PLACES TO RETIRE – ARIZONA RETIREMENTRetirees will find that Arizona contains all the varied puzzle pieces of the contemporary Southwest, from the spires of Monument Valley to the upscale nightlife of its cities, to the cool college environments of Tucson and Flagstaff, to Victorian mining towns like Bisbee and Jerome. Arizona’s showy jewel will always be the Grand Canyon, whose beautiful stone landscapes have brought visitors to this southwestern scenic mecca for over a hundred years.

Arizona was inhabited by Native American tribes for centuries, and settlers and missionaries followed in the wake of the Spanish explorer Coronado in 1540.  The US gained control of Arizona in 1886 with the surrender of Apache warrior Geronimo. Arizona’s rapid growth as a popular retirement destination has taken its toll on the state’s limited natural resources, especially scarce is water.

Arizona offers many options for retirement communities with every level of amenity. Retirees have long been drawn to the dry climate which offers relief from allergies, comfortable golf year-round, and almost no rainy or cloudy days.

Ghost towns are a fascinating feature of the Arizona landscape, many the product of the boom in prospecting in the late 1800s. Another interesting area to explore are the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi people in Arizona’s Four Corners district. These remarkable homes were abandoned for unknown reasons around 1300 years ago. Retirees who have served in the armed forces will also enjoy touring the Airplane Graveyard at Davis Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson.  Here, B-52 bombers are sent to be destroyed and other armaments are sold to foreign governments.

Retire USA currently features twelve city profiles for Arizona retirement: Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, Flagstaff, Sedona, Jerome, Prescott, Tucson, Lake Havasu City, Yuma, and Bullhead City. We will present these cities over the next 3 blogs.

Part 1 of 4: Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tempe Retirement.


Phoenix is easily the largest metropolis in the Southwest, covering almost 2000 square miles. Its population was 1,445,632 people according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The seemingly limitless sprawl of Phoenix incorporates dozens of bedroom communities, including Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe which have developed their own identities. The good news about an area of this size is that it has a lot to offer the active retiree, such as major museums, top-notch professional sports, a cornucopia of excellent restaurants, nonstop nightlife, superlative shopping and world-class golf. Phoenix’s commitment to sustainability has given rise to more than 80 city programs devoted to “Living Like it Matters!” which have helped the area thrive in this unique and beautiful desert environment.

Climate: Phoenix is blisteringly hot in summer with temperatures above 110°F, and revels in more than 300 days of sunshine with balmy days in winter.

Cost of living: Always attractive to retirees, the cost of living is reasonable at 5% less than the national average. However, housing is a bit more expensive, at 18% greater than the national average. The median retirement home will cost around $176,600.

Colleges and Universities: Retirees will find exciting opportunities for continuing education at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute which is a part of Arizona State University. This OLLI program is one of 117 of these university-affiliated Osher Institutes nationwide, from Maine to Hawaii. These programs work to provide a diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating short courses, lectures, and workshops for retirement age adults seeking to expand and share their knowledge while meeting new friends and forming new social networks.

Transportation: Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix offers connections to all major cities in the world. Bus transportation is provided by Valley Metro which has extensive routes all over the valley, some of them free. A major transportation hub, Phoenix is often used as a jumping-off point for further desert adventures.

Travel and tourism: Retirees who don’t mind the summer heat will love Phoenix’s weather where they can enjoy most activities such as golfing all year-round. The city has an extensive desert preserve system which offers easy access to the Sonoran Desert and its surprising biological diversity. Retirees can learn about the Valley’s native heritage and history at Pueblo Grande Museum, and Heritage and Science Park.


Mesa, The Valley of the Sun, is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities with a population of 439,041 as of the 2010 census. It is located just east of Phoenix, and boasts an assortment of retirement lifestyle and leisure pursuits in high demand by those seeking a warmer climate. Vast outdoor recreation opportunities await in the Sonoran Desert. Retirees who enjoy history will appreciate learning about Mesa’s mysterious Indians, Spanish expeditions, early American explorers, and Mormon migrations. And have we mentioned golf?

Climate: Over 300 days of sunshine make golf a required pastime for retirees in Mesa. Few gloomy days here, where there are a mere 8 inches of rain per year.

Cost of living: Similar to Phoenix, the cost of living in Mesa is 5% less than the national average. Housing costs in Mesa average about $176,200.

Colleges and Universities: There is a program called New Frontiers for Lifelong Learning at Mesa Community College, which is a peer-led, self-directed volunteer organization of more than 400+ active adult members.

Transportation: The closest airport is Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, and Valley Metro’s Red Line operates buses from the airport to Mesa.

Travel and tourism: Mesa itself has all the amenities of Phoenix, plus top-notch professional sports such as the ever-popular Chicago Cubs Spring Training baseball. And did we mention world-class golf?


Scottsdale with a population of 217,385 is located in the rugged Sonoran Desert with a variety of breathtaking scenery from winding rivers and towering peaks to lush valleys and arroyos. Frank Lloyd Wright was inspired by this scenery to set up his “winter camp” at the foot of the McDowell Mountains, establishing what is now known as Taliesin West.

Climate: Winters in Scottsdale are mild and summers are very hot, typical of a desert setting. Scottsdale gets 8 inches of rain per year compared to the U.S. average of 37.

Cost of living: Despite its reputation as a resort area, the cost of living in Scottsdale is 5.9% less than the Arizona average, and 4% less than the national average. Housing on the other hand is quite expensive, approximately 127% greater than the national average at over $342,000.

Colleges and Universities: The Maricopa Community College system offers a variety of non-credit classes for retirees seeking lifelong learning options.

Transportation: The closest air transportation is provided primarily by Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Scottsdale runs a network of trolley-replica buses which are free to riders for local transportation, and it has convenient freeway access to nearly every city in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area and beyond.

Travel and tourism: Scottsdale’s sunny skies and lush desert setting create an ideal backdrop for outdoor adventures, championship golf, relaxing spa treatments and upscale shopping. Scottsdale boasts restaurants with acclaimed chefs, art walks, and dozens of wine bars, lounges and performing arts venues to enjoy. The Sonoran Preserve offers more than 60 miles of shared-use trails for hikers and mountain bikers, or active retirees can explore the more remote corners of the desert by Hummer or horseback, take a hot air balloon flight for a bird’s-eye view, or cool off with a rafting trip.


Tempe, with a population of 165,000, is bordered by Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler. It enjoys all the amenities of the surrounding cities, and of course offers a legendary 330 days of sunshine each year, with an average temperature of 85.3 degrees. Tempe is named after the Vale of Tempe in Greece. An important part of the culture of this city is driven by the presence of Arizona State University.

Climate: Arizona’s hot summers are renowned, but Tempe’s weather is very pleasant nine months of the year. With an annual precipitation of 7.63 inches, there will be plenty of sunshine for golfing and other outdoor forms of exercise in retirement.

Cost of living: The cost of living in Tempe is 6.9% less than the Arizona average and 5% less than the national average. Less expensive than some of its neighbors, the median home cost in Tempe is $183,000 – not too bad considering it is such a popular retirement destination.

Colleges and Universities: New Frontiers for Learning in Retirement is a peer-led, membership community of retirement age individuals committed to Lifelong Learning and the pursuit of knowledge. It is open to enthusiastic learners without regard to previous education.

Transportation: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is just 10 minutes from Tempe. Tempe’s residents and commuters are enthusiastic users of public transit, and service is offered on a more frequent basis than elsewhere in the state including several free neighborhood shuttles around ASU. Bus routes and a light rail system are operated by Valley Metro.

Travel and tourism: There are endless opportunities for retirement activities in Tempe such as attending an ASU football game, going on a shopping spree at Arizona Mills, Tempe Marketplace or the largest IKEA on the West Coast, kayaking on Tempe Town Lake, enjoying a Broadway performance at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, hiking in the picturesque Papago Park or simply lounging by the pool.

This entry was posted in TOPIC - Places to Retire and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply