Northern or Southern Arizona: Where Would You Retire?

Low clouds hanging around the mountains after a heavy rainfall near Sedona in northern Arizona.
Which part of Arizona is better for your retirement?

Arizona’s sunny climate has long been a draw for retirees. But the state offers much more than just nice weather. Both Northern Arizona and Southern Arizona are similar in many ways, offering breathtaking scenery and a nearly endless array of outdoor recreational opportunities. They have their differences as well, especially in and around urban areas. Which region you choose depends largely on your preferences.


Winter colors surrounding the almost dry Sycamore Creek in the McDowell Mountain Range in Northern Arizona.

The entire state may have a reputation for being hot and dry, but it’s actually made up of microclimates. The higher plateaus in the north experience a generally cooler climate, especially around Flagstaff. In the south, summer temperatures can soar into the triple digits. In the north, you’ll find more greenery, especially Ponderosa pine and alpine tundra in Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. South of the Phoenix metro area, around Tucson, craggy mountains and arid desert landscapes lend a wild frontier ambiance to the region.

Cost of Living

Aerial view of Prescott, Arizona in the fall.

The cost of living in Arizona depends on where you live. Statewide it’s about on par with the national average, but it may be higher in the more populous areas. The income tax ranges from 2.5 to 4.5 percent. The sales tax is around 5.6 percent.

Northern Arizona Living

Goldwater lake with fall colored trees and a bench at lakeside in Prescott, Arizona.

Flagstaff is the largest city in Northern Arizona, situated amid the highest elevations in the state and surrounded by mountains, pine forests, and downhill ski resorts. It’s a top trail town in the nation but also offers all of the amenities you’d expect to find in a big city: shopping, world-class dining, and a popular art and music scene.

Southwest of Flagstaff, Prescott sees some seasonal changes throughout the year and is a desirable destination for retirees with its California-like weather (temperatures average in the 70s), picturesque scenery, water recreation on Lake Watson, and championship golf courses. In fact, six active adult communities are located in and around Prescott, including Prescott Lakes and Victorian Estates.

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