Every popular retirement destination in Arizona offers some combination of stunning views, fantastic weather, a touch of history, and plenty of amenities, but each destination offers a slightly different twist on those core components.
Some locations are more focused on outdoor living and authentic Mexican cuisine, then other locations will have more modern amenities like golf courses and cultural centers, as well as a different mix of local restaurant flavors.
These 24 retirement destinations have some of the best of what Arizona has to offer, each with its own twist on the classic Arizona retirement lifestyle.
With a history that includes ghost towns and gold mines, Apache Junction is a community of about 40,000 residents that sits just 45 minutes east of Phoenix.
The area got its name from being the spot along the famous Apache Trail where travelers could turn towards the nearby Superstitious Mountains. Today, those same mountains are a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts from all over Arizona.
Whether you are into horseback riding, off-roading, Jeep tours, or hiking, Camp Verde is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking to retire in Arizona. Located just 90 minutes north of Phoenix, the area is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the entire state.
With only about 11,000 residents, overcrowding is never a concern in Camp Verde. However, there are still plenty of cultural attractions and excellent local restaurants to keep life here exciting.
Known as a destination where motorcycles and horses are both welcome to cruise down the main street of town, Cave Creek is a small town with an eclectic collection of shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Located just a little over 30 miles north of Phoenix, Cave Creek is home to just over 5,000 residents. That small-town vibe is what drives just about everything in this old west community, which is most famous for its annual Wild West Days festival.
About 100 miles north of Phoenix is where you will find the 10,000 resident community of Chino Valley, which is most famous for being the original capital of the Arizona territory.
Despite the fact that its run as capital only lasted for five-month, Chino Valley remains a popular destination for retirees because it offers the prime combination of a sunny climate with plenty of water.
Cottonwood is a small town of right around 12,000 residents that sits about one hundred miles north of Phoenix. This small town packs quite a punch though, and it offers a much different experience than many of the other Arizona destinations.
Nature is at the top of everyone’s to-do list in Cottonwood, and Dead Horse Ranch State Park has some of the best bird watching in the entire state. If you aren’t interested in birds, you might instead opt for one of the stops along the Verde Valley Wine Trail.
Known as a desert oasis located right on Arizona’s southern border, Douglas was originally settled as a smelter town for the nearby copper mines. Today, it is home to nearly 16,000 residents that enjoy the area’s combination of history and natural beauty.
Because of its location right on the border, Douglas is a prime destination for retirees who enjoy Mexican culture and plan on making regular trips south of the border.
As one of Arizona’s oldest towns, Florence embraces its local history even more than many of the other options around the state. Between the 1891 Victorian Architecture of the Second County Courthouse and adobe buildings dating back as far as 1868, Florence is a prime location of anyone who is passionate about the history of architecture.
Florence is also the prison capital of Arizona with federal, state, and private prisons. Local residents can embrace this part of the town at the Pinal County Historical Museum, which features exhibits like nooses and electric chairs that were used in executions over the years.
Golden Valley is a community of about 7,500 residents that is best known for being located out in the middle of nowhere, which gives those residents prime opportunities to enjoy their natural surroundings.
Of course, it is also worth noting that while Golden Valley itself might be located in the middle of nowhere, it is also located right along the western border of Arizona…only two hours from fabulous Las Vegas.
Located less than 20 miles west of Phoenix, Goodyear is one of the most popular destinations for residents looking for a more suburban feel than what Phoenix has to offer. And with more than 80,000 current residents, it is also one of the fastest-growing destinations in Arizona.
Goodyear is best known nationally for being the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. But in addition to being a great place to catch a game, the city also offers two man-made lakes right in town, as well as close access to the Estrella Mountain Range for some truly outstanding hiking adventures.
Where Cottonwood is located about two hours north of Phoenix, Green Valley is a popular destination for anyone looking to go the same distance in the other direction. And with a location this close to the border, you can definitely find some amazing Mexican food in Green Valley.
Located in the Santa Cruz River Valley, there is always enough greenery for Green Valley to live up to its name, and there are also enough championship-level golf courses to keep even the most ambitious retirees busy throughout the year.
Litchfield Park is a quiet community of about 6,300 residents located just over 20 minutes west of Phoenix. The area was originally established as a resort town for visiting executives from the Goodyear Tire Company, but has since grown to accommodate the nearby Luke Air Force Base as well.
In addition to amenities like championship-level golf courses, residents of Litchfield Park enjoy close access to the Estrella Mountain Range, White Tanks Regional Park, and Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, and Safari Park.
As the third-largest city in the state, Mesa is home to somewhere around a half-million Arizona residents, and it is widely known as the most popular destination for foodies. Using fresh ingredients from local farms isn’t just a popular trend here, it’s a lifestyle.
Mesa sits about 20 miles east of Phoenix, right up against the Tonto National Forest. Access to the forest and nearby waterways make the area popular among outdoors enthusiasts, and there is a very strong artist community here as well.
If the goal is to get as close to the southern border as possible, it’s hard to find a better destination than Nogales. The 20,000 residents of this border town enjoy all of the finer elements of Mexican culture while still maintaining their United States Citizenship.
In addition to close access to Mexico, residents of Nogales also find themselves close to attractions like the Pimeria Alta Historical Society and Museum, the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, and plenty of history right in downtown Nogales.
Paradise Valley is known as a luxury resort town that sits in a prime location right between Camelback Mountain, Phoenix Mountain Preserve, and the McDowell Mountains.
The 15,000 residents of Paradise Valley enjoy the beautiful and relaxing views of the mountains, while still being close enough to Phoenix and Scottsdale to enjoy access to all of the big-city amenities that they might desire.
Mesa might be able to boast close access to the Tonto National Forest, but Payson is a destination that is actually located right in the heart of that massive outdoor playground.
If hiking and fly fishing in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter are the type of things you are looking for, you will feel right at home as one of the 15,000 or so residents of Payson.
And while living in Payson might have you feeling like you are out in the middle of the woods, it is also important to note that this outdoor paradise is still only 90 minutes northeast of Phoenix.
Since we have used Phoenix as the landmark to describe the location of just about every other city in Arizona, this is a destination that really needs no introduction. It is the capital of the state and is currently home to more than 1.6 million residents.
As the most prominent city in the state, Phoenix offers residents just about every amenity they could possibly imagine, and that is in addition to the fabulous weather and breathtaking views that exist pretty much everywhere in Arizona.
No matter where you eventually end up calling home in Arizona, Phoenix is the place where everything starts, and it is also the place you will find yourself coming back to over and over again.
Located right in the heart of central Arizona about two hours north of Phoenix, Prescott is a city of about 43,000 residents that served the original capital of the Arizona territory.
History runs deep in this unique Arizona destination as residents here enjoy making regular trips to all of the local museums and historical landmarks. Historic Whiskey Row is a popular area in downtown Prescott that is known for its unique bars and live music.
Known primarily as a first-class vacation destination in the desert, Scottsdale does an excellent job of combining resort-style living with access to the gorgeous Sonoran Desert.
Scottsdale is located less than 30 minutes east of Phoenix, and the area is currently home to about 255,000 residents. In addition to having close access to all of the amenities in Phoenix, residents here also enjoy their own unique blend of delicious food, creative art, stunning architecture, and enough golf courses to keep even the most dedicated retirees busy all year round.
Located about two hours north of Phoenix, just northeast of Prescott and Cottonwood, Sedona is a small town of right around 10,000 residents that is best known for its iconic red rock formations.
In addition to appreciating the area’s natural beauty, residents of Sedona also enjoy a thriving cultural community that revolves around everything from hiking to art galleries with plenty of delicious dining options ranging from fine dining to casual gastropubs.
Somerton is most famous for being the location of the iconic sand dunes that were featured in Return of the Jedi, but many of the area’s 16,491 residents will tell you that they should be even more famous for their annual Somerton Tamale Festival that is held every year in December.
In addition to sand dunes and tamales, Somerton residents also enjoy a fantastic climate where almost every day is sunny, as well as close access to ocean fishing just a short drive south into Mexico.
Built on the remains of an old ghost town, Sun City was one of the first master-planned retirement communities in Arizona. It is located about 30 minutes northwest of Phoenix and is currently home to just under 40,000 residents.
As a popular active adult community, Sun City residents have a wide range of amenities all available to them within a quick golf cart ride. The area is also known for its iconic 1970s-style architecture.
Sun City West
If you keep heading northwest from Phoenix past Sun City, the next stop you will find is Sun City West. This sister city was based on the success of the original Sun City, and it offers the same excellent selection of amenities for retirees and snowbirds looking to relocate to Arizona.
At the time of the 2010 census, there were 24,535 people living in Sun City West, and it continues to be one of the most popular destinations for active adults in Arizona today.
Best known as the home of Arizona State University, Tempe is a cultural melting pot located just ten miles east of Phoenix. The city is home to just under 200,000 residents who enjoy a plethora of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
Tempe is also known for hosting a wide range of annual fairs and festivals like the Tempe Festival of the Arts, Four Peaks Oktoberfest at Tempe Town Lake, the Arizona Dragon Boat Festival, and the Rock N Roll Arizona Marathon.
Located a little over 100 miles southeast of Phoenix, Tucson offers the perfect combination of old west aesthetics and fresh new amenities. The area is home to more than 500,000 residents that enjoy a wide range of amenities like championship golf courses and a thriving cultural scene.
The Tucson area is also known for having a more laid-back vibe than other Arizona destinations, and that is apparent in many of the fantastic local restaurants you will find here.
Whether you are looking to get up in the mountains, down by the border, or right near the big city, there are plenty of options to fulfill a wide range of retirement lifestyles across the state of Arizona. Which ones sound most appealing to you?