The Complete Guide for Peoria, AZ – From Things to Do, Places to Visit, Entertainment, and History
Although Peoria, Arizona is rich in history and culture it still thrives on fun and entertainment. It's more than just a suburb of the bustling city of Phoenix, It is exciting, beautiful and diverse and it certainly deserves to be more than just a footnote in the Valley of the Sun's list of must-sees.
Peoria is like that best friend who is always there for you, ready to listen, help you move or pick up soup when you're sick. Its cozy, beautiful and full of life.
The first person to notice all Peoria had to offer was William H. Murphy, a former Union Officer, back in 1885. During a canal construction job, he wandered around the beautiful landscape and thought it would make a great home. So he rounded up some families from his hometown in Illinois and settled here. Although he saw the potential of the vast landscape, he wasn’t exactly a creative type, naming Peoria, AZ after his hometown, Peoria, Illinois.
Like most of the Phoenix area, Peoria's settlers were farmers. Farmers with hard lives and real desert problems; snakes, scorpions, and rats infested acres of desert soil and even slithered into farmer's homes. Not to mention the difficulty of trying to manipulate the desert water supply.
Luckily, Murphy used his influence to get the railroad to run through and stop in Peoria right on Grand Avenue. We all learned from John Wayne how railroads and a Post Office can change a place, and so Peoria started to grow, and eventually became what we know today. Not so many farmers as we used to see but just as many hard-working, dedicated families.
All those families need schools, that's why the Peoria Unified School District is the largest employer in the city. They have 20 elementary schools and 4 high schools. They are pretty good too, with all but 7 schools ranking a 6 or above in test scores and college/career readiness indicators.
Once those kids have made it to their careers, they’ll be able to buy a home of their own. Because housing prices in Peoria are some of the best in the Valley. The median home value is $208,000 and although you could rent a house for an average of $1,100. More than 70% of resident own their homes.
By land size, Peoria is the fourth largest city in the state, but its population hovers around 160,000 people. That means there is a lot of space to explore and tons of things to do.
The City of Peoria has set aside hundreds of acres for preservation and recreation. The New River Trail is part of that rec space, and it is an excellent place for families to hike. It offers an easy 18-mile trail, that is paved throughout, making it accessible to strollers, and wheelchairs. Its a vehicle free zone but you can expect to see some horses along the way. It parallels one of Peoria shopping and dining districts while also weaving from the bottom of the river to the tops of the banks.
Besides New River, there are almost 30 miles worth of trails nestled in the Peoria wilderness, The Wild Burro trail is a short easy hike for families, or there's the East Wing Mountain trail if you are looking for something a bit more difficult.
If hiking isn’t your thing then maybe watersports are. Lake Pleasant is a storage reservoir for the region, but it also provides ample opportunity for water fun. If you don’t have your own boat, you can rent pontoons or speedboats there. You can also get your hands on kayaks, wakeboards, kneeboards, water skis or tubes. I hear you can even go scuba diving and flyboarding. You can fish right on the lake and grill up you catch over your campfire on the lake shore. If you don’t want to catch your own dinner, you can grab a bite at the Scorpion Bay club.
Or if you prefer, you can catch a game at the Peoria Sports Complex, home to the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners Spring Training programs. They don’t just host spring training games, they act as a player development center year round for both teams. That means minor league and rookie games. I can tell you as a baseball fan, minor league games have a lot more flair and fun than MLB games, don’t tell the Dbacks I said that.
When you're ready to ditch the beer and peanuts for a little more culture. You can catch a show at the Arizona Broadway Theatre or at the Peoria Center for Performing Arts. Both of which host dozens of amazing shows each year. In 2019, at the Broadway Theater, you’ll see classics such as Guys and Dolls, Mama Mia and even Sister Act. Or you can hit the Arts Center for events like Disney on Ice, a concert by Blake Shelton or a stand up like Rodney Carrington or Jo Koy. Jo Koy is a definite must see.
Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast or a sports fan, or just a plain old hermit, Peoria has a little something to offer everyone. History, museums, good education, sports, hiking, and camping; our little Peoria has it all.
One of the coolest things the Valley has to offer is this hidden gem, the Challenger Space Center. The activities are simulation based and take place in a fully immersive space station or even in mission control. Now you can live your childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.