Characterised as an upscale residential area, Carefree was conceived in the mid-1950s by business partners K.T. Palmer and Tom Darlington as a master-planned community. Land sales commenced in 1955 and homebuilding started in 1958. Carefree was incorporated in 1984 to avoid annexation from neighboring Scottsdale.
The Carefree sundial, designed by architect Joe Wong and solar engineer John I. Yellott, was erected in the Sundial Circle plaza in 1959 and claims to be the "third largest sundial in the Western Hemisphere". The sundial, which points to the North Star, is made from a steel frame and covered in anodized copper. It measures 90 feet (27 m) in diameter. The metal gnomon, the shadow-casting portion of the dial, stands 35 feet (11 m) above the plaza and extends 72 feet (22 m).
Carefree was the long-time home of Southwestern Studios, originally built in 1968 as Fred Graham Studios by actor, stunt man, and Arizona Film Commissioner Fred Graham. The sprawling 160-acre (0.65 km2) desert property adjacent to North Scottsdale featured three state-of-the-art soundstages, edit bays, 35mm screening room, make-up, production facilities, western street and back lot. In the early 1970s, Stage 1 of the studio was used for The New Dick Van Dyke Show starring Dick Van Dyke, Hope Lange, Fannie Flagg, and Marty Brill. Stage 1 also was used for the filming of one of Orson Welles' last films, The Other Side of the Wind, with John Huston, Oja Kodar, Susan Strasberg, Bob Random and Peter Bogdanovich.
The studio was used for the filming of Bob Hope's last feature film, Cancel My Reservation, with Eva Marie Saint, Ralph Bellamy, and Forrest Tucker. Scenes were also shot at the studio for Michaelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point, such as the back-lot house explosion, for Paul Newman's scenes in Pocket Money, for Bill Cosby's feature debut, Man and Boy, specifically the western street, and recently for Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, again the western street. The short, silent feature Time River was shot on Stages 2 and 3 and extensively on the back lot and western street sets.
Later known as Carefree Studios, it was razed in 1999. The Scottsdale Road studio back lot and pristine desert property was developed into retail space and residential development.
Carefree is 17 miles (27 km) west of Bartlett Lake, in the Tonto National Forest.
Carefree is bordered by the city of Scottsdale to the south and the town of Cave Creek to the west. Carefree and Cave Creek are often thought of as a single community. The two towns share the local landmark Black Mountain.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 8.9 square miles (23 km2), all of it land.
Carefree has a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen BSh) with hot summers and mild winters, avoiding arid designation by being located closer to the rain-catching central mountains of Arizona, so that it receives about 70 percent (around 5.3 inches or 135 millimetres) more rainfall annually than does Phoenix. There are 141 afternoons annually with highs of at least 90 °F or 32.2 °C, 63.4 afternoons of at least 100 °F or 37.8 °C, and three afternoons that exceed 110 °F or 43.3 °C. During the winter, 8.3 mornings will fall below freezing; the coldest temperature reported in Carefree is 15 °F or −9.4 °C, which occurred on January 13 of 1963 and January 7 of 1971. Snowfall is extremely rare with only four occurrences since 1962 and no measurable snow since April 2 1999 when the settlement saw its latest freeze on record; the most snow on record is 2.3 inches or 0.06 metres during March 1973. Rainfall, however, is sometimes heavy during winter fronts or monsoonal storms; the wettest month on record is January 1993 with 9.37 inches (238.0 mm), which helped produce a record “rain year” total of 26.20 inches (665.5 mm) between July 1992 and June 1993; in contrast between July 1962 and June 1963 only 6.98 inches (177.3 mm) was recorded.
The prehistoric Hohokam’s built villages and defensive fortifications. The Sears-Kay Ruin is one of the many forts built by the Hohokam. The ruins of this fort is located atop a desert foothill in the Tonto National Forest on the outskirts of the town of Carefree, Az. The fort was built around 1050 AD and later abandoned only to be discovered in 1867 by soldiers on patrol who were stationed in nearby Fort McDowell. The fort had 40 rooms which housed about 100 people. The area was named after two early homesteaders. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in November 24, 1995, reference #95001310.
The town is served by Cave Creek Unified School District.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,927 people, 1,389 households, and 995 families residing in the town. The population density was 330.8 people per square mile (127.7/km²). There were 1,769 housing units at an average density of 200.0 per square mile (77.2/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.4% White, 0.2% Black or African American, <1% Native American, <1% Asian, <1% from other races, and 0.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.7% of the population.
There were 1,389 households out of which 14.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.5% were married couples living together, 3.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.3% were non-families. 23.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.11 and the average family size was 2.44.
In the town, the population was spread out with 12.7% under the age of 18, 2.0% from 18 to 24, 15.4% from 25 to 44, 40.5% from 45 to 64, and 29.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 55 years. For every 100 females there were 98.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.2 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $88,702, and the median income for a family was $105,699. Males had a median income of $61,050 versus $38,750 for females. The per capita income for the town was $62,433. About 2.0% of families and 3.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.2% of those under the age of 18 and 3.2% of those 65 and older.Eric Bischoff, American entrepreneur and professional wrestling producer
Howell Conant, fashion photographer, associated with Grace Kelly
Hugh Downs, broadcaster, television host, news anchor
Dick Van Dyke, American actor
Michael Haugen Jr., professional ten-pin bowler and winner of three PBA Tour titles
Willi Kuhweide, German Olympic gold medalist 1964; four time world sailing champion