Grab your sunscreen and maybe a hat for good measure, as we take you on a virtual tour of what makes these 10 cities the best in the state
- Litchfield Park
- Fountain Hills
- Oro Valley
- Paradise Valley
Shocked to see Litchfield Park as the best city in Arizona? Surprised to see Surprise at No. 6? Well, be Carefree, readers, and continue on to find out just how we got these rankings and what makes each of these 10 cities such a great.
Warning: Puns are an unavoidable side effect of such wonderfully named cities. Sorry ahead of time.
How We Did It
In order to find the 10 best cities in Arizona, we relied on the following seven criteria:
- Population density (higher is better)
- Cost of living
- Crime rate
- High school diploma attainment rate
- Median household income
- Median home value
- Sunny and warm temperatures
We started with a list of the 84 most populous cities, towns, and Census Designated Places in Arizona, then gave each a rank from one to 84 in the criteria listed above, based on the data. From there, we took into account which cities were closest to Arizona’s natural beauty—places like Vermilion Cliffs, Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments, the Petrified Forest National Park, oh and something called the Grand Canyon.
After we rated each city, we averaged the criteria together and gave each an overall score. The lower the number, the better. To find out how all 84 places in our study ranked, scroll down to the bottom of the post. For now, though, let’s start with the best city in Arizona, Litchfield Park.
1. Litchfield ParkLitchfield Park comes in as our No. 1 town for scoring well in almost all of our criteria, but particularly when it comes to a low crime rate, a high median income, high home value, and some of the best high school diploma attainment rates in the state.
Starting with crime rate, Litchfield Park’s is 81 percent lower than the state average, which means it is one of the safest communities in Arizona. Residents here have a median household income of $73,996, which is 63 percent higher than the state average and comes in handy when you consider the home value here is an average of $336,100—88 percent higher than the state average.
The cherry on top is the education system in Litchfield Park. Residents here have a high school diploma attainment rate of 96 percent—that’s 27 percent greater than the state’s average.
2. GilbertJust southeast of Phoenix, AZ, Gilbert scored highly for its high population density, high median income of $79,989, and an impressive high school diploma attainment rate of 94 percent.
Of course, we’re not the first to recognize Gilbert’s greatness. In 2010, Gilbert was selected as one of the Best Places to Live in the Nation by GreatSchools.org, and was chosen as the “safest municipality in Arizona and 24th safest in the nation” by Washington, DC-based CQ Press.
While Gilbert may not be next door to any of Arizona’s National Parks, it’s only a short drive away from the Lost Dutchman and Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Parks.
3. Fountain HillsFountain Hills, so named after the towering fountain in the center of the city, comes in as our No. 3 city for scoring well in several of our criteria. This city gets an A+ in education, with a high school diploma attainment rate 25 percent higher than the state’s average, and even more points for its high median household income of $75,083 and high median home value of $426,500.
Fountain Hills also gets some major bonus points when it comes to spending time in nature. In case you’re not from the area, Arizona is the land of sunshine, and with an average summer temperature of 93 degrees, Fountain Hills is the perfect amount of heat for any good Southwesterner. It is also only a short drive away from one of Arizona’s beautiful parks, Tonto National Forest—a wonderful place for Fountain Hills’ hunters, fishermen, hikers, and picnickers to spend a Saturday.
4. Oro Valley
Oro Valley, located in the western foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, is our No. 4 town. Clearly, this town wins some major points when it comes to nature, as it is just a quick drive from the Catalina State Park, the Coronado National Forest, and the Santa Catalina Mountains, but more than that, this community gets an A+ in education.
Oro Valley has a high school diploma attainment rate of 96 percent and an education system that has certainly not gone unnoticed. In 2004, Oro Valley was named one of Nick Jr. Family Magazine’s 10 Most Playful Towns in America, with criteria like favorable student-teacher ratios, safety, library programs, etc. Oro Valley was also named one of America’s 100 Best Places to Live and Launch a Business by Fortune Small Business in 2008.
Perhaps it is due in part to Oro Valley’s booming tech scene that its median household income is an impressive $69,958. No matter the reason, Oro Valley is clearly a great place to live, launch, or start a family.
5. Paradise Valley
Paradise Valley may be No. 5 on our list, but it comes in at No. 1 in terms of high school diploma attainment rate (98 percent), median household income ($133,553), and median home value ($957,600).
With a motto like, “There is a reason we call this valley ‘paradise’,” you know that this city must have some other hidden gems as well—and it does. Paradise Valley is one of the top tourist destinations in the state, boasting many luxury hotels and spas.
With an average summer temperature of a warm 91 degrees and views of Mummy Mountain, Camelback Mountain, and Piestewa Peak to the west, Paradise Valley is also a wonderful place to get outdoors. No wonder celebs like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Bret Michaels, and Stevie Nicks have called this place home.
6. SurpriseThe fact that this city made our top 10 is no Surprise to its residents. Interestingly, this city was so named by founder, Flora Mae Statler, because she “would be surprised if the town ever amounted to much.” Well, surprise, Flora Mae, because this city is the second-fastest growing in the state, and today features the huge Surprise Aquatic Center, a $5.5 million library, and over 117,500 residents.
In our criteria, Surprise ranked well with its average summer temperature of 93, a high median income of $62,141, and its high population density.
7. CarefreeThis is certainly the most Carefree town on our list. Perhaps it is because this is the safest city on our top 10 with a crime rate 84 percent lower than the state average. Or maybe it is because residents here make a median household income of $84,360— 86 percent higher than the average for Arizona. If it’s not that, it’s certainly the high school diploma attainment rate of 97 percent or the median home value of $798,900.
Carefree is known as the “Home of Cowboys and Caviar, Where the Old West Meets the New.” It is an upscale residential area with the rugged beauty of the Southwest. Case in point, Bartlett Lake is just 20 miles away.
8. ChandlerWith a population of 236,123, Chandler is certainly the largest city in our top 10, and scores major points for population density.
Chandler isn’t just a great place to meet people and find things to do, however, due to its dense population; it also has a higher median household income than the rest of the state of over $70,000, a median home value of over $278,000, and a high school graduation rate of 88 percent—that’s 16 percent higher than the state average.
Chandler is also just a three-hour drive from some of the most beautiful and famous land in Arizona, the Petrified Forest.
9. ScottsdaleWith a population of 217,385, Scottsdale clearly scores points for its high population density; but this city also has one of the highest high school diploma attainment rates in the state, 94 percent. Scottsdale also scored when it came to high median home value, at an average of $457,700.
This city, with an average summer temperature of 91 degrees, is just a short drive from some of Arizona’s top attractions. The Butterfly Wonderland, a beautiful indoor rainforest, is just outside of the city—a good place to take the family. For those wishing for something a bit more adventurous, an hour and a half away is Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, chosen as Rim Country’s Best Historic Site, Best Place to Hike, and Best Day Trip.
10. PeoriaPeoria certainly has some of the sunniest and warmest Arizona weather, with an average summer temperature of 95 degrees, and is just a quick drive from one of Arizona’s coolest attractions, the Desert Botanical Garden. If you’re willing to spend three hours in the car, Peoria is just a day trip away from the Grand Canyon—just slightly better known than the Desert Botanical Garden, and of course, absolutely worth the drive.
Peoria also has a higher than average high school diploma attainment rate and a median household income of 88 percent and $63,935, respectively. In fact, the only thing below average here seems to be the cost of living—98 compared to the average of 100. It’s no wonder that in 2008, Money Magazine named Peoria one of its top 100 places to live.
God Enriches—We Just Do the Rankings
With a state motto like “God Enriches,” you’d better hope to have some really spectacular natural beauty and places to live. As our study shows, you most certainly do. Coming in as the best of them all is Litchfield Park, but with cities carrying names like Paradise Valley and Carefree, it was no Surprise that the competition was fierce. In short, if you’re moving to Arizona, you may not need to look any further than these 10 cities.