latest occurred on March 31, 1987. The all-time lowest recorded temperature in Phoenix was 16 °F (−9 °C) on January 7, 1913, while the coldest daily maximum was 36 °F (2 °C) on December 10, 1898. The longest continuous stretch without a day of frost in Phoenix was over 5 years, from November 23, 1979, to January 31, 1985. Snow is a very rare occurrence for the city of Phoenix. Snowfall was first officially recorded in 1898, and since then, accumulations of 0.1 inches (0.25 cm) or greater have occurred only eight times. The heaviest snowstorm on record dates to January 21–22, 1937, when 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10.2 cm) fell in parts of the city and did not melt entirely for three days. Before that, 1 inch (2.5 cm) had fallen on January 20, 1933. On February 2, 1939, 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) fell. Snow also fell on March 12, 1917 and on November 28, 1919. The most recent snow of significance fell on December 6, 1998, across the northwest portions of the valley that are below 2,000 feet. During the 1998 event, Sky Harbor reported a dusting of snow. The last measurable snowfall was recorded when 0.1 inches (0.25 cm) fell in central Phoenix on December 11, 1985. On December 30, 2010 and February 20, 2013, graupel fell, although it was widely believed to be snow.

    Climate data for Phoenix Int'l, Arizona (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1895–present)
    Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
    Record high °F (°C) 88
    Average high °F (°C) 67.2
    Daily mean °F (°C) 56.4
    Average low °F (°C) 45.6
    Record low °F (°C) 16
    Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.91
    Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 4.1 4.4 3.9 1.7 1.0 0.5 4.2 5.0 2.8 2.5 2.6 3.9 36.6
    Average relative humidity (%) 50.9 44.4 39.3 27.8 21.9 19.4 31.6 36.2 35.6 36.9 43.8 51.8 36.6
    Mean monthly sunshine hours 256.0 257.2 318.4 353.6 401.0 407.8 378.5 360.8 328.6 308.9 256.0 244.8 3,871.6
    Percent possible sunshine 81 84 86 90 93 95 86 87 89 88 82 79 87
    Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990),

    Flora and fauna

    Mountain lion (aka puma)
    Giant saguaro

    Due to its location in the Sonoran Desert, nearly all of the native desert fauna are occasionally found within Phoenix boundaries, but mostly in the suburbs and the remaining desert areas around the city. Mammal species that are found around the Phoenix area include coyote, javelina, bobcat, occasionally jaguar, mountain lion, desert cottontail rabbit, jackrabbit, antelope ground squirrel, mule deer, and a few species of bats that roost in and around the city. There are many species of native birds, including Gambel's quail, Gila woodpecker, mourning dove, white-winged dove, the roadrunner, the state bird, the cactus wren, and many species of raptors, including falcons, hawks, owls, vultures, such as the turkey vulture and black vulture, and eagles, including the golden and the bald eagle. The suburbs and surrounding areas of Phoenix are also home to a plethora of native reptile species, including the Western diamondback rattlesnake, Sonoran sidewinder, several other types of rattlesnakes, Sonoran coral snake, dozens of species of non-venomous snakes, including the Sonoran gopher snake, and the California kingsnake, the gila monster, desert spiny lizard, several types of whiptail lizards, the chuckwalla, desert horned lizard, Western banded gecko, Sonora mud turtle, and the desert tortoise. Native amphibian species, include the Couch's spadefoot toad, Chiricahua leopard frog, and the Sonoran desert toad. Phoenix and the surrounding areas are also home to a wide variety of native invertebrates, including the Arizona bark scorpion, giant desert hairy scorpion, Arizona blond tarantula, Sonoran Desert centipede, tarantula hawk wasp, camel spider, and tailess whip scorpion.

    The Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert (of which Phoenix is a part) has the most structurally diverse flora in the United States. It includes one of the most famous species of succulents, the giant saguaro cactus. Other native species are the organpipe, ocotillo, barrel, prickly pear and cholla cacti, Palo Verde trees, various types of palm trees, agaves, foothill and blue paloverde, ironwood, mesquite and the creosote bush.

    The Greater Phoenix region is home to the only thriving feral population of rosy-faced lovebirds in the U.S. This bird is a popular birdcage pet, native to southwestern Africa. Feral birds were first observed living outdoors in 1987, probably escaped or released pets, and by 2010 the Greater Phoenix population had grown to about 950 birds. These lovebirds prefer older neighborhoods where they nest under untrimmed dead palm tree fronds.


    Historical population
    Census Pop.
    1870 240
    1880 1,708 611.7%
    1890 3,152 84.5%
    1900 5,544 75.9%
    1910 11,314 104.1%
    1920 29,053 156.8%
    1930 48,118 65.6%
    1940 65,414 35.9%
    1950 106,818 63.3%
    1960 439,170 311.1%
    1970 581,572 32.4%
    1980 789,704 35.8%
    1990 983,403 24.5%
    2000 1,321,045 34.3%
    2010 1,445,632 9.4%
    Est. 2014 1,537,058 6.3%

    Phoenix is the sixth most populous city in the United States according to the 2010 United States Census, with a population of 1,445,632, making it the most populous state capital in the United States. Phoenix's ranking as the sixth most populous city was a drop from the number five position it had held since the U. S. Census Bureau released population estimates on June 28, 2007. Those statistics used data from 2006, which showed Phoenix's population at 1,512,986, which put it just ahead of Philadelphia. The 2010 Census, while showing an overall increase from the official 2000 Census showed a drop in Phoenix's population from the 2007 estimates, allowing Philadelphia to regain the fifth spot.

    After leading the nation in population growth for over a decade, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, followed by the recession, led to a slowing in the growth of Phoenix. There were approximately 77,000 people added to the population of the Phoenix metropolitan area in 2009, which was down significantly from its peak in 2006 of 162,000. Despite this slowing, Phoenix's population grew by 9.4% since the 2000 census (a total of 124,000 people), while the entire Phoenix metropolitan area grew by 28.9% during the same period. This compares with an overall growth rate nationally during the same time frame of 9.7%. Not since 1940–50, when the city had a population of 107,000, had the city gained less than 124,000 in a decade. Phoenix's recent growth rate of 9.4% from the 2010 census is the first time it has recorded a growth rate under 24% in a census decade.

    The Phoenix Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) (officially known as the Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale MSA), is one of 10 MSAs in Arizona, and was the 14th largest in the United States, with a total population of 4,192,887 as of the 2010 Census. Consisting of parts of both Pinal and Maricopa counties, the MSA accounts for 65.5% of the total population of the state of Arizona. Phoenix only contributed 13% to the total growth rate of the MSA, down significantly from its 33% share during the prior decade. Phoenix is also part of the Arizona Sun Corridor megaregion (MR), which is the 10th most populous of the 11 MRs, and the 8th largest by area. It had the 2nd largest growth by percentage of the MRs (behind only the Gulf Coast MR) between 2000 and 2010.

    Downtown Phoenix from an airplane, 2011

    The population is almost equally split between men and women, with men making up 50.2% of city's citizens. The population density is 2,797.8 people per square mile, and the median age of the city is 32.2 years, with only 10.9 of the population being over 62. 98.5% of Phoenix's population lives in households with an average household size of 2.77 people. There were 514,806 total households, with 64.2% of those households consisting of families: 42.3% married couples, 7% with an unmarried male as head of household, and 14.9% with an unmarried female as head of household. 33.6% of those households have children below the age of 18. Of the 35.8% of non-family households, 27.1% of them have a householder living alone, almost evenly split between men and women, with women having 13.7% and men occupying 13.5%. Phoenix has 590,149 housing units, with an occupancy rate of 87.2%. The largest segment of vacancies is in the rental market, where the vacancy rate is 14.9%, and 51% of all vacancies are in rentals. Vacant houses for sale only make up 17.7% of the vacancies, with the rest being split among vacation properties and other various reasons.

    The median income for a household in the city was $47,866, and the median income for a family was $54,804. Males had a median income of $32,820 versus $27,466 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,110. 21.8% of the population and 17.1% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 31.4% of those under the age of 18 and 10.5% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

    According to the 2010 Census, the racial breakdown of Phoenix was as follows:

    Racial composition 2010 1990 1970 1940
    White (includes White Hispanics) 65.9% 81.7% 93.3% 92.3%
    Black or African American 6.5% 5.2% 4.8% 6.5%
    Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 40.8% 20.0% 12.7% n/a
    Asian 3.2% 1.7% 0.5% 0.8%
    Non-Hispanic Whites 46.5% 71.8% 81.3% n/a

    Phoenix's population has historically been predominantly white. From 1890 to 1970, over 90% of the citizens were white. In recent years, this percentage has dropped, reaching 65% In 2010. However, a significant portion of this decrease can be attributed to new guidelines put out by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1980, when a question regarding Hispanic origin was added to the census questionnaire. This has led to an increasing tendency for some groups to no longer self-identify as white, and instead categorize themselves as "other races". 20.6% of the population of the city was foreign born in 2010. Of the 1,342,803 residents over 5 years of age, 63.5% spoke only English, 30.6% spoke Spanish at home, 2.5% spoke another Indo-European language, 2.1% spoke Asian or Islander languages, with the remaining 1.4% speaking other languages. About 15.7% of non-English speakers reported speaking English less than "very well". The largest national ancestries reported were Mexican (35.9%), German (15.3%), Irish (10.3%), English (9.4%), Black (6.5%), Italian (4.5%), French (2.7%), Polish (2.5%), American Indian (2.2%), and Scottish (2.0%).

    Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

    According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, 66% of the population of the city identified themselves as Christians, while 26% claim no religious affiliation. The same study says that other religions (including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism) collectively make up about 7% of the population. In 2010, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives, which conducts religious census each ten years, 39% of those polled in Maricopa county considered themselves a member of a religious group. Of those who expressed a religious affiliation, the area's religious composition was reported as 35% Catholic, 22% to Evangelical Protestant denominations, 16% Latter-Day Saints (LDS), 14% to nondenominational congregations, 7% to Mainline Protestant denominations, and 2% Hindu. The remaining 4% belong to other religions, such as Buddhism, and Judaism. While there was an overall increase in the number of religious adherents over the decade of 103,000, that did not keep pace with the overall population increase in the country during the same period, which increased by almost three-quarters of million individuals, resulting in the percentage drop. The largest aggregate increases were in the LDS (a 58% increase) and Evangelical Protestant churches (14% increase), while all other categories actually saw their numbers drop slightly, or remain static. Overall, the Catholic Church had an 8% drop, while Mainline Protestant groups saw a 28% decline.


    A cotton field outside Phoenix
    Office building at 3300 N. Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix

    The early economy of Phoenix was focused primarily on agriculture and natural resources, dependent on the "5Cs" of copper, cattle, climate, cotton, and citrus. With the establishment of the Southern Pacific rail line in 1926, the opening of the Union Station in 1923, and the creation of Sky Harbor airport by the end of the decade, the city became more easily accessible. The Great Depression affected Phoenix, but Phoenix had a diverse economy and by 1934 the recovery was underway. At the conclusion of World War II, the valley's economy surged, as many men who had undergone their military training at the various bases in and around Phoenix returned with their families. The construction industry, spurred on by the city's growth, further expanded with the development of Sun City. It became the template for suburban development in post-WWII America, and Sun City became the template for retirement communities when it opened in 1960.

    As the national financial crisis of 2007–10 began, construction in Phoenix collapsed and housing prices plunged. In job markets with greater than 1 million jobs, Greater Phoenix ranked number 1 in employment growth prior to the 2007 Great Recession. Three years later, it hit the bottom of the list of those 28 major markets. Arizona jobs declined by 11.8% from peak to trough. Arizona is forecast to regain its previous employment peak in 2015, eight years after the Great Recession began, and job growth has occurred across the board.

    As of 2012, the Phoenix MSA had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of just over $200 billion. The top five industries were: real estate ($31B), financial services ($21.3B), manufacturing ($16.8B), health care ($15.7B), and retail ($14.9B). Government, if it had been a private industry, would have been ranked third on the list, generating $18.9 billion.

    In Phoenix, real estate developers face few constraints when planning and developing new projects. Accordingly, the city is prone to overbuilding during times of economic prosperity. This explains the city's higher-than-average vacancy rates.

    As of 2010, the top five employment categories are office and administrative support (17.8%), sales (11.6%), food preparation and serving (9%), transportation and material moving (6.1%), and management (5.8%). The single largest occupation is retail salespersons, which account for 3.7% of the workforce. As of December 2013, 12.9% of the workforce were government employees, a high number because the city is both the county seat and state capitol. The civilian labor force was 2,033,400, and the unemployment rate stood at 7.6%

    Phoenix is currently home to four Fortune 500 companies: electronics corporation Avnet, mining company Freeport-McMoRan, retailer PetSmart, and waste hauler Republic Services.Honeywell's Aerospace division is headquartered in Phoenix, and the valley hosts many of their avionics and mechanical facilities. Intel has one of their largest sites in the area, employing about 12,000 employees, the second largest Intel location in the country. The city is also home to: the headquarters of U-HAUL International; Best Western; and Apollo Group, parent of the University of Phoenix. US Air/American Airlines is the largest carrier at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. Mesa Air Group, a regional airline group, is headquartered in Phoenix. The military has a significant presence in Phoenix, with Luke Air Force Base located in the western suburbs. The city was severely impacted by the effects of the sub-prime mortgage crash. However, Phoenix has recovered 83% of the jobs lost due to the recession.


    Performing arts

    Orpheum Theater – Phoenix

    The city has numerous performing arts venues, most of which are located in and around downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale. The Phoenix Symphony Hall is home to the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, the Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona. The Arizona Opera company also has intimate performances at its new Arizona Opera Center, which opened in March 2013. Another venue is the Orpheum Theatre, which is home to the Phoenix Opera, formerly known as the Phoenix Metropolitan Opera. Ballet Arizona, in addition to the Symphony Hall, also has performances at the Orpheum Theater as well at the Dorrance Theater. Concerts also regularly make stops in the area. The largest downtown performing art venue is the Herberger Theater Center, which houses three performance spaces and is home to two resident companies, the Arizona Theatre Company and the Centre Dance Ensemble. Three other groups also use the facility: Valley Youth Theatre, iTheatre Collaborative and Actors Theater.

    Concerts can be attended at Talking Stick Resort Arena (formerly US Airways Center) and Comerica Theatre in downtown Phoenix, Ak-Chin Pavilion (formerly Cricket Wireless Pavilion) in Maryvale, Gila River Arena (formerly Arena) in Glendale, and Gammage Auditorium in Tempe (the last public building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright). Several smaller theatres including Trunk Space, the Mesa Arts Center, the Crescent Ballroom, Celebrity Theatre, and Modified Arts support regular independent musical and theatre performances. Music can also be seen in some of the venues usually reserved for sports, such as Wells Fargo Arena and University of Phoenix Stadium.

    Several television series have been set in Phoenix, including Alice, the 2000s paranormal drama Medium, the 1960–61 syndicated crime drama The Brothers Brannagan, and The New Dick Van Dyke Show from 1971 to 1974.


    Dozens of museums exist throughout the valley. They include the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Capitol Museum, Arizona Military Museum, Hall of Flame Firefighting Museum, the Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park, Children's Museum of Phoenix, Arizona Science Center, and the Heard Museum. In 2010 the Musical Instrument Museum opened their doors, featuring the biggest musical instrument collection in the world.

    Designed by Alden B. Dow, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Phoenix Art Museum was constructed in a single year, opening in November 1959. The Phoenix Art Museum presents a year-round program of festivals, live performances, independent art films and educational programs. The Southwest's largest destination for visual art, it displays international exhibitions alongside the museum's comprehensive collection of more than 17,000 works of contemporary and modern art from around the world, as well as exhibits of fashion design. Interactive exhibits can be found in nearby Peoria's Challenger Space Center, where individuals learn about space, renewable energies, and meet astronauts.

    The Heard Museum has over 130,000 square feet (12,000 m²) of gallery, classroom and performance space. Some of the signature exhibits include a full Navajo hogan, the Mareen Allen Nichols Collection containing 260 pieces of contemporary jewelry, the Barry Goldwater Collection of 437 historic Hopi kachina dolls, and an exhibit on the 19th century boarding school experiences of Native Americans. The Heard Museum attracts about 250,000 visitors a year.

    Fine arts

    The downtown Phoenix art scene has developed in the past decade. The Artlink organization and the galleries downtown have successfully launched a First Friday cross-Phoenix gallery opening. In April 2009, artist Janet Echelman inaugurated her monumental sculpture, Her Secret Is Patience, a civic icon suspended above the new Phoenix Civic Space Park, a two-city-block park in the middle of downtown. This netted sculpture makes the invisible patterns of desert wind visible to the human eye. During the day, the 100-foot (30 m)-tall sculpture hovers high above heads, treetops, and buildings, the sculpture creates what the artist calls "shadow drawings", which she says are inspired by Phoenix's cloud shadows. At night, the illumination changes color gradually through the seasons. Author Prof. Patrick Frank writes of the sculpture that "... most Arizonans look on the work with pride: this unique visual delight will forever mark the city of Phoenix just as the Eiffel Tower marks Paris."


    An "Xeros Residence" in Phoenix

    Phoenix is the home of a unique architectural tradition and community. Frank Lloyd Wright moved to Phoenix in 1937 and built his winter home, Taliesin West, and the main campus for The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Over the years, Phoenix has attracted notable architects who have made it their home and have grown successful practices. These architectural studios embrace the desert climate, and are unconventional in their approach to the practice of design. They include the Paolo Soleri (who created Arcosanti),Al Beadle,Will Bruder, Wendell Burnette, and Blank Studio architectural design studios. Another major force in architectural landscape of the city was Ralph Haver whose firm, Haver & Nunn, designed commercial, industrial and residential structures throughout the valley. Of particular note was his trademark, "Haver Home", which were affordable contemporary-style tract houses.


    The tourist industry is the longest running of today's top industries in Phoenix. Starting with promotions back in the 1920s, the industry has grown into one of the top 10 in the city. Due to its climate, Phoenix and its neighbors have consistently ranked among the nation's top destinations in the number of Five Diamond/Five Star resorts. With more than 62,000 hotel rooms in over 500 hotels and 40 resorts, greater Phoenix sees over 16 million visitors each year, the majority of whom are leisure (as opposed to business) travelers. Sky Harbor Airport, which serves the Greater Phoenix area, serves about 40 million passengers a year, ranking it among the 10 busiest airports in the nation.

    One of the biggest attractions to the Phoenix area is golf, with over 200 golf courses. In addition to the sites of interest in the city, there are many attractions near Phoenix, such as: Agua Fria National Monument, Arcosanti, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Lost Dutchman State Park, Montezuma's Castle, Montezuma's Well, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Phoenix also serves as a jumping off point to many of the sights around the state of Arizona, such as the Grand Canyon, Lake Havasu (where the London Bridge is located), Meteor Crater, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, Tombstone, Kartchner Caverns, Sedona and Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.

    Other attractions and annual events

    Due to its natural beauty and climate, Phoenix has a plethora of outdoor attractions and recreational activities. The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. Since opening in 1962, the zoo has developed an international reputation for its efforts on animal conservation, including breeding and reintroducing endangered species back into the wild. Right next to the zoo, the Phoenix Botanical Gardens were opened in 1939, and are acclaimed worldwide for their exhibits and educational programs, featuring the largest collection of arid plants in the U.S.South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the U.S., is also the highest desert mountain preserve in the world.

    Other popular sites in the city are: Japanese Friendship Garden, Historic Heritage Square, Phoenix Mountains Park, Pueblo Grande Museum, Tovrea Castle, Camelback Mountain, Hole in the Rock, Mystery Castle, St. Mary's Basilica, Taliesin West, and the Wrigley Mansion.

    There are long list of annual events in and near Phoenix which celebrate the heritage of the city, as well as its diversity. Some of them are: the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, the largest horse show in the world; Matsuri, a celebration of Japanese culture; Pueblo Grande Indian Market, an event highlighting Native American arts and crafts; Grand Menorah Lighting, an annual December event celebrating Hanukah; ZooLights, an annual December evening event at the Phoenix Zoo, featuring millions of lights; the Arizona State Fair, begun in 1884, an annual fair; Scottish Gathering & Highland Games, an annual event celebrating Scottish heritage; Estrella War, an annual event celebrating medieval life; Tohono O'odham Nation Rodeo & Fair, Oldest Indian rodeo in Arizona; and the Chinese Week & Culture & Cuisine Festival, an annual celebration of Chinese culture.


    Like many other western towns, the earliest restaurants in Phoenix were often steakhouses. Today, Phoenix is also renowned for its Mexican food, thanks to both its large Hispanic population and its proximity to Mexico. Some of Phoenix's restaurants have a long history. The Stockyards steakhouse dates to 1947, while Monti's La Casa Vieja (Spanish for "The Old House") was in operation as a restaurant since the 1890s, but finally closed its doors November 17, 2014. Macayo's (a Mexican restaurant chain) was established in Phoenix in 1946, and other major Mexican restaurants include Garcia's (1956) and Manuel's (1964). The recent population boom has brought people from all over the nation, and to a lesser extent from other countries, and has since influenced the local cuisine. Phoenix currently boasts cuisines from all over the world, such as Korean, barbecue, Cajun/Creole, Greek, Hawaiian, Irish, Japanese, sushi, Italian, fusion, Persian, Indian, Spanish, Thai, Chinese, southwestern, Tex-Mex, Vietnamese, Brazilian, and French.

    The first McDonald's franchise was sold by the McDonald brothers to a Phoenix entrepreneur in 1952. Neil Fox paid $1,000 for the rights to open an establishment based on the McDonald brothers' restaurant. The hamburger stand opened in 1953 on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Indian School Road on the growing north side of Phoenix, and was the first location to sport the now internationally known "golden arches", which were initially twice the height of the building. Three other franchise locations opened that year, a full two years before Kroc purchased McDonald's and opened his first franchise in Illinois.


    Randy Johnson pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks

    Major league

    Phoenix is home to several professional sports franchises, and is one of only 12 U.S. cities to have representatives of all four major professional sports leagues, although only one of these teams actually carry the city name and two of them play within the city limits.

    Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix

    The Phoenix Suns were the first major sports team in Phoenix, being granted a National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise in 1968. They had originally played at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum before moving to America West Arena (now Talking Stick Resort Arena) in 1992. The year following their move to the new arena, the Suns made the NBA finals for the second time in franchise history, losing to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, 4 games to 2. The U.S. Airways Center hosted both the 1995 and the 2009 NBA All-Star Games.

    In 1997, the Phoenix Mercury were one of the original eight teams to launch the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). They also play at Talking Stick Resorts Arena. They have won the WNBA championship series three times: first in 2007 when they defeated the Detroit Shock, again in 2009 when they defeated the Indiana Fever, and in 2014 when they swept the Chicago Sky.

    University of Phoenix Stadium on the game day of Super Bowl XLII (February 3, 2008)

    The Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball began play as an expansion team in 1998. The team has played all of its home games in the same downtown park, now known as Chase Field. It is the second highest stadium in the U.S. (after Coors Field in Denver), and is known for its swimming pool beyond the outfield fence. In 2001, the Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees 4 games to 3 in the World Series, becoming the city's first professional sports franchise to win a national championship while located in Arizona. The win was also the fastest an expansion team had ever won the World Series, surpassing the old mark of the Florida Marlins of 5 years, set in 1997.

    The Arizona Cardinals are the oldest continuously run professional football franchise in the nation. Founded in 1898 in Chicago, they moved to Phoenix from St. Louis in 1988 and currently play in the Western Division of the National Football League's National Football Conference. Upon their move to Phoenix, the Cardinals originally played their home games at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University in nearby Tempe. In 2006 they moved to the newly constructed University of Phoenix Stadium in suburban Glendale. Since moving to Phoenix, the Cardinals have made one championship appearance, Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, where they lost 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Gila River Arena in Glendale

    Sun Devil Stadium held Super Bowl XXX in 1996. University of Phoenix Stadium hosted Super Bowl XLII in 2008, and Super Bowl XLIX in 2015.

    The Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League moved to the area in 1996, formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets. They originally played their home games at America West Arena in downtown Phoenix before moving in December 2003 to the Arena (now named the Gila River Arena) in Glendale.

    Professional teams in the Phoenix area
    Club Sport League Venue Titles
    Arizona Cardinals Football National Football League University of Phoenix Stadium 2*
    Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball Major League Baseball Chase Field 1
    Phoenix Suns Basketball National Basketball Association Talking Stick Resort Arena 0
    Arizona Coyotes Ice hockey National Hockey League Gila River Arena 0
    Phoenix Mercury Basketball Women's National Basketball Association Talking Stick Resort Arena 4
    Arizona Rattlers Arena Football Arena Football League Talking Stick Resort Arena 5
    Arizona United SC Soccer United Soccer League Scottsdale Stadium 0

    *Note: The Cardinals won 2 of their championships while in Chicago, pre-modern era.

    Other sports

    The Phoenix area hosts two annual college football bowl games: the Fiesta Bowl, played at the University of Phoenix Stadium, and the TicketCity Cactus Bowl, which is held at Sun Devil Stadium. Phoenix has an arena football team, the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League. Their games are also played at Talking Stick Resort Arena. They won their first of five AFL championships in 1994; in 2014 they won their third championship in a row.

    The Greater Phoenix area is home to the Cactus League, one of two spring training leagues for Major League Baseball. With the move by the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks to their new facility in Scottsdale, the league is entirely based in the Greater Phoenix area. With the Cincinnati Reds' move to Goodyear, fifteen of MLB's thirty teams are now included in the Cactus League.

    The Phoenix International Raceway, was built in 1964 with a one-mile oval, with a one-of-a-kind design, as well as a 2.5-mile road course. Today, "Phoenix International Raceway has a tradition that is unmatched in the world of racing." It currently hosts several NASCAR events per season, and the annual Fall NASCAR weekend, which includes events from four different NASCAR classes, is a huge event. After thirty years of hosting various events, especially NHRA drag racing events, Firebird International Raceway (FIR) closed operations in 2013, but the NHRA re-opened the venue to NHRA events in 2014 under the new name, "Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park".

    The city is also host to several major professional golf events, including the LPGA's Founder's Cup and, since 1932, The Phoenix Open of the PGA. The Phoenix Marathon is a new addition to the city's sports scene, and is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. The Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series has held an event in Phoenix every January since 2004.

    Parks and recreation

    Midtown Phoenix is visible to the left in this view from the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, December 2010.
    Camelback Mountain

    Phoenix is home to a large number of parks and recreation areas. The city of Phoenix includes national parks, county (Maricopa County) parks and city parks. Tonto National Forest forms part of the northeast boundary of the city, while the county has the largest park system in the country. The city park system was established to preserve the desert landscape in areas that would otherwise have succumbed to development, and includes South Mountain Park, the world's largest municipal park with 16,500 acres (67 km2). The city park system has 189 parks which contain over 33,000 acres, and has facilities for hiking, camping, swimming, horseback riding, cycling, and climbing. Some of the other notable parks in the system are Camelback Mountain, Encanto Park (another large urban park) and Sunnyslope Mountain, also known as "S" Mountain. Papago Park in east Phoenix is home to both the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo, in addition to several golf courses and the Hole-in-the-Rock geological formation. The Desert Botanical Garden, which opened in 1939, is one of the few public gardens in the country dedicated to desert plants, and displays desert plant life from all over the world. The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned non-profit zoo in the United States, and is internationally known for its programs devoted to saving endangered species.

    In addition, many waterparks are scattered throughout the valley to help residents cope with the desert heat during the summer months. Some of the notable parks include Big Surf in Tempe, Wet 'n' Wild Phoenix in Phoenix, Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa, and the Oasis Water Park at the Arizona Grand Resort – formerly known as Pointe South Mountain Resort – in Phoenix. The area also has two small amusement parks, Castles N' Coasters in north Phoenix, next to the Metrocenter Mall and Enchanted Island located at Encanto Park.


    The Arizona State Capitol, which used to house the state legislature, is now a museum.

    In 1913, Phoenix adopted a new form of government, switching from the mayor-council system to the council-manager system, making it one of the first cities in the United States with this form of city government, where a strong city manager supervises all city departments and executes the policies adopted by the Council.

    The city council consists of a mayor and eight city council members. While the mayor is elected in a citywide election, Phoenix City Council members are elected by votes only in the districts they represent, with both the Mayor and the Council members serving four year terms. The current mayor of Phoenix is Greg Stanton, a Democrat who was elected to a four-year term in 2011. In setting city policy and passing rules and regulations, the mayor and city council members each have equal voting power. The city's website was given a "Sunny Award" by Sunshine Review for its transparency efforts.

    State government facilities

    Phoenix City Hall, showing the city's logo, the phoenix bird

    As the capital of Arizona, Phoenix houses the state legislature, along with numerous state government agencies, many of which are located in the State Capitol district immediately west of downtown. The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections operates the Adobe Mountain and Black Canyon Schools in Phoenix. Another major state government facility is the Arizona State Hospital, operated by the Arizona Department of Health Services. This is a mental health center which is the only medical facility run by the state government. The headquarters of numerous Arizona state government agencies are in Phoenix, with many located in the State Capitol district immediately west of downtown.

    Federal government facilities

    The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Phoenix which is in the city limits, near its northern boundary.

    The Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse, the U.S. District Court of Arizona, is located on Washington Street downtown. It is named in honor of retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was raised in Arizona.

    The Federal Building is at the intersection of Van Buren Road and First Avenue downtown, and contains various federal field offices and the local division of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. This building also formerly housed the U.S. District Court offices and courtrooms, but these were moved in 2001 to the new Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse. Before the construction of this building in 1961, federal government offices were housed in the historic U.S. Post Office on Central Avenue, completed in the 1930s.


    Arizona State Capitol Executive Tower DSC 2708 ad

    By the 1960s crime was becoming a significant problem in Phoenix, and by the 1970s crime continued to increase in the city at a faster rate than almost anywhere else in the country. It was during this time frame when an incident occurred in Phoenix which would have national implications. On March 16, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested and charged with rape. The subsequent Supreme Court ruling on June 13, 1966, Miranda v. Arizona, has led to practice in the United States of issuing a Miranda Warning to all suspected criminals.

    By the mid 1970s, Phoenix was close to or at the top of the list for cities with the highest crime rate. The mayor during the mid-70s, Mayor Graham, introduced policies which raised Phoenix from near the bottom of the statistics regarding police officers per capita, to where it resided in the middle of the rankings.

    With Phoenix's rapid growth, one of the prime areas of criminal activity was land fraud. The practice became so widespread that newspapers would refer to Phoenix as the Tainted Desert. These land frauds led to one of the more infamous murders in the history of the valley, when Arizona Republic writer Don Bolles was murdered by a car bomb in 1976. It was believed that his investigative reporting on organized crime and land fraud in Phoenix made him a target. Bolles was the only reporter from a major U.S. newspaper to be murdered on U.S. soil due to his coverage of a story. Max Dunlap was convicted of first degree murder in the case.

    Street gangs and the drug trade had turned into public safety issues by the 1980s, and the crime rate in Phoenix continued to grow. After seeing a peak in the early and mid 1990s, the city has seen a general decrease in crime rates. The Maricopa County Jail system is the fourth-largest in the world. The violent crime rate peaked in 1993 at 1146 crimes per 100,000 people, while the property crime rate peaked a few years earlier, in 1989, at 9,966 crimes per 100,000.

    In the most recent numbers from the FBI (2012), those rates currently stand at 637 and 4091, respectively. Since their peak in 2003, murders have dropped from 241 to 123 in 2012. In the 20 years since 1993, there have only been five years in which the violent crime rate has not declined. In 2001 and 2002 Phoenix ranked first in the nation in vehicle thefts, with over 22,000 and 25,000 cars stolen each year respectively. It has declined every year since then, and last year[] stood at just over 480, a drop of almost 75% in the decade. The Phoenix MSA has dropped to 70th in the nation in terms of car thefts in 2012.

    As the first decade of the new century came to a close, Arizona had become the gateway to the U.S. for drug trafficking. Another crime issue related to the drug trade are kidnappings. In the late 2000s, Phoenix earned the title "Kidnapping capital of the USA". The majority of the kidnapped are believed to be victims of human smuggling, or related to illegal drug trade, while the kidnappers are believed to be part of Mexican drug cartels.


    Public education in the Phoenix area is provided by 29 school districts. There are 21 elementary school districts, which contain over 215 elementary schools, and they are paired with 4 high school districts, which have a total of 31 high schools serving Phoenix. Three of the high school districts (Glendale Union, Tempe Union and Tolleson Union) only partially serve Phoenix. With over 27,000 students, and spread over 220 square miles, The Phoenix Union High School District is one of the largest high school districts in the country, containing 16 schools and nearly 3,000 employees. In addition there are 4 unified districts, which cover grades K-12, which add an additional 58 elementary schools and 4 high schools to Phoenix's educational system. Of those four, only the Paradise Valley district completely serves Phoenix. Phoenix is also served by an expanding number of charter schools, with over 30 currently operating in the city.

    Post-secondary education

    The campus of ASU from Tempe Butte in nearby Tempe

    Arizona State University is the main institution of higher education in the region. Its main campus is in Tempe. ASU also has campuses in northwest Phoenix (ASU West Campus), downtown Phoenix (ASU Downtown Campus), Mesa (ASU Polytechnic Campus), and Glendale (Thunderbird School of Global Management). ASU is one of the largest public universities in the U.S., with a 2012 student enrollment of 72,254.

    A branch of the University of Arizona College of Medicine is located near ASU's downtown Phoenix campus. There is also a small satellite campus for Northern Arizona University (based in Flagstaff) located in Phoenix.

    The Maricopa County Community College District includes ten community colleges and two skills centers throughout Maricopa County, providing adult education and job training. Phoenix College, part of the district, was founded in 1920 and is the oldest community college in Arizona and one of the oldest in the country.

    The city is also home to numerous other institutions of higher learning. Some of the more notable are:

    Thunderbird control tower-Thunderbird School of Global Management
    • Barrow Neurological Institute is the world's largest neurological disease treatment and research institution.
    • Grand Canyon University is a private Christian university. Initially a non-profit school founded in 1949, it was purchased by investors who brought it out of bankruptcy, and now operate it as a for-profit institution. It currently enrolls over 68,000 students (roughly 14,500 on its West Phoenix campus) offering bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees.
    • Arizona Christian University is a non-profit evangelical Christian institution located in north Phoenix.
    • The University of Phoenix is also headquartered in Phoenix. This is the nation's largest for-profit university with over 300,000 students at campuses throughout the United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, Mexico, and the Netherlands, as well as online.
    • The Arizona Summit Law School, formerly known as the Phoenix School of Law is a private, for-profit law school located in downtown Phoenix.


    The first newspaper in Phoenix was the weekly Salt River Valley Herald, established in 1878, which would change its name the following year to the Phoenix Herald. The paper would go through several additional name changes in its early years before finally settling on the Phoenix Herald, which still exists today in an on-line form. Today, the city is served by two major daily newspapers: The Arizona Republic, which along with its online entity,, serves the greater metropolitan area; and the East Valley Tribune, which primarily serves the cities of the East Valley. The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix is an independent weekly newspaper established in 1948. In addition, the city is also served by numerous free neighborhood papers and weeklies such as the Phoenix New Times, and Arizona State University's The State Press.

    The Phoenix metro area is served by many local television stations and is the largest designated market area (DMA) in the Southwest, and the 12th largest in the U.S., with over 1.8 million homes (1.6% of the total U.S.). The major network television affiliates are KNXV 15 (ABC), KPHO 5 (CBS), KPNX 12 (NBC), KSAZ 10 (Fox), KASW 61 (The CW), KUTP 45 (MyNetworkTV), and KAET 8 (PBS, operated by Arizona State University). Other network television affiliates operating in the area include KPAZ 21 (TBN), KTVW-DT 33 (Univision), KFPH-DT (UniMás), KTAZ 39 (Telemundo), KDPH 48 (Daystar), and KPPX-TV 51 (ION). KTVK 3 (3TV) and KAZT 7 (AZ-TV) are independent television stations operating in the metro area. KSAZ-TV, KUTP, KPAZ-TV, KTVW-DT, KFPH-DT, KTAZ, KDPH-LP, and KPPX-TV are network owned-and-operated stations.

    Many major feature films and television programs have been filmed in the city. The radio airwaves in Phoenix cater to a wide variety of musical and talk radio interests.




    An aerial view of the control tower at Phoenix Sky Harbor that began operations on January 17, 2007.

    Phoenix is served by Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (IATA: PHX, ICAO: KPHX), one of the ten busiest airports in the United States, serving over 110,000 people on over 1000 flights per day. The airport is centrally located in the metro area near several major freeway interchanges east of downtown Phoenix. The airport serves more than 100 cities with non-stop flights.

    Aeroméxico, Air Canada, British Airways, and WestJet are among several international carriers as well as American carrier American Airlines (which maintains a hub at the airport) providing flights to destinations such as Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, and London.

    The Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IATA: IWA, ICAO: KIWA) in neighboring Mesa also serves the area's commercial air traffic. It was converted from Williams Air Force Base, which closed in 1993. The airport has recently received substantial commercial service with Allegiant Air opening a hub operation at the airport with non-stop service to over a dozen destinations, as well as Frontier Airlines and Spirit Air also operating out of the airport.

    Smaller airports that primarily handle private and corporate jets include Phoenix Deer Valley Airport, located in the Deer Valley district of north Phoenix, and Scottsdale Airport, located just east of the Phoenix/Scottsdale border. There are also other municipal airports including Glendale Municipal Airport, Falcon Field Airport in Mesa, and Phoenix Goodyear Airport.

    Rail and bus

    Union Station Phoenix – 2009

    Amtrak served Phoenix Union Station until 1996 when the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) threatened to abandon the route between Yuma, Arizona and Phoenix. Amtrak rerouted trains to Maricopa, 30 miles south of downtown Phoenix, where passengers can board the Texas Eagle (Los Angeles-San Antonio-Chicago) and Sunset Limited (Los Angeles-New Orleans). Though UP ultimately retained the trackage, Amtrak did not return, leaving Phoenix as the most populated city in the U.S. without passenger Amtrak service, although the station is still there (see photo).

    Amtrak Thruway buses connect Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to Flagstaff, Arizona for connection with the Los Angeles-Chicago Southwest Chief. Phoenix is also served by Greyhound bus service, which stops at 24th Street near the airport.

    Public transportation

    Phoenix light rail station – 2009

    Valley Metro provides public transportation throughout the metropolitan area, with its trains, buses, and a ride-share program. 3.38% of workers commute by public transit. During the summer it is very difficult to wait for a bus in the heat as many of the stops have no canopies. Valley Metro's 20-mile (32 km) light rail project, called METRO, through north-central Phoenix, downtown, and eastward through Tempe and Mesa, opened December 27, 2008. Future rail segments of more than 30 miles (48 km) are planned to open by 2030.

    Bicycle transportation

    The Maricopa Association of Governments has a bicycle advisory committee working to improve conditions for bicycling on city streets and off-road paths. Bicycling Magazine ranked Phoenix the 15th most bicycle friendly city of fifty cities in the United States with a population greater than 100,000.

    Roads and freeways

    Phoenix auto traffic depends on both surface streets and freeways. Freeways fall under the auspices of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). Phoenix ranks first in the nation in the quality of its urban freeways, and the state as a whole ranks first in the nation in the quality of bridges. While being the sixth most populous city in the nation, Phoenix's freeways do not suffer from the same type of congestion seen in other large cities. In fact, in a recent study, there is not a single stretch of freeway in Phoenix ranked in the 100 worst freeways for either congestion or unreliability.

    The Stack (Interstates 10 and 17) interchange at night in 2012

    Part of the reason for this is the extensive freeway system in the city, due to the majority of that system being funded by local, rather than federal funds, through a ½ cent general sales tax measure approved by voters in 1985. Another offshoot of this local funding is that Phoenix is the largest city in the United States to have two Interstate Highways and no 3-digit interstates.

    As of 2005, the metropolitan area of Phoenix contains one of the nation's largest and fastest growing freeway systems, boasting over 1,405 lane miles. The freeway system is a mix of Interstate, U.S., and State highways which include Interstate 10, Interstate 17, US 60, SR 51, Loop 101, Loop 202, SR 51, SR 143, and SR 30. There are still major additions to routes 101, 202 and 303 underway, as well as several other smaller projects around the valley. State Routes 30, 87, 85, and 74 connect Phoenix with other areas of the Valley and Arizona.

    The street system in Phoenix (and some of its suburbs) is laid out in a grid system, with most roads oriented either north-south or east-west, and the zero point of the grid being the intersection of Central Avenue and Washington Street. The original plan was for the east-west streets to be named after presidents, with the north-south streets named after Indians, however the north-south streets were quickly changed to numbers, with avenues running to west of Central, and streets to its east. Major arterial streets are spaced one mile (1.6 km) apart, divided into smaller blocks approximately every 1/8 of a mile. For example, Scottsdale Road, being the 7200 block, lies 9 miles to the east of Central Avenue (72 / 8).

    Freeways and state highways in Phoenix:

    • Interstate 10
    • Interstate 17
    • State Route 51
    • State Route 85
    • State Route 101
    • State Route 143
    • State Route 202
    • State Route 303
    • U.S. 60


    Central Arizona Project (CAP) canal

    Being located in the desert, Phoenix relies on a water supply delivered to the city via a system of canals which divert water from the region's rivers and lakes, with the largest portion of the city's water coming from the Colorado River through the Central Arizona Project's canal. The city's electrical needs are served primarily by Arizona Public Service, although some customers receive their electricity from the Salt River Project (SRP). The main sources of electrical generation are nuclear, and coal power plants. Arizona is home to the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Station, the largest nuclear generating facility in the United States. SRP is also the largest water provider in Phoenix.

    Health care

    In 2011 (the last year for which information is available), Phoenix had a slightly younger population than the country as a whole. While the United States had 13.3% of its population over the age of 65, Phoenix's percentage stood significantly lower, at 8.1%. Phoenix's percentage of 18.8% in the next age group, 45–64 was also a great deal lower than the national average of 26.6%. This results in 73% of Phoenix's population being 44 or younger, as compared to national percentage of 60.

    In 2010 (the last year for nationally reported figures), Phoenix was at or below national levels for most reportable diseases, with the exception of both hepatitis A and B, where they were slightly over the national average (0.8 and 1.8 to 0.5 and 1.1%, respectively).

    Maricopa Medical Center

    In most major categories, Phoenix had a lower incidence of death than the rest of the nation. Only deaths due to Alzheimer's (29.7 to 27.2 deaths per 100,000) and pre-natal conditions (5.3 to 3.8 deaths per 100,000) were slightly above the national average. Deaths due to HIV and liver disease were exactly at the national average of 2.5 and 10.8 respectively. However, in several major categories, Phoenix had significantly lower indices of death: deaths by cancer stood at only 57% (106) of the national average of 184.6 deaths per 100,000; deaths due to heart disease, 56.1% of the national rate of 249.8 per 100,000. Cancer and heart disease were the two top causes of death in the country.

    Low weight births (7.5%) were below the national average of 8.1%, yet infant mortality (7.2%) was higher than the rest of the U.S. (6.1%). Births to teen mothers were significantly higher than the rest of the country, sitting at 12.2% as compared to 8.4% nationally.

    The Phoenix metropolitan area is serviced by 56 hospitals and medical centers. Some of the top ranked are:

    • The Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical practice and medical research group based in Rochester, Minnesota. Phoenix is one of two other locations with Mayo Clinics (the other being Jacksonville, Florida). It is the first and largest integrated not-for-profit medical group practice in the world; Mayo Clinic has been near or at the top of the U.S. News & World Report List of "Best Hospitals" for more than 20 years.
    • St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center is part of Dignity Health (formerly Catholic Healthcare West), one of the largest healthcare systems in the western United States. St. Joseph's is a not-for-profit hospital with special advocacy for the poor and underserved.
    • John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital is a general medical and surgical hospital, which performed nearly at the level of nationally ranked U.S. News Best Hospitals in 4 adult specialties.
    • Phoenix Children's Hospital in Phoenix, AZ is nationally ranked in 5 pediatric specialties according to U.S. News & World Report. It is a 425-bed children's teaching hospital.
    • Arizona Heart Institute, opened in 1971, is known internationally as one of the first freestanding outpatient clinics dedicated exclusively to cardiovascular health.
    • Banner Health is a non-profit health system in the United States, based in Phoenix. It operates 23 hospitals as well as specialized facilities. The health system is the 2nd largest employer in Arizona, behind Walmart, employing more than 35,000. Banner Health was created in 1999 through a merger of Lutheran Health Systems, based in North Dakota, and Samaritan Health System, based in Phoenix. Of the top 10 rated hospitals in the city (top 12 in the state), 4 are Banner hospitals.
    • Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center is the world's largest dedicated neurosurgical center and a leader in neurosurgical training, research, and patient care. More operative neurosurgical procedures take place at BNI than at any other institution in the United States.

    Other top hospitals in the area are the two Scottsdale Healthcare Centers, Chandler Regional Medical Center, and Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.[]

    Notable people

    Sister cities

    Sign showing Phoenix's sister cities

    With the creation of the Phoenix Sister Cities (PSC) organization in 1972, Phoenix became a member of the international Sister City movement. It would take the organization several years to become official, not filing for Articles of Incorporation until 1975, and not entering into their first Sister City agreement until 1976, with Hermosillo, Mexico. The organization's mission statement states their purpose is to "... create people-to-people relationships between the residents of Phoenix and its sister cities through commercial, educational, cultural and artistic exchange programs and events that create and sustain global, long-term, international partnerships and business opportunities for the citizens of Phoenix." Currently, Phoenix has ten sister cities, as designated by the Phoenix Sister Cities Commission and Sister Cities International, shown in the table below. Phoenix and Prague have shared a Capital Cities relationship since May 1991, which was expanded to Sister City Status in 2013.

    See also