Surprise, AZAn aptly named city if ever there was one, Surprise, Arizona boasts a surprising number of interesting facts and cool things to do. It occupies over 300 square miles of land about 30 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix, part of the Valley's famed urban sprawl. It is the 2nd fastest growing and 9th largest suburb of one of the country's most rapidly growing cities in a state that was 2nd in growth in the 1990s.
Let's look at some economics. Compared to state and national averages, median income per household is higher; income per capita is lower. You can expect to shell out more money in Surprise for rent, income tax, sales tax, and gas; the most notable overages are house pricing (double digits) and utility costs (another three times the housing overage, thanks to summer temperatures). Goods and services, groceries, monthly mortgage, and health care come to the rescue with costs substantially below state and national averages. Bottom line: the combined cost of living in Surprise is higher than the state and national averages, though only marginally.
Bordered by the White Tank Mountains to the west, Lake Pleasant Regional Park to the north, and situated in the Sonoran Desert, it's a hot-spot for outdoor enthusiasts looking for the best hiking, trail riding, boating, fishing, camping, and wildlife watching the state has to offer. Phoenix Metro is a Major League Baseball spring training mecca, and Surprise is arguably its Sanctuary. The city is home to Surprise Stadium, a hugely popular valley landmark. Both the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers left facilities in Florida to call the $48 million stadium their spring home. The city's aquatic center, recreation center, Passive Park, and beloved library are close by, and together comprise Surprise's downtown development.
Wait, there's more. There's a professional-grade tennis complex, authentic dude ranch, world-class golf courses, the Truman Ranch II citrus-picking farm, dog-friendly eateries, and prime shopping with one of the biggest and newest regional malls in Arizona. Eight months out of the year it puts on an outdoor music festival, and every December throws itself a birthday party featuring a carnival, car show, hot air balloons, camels, and mountains of food. The only downside is public transportation. The options are regrettably negligible, but to date that hasn't mattered enough to thwart growth.
Surprise had a humble beginning and was named after low expectations. Founder Flora Mae Statler once proclaimed she would "be surprised" if the one square mile amounted to anything. But it has, and will continue to do so. The city maintains its humility while churning out livability perks left and right. That it's quickly reached beloved status should come as a surprise to no one.