There is some debate about the history of Surprise, Arizona. Some stories lend credit to a man named Homer Ludden, originally from Surprise, Nebraska, who was a real estate developer. However, recorded documents tell us that a woman named Flora Mae Statler was the purchaser of land in Surprise, dating back to 1938. With the development of Grand Avenue, which runs right through Surprise, and proximity to the Santa Fe railroad, Statler subdivided land for inexpensive housing for agricultural workers. Statler’s daughter said that her mother named the area Surprise because she would be “surprised if the town ever amounted to much.” Flora Mae Statler would be very surprised, as today Surprise has been reported as the second largest city in the Valley of the Sun. In the 2010 census, reported a population just shy of 120,000 residents, which was a 281 percent increase. Del E. Webb’s retirement community, Sun City Grand is the largest contributor to the population in Surprise, Arizona.
Adaptive recreation is a unique quality about life in Surprise. The city is proud to offer a variety of education and physical activities for children and adults with disabilities. For example, they offer Buddy Basketball and Bambino Buddy Ball, which utilities a “buddy” to assist the player with the game. They also have a Special Olympics Basketball league, designed for athletes with intellectual disabilities. These are just a few examples of the adaptive programs available through the city of Surprise.
Along Bell Road in Surprise is a plethora of shopping and dining options. Surprise Towne Center has everything from big box stores like Walmart and Target to local boutiques and mom-n-pop restaurants, like Amuse Bouche, a tiny BYOB country-French bistor. Home for the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals, the Surprise Recreation Campus was rated “the best place to watch a spring training game” by the Best of Phoenix. The award-winning campus is used for an annual Fourth of July celebration and a variety of community events.
Surprise has two municipal public swimming pools, the Hollyhock Community Pool and the Surprise Aquatic Center that is a 10,562 square foot facility. There are public tennis and pickleball courts and two public libraries, Hollyhock Branch and Surprise Regional Library, which is a 23,000 square foot facility. If your family includes four-legged members, not to worry, Surprise has a beautiful doggie park that is open daily from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Surprise has a beautiful view of the nearby White Tank Mountains. Here you can enjoy a rigorous hike or relax for a long weekend of camping. The rugged White Tank Mountains have ridges and canyons that peak over 4,000 feet. Another great way to enjoy the awesome weather in Surprise, Arizona is outdoors at the DreamCatcher Park. This is a fully accessible multi-purpose facility designed with a urethane-based surface that makes is easy for mobility devices, such as walker and wheel chairs to maneuver.
While the recreation facilities might be the best in the Valley of the Sun, Surprise also has plenty of options for those who enjoy the game of golf. Coyote Lakes Golf Club is a public course with a great menu at the Coyote Grill. Another option, among the many golf courses located in Surprise is the Arizona Traditions Golf Club, a challenging par-70 parkland style course with panoramic views of the White Tank Mountains.
In the neighboring community of Litchfield Park, visitors and residents can enjoy a day at the Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium. Home to Arizona’s largest collection of unique and beautiful animals, there are more than 6,000 critters and over 600 species. The facility is privately owned and operated, and relies solely on gate admissions and retail sales to cover the costs of the zoo.
Dysart Unified School District is Arizona’s fastest growing school system, and currently spans across 140 square miles, serving the cities of Surprise, Glendale, Youngtown and El Mirage. Also in Surprise is Rio Salado’s Communiversity campus - a new concept in high education where students can take more than forty educational programs in a variety of formats, such as classroom, online or hybrid.
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