We spoke with a person who has seen it all in Arizona. She has lived in 14 cities across the Grand Canyon State through a combination of family moves, going to college, van life, and job opportunities and she was kind enough to give us some insights into what Arizona is truly like.
We asked a wide range of questions, spanning from the usuals like which was her favorite city and which place is best for young professionals to more intricate questions about which place was worth the money and which cities she thinks will become a hotspot in the future.
We also asked her about her thoughts on the future of the state and what she thinks comprises the ideal Arizonian city.
Let’s see what she had to say about the great state of Arizona and see if her thoughts can help you sharpen some of your own.
Kristina is a 36 year old freelancer that was born and raised in Arizona. Currently, she lives in Drexel Heights, which is a suburb of Tucson in the southwestern part of the state.
Arizona has been a significant part of her life and she does not see herself leaving anytime soon, although in which city is always subject to change.
Here is the full list of cities that she has lived in across Arizona:
- Red Mesa
- Show Low
That’s a good list of pretty much every major city in Arizona. We even featured several of them on our list of the best places to live in Arizona.
What was your childhood like and what cities did you live in?
When I was born, my family was living in Mesa. My parents were in the real estate business and started a business of buying homes, renovating them, and reselling them. But, they also did that with our own family homes, so that meant that we had to move a lot.
So, the first 2 years were in Mesa, then we moved close by to Gilbert, which only lasted about 1 year. The next stop was on the other side of Phoenix in Glendale, where I spent my elementary school years. We then made a stop in Surprise for a few years and settled in Chandler for my high school years.
Looking back, it sounds pretty hectic, but I thought it was kind of normal. Although we moved to new cities, they weren’t so far away from each other and they were always in the Phoenix area, so I was able to keep in touch with my friends rather easily.
On the other hand, it helped me expand my horizons. I was able to make more friends than if I just stayed in one place and also it helped me learn more about what I enjoyed doing.
What happened next?
After I graduated high school, I wanted to go to college in a different place than the Phoenix area, but I still wanted to stay in Arizona. So, I chose to attend Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. It was the first time that I really experienced different seasons and cooler weather and I loved it. It also made me realize how diverse Arizona really was.
After college, I wasn’t able to get a full-time job, so I decided that I was going to do some freelance graphic design work. I was able to pick and choose where to live and I wanted to explore the northern part of Arizona a bit more, so I stuck around the Flagstaff area. I lived in Williams for a while, which is a super cool town.
Then, I got an offer for a job in Sedona nearby, so I moved there and stayed for about 2 years. I really liked it there, although the job made me hate myself, so I decided to quit and started living on the road for a while.
I had this itch for more exploration and continued to fall in love with everything Arizona had to offer. So, my boyfriend and I lived primarily in a van for about one year, but we made stops around the state in towns like Red Mesa, Tonalea, and Show Low. That was a great experience living in these small places. The local communities were so welcoming and the living was just pure and easy. It really made me appreciate the simple life and to be happy with what I have.
Eventually, money was running low and I received a great job offer in Phoenix, so we moved there together and lived downtown for the first time. It took some time to adjust, but in the end, I truly enjoyed my experience in Phoenix. We tried Scottsdale for a bit, but actually moved back to Downtown Phoenix after 1 year.
Meanwhile, work was going well, but I had another new urge to take another risk, so I went back to freelancing, but this time with a larger pool of clients that could sustain me with a full salary.
Meanwhile, my boyfriend got a job offer in Tucson, so we both decided to move there. That was about 3 years ago and here we are today. It’s been quite a ride, but overall I really think it was worth going through all of those experiences.
So tell us, which city in Arizona was your favorite among them all?
I knew you would make me choose! It’s too hard to just pick one! Well, I think they all mean something a bit different to me based on the time of my life when I lived in them as well. It’s difficult to compare them, but I think ultimately Tucson is my favorite because it coincides with the time that I have become the happiest with myself. It has all really come together here and I feel the city has been growing and maturing with me as well.
But, Flagstaff and Williams still hold a special place in my heart. Those places were where I was on my own for the first time and learning how to navigate the real world.
Of course, I cannot forget Phoenix and that whole area as well. It ranks high since that is where all my friends and family are.
How about your least favorite place?
That’s a tough one, too. Each city is really what you make of it. But, if I had to choose, I would say Scottsdale. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, but it just didn’t suit our lifestyle. It was too manicured and almost too perfect. But, it was still great for shopping and great for its spas.
Now, we will do some rapid-fire questions based on the cities that you have lived in.
That’s an easy one. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.
Favorite restaurant overall?
Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff. I have so many memories there.
Best value for your money?
Flagstaff. I was able to survive there as a broke college student.
Worst value for your money?
Scottsdale. It was so expensive living there compared to most everywhere else.
Best park area?
Everywhere around Sedona.
Most laid back city?
City on the rise?
Favorite city for shopping?
Scottsdale as long as you have the money.
Best city for sports?
You can’t beat Phoenix. Go Suns!
Best city for art?
Best city for digital nomads?
I would go with Phoenix on that one just based on the number of opportunities it can offer.
Best Phoenix suburb?
I think Mesa is the best.
Favorite vacation spot?
Lake Havasu for sure but the Grand Canyon never gets old.
Most beautiful view?
Looking at Cathedral Rock in Red Rock State Park near Sedona.
What would be your ideal Arizona city?
For me, it would be to mix in the entertainment and nightlife options of Phoenix with the laid-back vibes of Tucson. Then, I would want four seasons like they have in the north and also have easy access to nature, which includes mountains, lakes, and forests.
What city would you choose next?
If I had to choose now, I would probably say a small little town like Bisbee or Jerome just for the experience.
Where do you see yourself living in 2050?
Oh gosh, that is a long way out. If I had to say right now, I think I will still be in Arizona and would be living back in the Phoenix area to be close to family, but with frequent travel around the rest of the state to revisit the places that I love.
Where do you see Arizona in 2050?
I think Arizona will continue to evolve and offer something for everyone. Phoenix is probably going to keep growing for a while and I think it will become a major city in the US by 2050 similar to New York or Chicago.
Other places like Tucson and Flagstaff will also continue to expand, I think. Arizona has so much to offer and a good cost of living compared to other places like California, so I think many people will start to migrate over here in the next coming decades.
Any advice for potential Arizonians?
Yes. Take time to try out different cities. I didn’t realize how diverse the state was until I actually lived in different places for a while. Arizona is so unique and basically has a city to fit everybody, so just be patient and look for the one that clicks with you.