Skyline view of Phoenix, Arizona

City Guide / Phoenix

What Is Phoenix Known For?

By Bri Hand | Aug 3, 2021

You might expect Phoenix, Arizona, to have a typical Southwestern vibe, with ranch hands, cowpokes, and tumbleweeds. And you’d be right—if you were talking about Phoenix about a hundred years ago.

Today, Phoenix is a multicultural metropolis that’s home to 1.6 million people. As the fifth largest city in the country, Phoenix is only growing in popularity. But what is Phoenix known for? 

To keep it short:

  • Killer Southwest food
  • Unbeatable hiking trails
  • Beautiful landscapes 
  • Bustling nightlife
  • Ample local art and culture events

There’s a lot more to cover, too. From its cultural history to the biggest employers in the city, this guide will show you the ins and outs of all that the greater Phoenix area has to offer.

What’s the history of Phoenix, AZ?

Arizona was the last state within the continental U.S. to be admitted into the Union in 1912. As such, it’s the 48th state. As a city, however, Phoenix’s history began in 1881.

During this time, the city was just getting started, establishing a healthcare system to battle smallpox and a public water station to fuel fire trucks. But what really transformed the city was the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad system, which revolutionized Phoenix’s economy. Goods now arrived quickly from across the country—enough to establish a regional trade center. 

Southwest Native American tribes, who inhabited the region for thousands of years, also inhabited the land. These included the Navajo Nation, the Maricopa people, and the Tohono O’odham Nation, among many others.

If you’re curious to explore Phoenix’s indigenous roots, there are numerous pre-modern ruins throughout the greater-Phoenix region. 

By the end of the 19th century, this Arizona city had an electric streetcar, a telephone system, and a daily paper. Around that time, the population reached over 5,500. It wasn’t quite the sprawling mega-city it is today, but it was well on its way!

The recent past

In the later half of the 20th century, Phoenix began its ascent to the heights of American metropolises with:

  • The development of Sky Harbor International Airport
  • The opening of the Central Library
  • The building of the Phoenix Symphony Hall

Major city projects brought new jobs and residents to the city while it continued to rack up national awards for its enterprising community, municipal leadership, and its Parks and Recreations department.

This Arizona city has the kind of history that residents and future residents alike can be proud of.

What are the biggest industries in Phoenix?

Phoenix is a major hub for a variety of industries. Like a jack of all trades, this Arizona city has grown in prominence because of its diverse employment offerings and career paths, including:

  • Aerospace and defense: Well-known companies like Raytheon, Honeywell International, General Dynamics, and Boeing make up Phoenix’s enormous aerospace and defense industry. Altogether, there are more than 1,200 companies in the state, and most of them have headquarters or offices in metropolitan Phoenix. 
  • The tech industry: Phoenix might conjure images of cattle ranching and cacti, but in reality, it’s a city at the forefront of the tech industry. Tech makes up a whopping 10% of Arizona’s economy, and Phoenix is leading the way, with a focus on tech jobs from companies like GoDaddy and Carvana. The tech industry is projected to continue to expand within Phoenix over the next 10 years, generating billions of dollars of revenue.
  • Science and healthcare: With expansions in the medical industry like the new Mayo Clinic hospital and the city’s investment of $3.5 billion into bioscience and healthcare, Phoenix is a world-class medical hub. Even if you’re not in the health industry yourself, you can feel confident that Phoenix can meet your healthcare needs.

What is there to do in Phoenix?

The real question is: How much time do you have? 

Phoenix has a unique mixture of nature-loving explorers and young urbanites with a love for diverse cuisine and cultural entertainment. Here are some fun things to do in Phoenix, including:

  • Nightlife and food
  • Outdoor attractions
  • Local gems

Nightlife and food

After a long day at the (virtual) office, everyone deserves a little time to unwind—and there’s certainly no better way than with Phoenix’s plentiful options for dining, dancing, and drinking.

A few of our favorite ways to enjoy Phoenix nightlife include: 

  • La Santisima: If you’re looking for Southwestern food with a healthy twist, take a seat at La Santisima. With fresh, delicious Mexican dishes, a salsa bar, and walls adorned with paintings by contemporary Mexican artists, Las Santisima is a go-to choice for a night of taco bliss.
  • Dwntwn: Get your groove on at one of the city’s most exciting Latin dance clubs. With three rooms, each with its own bar, DJ, and style, Dwntwn is your best option for dancing the night away alongside the city’s movers and shakers.
  • Nogales Hot Dogs: This spot is home to the real Sonoran Dog—a local Phoenix delicacy that tops a bacon-wrapped hot dog in pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, and jalapeno salsa. It’s the choice locale for a late night out and the perfect snack when bar hopping.

Outdoor attractions

One of Phoenix’s best-known features is its desert landscape, Camelback Mountain trail, and its residents’ general love of the great outdoors. Whether you’re looking to unleash your inner mountaineer with a serene hiking trail in the desert or take it easy, this Arizona city has you covered at must-visit spots, like: 

  • Papago Park: Strap on your boots, slap on the sunscreen, and get ready to make a day out of Papago Park. It’s scenic, serene, and if you’re not in the mood for walking, you can bring your bike for an exhilarating ride through desert terrain.
  • Desert Botanical Garden: With its beautiful scenery and desert flora, the must-see Desert Botanical Garden is a unique place to learn a little bit more about the wildlife that surrounds the city. Covering 140 acres, the garden offers Chihuly art exhibits, cactus-lined trails, and guided tours to learn more about life in the Sonoran Desert.
  • Japanese Friendship Garden: This awe-inspiring garden was established in partnership with Phoenix’s sister city in Japan, Himeji. Its 3.5-acre campus encompasses Koi fish ponds, a tea garden, and a tea house that holds traditional tea ceremonies.

Local gems

If you’re looking for adventures off the beaten path, local secrets, and hidden gems that only experienced Phoenicians know about, then you’re in the right place. Check out: 

  • FilmBar: Ready to take in the latest indie films at Phoenix’s premier art theater? FilmBar offers the best in indie cinema, from the festival circuit to classic revivals, as well as concessions, coffee, and tamales to keep you powering through that three-hour documentary.
  • First Friday Monthly Art Walk: On the first Friday of every month, locals take to the streets to view the one-of-a-kind art offerings of several neighborhoods. For the past 20 years, the Art Walk has been an opportunity for thousands to gather to see gallery work and street performers. You can also pick up some grub at a food trunk or neighborhood restaurant.
  • The Hive: For the DIY enthusiast, The Hive is your go-to spot for all things vintage, homemade, and handcrafted. The community collective houses vintage clothing retail spaces, performing artists, and the Window Coffee Bar. The Hive is the independent business place for the independent spirit!

Where do people like to live in Phoenix, AZ?

Whether you’re eyeing a neighborhood with unparalleled shopping or looking for a relaxing place to get some work done, Phoenix has a neighborhood catered to your exact specifications. There are plenty of great places to live in the metropolitan area, or you can expand your search to nearby cities like Scottsdale or Tempe.

Lately, these neighborhoods in Phoenix have been catching many people’s eyes:

  • Roosevelt Row: This historic neighborhood is a haven for culturally minded residents. It’s home to the First Friday Monthly Art Walk, the Cobra Arcade Bar, and dozens of amazing local eateries. Take a walk around the neighborhood to enjoy the local murals—you’ll find yourself getting lost on purpose!
  • Phoenix Homesteads: Considered a bit of a hidden gem, you won’t have to worry about tourists and out-of-town traffic in Phoenix Homesteads. Green, lush, and perfect for the aspiring urban farmer, you’ll find yourself in countryside bliss, even with downtown Phoenix as your neighbor.
  • Coronado: Head Northeast of Downtown Phoenix and you’ll find yourself in the illustrious neighborhood of Coronado. Known for its beautiful architecture, coffee shops, and tranquil parks, Coronado is a charming little neighborhood with a highly walkable layout for those looking to wander.

Find an apartment in Phoenix, Arizona

While the Arizona capital is brimming with exciting attractions and eateries, finding an apartment in your dream neighborhood can be difficult, as you deal with frustrating long-term leases, cryptic contracts, and hidden fees. Luckily, Landing makes your search for furnished apartments in Phoenix easy, offering flexible leases without application fees or security deposits. 

Browse our available apartments in Phoenix, or contact us to learn more about what a Landing membership can do for you!

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About the author

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.