This central area spans four neighborhoods within three city boundaries – Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. The area’s dramatic rocks are its signature site. Attractions including the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden can be found here. Arizona State University is in the Tempe part of this area. And the university’s cool office and meeting space is in the Scottsdale part. Light rail runs through the area. And several Valley freeways run through and surround it. 

This neighborhood guide - like every one on Street Scout - was researched and written by experts from The Arizona Republic and It's based on public records, census data and on-the-ground reporting. Our Emmy-winning photographers and videographers have brought images of each neighborhood to life. We know our neighborhoods. If you want to live here, you want to read this.


Light rail runs through this neighborhood. This central area has easy access to most of the Valley’s freeways.

School Map
Walk Score

Welcome to the Papago neighborhoods

Explore the 2 Areas of Papago

Papago: 85008

Papago is the home to the 1,200-acre park with massive sandstone buttes. The Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo are in the park. Older brick and block homes dot many of this area’s streets.

Airport: 85034

The Airport area includes Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. There are a few neighborhoods with older homes and apartments north and west of the airport.

SoSco (south Scottsdale): 85257

SoSco is where ASU’s innovative SkySong office hub is located, and overlaps with Central Scottsdale. Homes in this area are older, typically with carports and desert landscaping. Many have been renovated.

Downtown/Town Lake: 85281

The Downtown Tempe/Town Lake area is the most urban part of Tempe. ASU is located there. So are several growing employers, including State Farm. The area has historic homes, condo high-rises, older block houses and many new and old apartments.



The area has a wide range of housing. You’ll find older block and brick houses in Papago. There are historic homes, apartments and high-rise condominiums in Tempe. SoSco has popular homes with carports built in the 1960s. Some are still painted in pastel colors. And patio houses can be found throughout the area. Many houses in this area have been renovated by recent buyers. Investors are drawn to the area for its central location and steady flow of new residents. This area is popular with students, young singles and families. The rental market is tight.

The Market



  • Papago is popular with homebuyers, investors and renters. Its central location, many amenities and big employers are all draws.

  • Home sales are always pretty steady in all areas of this neighborhood, except Sky Harbor.

  • SoSco has the highest home prices. The area draws many young buyers and renters. New condos are also popular here.

  • Downtown Tempe has a mix of houses and buyers. Prices have been climbing in the area since Tempe Town Lake was completed. ASU is working with a developer to build more new housing here.

  • Houses are more affordable in Papago but harder to find. The area has a few eclectic, smaller neighborhoods.

  • Rental rates across the Papago neighborhood are on the rise, even though several new upscale apartments recently opened or are underway.

Living Here

Living here

Expect the energetic vibe of living near one of the U.S.’s biggest universities. But also the peace of being near a big city park with sweeping views of ancient boulders, a zoo and desert garden. Neighborhoods are eclectic. Both older homes and new condos can be found here. Many renters call this area home. Light rail runs through Papago. Sky Harbor International Airport is in this neighborhood, so expect noise from planes and traffic from passengers. Crime rates are also a little higher in some neighborhoods around the college. This area’s many things to do and growing job hubs are big draws.

Things To Do



Main attractions

Picturesque Papago Park makes for a vibrant backdrop for two of Phoenix’s premiere attractions. The Phoenix Zoo, home to more than 1,400 animals, is here. And the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden is next to it. Historic Arizona landmark Tovrea Castle stands guard over the neighborhood and is open for tours.

Out on the town

The Chinese Cultural Center is a unique culinary and retail attraction that hosts annual Chinese New Year celebrations. Music fans can always find a gig to catch at nearby Marquee Theatre and Celebrity Theatre.

Main attractions

Spanning from Downtown Phoenix to Papago Park, this region of the Valley is as varied as its landscapes. On the west end, there’s Chase Field, Talking Stick Resort Arena, and all the concerts, sporting events and dining downtown Phoenix has to offer. On the east end, there’s the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden. In between is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, one of the largest commercial airports in the country.

Out on the town

This neighborhood is surrounded by concert and sporting venues and museums, including Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park. It’s also full of fast and funky eateries. There’s Carolina’s Mexican Food, home to possibly the best tortillas in the Valley. And there’s Welcome Chicken + Donuts, which is every bit as odd and tasty as its name.

Explore the Outdoors


You won’t have to break a sweat to find a place to break a sweat in these neighborhoods. Papago Park has numerous trails, from easy to difficult. Some are paved. Other are for hiking, running, walking and mountain biking. There is a Wednesday morning “November Project” organized workout at Papago Amphitheater that’s free to everybody. Tempe Town Lake in the Tempe neighborhood is the epicenter of a multiuse path system that one can navigate throughout the East Valley. Tempe Beach Park is the scene of numerous running, bicycling and triathlon events. Some are competitive. And some, such as the annual Tour de Fat bike festival, are just for fun. There are great bicycling facilities in the area, including the Bicycle Cellar. There you will find bike lockers, showers and bike repair. There also are paths following the Arizona Crosscut Canal east to Papago Park and Grand Canal to the northwest. And if you want a real gut-buster, run up “A” Mountain next to ASU.

Stats & Facts



Who lives here

The Papago area is a melting pot of races and educational levels. This neighborhood has many renters. Residents, many of them college students, have among the lowest incomes in the Valley. The Papago neighborhood (85008) has an alarming share of dropouts. But that area’s residents earn more than those in the Downtown/Town Lake neighborhood (85281), which has half as many dropouts.

5 Things To Know About Phoenix

It’s big.

Phoenix is the nation’s sixth biggest city and its population is still growing faster than many other U.S. cities. The city was named in the mid-1800s by settlers who compared their new home to the mythical bird that burned and rose from the ashes.

It’s a great place to hike.

National Geographic ranked Phoenix as one of America’s 15 best hiking cities. The city has a vast network of desert preserves and hiking trails, including iconic summits like Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak. You’ll find trail maps and descriptions online.

It has a reputation for being a well-run city.

Phoenix has received various awards for good governance and has the highest credit rating of the nation’s six largest cities. But the city has struggled to get its fiscal problems in order since the Great Recession. City Council members regularly have coffee meetings open to all residents.

It is focusing on urban growth and transportation.

Phoenix’s General Plan focuses heavily on infill development along the light-rail corridor. Light rail will continue to be one of Phoenix’s key redevelopment tools, with city leaders hoping to triple its miles of track by 2050.

It has a thriving cultural scene.

The Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona all perform in the city’s Symphony Hall located downtown. The Orpheum Theatre, Herberger Theater Center and Valley Youth Theatre are nearby. Also located in the central city are the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Capitol Museum, Children’s Museum, Arizona Science Center and Heard Museum. A popular monthly art walk to a growing number of downtown galleries is called First Fridays, held on the first Friday of each month.