Permanent Vacations: Moving to Paradise Valley
The history of Boston, New York, Charleston, and other east coast cities stretches back several centuries, and the great capitals of Europe go back more than a millennium. But the wide expanses of the American West were settled much more recently. As little as a century and a half ago, they were devoid of inhabitants – at least the two-legged kind.
Such is true of Paradise Valley, the community that forms a bridge between central Phoenix and central Scottsdale. During the late 1800s, cattle grazed in the area nestled between the McDowell Mountains to the east and Camelback Mountain to the south. As the story goes, in the 1880s the Rio Verde Canal Company wanted to turn the open grazing area into irrigated farmland, so it sent three surveyors to the valley. They were so struck by the idyllic desert scene, they named it Paradise Valley.
Despite the propitious moniker, people did not immediately flock to the place with the pretty name. More than 30 years later, the “community” comprised little more than a few random shanties, Gila monsters, and no reliable source of water. It wasn’t until after WWII that settlement began in earnest. By the late 1950s, the urban sprawl of Phoenix and Scottsdale threatened to swallow up the town. The citizens rallied in an effort to preserve their non-urban lifestyle, and in 1961 the Town of Paradise Valley was incorporated.
Today, Paradise Valley is known for its affluent lifestyle, spectacular golf courses, shopping, fine dining, and luxury spas. And with no fewer than eight full-service resorts, it is one of the Grand Canyon State’s top tourist destinations. If you’re thinking of making this lovely town your next home, here’s some information that might prove helpful.
Remember, it’s the desert, and in the summer it gets hot. Like, over 100 degrees hot. The average high in July is an egg-sizzling 104, but it can easily exceed 115. Only out-of-towners brush off triple digits by saying, “but it’s a dry heat.” No, it’s just heat, and it’s hot. So expect it. You might even get a warning on your cell phone telling you that it needs to cool down before you can use it. Even when the days get shorter and other areas in the country are preparing for hay rides and turkey dinners, Paradise Valley is still basking in daytime temps above 80.
The residents know, however, that it’s not that hard to get away from the heat. Just a two-hour drive north to Flagstaff, for instance, can mean a difference of 20 degrees. It even snows there in the winter. For general day-to-day living, make sure you have access to a pool. Get a shade for your windshield. And try to run your errands in the mornings and evenings so you can be inside during the midday heat.
Get ready for sun. Lots of it. About 300 days a year of it. The area averages less than eight inches of rainfall annually, and most of that comes in a few monsoon-like summer storms. “Wow, I’ll finally get the great tan I always wanted,” you might say. Here’s the thing: if you’re bronze like a new Lincoln penny, everyone will assume you’re a tourist. Arizonans know how brutal the summer sun can be, and they’re careful to use plenty of sunscreen.
Things can get a bit crowded in the winter. More traffic, lines at restaurants – get used to it. From November to March, temperatures settle in the 60s and 70s, which means that droves of cold-climate snowbirds fly to warmer climes. Arizona has become a popular winter nesting place, especially for retirees.
What Time Is It?
Although you’d find out sooner or later, it’s worth mentioning that Arizonans neither spring forward nor fall back. That’s right, Arizona is one of only two states that don’t change the clocks for Daylight Savings Time (the other is Hawaii). Mountain Standard Time is used all year, which means that sometimes it’s an hour ahead of west coast time, and sometimes it’s the same. Sometimes it’s three hours behind New York, and sometimes it’s two. Confusing? Maybe at first, but you’ll get used to it. If you wonder what time it is, ask a person who isn’t tan, and you’ll get the right answer.
Dress for Comfort
The upside to the hot weather in Arizona is the dress code. Casual clothes are accepted just about everywhere. If you try to dress up, others might think you’re just trying to show off. Men in suits are not nearly as common as on Wall Street, and jeans are fine and dandy in most places. You’ll learn what it means to have a pair of “dressy jeans.”
The Other Residents
Every place has its four-footed, six-footed, and eight-legged creatures, and if you’ve never lived in the desert, you’ve got a long list of new friends to make. The good news is that there are no alligators, sharks, or water buffalo. But yes, there are some things that can hurt you. Scorpions are fairly common, and the sting can be painful, but it’s rarely fatal. Check your shoes before putting them on, and invest in a black light; it’s the best way to find them, as scorpions glow under them. Other creepy crawlies to look out for are black widow spiders, rattlesnakes, and fire ants. Lizards and rabbits are quite common. You might spot a fox, coyote, or bobcat, and the desert is home to a wide variety of colorful birds. It’s nothing to worry too much about; Arizonans have coexisted with the native flora and fauna since time immemorial.
By the Numbers
- Following are some pertinent statistics related to Paradise Valley:
- Population – 13,900
- Median income – $134,000
- Median age – 52.4
- Unemployment rate – 5.2%
- Average home price - $1,749,000
- Average rent for one-bedroom apartment - $3,740
- Cost of living – 256% higher than the national average (This is mainly due to the high cost of housing. Other expenses such as food, health care, and utilities are consistent with the national average.)
- Crime rate – about 50% lower than the national average
Paradise Valley is just a stone’s throw from greater Phoenix, which means that arts, culture, dining, and nightlife are never far away. Outdoor activities are always in season, and residents love to get out and enjoy their beautiful landscape and scenery. Hiking, biking, rock climbing, mountain climbing, tennis, and golf are just a few of the activities you can enjoy all the year round.
Life in Paradise Valley can be rewarding, relaxing, fulfilling. It’s a quiet, friendly community with big-city advantages. In short, it’s a great place to call home.