Greater Phoenix is a region of Arizona surrounding Phoenix. The total area accounts for 4.8 million residents (2020 census) and is the 11th-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Thanks to the recent housing boom and bettered economic conditions in the area, approximately 100,000 people move to the region every month, making it one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States.
Greater Phoenix/the Phoenix Metropolitan Area is also commonly referred to as "The Valley", the "Valley of the Sun", the "Salt River Valley" or just "Metro Phoenix".
- 5 Apache Junction
- 6 Chandler
- 7 Chandler Heights
- 8 Fountain Hills
- 9 Gilbert
- 10 Guadalupe
- 11 Mesa
- 12 Paradise Valley
- 13 Queen Creek
- 14 Rio Verde
- 15 Scottsdale
- 16 Tempe
- 17 San Tan Valley
- 18 Sun Lakes
- 19 Avondale
- 20 Buckeye
- 21 El Mirage
- 22 Glendale
- 23 Goodyear
- 24 Litchfield Park
- 25 Palo Verde
- 26 Peoria
- 27 Sun City – includes Sun City, Sun City West, Sun City Grand.
- 28 Surprise
- 29 Tolleson
- 30 Youngtown
- 1 Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX IATA), ☏ . In east Phoenix, 3 mi (5 km) from downtown Phoenix. All major US carriers serve Phoenix Sky Harbor with lots of flights to major cities across the country. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have hubs at Sky Harbor.
- 2 Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA IATA). In the East Valley, south of Mesa and east of Gilbert. It is served mainly by Allegiant Air, although Vision Airlines also offers service from North Las Vegas. This is a small airport that is being redeveloped into a major regional airport. It is close to ASU Polytechnic University and convenient for East Valley cities.
For Alternative airports and Private aviation listings throughout Greater Phoenix, see: Phoenix - By plane
There are 7 main routes into the Phoenix area:
- Interstate 10 (I-10); a cross-country route running east-west across Arizona. It originates in Los Angeles and runs through the city and continues to Tucson and Las Cruces, NM. It continues to Jacksonville, Florida. Most major freeway in Phoenix, provides access to downtown.
- Interstate 17 (I-17); an intrastate route running north from Phoenix to Flagstaff. Subject to closure in the winter; hazardous during snowstorms.
- U.S. Route 60 (US 60, or "the 60") running (generally) east-west across Arizona, east of downtown Phoenix it is known as the Superstition Freeway and runs to Globe and New Mexico, east of the Valley. From downtown Phoenix it goes northwest to Wickenburg (known as the Phoenix-Wickenburg Highway, runs as arterial street Grand Ave through the city). The Superstition Freeway is the widest freeway in Arizona and services the East Valley cities of Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, Gilbert, and Apache Junction. The highway runs further west (ends at I-10 about 40 mi (64 km) east of Quartzsite, and further east to Virginia Beach. Portions of this highway through Arizona are set to become the future Interstate 11.
- AZ-347 (Arizona State Highway 347) is a major state highway running south from Phoenix through Maricopa to meet with AZ-84 which continues to I-8. Watch for dust devils. Stop the car during dust storms.
- AZ-87 (Arizona State Highway 87) is a major thoroughfare serving the East Valley. It enters the area in Mesa near the McKellips Rd and Loop 202 interchange and becomes Country Club Dr. It continues south into downtown Mesa, crosses the Superstition Freeway, and enters Chandler, where it becomes Arizona Ave. It continues south through downtown Chandler and exits the metro area at Hunt Highway, where it continues southeast toward Tucson and has an interchange with I-10 near Picacho Peak, about 50 mi (80 km) northwest of downtown Tucson. To the north, it continues as a divided highway in freeway grade to Payson, and becomes a scenic route through the mountains to Winslow and ends at Second Mesa in the Navajo Nation. Great alternative to I-17 if there are delays. Subject to closure in the winter; hazardous during snowstorms.
- AZ-85 (Arizona State Highway 85) is a major state highway that runs between Buckeye, in the West Valley, south to Gila Bend, a city on I-8 running from San Diego to Casa Grande. This state highway is a freeway for most of its length and provides a quick and more direct route between Phoenix and Yuma or San Diego.
- AZ-74 (Arizona State Highway 74) is a minor state highway that runs between Morristown and Cave Creek in the North Valley. Great bypass if heading to the North Valley from Las Vegas.
For more information, see: Phoenix - By train
Amtrak passenger train service to Phoenix has been discontinued, making it the largest city without Amtrak service in the US. The nearest station is 35 mi (56 km) south of Phoenix in the town of Maricopa and is connected to Phoenix, Tempe and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport by an Amtrak Thruway shuttle bus (operated by Stagecoach Express) or by taxi.
By bus and rail
The Valley Metro bus system runs through the greater Phoenix area; the Valley Metro Rail light rail line connects Phoenix, Tempe (including Arizona State University) and Mesa. There are major light rail stops in downtown Phoenix, at Sky Harbor Airport, and Arizona State University. Great way to get into downtown from Tempe and Mesa. There are numerous park and rides along the course of the light rail.
As with all large cities and metropolitan areas, Phoenix is criscrossed by a myriad of freeways. Some of these are the widest freeways in the United States (most of the Superstition Freeway has seven lanes going each direction, and I-10 going west around the Broadway curve has eight lanes), and as a result, Phoenix is one of the largest cities with the best traffic and commuting times (if not the largest). These freeways include, in addition to I-10, I-17, and US 60:
- AZ Loop 101 (commonly called "the 101") is a beltway freeway beginning at I-10 and going north through Glendale and Peoria, paralleling the Agua Fria River (Agua Fria Freeway) before turning east and traveling across the North Valley (Pima Freeway). It intersects I-17 and AZ-51 then turns south and heads through Scottsdale and parallels the border of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. It forms the border between Tempe to the west and Mesa to the east, and south of Baseline Road forms the border between Tempe to the west and Chandler to the east (Price Freeway). It ends at Loop 202 in Chandler.
- AZ Loop 202 (commonly called "the 202") is a beltway freeway primarily servicing the East Valley. It begins at the interchange of I-10, AZ-51, and Loop 202, and runs east along the north side of Tempe and roughly parallel to the Salt River and Tempe Town Lake. It has major intersections with AZ-143, which services Sky Harbor Airport and Loop 101. It also has an exit onto Sky Harbor Blvd which goes directly into Sky Harbor Airport, and provides an easy access point for people in the East Valley. After Loop 101, it runs along the north side of Mesa, between the city and the wilderness (Red Mountain Freeway). It turns south and intersects US 60 near the Maricopa-Pinal County Line and continues south until it intersects AZ-24, where it turns west. It runs through the south side of Gilbert, enters Chandler near Gilbert Rd, and intersects Loop 101 a few miles later (Santan Freeway). It continues through I-10 (which runs north-south through this part) and skirts along the south slope of South Mountain before turning north and ending at I-10 (which runs east-west through this part).
- AZ Loop 303 (commonly called "the 303") is a beltway freeway that services the West Valley. It begins at I-10 near Goodyear and runs north (Bob Stump Memorial Freeway) near the edge of the city, then turns east and heads through wilderness areas before meeting up with I-17 at the extreme north end of the Phoenix metro area, just south of AZ-74.
- AZ-51 (Arizona State Highway 51) is a freeway going north out of downtown Phoenix, through the Phoenix Mountains, and terminating at Loop 101 in the North Valley. Runs roughly parallel to I-17.
- AZ-143 (Arizona State Highway 143) is a short freeway running between I-10 and Loop 202 just east of Sky Harbor Airport. It provides access to the airport and facilities in the vicinity.
The Phoenix metro area is laid out in a grid of one mile by one mile squares with shopping at the major corners. Roads run the length of the Valley. Roads sometimes change names when entering a new city, and will definitely change direction. On a stretch of Warner Road, in the East Valley, it begins as W Warner Rd in Tempe, but becomes E Warner Rd after crossing the 000 marker. It then becomes W Warner Rd after crossing into Chandler, but becomes E Warner Rd after crossing AZ-87 (Arizona Ave). When it crosses McQueen Rd it enters Gilbert, but becomes W Warner Rd again. Then once it crosses Gilbert Rd, it becomes E Warner Rd again. Always make sure to check whether the road is N, S, E, or W and what your destination's road is. Also make sure to check the city.
In the North Valley and the West Valley, the roads running north-south are numbered streets to the east of Central Ave and numbered avenues to the west of Central Ave. Double-check if your destination is on a numbered street or avenue and don't read the street signs wrong. 94th Ave and Thunderbird Rd (in Peoria) can be over an hour away from 94th Street and Thunderbird Rd (in Scottsdale) depending on traffic.
Directions are usually given by telling how many miles to go before a turn, and giving the intersection that your destination is closest to.
The Phoenix area has a lot of local and regional attractions. Some "must see" attractions include:
The Phoenix Zoo (Phoenix) is the largest privately-owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. It showcases 3000 animals spanning five exhibits. Located in Papago Park. Best times to go are in spring and fall (or winter if you live someplace cold).
The Arizona Diamondbacks Baseball is always a fun attraction. Ride the light rail in from Mesa, Tempe, or northwest Phoenix and grab a bite to eat in downtown. Watch Madison Bumgarner and Ketel Marte. Chase Field also has a batting cage for kids and a play area.
The Arizona Cardinals Football is the next sports team in the area. Get loud at the Cardinals games (or get loud against them and for your team) till you've screamed yourself hoarse. Watch Kyler Murray and Hollywood Brown do their thing. Grab a beer and join in on a tailgate party.
The Phoenix Suns Basketball is the third professional sports team in Phoenix and boy are they hot!
The Hale Centre Theatre is an iconic feature of the Phoenix entertainment sector. This 350-seat theater hosts some of the most famous plays -- done to top notch perfection. There are great restaurants in the area so you can grab a bite to eat.
The area also has a lot to do. If you are an outdoors enthusiast, this is the place for you! Some things to do are:
Hike on South Mountain, the large ridge that rises directly to the south of downtown Phoenix (hence the name South Mountain). It is the site of a large park and preserve. Over 50 miles (80 km) of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding traverse the park, as well as roads leading to trailheads. Dobbins Lookout, elevation 2,330 ft (710 m) can be a little crowded, and rightly so. This vantage point affords visitors unobstructed panoramic views of The Valley.
Salt River Lakes: the Salt River is dry through the Valley, but just east (anywhere from 1-2 hours into the Superstition Mountains) there are four lakes created by damming of the Salt River. These lakes are, in order beginning closest to Phoenix, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, and Theodore Roosevelt Lake, with this one being the largest. These lakes offer kayaking, swimming, fishing, jet skiing, and other water activities in the height of summer. Water level is significantly lower in summer and during dry periods. Roads leading to these lakes are subject to closure in the winter.
Tortilla Flat is a remnant of an Old West stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail (AZ-88). It is now an iconic tourist destination near the Valley. With a population of 6 (yes, there are people who live here), this is a tiny town with a big reach. There is a gift shop, restaurant/saloon, country store, and museum. Don't forget to see the wallpaper made from dollar bills of people around the world, taste the prickly pear gelato, and sit on a saddle barstool. You'll be yee-hawing all the way back and dreaming of Buffalo Bill at night. Great for a lunch outing. It is about an hour and ten minutes from downtown.
Phoenix is surrounded by many Indian reservations and as a result, there are numerous casinos on the edge of town. Two of them are located in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation just east of Scottsdale, and there are four in the Gila River Indian Community. Additionally, there is one in the West Valley on Tohono O'Odham land, and there is another one in the works. Some of these casinos also provide lodging.
Because Phoenix is such a large city, it has just about every restaurant imaginable. But when you travel to Phoenix, be sure to stop in at a restaurant that serves Authentic Mexican Food. Because of its close proximity to Mexico, the Phoenix area has a high concentration of Hispanic immigrants. This means that there are a lot of Mexican restaurants in the city. Like, a lot. If it is authentic Mexican food, and the restaurant doesn't look sketchy (like people go there in their pajamas at 3AM to get a burrito and swear at everybody) and the area doesn't look sketchy, then the food is bound to be good and worth your business.
Phoenix also has a lot of hotels because of its size and draw. There are also hotels in many of the major shopping areas, and they provide access to many shops and restaurants. Most hotels in the area provide airport transportation, but always check to make sure. As with all major cities a variety of accommodations are available and many hotels are located near the airport for easy access.
Outside the Greater Phoenix area and within Arizona:
- For cooler temperatures (sub-100 °F (38 °C) in the summer, snow in the winter), head north towards Prescott, Sedona or Flagstaff in Northern Arizona area, or head east towards Alpine and Hannagan Meadow in the Mogollon Rim area. Payson, about an hour and a half northeast, has sledding and skiing. Sedona's iconic red rocks are stunning any time of year
- For Arizona's mountains and canyons, head north past Flagstaff to "The Big Ditch" the Grand Canyon, or even further north to Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and the North Rim .
- For more of the Sonoran Desert or Arizona's Old West, head to the "Old Pueblo" of Tucson in South Central Arizona, or Tombstone in Southeast Arizona, or Yuma in Western Arizona.
- For some time on the water, the Colorado River downstream of the Grand Canyon has activities at Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Boulder City, Nevada, the Bullhead City/Laughlin area, Lake Havasu City, and wildlife refuges along the Colorado River in the Western Arizona region.
- For other metropolitan areas, you may want to visit Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Albuqerque. Adventurous people may try to reach Denver, Colorado Springs, Fresno, or San Francisco. Very adventurous people (or perhaps college students staying awake with Starbucks and Red Bull) might try to reach Dallas or Oklahoma City (not recommended. It is best to overnight in El Paso, Las Cruces, Amarillo, or Albuquerque).
- Or for the ocean beaches in Los Angeles or San Diego, or of the Gulf of California in Puerto Peñasco (also known as Rocky Point) in Sonora, Mexico.
|Routes through Greater Phoenix
|Los Angeles ← Indio ← Blythe ← Quartzsite ←
|→ Casa Grande → Tucson → Las Cruces → El Paso
|Flagstaff (terminus) ← Camp Verde ← Black Canyon City ←
|→ Phoenix (terminus)
|Wickenburg ← Morristown ←
|→ Superior → Miami → Globe
|Chandler (terminus) ←
|Eloy ← Coolidge ← Sacaton ←
|→ Payson → Pine/Strawberry → Winslow
|Buckeye (terminus) ←
|→ Gila Bend → Ajo → Lukeville → Sonoyta, Mexico
|→ Anthem → Cave Creek