For over two decades, the Phoenix metropolitan area has been recognized as one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the nation. Now the 12th largest metropolitan area in the nation with nearly 4.5 million residents, an encompassing two counties as well as populated cities such as Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale, and Tempe, the Phoenix metro area is an emerging tourist destination to go along with a bustling jobs market. The first thing people think about the area is its sunshine and the warm weather befitting of its nickname - The Valley of the Sun. The Phoenix metro features a warm, desert climate and only averages nine inches of rainfall per year. One of the sunniest places in the U.S., the area averages 295 days of sunshine per year, far above the national average of 205. After suffering some economic hits in the latest recession, Phoenix has come back even stronger and now owns a 5.3% unemployment rate (national average is 6.3%). The Phoenix area has growing business sector and is the home of several Fortune 500 companies such as Republic Services, PetSmart, and Insight Enterprises. The State of Arizona, The City of Phoenix, Walmart, Banner Health, Wells Fargo Bank, Intel Corp., and Fry's Food and Drug Stores are among the top employers in the region. Tourism is one of the major driving forces of its current economy and there is plenty to take in ranging from museums to nature sights. Among the top tourist destinations is the home of celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright called Taliesin West, which was constructed out of native rubblestone and redwood. A number of intriguing museums dot the area, ranging from the Mining and Mineral Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Heard Museum and the Arizona Science Museum in downtown Phoenix. Papago Park features fishing lagoons, natural trails, and cycling paths, but is more noted for two things. One is the Phoenix Zoo, the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the nation. The other is Desert Botanical Gardens, one of the top tourist spots in the area. The Phoenix metro area is huge for its outdoors activities from hiking to horse riding. The McDowell Mountains is in the middle of the city and features the popular Sunrise Trail. South Mountain Park is the largest city park in the U.S. at over 16,000 acres. Its highest point that can be reached is Dobbins Lookout on Mount Suppoa at 2,330 feet. But, a telling sign of how big tourism is to the area are the number of fine hotels. The Phoenician, the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa, and the Arizona Biltmore Waldorf Astoria Resort are just a few of the many high-end hotels in the metro area. As for families relocating, there are plenty of things to do. A number of notable shopping districts dot the metro map such as the Melrose District, Biltmore Fashion Park, Desert Ridge Marketplace, The Shops at Norterra and Westgate City Center. The metro area taste has diversified in recent years as a number of Italian restaurants have emerged to go with the traditional Western steak and Mexican food fare. There are a also some burgeoning wine regions in the area as well. Given its large metro population, it comes as no surprise that Phoenix has sports franchises in every major sports league in the U.S. Whether it is the Phoenix Cardinals of the NFL playing at the state-of-the-art University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale or Major League Baseball's Phoenix Diamondbacks at Chase Field, a home team is always playing. Other major franchises include the NBA's Phoenix Suns and the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes. Throw in the fact that the area is home to the Cactus League during baseball spring training in March, there is a sporting event going on year-round. The metro area is also home to a major four-year school in Arizona State University, located in Tempe. Overall, the Phoenix metropolitan area continues to enjoy job growth and there is always the numerous days of sunshine to go along with city life with tourism and nature trails all mixed in. Polls, Rankings and Lists#43 America's 50 Best Cities - Bloomberg - September 2012#44 America's 50 Best Cities - Bloomberg - September 2012#44 Top 100 Best Places to Live - Livability - October 2013#89 Top 100 Best Places to Live - Livability - October 2013#5 The 10 Best Cities for Cyclists - Physician's Money Digest - November 2014#2 Best Cities for Veterans - WalletHub - November 2014#10 Best Cities for Veterans - WalletHub - November 2014#13 Best Cities for Veterans - WalletHub - November 2014#17 Best Airports for Food and Drink - Thrillist - November 2014#8 Best Cities For Renters - Forbes - April 2015Local LinksVisit PhoenixCity of PhoenixArizona RepublicCounties in this Metropolitan AreaMaricopa CountyPinal CountyEventsLocal BuildersAbout the state of Arizona Arizona is a red state, going for Bush, McCain, and Romney in the last three presidential elections. Arizona is a right to work state. The current governor of Arizona is a Republican. Compared to other states, Arizona has low income taxes, high sales taxes, and low property taxes.