SWDesertHomes in Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley, Vail & More!: Phoenix or Tucson: What's the Difference?

Phoenix or Tucson: What's the Difference?

Downtown Tucson
Folks moving to Arizona from other parts of the country often ask, "What is the difference between Tucson and Phoenix"? Now that's a pretty broad question, and one that could be addressed with PAGES of info, but I'll see what I can summarize in a few hundred words, in my own humble opinion.

1. Please know I'm biased. I live in Tucson. I love Tucson. I do not intend to LEAVE Tucson voluntarily. :)

To me, Tucson is a great big sprawling town. A city where so many of us are from somewhere else. A place where you can hear "howdy ma'am" and see a cowboy hat in the most expensive amenities in the area. It has a laid-back flavor.

Tucson Mountains

Phoenix is a CITY. I.E. The fifth largest in the United States! According to https://worldpopulationreview.com/ metropolitan Phoenix consists of 517.7 square miles housing 5,050,500 folks. Growth since 2010 is just under 18%. Phew! (Tucson, according to macrotrends.net, is under a million at 982,000.)

The closest lakes you can find to Tucson include catch-and-release Rose Lake on Mt. Lemmon, and Lake Patagonia to the southeast, about 90 minutes. We have some parks and communities with man-made lakes too, but not many.

Canyon Lake in Phoenix

Phoenix has way more water...canals, rivers, lakes, community man-made, etc. People actually have grass lawns up there. We have a few in Tucson, but it's not as likely. Mostly, folks maintain their rock landscaping here.

Phoenix has little mountains dotting its vast and spread out roadmap, with the Superstition Mountains looming to the east. Camelback and other mountains nestle right amongst city living.

Tucson is mostly SURROUNDED by mountains - Santa Catalinas, Tucson, Rincon, and Santa Ritas. Then there's the Tortolitas that form a northern border to Marana. Tucson actually has a higher elevation than Phoenix, 2654 at the airport as opposed to Phoenix Sky Harbor at 1141.

Tortolita Mountains overlooking Catalina Mountains

The next I hate to mention, but I must. Phoenix has better roads. They actually have multiple, lovely multi-lane freeways and more to navigate its vast metropolitan area. Tucson has one freeway, I-10, slashing diagonally through town, with Interstate 19 taking us south to Mexico.  I'm going to bet we have less traffic jams too, but that's just an assumption. 

And then there's the weather. Tucson is cooler than Phoenix. But cooler is relative when you're over 105 on a windy summer day. As a teen, I remember hearing that it rained one stormy Phoenix night - but the rain never hit the ground! (It evaporated) Hard to believe! For another weather phenomenon, check out these haboobs! Another summer weather occurrence: microbursts. !!

Choosing between Tucson and Phoenix is a matter of taste. Depending upon your lifestyle, one might say this or the other has more choices, more diversity, more amenities. Another might say the traffic is clearly better in the other.

Tucson (1776) has officially been around a lot longer than Phoenix. (1861) There's an old-world touch here reflected in building style, food, and the arts. One can easily recall the "Old Pueblo" here. Father Kino established our landmark, San Xavier Mission, in 1700 and the community was originally founded as a Spanish military garrison.

Downtown Tucson History

Every city/town has its pluses and minuses, and the Internet helps bring everything close. If you're looking to move and want a real estate agent familiar with the area, and the neighborhoods within it, let me know. Let's talk! I've moved here in 2000 and as I said, "I'm not leaving". In Tucson, with a job I love, the weather, the palm trees and cacti, and the folksy population - I feel like I'm on permanent vacation.

Realtor Vacation Image


If I can assist you in your home buying or selling in Marana, Tucson, Oro Valley, or Vail, please don't hesitate to call me!  Email at swdeserthomes@aol.com

Cara Marcelle Mancuso, Long Realty,


Regarding the material posted in my blog postings, these are my personal opinions and not those of Long Realty Company. 

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Comment balloon 7 commentsCara Marcelle Mancuso • July 16 2020 04:26PM


Hello Cara - while I have been to Phoenix and have relatives there(although I haven't seen them in decades), I have yet to visit Tucson.  I like the way you share things(good as well as not-so-good) between the two cities.  It really is about finding the right fit for you.  

Posted by Michael Jacobs, Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393 3 months ago

It truly is, a personal choice!  I can't tell someone which place they'd like better - but I sure can help them find a home in Tucson, should they want one!!  Have a great weekend, Michael Jacobs   Almost here!

Posted by Cara Marcelle Mancuso, Call a Marana neighbor, I'm THERE! LONG REALTY (Long Realty - Dove Mountain, Marana AZ) 3 months ago

What a great post, Cara. It's a bit like when people want to compare and contrast the Charlotte area with the Raleigh-Durham area here in North Carolina. I've been to both Phoenix and Tucson and liked both towns but would be hard-pressed to pick one.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Realty) 3 months ago

Hi Cara Marcelle Mancuso - one of our neighbors moved to Tucson.  We see them on Facetime.  I have been to Phoenix many times for business  but never Tucson.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) 3 months ago

This is very good information to share with families on the move.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) about 2 months ago


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