Arizona's 7 million residents cluster in the two main metro areas of Phoenix and Tucson, with more than 5.5 million of them making their home in those two cities and the surrounding communities. Updates to the U.S. Census Bureau data take place every 10 years, with the next one planned for 2020. The following data represents July 1, 2016, estimates of the top 10 locations by population in the state.
Phoenix Population: 1,615,017
Arizona's largest city and capital ranks fifth in the U.S. for total population, overtaking Philadelphia with 11.3 percent growth between 2010 and 2016. More the 22 million people visit the city and its surroundings each year, drawn to more than 200 golf courses; 400 hotels, luxury resorts, and spas; and an average of 299 days of sunshine each year.
Tucson Population: 530,706
Arizona's "second city" ranks 33rd for population among U.S. cities. In contrast to the sprawling Phoenix area, this oasis in the south-central portion of the desert state remains comparatively contained. Tucson makes a convenient base for exploring the surrounding Sonoran Desert, the most verdant desert in North America.
Mesa Population: 484,587
Part of the "Valley of the Sun," Mesa ranks 36th in the U.S. but 3rd for the state in population. The city hosts both the Chicago Cubs' and Oakland A's spring training programs, and the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University. For a large urban area, Mesa provides a surprising number of recreation opportunities, including 59 parks and nine public swimming pools.
Chandler Population: 247,477
On the southeast corner of the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Mesa metropolis, Chandler ranks fourth in the state and 84th in the country for population. The downtown district hosts more than 60 events each year, from foodie gatherings to a classic car show, and claims the second largest mall in the metropolitan Phoenix area, the Chandler Fashion Center.
Scottsdale Population: 246,645
This neighbor to Phoenix fluctuates with nearby Glendale for the title of 5th largest city in Arizona, coming in at 85th in the country. Scottsdale experience 13.3 percent growth from 2010 to 2016, and U.S. Census and the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity forecast a jump to more than 300,000 residents by 2050. Buildings in the art enclave of Old Town date from the 1920s, and spa resorts and golf courses color the desert landscape surrounding the city.
Glendale Population: 245,895
On the northwestern edge of Phoenix, Glendale comes in as the 86th largest city in the U.S., according to the latest census estimates, putting it just behind Scottsdale both nationally and within the state. Shaped like an L that tipped over on its back, the city may be most well-known as the location of the University of Phoenix stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play their home games. Historic downtown Glendale also gets high marks as an appealing shopping destination.
Gilbert Population: 237,133
Sandwiched between Mesa and Chandler on the eastern edge of Phoenix, Gilbert ranks 93rd in the country for population. Gilbert's renowned Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch attracts bird-watchers from around the world, with more than 250 avian species identified. The preserve includes many miles of hiking and equestrian trails, plus the metro region's only astronomy observatory open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights.
Tempe Population: 182,498
Located between Phoenix proper and Mesa, Tempe is home to Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium. The state's eighth city by size ranks 133rd in the country for the total population. Tempe keeps its arts and history on full display, with widespread public art throughout the city and rotating exhibits at venues ranging from the Tempe Center for the Arts to the ASU Art Museum.
Peoria Population: 164,173
Peoria, another Phoenix suburb, comes in at number 156 on the list of most populous U.S. cities. Peoria extends north from Glendale to Lake Pleasant Regional Park, which encompasses 23,362 acres of water and land recreation, from boating to hiking to fishing and mountain biking. The Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres make Peoria home during spring training at the Peoria Sports Complex.
Surprise Population: 132,677
Located about 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix, Surprise tallies the 10th largest population in Arizona, with 132,677 residents making it the 202nd largest city in the United States. The Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers visit Surprise for spring training at Surprise Stadium. White Tank Mountain Regional Park to the west provides access to 30,000 acres of outdoor recreation.