Life in the Phoenix neighborhood of Ahwatukee has been compared to living in a small town — but with all the benefits of being part of a major metropolitan city. Ahwatukee has a renowned educational system, an array of shops and restaurants, and is heaven for outdoors enthusiasts. It’s no wonder that Ahwatukee was named as being one of America’s “Best Places to Live” by Money Magazine.
But because of its relative isolation from the city, as well as the surrounding desert landscape, Ahwatukee residents don’t consider themselves as being a part of Phoenix. With its L shaped geography and access to and from by several bridges, Ahwatukee has been referred to as being the “World’s Largest Cul de Sac.” Still, there is something for everyone and the Ahwatukee area contains numerous hiking trails and four golf courses within the community. Cycling, hiking, baseball and soccer are popular outdoor activities. Indoor activities include visiting art exhibits, attending yoga classes, dance classes, or live entertainment at one of the local restaurants. Coverage of local government, schools and sports can be found in the twice-weekly Ahwatukee Foothills News, both in print and online.
The 35.8 square mile area that makes up this urban village boasts a modern day population of 88,500, according to the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce. The previously unincorporated area was annexed by Phoenix in the years between 1978 and 1987— a decade before the region experienced its huge population boom. The town is the southernmost of Phoenix’s 15 urban villages, and is buffered from the hustle bustle of city life by South Mountain Park, the closest of the 14 villages located to the north. To the east are Interstate 10 and the cities of Chandler, Guadalupe and Tempe. The Gila River Indian Community makes up the area to the south and west of the village.
Shopping and Dining
There are several shopping centers to meet the needs of Ahwatukee residents, including retailers such as Wal-Mart, Sears, and Target. Those that prefer to shop off the beaten path will find an array of smaller stores featuring everything from clothing to furniture and antiques. On Sunday mornings the place to be is the weekly Farmer’s Market, where organic produce and other edible goodies are sold. Residents of Ahwatukee can dine in a global array of restaurants, whether they are craving Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, American food — and more. There are roughly 50 restaurants that serve Ahwatukee, meaning no shortage of food choices at mealtime — with both casual and fine dining. With a comprehensive wine list and elegant atmosphere, Ruffino Italian Cuisine has been a local staple for lovers of Italian food for more than two decades. The Mountain View Grille at the Ahwatukee Country Club is open to the public for casual dining and happy hour. Sports fans and those looking for live music will feel right at home at CK’s Tavern and Grill on E. Chandler Blvd. The local Barros Pizza is a popular destination for those seeking Chicago style pie in the heart of the desert.
Parks and Recreation
There is no shortage of recreational opportunities in Ahwatukee, from the hiking trails at nearby South Mountain Park to Zumba and Pilate’s groups, fitness classes and crafts lessons, at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center. Classes include Stained Glass, Woodshop, Ceramics and Pottery. Outdoors enthusiasts will find a lit baseball field, basketball and tennis courts at Desert Foothills Park. Swimmers can get their workout at Ahwatukee Community Swim and Tennis Center on Warner Road. Playground and picnic areas abound at nearly all of the nine recreational locations throughout Ahwatukee. The Ahwatukee Cycling Group organizes group rides and even has a Facebook page for members to post news and photos. Fourth of July is the popular and patriotic Red, White and Boom Fireworks Festival at the Ahwatukee Country Club, featuring fireworks, vendors, food, and entertainment.
The desert lifestyle is one that breeds a love for outdoor activities and a healthy living. There are also an array of indoor activities that are conducive to health and well-being, including ice skating at Polar Ice, with locations in Chandler and Peoria and Gilbert, and billiards at several local venues. For those with more refined tastes, one only needs to venture into Phoenix proper to catch an act at the Celebrity Theater or to take in an evening with Ballet Arizona at their local facility where one can also sign up for ballet lessons, and become a member. Of course Chase Field is a popular destination given that it is home of the Arizona Diamondbacks Major League Baseball team. For real baseball thrills, families know to keep tabs on the Ahwatukee Little League team, which encourages full participation and has programs for children of all baseball skill levels, from Coach Pitch Division for the novice to Major Division for 10-12 year olds that are qualified for the full Little League baseball experience.
Schools, Health, Transportation
Ahwatukee students have garnered attention in recent years for scoring above the national average in standardized test scores. Elementary and Middle School students are part of the Kyrene School District, which provides a challenging and rewarding learning environment, along with a technology-enhanced curriculum. Most of the schools in the district also offer a “Kids Club” onsite before and after school programs. High School age students attend either Mountain Pointe or Desert Vista High School, both within the Tempe Union High School District. Ahwatukee has an array of medical providers, and a Family Clinic to help those of all age and income groups. There are several hospitals that serve the area. Dental services are plenty, ranging from basic family dentistry to oral surgeons and teeth whitening.
To get around, the City of Phoenix and Valley Metro provide the ALEX Circulator, which provides (mostly) free rides from Ahwatukee around the neighborhoods on the hour throughout the day. The ALEX circulator has room for bicycles on front, and provides connections to other parts of the Phoenix public transportation system. Transportation is a big deal in more ways than one in the Ahwatukee community, as witnessed by Transportation Day, an annual kid-friendly event held in February where Fire Trucks, Police cruisers, Air-Evac Helicopters, buses and more are showcased to stimulate the imagination of as many as 4,000 children that have attended the event in past years.
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