Your company is transferring you to Arizona. You’ve been to Phoenix before. Twice. Once was in the winter and you got to play golf while it snowed back home. It was glorious. This won’t be so bad, you think. But then they fly you in to find somewhere to live. You’re shuttled to a Chili’s for dinner and then to a nondescript hotel. You wake up in the morning, and realize you have no idea where exactly you are. Are you actually IN Phoenix? Or are you in one of the seemingly endless suburbs? How do you even tell?
No worries, my dear, I’m here for you. Metro-Phoenix is a massive monster of suburbs. You know how The Blob just ate stuff and it all turned into more blob and he got bigger and bigger? That’s Phoenix right there, in a nutshell. It’s large and spread out and always growing. Suburbs glomming on to suburbs.
There are some distinct differences to the areas, however, so I’ve created a handy flow-chart for you to use to clear up the confusion and figure out exactly where you are at any given time. Click to enlarge it and start in the blue square with the rounded edges (specific descriptions of each area are provided below):
South Phoenix - Welcome to South Phoenix! It’s close to hiking at South Mountain, freeway access, the airport and a bunch of old car lots with barbed wire and stacks of tires. But if you stay away from Broadway, you won’t even notice those.
Fountain Hills – If you’re super rich and reclusive, this is a great place to buy a mansion on the side of a hill, hole up and enjoy the views.
Ahwatukee - No one’s really sure exactly what Ahwatukee is. It’s not a city (even though half the population is pretty sure it is) and it’s not a subdivision… it might be the Bermuda Triangle of Metro-Phoenix.
Apache Junction – The Old West is still alive and kicking out here. Most of the cowboys just live in mobile home communities and go to swap meets now.
Northeast Mesa – This area likes to think of itself as the poor man’s Fountain Hills, but it’s really the rich man’s Apache Junction.
Scottsdale - You’ve heard of Scottsdale, haven’t you? It’s everything you’ve heard.
North Scottsdale – North Scotts is pretty sure it’s better than Scottsdale. And everyone else.
Tempe - ASU is in Tempe. ASU with the kids with their loud music and short shorts and GET OFF MY LAWN.
Phoenix – There really is an actual place called Phoenix where people live. Unless you’re within spitting distance of the Biltmore Hotel, prepare to be unimpressed.
Mesa – All of the hipsters moved out of Scottsdale and Tempe when they got too mainstream and now they live in Mesa, wearing wolf t-shirts they bought on ebay and going to shows at Hollywood Alley.
Cen Pho - That’s how the cool kids refer to ‘Central Phoenix’. Although I’m pretty sure that fact that I’ve figured out what it means indicates it’s no longer cool. I’ve heard they have food trucks there. I feel like if the food trucks were really that awesome they’d drive to my house to bring me lunch.
Paradise Valley - They breed unicorns in Paradise Valley. But it has a magic door you can’t see. If you happen to accidentally stumble in, you have to make a choice to abandon your friends and family and live there forever in peaceful beauty or leave and never return again.
Surprise - They know they’re Westside and they’re proud of it. No really, they’re not even embarrassed that most people East of the avenues have never set foot in their city. They have the airforce base! It’s a benefit, not just a disclosure requirement!
Glendale - You’re probably there for a game. Or a concert, right?
Chandler - For awhile people in Chandler would go around saying, “Chandler is the new Scottsdale,” but it didn’t catch on, so now they’re going with, “People like it here.” That seems to be sticking.
Buckeye - I… have never been to Buckeye.
Maricopa - I heard they’re getting a Target soon.
Gilbert - They’ve got a dairy farm or three. And elementary schools. Lots of elementary schools.
San Tan Valley - It used to be called Queen Creek, but then everyone started saying, “OK, but do you mean Queen Creek… or QUEEN CREEK?” and it felt less offensive just to give it another name so people would stop referring to it with an exhausted tone of voice.
And that is absolutely everything you ever needed to know about Metro-Phoenix. You’re welcome.