Arizona's oldest towns, the city of Florence was founded in 1866 and is the sixth oldest European settlement in Arizona. Florence
is situated in the central portion of Pinal
County about 60 miles southeast of
Phoenix and 70 miles northeast of Tucson. Located along the
Gila River in the Sonoran Desert, Florence's
downtown boasts unique, locally owned shops and restaurants that
cater to residents and visitors alike.
There are three public schools within the Florence boundaries, which
include two K-8 schools, and one high school.
An Arizona State University (ASU) Distance
is located within the Anthem area in Florence.
Arizona State Prison, one of the largest employers in Florence,
moved to the city in 1908 replacing the Territorial Prison in Yuma. Inmates were shipped from Yuma by train to build the
prison and lived in the surrounding desert during its construction.
The prison offers an Outlet Store
a variety of arts and crafts items made by prisoners housed at Arizona State
Prisons throughout the state.
Pinal County Historical Museum gives visitors the opportunity to view artifacts
as well as research Pinal County area history and people. The museum also
houses the archives for the Florence Arizona State Prison.
Another piece of Florence’s history is
Saint Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery. In the
summer of 1995 six monks arrived in the southern Arizona desert to establish St. Anthony’s
Monastery. Upon their arrival the
fathers began with the necessary construction work, building first the main
church, living quarters for the monks, the dining hall, and guest facilities. A
vegetable garden, a small vineyard, citrus orchards, and an olive grove dot the
Anthony’s welcomes all visitors who may view the chapels and walk the grounds.
Upon entering the monastery all guests are to be appropriately and modestly
dressed. Men are asked to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Women are to
wear long skirts, long-sleeved blouses, and scarves. Everyone is asked to wear
socks, especially when wearing open toe shoes.
Florence has many opportunities to explore the Sonoran Desert
with scenic drives, hiking, and state parks. The most spectacular landmark in Florence is the 1891
Pinal County Courthouse. Over the years, the building was home to a
sheriff’s office, hospital, museum and today it is a State Park. The Pinal
Pioneer Parkway (State Route 79) was designated as
a scenic desert preserve by the Arizona Department of Transportation. There are
several places to stop and enjoy virtually every species of Arizona desert flora. Oracle State Park; an environmental education center and wildlife preserve,
offers more than 15 miles of hiking trails.
Each year in April the city comes alive with the largest country
music festival in the southwest USA:
Country Thunder. Previous headliners
have included Keith Urban, Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert and Willie Nelson.
Thanksgiving weekend Florence hosts the Junior Parada, the oldest youth rodeo
in the United States. The weekend’s activities include the annual Saturday
morning parade along Main Street
followed by a rodeo at the Charles Whitlow Rodeo Arena. Junior cowboys &
cowgirls ages 5-18 compete in calf roping, bull dogging and barrel racing to
benefit youth programs across Pinal
To the north
of the city is the Anthem area of Florence. This master planned community, Anthem
at Merrill Ranch, combines family neighborhoods and active adult living into
one larger, multi-generational community.
Anthem at Merrill Ranch is home to the Poston Butte Golf Course. This 18-hole championship golf course was
designed by Gary Panks and is managed by Troon Golf. The course is a par 72 and
offers 5 sets of tees ranging from 5,300 yards - 7,300 yards in length
providing golfers of all skill levels an enjoyable experience.
Biosphere 2 is located just south of Florence at the base
of the stunning Santa Catalina Mountains. This one-of-a-kind facility sits on a
ridge at a cool elevation of nearly 4000 feet and is surrounded by a
magnificent natural desert preserve. Time Life Books recently named Biosphere 2
one of the 50 must see "Wonders of the World". Discover real-time
research on the future of our planet as it unfolds in the specially designed
mini-world. Guided tours are available.
From rodeos to championship golf courses, Florence Arizona offers
both a rich history and modern living in a rural setting just 45 minutes from
both Phoenix and Tucson.