The desert is calling. People who are tired of winter weather and eager to bask in the desert sunshine flock to Arizona every year, making it one of the nation’s fastest growing areas.
One very popular destination is Mesa, Arizona. Located just a stone’s throw from Phoenix and its attractions, Mesa is a beautiful and welcoming place to live. Here’s what you need to know before you move there.
Mesa is a small city in Maricopa County, about 20 miles to the east of Phoenix, the capital of Arizona. In other words, it’s close enough to be convenient but far enough away that it won’t feel like you’re living in a big city.
The history of Mesa is interesting. The area was originally inhabited by the Hohokam people, who settled in the area more than 2,000 years ago. Undaunted by the thought of living in the arid desert, they constructed an elaborate system of canals to irrigate the area. Some of the canals were 90 feet wide and 10 feet deep, and many are still in use today.
Non-native settlers did not arrive in Mesa until the late 19th century. United States Army troops arrived and fought the Apache Indians, driving them away. At around the same time, a group of Mormon settlers arrived from Utah. They repaired some of the Hohokam canals and dug new ones to ensure they would have the water they needed to survive.
The city of Mesa was incorporated on one square mile of land in 1883. At that time, its population was only 300. As of the 2010 census, the population was 439,041.
Living in the Desert
It’s always a good idea to take the climate into consideration when you’re moving to a new area. As you might expect for a city in the American Southwest, the weather in Mesa is hot and dry for most of the year.
The Sonoran Desert is one of the driest places in the continental United States. The average rainfall in Mesa is only 9.29 inches per year, which is less than one-third the national average.
The summer heat here can be extreme. In June, July, and August, the average daily high temperature is over 100 degrees. Keep in mind that these are averages. The daytime temperature may sometimes soar to 115 or 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
The good news is that winters in Mesa are mild and pleasant. You can expect daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s, dropping down to the 40s at night. This is a desert, so there is usually a significant drop in temperature when the sun goes down.
Education in Mesa
If you have children or plan to have them, you’ll want to know about the public and private education available in Mesa.
Most of the city’s children are served by the Mesa Public School System. However, there are some areas of Southern Mesa where children attend schools in the Gilbert Public School System; and some children in the western part of the city attend the Tempe Elementary School District and the Tempe Union High School District.
The Mesa Public School System is a good one. Within the city limits, there are 55 elementary schools, nine junior high schools, and six high schools, as well as numerous alternative schools. They include dual-language schools, international baccalaureate schools, and Montessori schools.
There are also opportunities for higher education close to home. Mesa Community College is the largest of the Maricopa Community Colleges. The Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University is in southeast Mesa. Mesa is home to campuses of Benedictine University and Upper Iowa University. It is also within easy driving distance of Phoenix’s colleges and universities.
Mesa’s Cost of Living
How does the cost of living in Mesa compare to other areas of the United States? That’s an important thing to ask because it can have a big impact on your life after you relocate.
Mesa’s prices are in line with national averages overall. Taken together, you should expect the expenses of housing, transportation, utilities, and healthcare to be about 2% higher than the national average. In other words, if you’re moving to Mesa from a high-cost area like Los Angeles or New York City, you might be pleasantly surprised at how affordable the area is. However, people moving from low-cost areas in the Southeast and Midwest may experience some sticker shock.
As you might expect, the biggest driver of prices is housing. The cost of a home or apartment in Mesa is about 11% higher than the national average, but groceries, utilities, and healthcare are all low or in line with the national average.
You should make sure to factor transportation costs into your decision. While the cost of gas is average, the commutes here are long and hot. Public transportation here is patchy at best, so you should plan on driving to get where you need to go.
For information about jobs in Mesa, check out an earlier blog post we made about manufacturing and other occupations in Mesa.
Planning Your Move to Mesa
Before you move, you’ll want to make sure that you have thought about the logistics of the move itself. If you plan on hiring movers, you’ll want to make sure to book them well in advance of your move. That way, you can be sure that you have help on your moving day.
If you’re moving during the summer months, it’s best to do the bulk of your moving in the early hours of the day before the heat reaches its peak. People who are moving themselves should perhaps think about arriving the night before and staying in a motel. You can get an early start the next day.
Of course, you’ll want to call to get your electricity and gas turned on before you move, and you’ll also want to set up appointments for cable television and internet service. Here are some useful links:
Cox (cable and internet)
Comcast (cable and internet)
Spectrum (cable and internet)
You’ll want to check with your landlord or homeowner’s association to find out which providers serve your area.
You’ll also need to register your vehicle as quickly as possible. To do that, you may need an emissions test and you’ll also need to secure liability insurance. At the same time, you should get an Arizona driver’s license and register to vote.
Mesa Culture and Entertainment
Mesa has a lot to offer, culturally speaking. The city is home to the Arizona Museum of Natural History; the I.D.E.A. Museum, which features art, science, and technology exhibits for children; and the Mesa Arts Center.
The city is home to dozens of parks with recreational areas that includes playgrounds, spots for picnics, and basketball courts, baseball fields, and other sporting facilities. Golf is very popular in Arizona and Mesa has several courses.
Mesa hosts art festivals and public events all year round. One of the advantages of living in the desert is that outdoor activities are common. You can expect to find plenty to do in Mesa.
In addition, downtown Mesa is only 20 miles from Phoenix. While the drive may be a long one in rush hour traffic, at other times it’s an easy commute. In the city, you can visit world class museums, hear live music, attend theater and opera performances, or attend sporting events. The greater Phoenix area is home to some of the country’s finest resorts and golf courses, as well.
Despite the high summer heat, Mesa is a growing city. The invention of air conditioning, and the early irrigation work done by the Hohokam people, have turned what could have been an uninhabitable desert into a popular place to live.
Your move to Mesa should be a smooth one if you use the links and resources provided here. The desert is waiting to welcome you. Enjoy your new home!