Scottsdale vs. Tucson: Which Town Should I Visit?

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The State of Arizona is known for its hot, desert climate in the southern part of the state and its mountains and forests in the northern region. Within these two extremes are many popular cities that all vie for attention with the state’s capital, which is Phoenix. Both Scottsdale and Tucson are two unique cities in Arizona, but which of the two would be better for a visit?

You should visit Scottsdale if you want an elegant resort town in Arizona with country clubs and retirement attributes. If you want a premier destination in Arizona that features a more multicultural and diverse atmosphere and standard of living than Scottsdale, You should visit Tucson.

Cost Per Person (One Week)$1,932$1,350
Main AttractionsButterfly Wonderland, McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale Museum of the West, and McCormick-Stillman Railroad ParkArizona-Desert Sonora Museum, Sabino Canyon, Saguaro National Park, Reid Park Zoo, and Tucson Botanical Garden
FoodScottsdale features a wide selection of fine dining and upscale casual restaurants serving casual and gourmet American food of the WestTucson features a wide array of dining options with many restaurants specializing in local, western cuisine
WeatherScottsdale features a dry and warm climate year-round with very hot summers and mild wintersTucson features a dry and warm climate year-round with very hot summers and mild winters
SafetyScottsdale has a very low crime rate and no threatening natural disasters to be concerned aboutOverall, Tucson is a safe city for a vacation; petty theft and drug use are two crimes that occur with some regularity in the city
TransportationTaxis and ride-sharing are available in Scottsdale in addition to public bus serviceTaxis and ride-sharing are available in Tucson in addition to public bus service
CustomsWhen traveling to the United States, a valid passport is required as well as an approved travel visaWhen traveling to the United States, a valid passport is required as well as an approved travel visa

Not all areas of Arizona are exactly the same; there are distinct differences and completely different things to do and see in either Scottsdale or Tucson. Both of these cities represent two of the most popular destinations in Arizona. Therefore, this article will explore a range of categories to determine which of the two cities is better when it comes to a visit. 

Cost of Stay

Popularity and the overall atmosphere of Scottsdale and Tucson are the major dividing lines when it comes to overall costs. Scottsdale has a reputation for being a ritzy and refined resort town, whereas Tucson is also just as nice, yet its reputation does not necessarily get translated to costs.

According to Budget Your Trip, an average one-week stay in Scottsdale will typically cost around $1,932

There are many types of hotels and resorts available in Scottsdale, yet the costs can be somewhat trimmed by choosing to stay in a more affordable hotel (more below). The truth is that this city is well-known for its luxurious spas and retreats, fine dining establishments, and elegant attractions to see; therefore, this is perhaps not the best city to consider if you are on a budget. 

Tucson is a bit more lenient in terms of vacation costs. An average one-week stay in Tucson will run about $1,350. The overall cost comparison is not that far off, yet you can find more affordable places to stay in Tucson, and the cost of living in the city is not quite as high as that of Scottsdale. 

Affordable Hotel Options

Thankfully, both of these popular cities offer more modestly-priced lodging accommodations, with some choices even mimicking the ritzier resort options in Scottsdale.

The Gainey Suites Hotel in Scottsdale offers an atmosphere that fits right in with some of the city’s more upscale resorts. Complete with an expansive pool area lined with palm trees, outdoor fire pits, and well-stocked cabanas, this hotel is both affordable and relaxing. 

You should never feel like you have to settle for a budget brand hotel when you are on vacation. Therefore, it is nice to see that some establishments guarantee high quality at an affordable price. The 3 Palms Tucson North Foothills is like a desert oasis overlooking the Sonoran Desert’s stunning view. 

Main Attractions

Scottsdale is not just a luxury town with golf courses and resorts as far as the eye can see; there are many unique and interesting attractions to take advantage of. The Butterfly Wonderland is an indoor rainforest exhibit that houses thousands of species of butterflies. This attraction is incredibly unique and a must-visit. 

Tucson also offers an excellent way to see some of Arizona’s grand and one-of-a-kind scenery. A day trip to Saguaro National Park makes for a truly unforgettable experience. If you have ever wanted to experience the American West, the Sonoran Desert’s untouched and intimidating views are definitely a must-see in this massive nature preserve. 


Scottsdale is littered with elegant and trendy fine dining establishments, many of which are inside the city’s many resorts—but if you want to try a modern and upscale place that represents the best local flavors of Scottsdale, the Copper Mule Kitchen and Bar is that place. Be sure to dine outside to see the stunning views, especially at sunset.

Tucson represents a large presence in terms of Western cuisine, with Mexican dishes forming a large bulk of the local flavor. This is represented best at the laid back yet delicious Taqueria Pico De Gallo. This no-frills eatery specializes in both authentic Mexican dishes as well as mouth-watering Tex Mex.   


There are some certainties when it comes to the weather throughout Arizona; no matter where you are in the state, even with some slight differences, the weather is mostly warm. Scottsdale is hot and dry most of the year, with the summer months being the worst. Tucson sits at a slightly high elevation, which makes the heat a bit more bearable, yet the heat and warmth are typical throughout the city all year. 


In terms of violent crime, neither Scottsdale nor Tucson have an alarmingly high rate of this crime of this nature. There are some concerns with theft of property and a large presence of drug use, but you will likely not encounter this directly if you are vacationing in either city. Be sure to be aware of your surroundings at all times and never venture out alone at night in areas that are not heavily populated by other vacationers. 


Transportation in both cities is about the average you can expect in most American cities. Ridesharing, paid rides, as well as public transportation in the forms of buses are available throughout both cities. 


If you are an international traveler, remember that you must have a valid passport to enter the United States. Additionally, you must also have a visa that has been approved prior to your arrival. Be sure to state the nature of your stay when you arrive in either city. 


Arizona is a unique state, and both Scottsdale and Tucson represent two of the most popular cities in the state. Scottsdale has a certain niche market when it comes to vacations, and that is luxury and leisure. Tucson is a bit more laid back with beautiful views of the Sonoran desert and numerous outdoor excursion options. 

In terms of overall affordability and things to do, try Tucson first. But Scottsdale is great for a resort trip.


  • Brittany Rajeckas

    Brittany is a lifelong travel lover who can't get enough of hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities. When she's not actively traveling, she's usually already planning her next trip into the great unknown.

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