Smackdown: Scottsdale vs. Phoenix


Each week, Yahoo Travel pits rival destinations against each other to determine once and for all which is the best. With the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots about to face off at Super Bowl XLIX at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ, we look at two nearby Arizona cities locked in their own heated rivalry (Fortunately, its a dry heat.): Scottsdale vs. Phoenix.

The case for Scottsdale


In the summer, Scottsdale is literally a hot golfing location (Photo: iShootPhotos, LLC/E+/Getty Images)

With its surreal mountain backdrops, chic shops, restaurants, and galleries, it’s no wonder so many people keep coming back to this desert city. Of course, the award-winning golf courses (There are more than 200 in the city and surrounding area!) and first-class spas (more per capita than any other U.S. city) don’t hurt either.

Did I mention that it’s sunny for more than 300 days of the year? To be exact, Scottsdale gets an average of 314 days of sunshine. 314. You can thank its Sonoran Desert location for the extra vitamin D boost and your general feelings of happiness and well-being when visiting this vibrant town.

Population: About 226,000

Related: City Smackdown: Phoenix vs. Tucson

Famous faces: One of America’s favorite redheads, actress Emma Stone, was born in Scottsdale. Saturday Night Live comedian and actor David Spade called it home after he and his family relocated there when he was 4 years old. Steven Spielberg, another Scottsdale transplant, moved there at a young age and shot his first small film at Pinnacle Peak Patio restaurant.


Oscar nominee Emma Stone hails from Scottsdale. (Photo: Danny Moloshok/Reuters/Corbis)

Popular ways to get around town: There are several trolley routes throughout the city, and of course theres the bus. However, the best way to explore this desert metropolis is by car. Rentals are fairly cheap, and there’s always Uber for a night out on the town.


The Scottsdale trolley is a favorite way to get around town. (Photo: Trulia)

Cool stuff to do: What scene interests you most? Because Scottsdale is likely to have it. From the great trail hikes and conservations to the architecture and racecars, there’s something for everyone. Did I mention the shopping? Old Town Scottsdale offers history paired with beauty in the form of handmade Native American jewelry and art, for example. Some other must-see places include the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, where you can enjoy the state’s flower, the cactus (to be more exact, the saguaro cactus), as you hike the beautiful mountain-lined trails. And theres Taliesin West; you won’t want to miss a guided tour through Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter retreat and studio.


Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright in Scottsdale (Photo: Richard T. Nowitz/Corbis)

The weather: Much like Phoenix, Scottsdales average temperatures generally hit the mid-to-upper 60s in the winter (summer temps for some of us up north!). Get ready for a scorching summer, though, when temperatures reach upward of 100 degrees. The only saving grace is that there’s no humidity but rather a nice dry heat.


Sunset in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo: Jason Farrar/Flickr)

Related: My Route 66 Adventure: Arizona’s Most Spectacular Drive

Food: You won’t run out of places to eat in Scottsdale. And with the surplus of options, it may get hard to narrow down your search. A great place to start: the Citizen Public House. The award-winning gastropub cuisine (think truffle grilled cheese and candied bacon and peach pie), craft beers, and fun cocktails like the Citi-zen Cocktail (a combination of pear vodka and ginger liqueur, complete with a lemon twist and side of rock candy), are sure to please your entire party. If you’re all about the wine, then Kazimierz World Wine Bar is the place for you! Live entertainment, small plates, and a collection of more than 2,000 wines? Sounds like the makings of a fantastic night!


Kazimierz World Wine Bar (Photo: Facebook/Kazimierz World Wine Bar)

Entertainment: If you’re looking for some leisurely activities and pampering fun, then Scottsdale is the place for you! It’s primarily known for two things: the top-notch spas and golf courses. Be sure to check out the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. From the award-winning cuisine to the aerial hammock yoga to the 27 treatment rooms, you’ll leave feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. For all you golfers, the renowned annual PGA Tour Waste Management Phoenix Open takes place on one of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess 18-hole championship golf courses. This year’s event begins on January 26 and culminates on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1.


Fairmont Scottsdale’s Techno Glo Pool Party every Friday-Sunday (Photo: Facebook/Fairmont Scottsdale)

The Phoenician is another great luxury resort for a massage or round of golf. With three diverse nine-hole courses spread over 6,300 yards of terrain, it’s a golfer’s dream. Grayhawk Golf Club is another place to tee off. Its Talon Course spreads across 6,973 yards and is one of the highest rated daily-fee courses in Arizona.

Mexican fare: You’ll quickly learn that Arizona doesn’t do bad Mexican food. And Old Town Tortilla Factory is one of the best. Steeped in history and constructed from a 75-year-old Scottsdale adobe home, the restaurant offers a Southwestern menu with a Mexican twist. You’ll find staples like enchiladas along with dishes like the Achiote ribs.


Get a taste of the Southwest at Old Town Tortilla (Photo: Facebook/Old Town Tortilla Factory)

The case for Phoenix


The Phoenix, Arizona skyline and a saguaro cactus (Photo: David Sucsy/E+/Getty Images)

Don’t let Scottsdale’s swanky appeal overshadow this urban oasis. Phoenix is said to have received its name from Cambridge-educated pioneer Darrell Duppa, who believed another civilization would rise from the ashes of the ruins and prehistoric canals of the Hohokam Indians. Given that it’s currently the sixth-largest city in the U.S., I’d say he was right.

Phoenix is home to South Mountain Park and Preserve, the largest municipal park in America, stretching over 16,500 acres. It’s also only one of 12 U.S. cities with franchises in all four major professional sports leagues. You’ve got the great outdoors, professional sports, and, like Scottsdale, sun. According to U.S. climate data, Phoenix gets about 3,832 hours of sunlight a year. That’s roughly 10 hours of sunlight a day. And let’s not forget culture. There is a slew of museums to suit all tastes and interests. One thing’s for sure: You’ll definitely have a well-rounded experience visiting this desert city.

Population: About 1.5 million

Famous faces: Actress Lynda Carter, also known as Wonder Woman, was born in Phoenix. It’s also the birthplace of lead vocalist Chester Bennington, for all you Linkin Park fans. And iconic singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks was born at Phoenix’s Good Samaritan Hospital.


Stevie Nicks (Photo: Neal Preston/Corbis)

Popular ways to get around town: While more people are now using the metro light rail, there’s still an even bigger number commuting by car. Uber has also become a popular way to get home from an evening out.


Phoenix Metro Light Rail (Photo: Paul Martinez/Flickr)

Food: Where to start? The foodie/bar scene in Phoenix has been on the rise with the arrival of places like The Yard. The semi-open venue with space heaters, fire pits, and inviting lounge chairs is great for both small or large groups. There’s also a wide selection of draft, craft, and canned beers. And let’s not forget staples like Town Talk II, where you’ll find some of the best creole-style barbecue around. Seriously, don’t leave without trying its beef brisket or pulled pork.

Another must-eat is Pizzeria Bianco, founded by award-winning chef Chris Bianco. They say New York City does good pizza, but this place gives em a run for their money! There’s usually a wait, but you can enjoy a glass of vino next door at Bar Bianco during the downtime. Tarbell’s is another must-try. Whether sitting at the bar or at a private table, the service is top-notch, as is the food. The menu changes seasonally, so get ready for an experience that’ll delight your taste buds.


Pizzeria Bianco (Photo: Facebook/Pizzeria Bianco)

Cool stuff to do: Phoenix gives off this cool urban vibe that’s steeped in culture and history. Case in point: the plethora of museums. You’ve got the Musical Instrument Museum with 15,000 instruments from around the world as well as collectibles from legendary stars like John Lennon. If you want to get in touch with that desert feel, then the Desert Botanical Garden is just the place. It boasts an amazing collection of more than 50,000 arid-land plants from deserts worldwide — all on display throughout five trails. And let’s not forget hiking the Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain. You can’t beat the outline views on the horizon.


Guitars abound at the Musical Instrument Museum. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The weather: Phoenix, like Scottsdale, is a dream in the winter and a furnace in the summer.

Entertainment: Downtown Phoenix offers something for everyone. For all you sports fanatics, check out the Diamondbacks at Chase Field or the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Arena. If you’re more into the foodie/arts scene, then you won’t want to miss Artlinks First Fridays. All bars, shops, restaurants, and art galleries stay open late on the first Friday of every month for this event. Vendors and street performers come out to entertain the monthly crowd it attracts.


Welcome to the Home of the Diamondbacks: Chase Field (Photo Jonathan Willey/Arizona Diamondbacks/MLB Photos/Getty Images)

Mexican fare: If you’re looking for authentic New Mexican food, look no further than family-owned restaurant Los Dos Molinos. Not only does it offer some of the best Mexican fare, but it’s also fairly priced with the most expensive entrée coming in at $15.


The Los Dos Molinos fare offers a wonderful combination: it’s delicious and cheap. (Photo: Facebook/Los Dos Molinos)

WATCH: Get an Authentic Taste of Mexico at Phoenix’s Barrio Cafe

Ravelle Worthington is a writer living in Connecticut. Follow her on Twitter@ravmofor musings on health and wellness, travel, and baked treats!

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