Today we’re getting into a heated debate: Palm Springs vs Scottsdale.
Jk, it’s not that serious. BUT having visited both places multiple times, I do have some opinions on the topic.
There are a lot of similarities between Scottsdale and Palm Springs. The heat, retro vibes, chic mid-century modern architecture, and desert views and hiking, for starters.
But overall, if I had to pick, there’s one place that stands out to me as an ideal desert vacation destination over the other.
Can you guess which one? 😉
For me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s Scottsdale.
Now don’t get me wrong, Palm Springs is really fun too! But the overall experience in Scottsdale just really takes the cake for me. And we’ll get into why in this post.
But first, I wanted to share a few ways Scottsdale and Palm Springs are similar. After my recent trip to Scottsdale, I had a mix of messages from people saying that they were either planning a trip to Scottsdale themselves or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, that they hadn’t considered Scottsdale before as a vacay destination!
You can also check out my other Scottsdale guides that cover top sights to see, the best restaurants, fun things to do, and where to stay.
Things to do in Scottsdale: Travel Guide
The Best Hotels in Scottsdale
Top 10 Best Scottsdale Restaurants
Top 10 Fun Things to do in Scottsdale
So for all the reasons you might want to book a trip to Palm Springs, Scottsdale has a lot of those same vibes. Let’s get into it!
Palm Springs and Scottsdale Similarities
When you think of Palm Springs, you probably think of super cute, retro-chic hotels like The Saguaro, The Ace, or The Parker. And Scottsdale has a lot of cute, boutique hotels too!
Hotel Valley Ho, where I stayed on my latest Scottsdale trip, is a great example. It’s SO cute and it’s got all the mid-century modern architecture and touches.
And, did you know that The Saguaro actually has a Scottsdale location too?
Mid-Century Modern Architecture
Palm Springs is definitely known for all of the cute, mid-century modern houses with pops of color (hello, That Pink Door).
For architecture lovers, Palm Springs has architecture tours, and Scottsdale has Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home.
I fully recognize that sometimes you wanna do it for the ‘gram. Palm Springs has so many grammable spots, but so does Scottsdale!
Murals, cacti, and hotel pools are just some of the fun photo opps that abound in Scottsdale.
I blogged about Desert X in Palm Springs when I visited back in 2019. It’s an open-air art exhibit that happens every other year and is spread out throughout Palm Springs.
Scottsdale also has a fun art scene, with shows like Canal Convergence that happens for two weeks in November. Wonderspaces also has rotating immersive experience art and is a good one to pop into for a fun Instagram shot.
The Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs is a super popular spot to visit and snap a fun, boho photo.
And, you guessed it, Scottsdale has some awesome Botanical Gardens too! The Desert Botanical Garden is beautiful, with over 4,000+ different cactus species. You can wander through 140 acres of trails and beautiful gardens.
Towards the end of the year, they have special events like Electric Desert and Luminarias, as well as other fun events and live music throughout the year.
Palm Springs has palms (duh) at Indian Canyons, and Joshua Tree isn’t far. Scottsdale also has great hiking and trails with scenic views.
Palm Springs has the Aerial Tramway, giving you amazing mountain views on your way up the San Jacinto Mountains.
You can also get some pretty awesome birds-eye views in Scottsdale, by going on a hot air balloon ride over the desert!
We love a good pool day! Having a pool day (or a cabana day if you’re feelin super fancy) is a must in both Scottsdale and Palm Springs.
Some of my fav hotel pools in Scottsdale are at The Omni, Hotel Valley Ho, and The Andaz.
Get out in Nature Quickly
From both places, it’s easy to get out of the downtown area and quickly find yourself in nature in less than 30 minutes.
On our recent Scottsdale trip, we went kayaking on the Salt River with Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch and it was SO fun. Seriously, so gorgeous and peaceful. And we saw several different bands of wild horses along the way, which was magical!
I spotted a Groupon for this Salt River Kayaking trip with Saguaro Lake Ranch and you can book it here!
Ok so now that I’ve hopefully planted the seed in your mind that Scottsdale and Palm Springs have a lot in common as a vacation destination, let me get into why I would pick Scottsdale over Palm Springs any day.
Btw, people who already know what a gem Scottsdale is are probably like, shhhh Elise, let ’em go to Palm Springs! But you know me, when I love something I want to share it on here so you can experience it too. 😉
Reasons Why I Prefer a Scottsdale Vacation over Palm Springs
The Food is Better in Scottsdale
Like, 1000%. It’s a struggle to find really good food in Palm Springs, and I’ve had experiences where places I’ve found with four stars on Yelp are just…dismal.
Scottsdale, on the other hand, is a hot spot for foodies. I didn’t realize this until my first visit there, and every restaurant we ate at was delicious. A lot of the chefs are doing really inventive things (like at Fat Ox where Chef Matt Carter is one of only 8 chefs in the U.S. to serve up Pluma Iberica, a very special (and delicious) cut of pork).
I have a whole post on the best restaurants in Scottsdale, so be sure to check that out if you’re planning a trip!
The Hotels are Nicer
There, I said it. Both myself, and my friends have had major issues at Palm Springs hotels.
Things like checking in and then being told the pool is under construction. Like, what?? That’s literally what we came here for.
I’ve had only the best experiences at hotels in Scottsdale, and some of my favorites have been: The Andaz, Hotel Valley Ho, The Omni, and Mountain Shadows Resort.
It’s More Affordable
Things are just more affordable in Arizona than California in general—food, gas, hotels, activities, etc. Sign me up for a small reprieve of CA price gouging.
It’s Easier (And Cheaper) to Travel to
It’s SO easy to get to Scottsdale, since it’s only a 20-minute drive from PHX! Palm Springs does have a small airport, but the flight times are limited and since it’s a smaller airport, flights there can be a bit pricey. Your other option is to fly into LAX for a cheaper ticket, but then drive over 2 hours to Palm Springs.
I much prefer to fly into Phoenix, grab some Little Miss BBQ, and easily hop over to Scottsdale.
The Downtown Area is Way Cuter
Scottsdale’s downtown area, or Old Town Scottsdale, is so cute and fun. Lots of great restaurants, bars, shops, etc.
I’ve only visited downtown Palm Springs once…because I quickly decided it wasn’t my scene. The food and drinks were bad (I remember having drinks that were just undrinkable—at a place with great reviews on Yelp), and the crowd can get pretty rowdy.
Have I fully convinced you yet that you need to plan a Scottsdale trip, stat? I love it there and always have so much fun. It’s great for a romantic getaway (I see a lot of baby-mooners there), a girls’ trip, or bachelorette weekend.
Huge thank you to Experience Scottsdale for hosting me and sponsoring this post!
Looking for more Scottsdale content? You’ll find it here:
Top 10 Things to Do in Scottsdale
Best Scottsdale Restaurants
Things to Do in Scottsdale: Complete Travel Guide
Fun Outdoor Scottsdale Activities
Luxury Hotels in Scottsdale
Hotels in Oldtown Scottsdale
Best Bars in Old Town Scottsdale
Best Scottsdale Hiking Trails
Best Scottsdale Brunch Spots
Epic Scottsdale Girls’ Trip
Sunday 12th of September 2021
I feel like this fair comparison of the two cities since you are being sponsored by Experience Scottsdale. Also, you only visited Palm Springs once. You also fail to mention all of the things there are to do in the neighboring cities, e.g., Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indian Wells. All of these places are within 10 to 25 minutes from one another. The Palm Springs area offers some of the best shopping, restaurants and spas.
Sunday 16th of October 2022
Hi Claire, Sorry to hear you're so bothered by my honest review! :) I've been to Palm Springs multiple times. And I'm not comparing neighboring cities, I'm comparing Palm Springs and Scottsdale. I personally didn't care for Palm Springs' restaurants, I already have great shopping at home in SF, and I thought the spas in Scottsdale were far superior (and more reasonably priced) compared to the ones I experienced in Palm Springs. In my post, I did talk about some of the things I enjoy about Palm Springs, like the art scene and the ability to be in really cool nature quickly.