When most people think about the Southwest, typically just one word comes to mind. Hot. However, there is a lot more to the Southwest than its weather. In fact, two of the region’s most popular metropolitan areas, Phoenix, AZ, and Austin, TX, are diverse, trendy, and lively. Austin is known as “the Live Music Capital of the World,” and the Phoenix metropolitan area’s foodie culture has blossomed of late. Both of these capital cities are home to top-rated universities and collegiate sports teams with historic rivalries and unique traditions.
From a real estate perspective, both areas are steadily growing and offer neighborhoods and amenities that will fit every budget. Families will enjoy the many great schools located in and around Paradise Valley, located northeast of Downtown Phoenix. The younger crowd in Austin will enjoy proximity to nightlife and city amenities that a home for sale in Downtown Austin offers. The median price per square foot in the “Valley of the Sun” is currently $127. While Austin real estate is slightly more expensive, with a median price per square foot of $131, both areas are still affordable.
Phoenix and Austin have plenty to offer a potential homeowner or renter. So we asked a few local experts to tell us what makes their city special. Check out what they had to say!
Why should someone consider a move to your city?
“Let’s see, Phoenix has a good, balanced economy, with policy that supports small business, incredibly affordable housing, all major sports, arguably the best weather in the country, and [is] still a good place to raise a family. News flash! Everyone is considering moving here.” — John Crow of Century 21 Northwest Realty
“No matter how fast or big Austin grows, it will never lose its identity of embracing weirdness. Austin has a perfect balance of tech, creative, science, and entrepreneurial spirit. Best of all, it’s backed by a deep Southern hospitality and kindness that you’ll have difficulty finding anywhere else.” — Jenny Zhang of Sparefoot
“Phoenix is an area experiencing tons of growth and one that offers a lot of variety. If you are looking for close proximity to nightlife and more of an urban-living feel, there are great communities in Downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale. If a close-knit family community is more your style, the Phoenix suburbs offer great neighborhoods and master-planned communities.” — Amy Kristosik of Estrella by Newland Communities
“If you enjoy the heat, love live music, like the feel of a college city, enjoy working out outdoors, and a culture that is centered around eating and drinking, Austin is the place for you.” — Molly McManus, City Editor at CultureMap Austin
What is the biggest misconception about your city?
“One of the biggest misconceptions about Austin is that everyone who lives here arrived in the last five years. While it’s true that many people move here every day, there are plenty of us who have been here for over 20 years or even grew up here and have watched this town go from a cool little city to a vibrant — but still cool — big city.” — Janie Taylor of Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation
“That it’s too hot in Phoenix! The weather during most of the year is completely manageable, and even suffering through our hottest months is better than shoveling snow somewhere else!” — Cassandra Johnson of Everyday Childhood
“Less about our city but about all of Texas: that we ride horses everywhere and wear cowboy boots. While those things do happen (you’ll see the occasional horse rider on South Congress), it’s not what defines Austin. Breakfast tacos, on the other hand….” — Jenny Zhang of Sparefoot
“That there are no jobs in Phoenix. There are so many big businesses coming because we don’t have many natural disasters occurring here like tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc. Along with big businesses settling down here, there are a lot of educational opportunities available for students at our many colleges and universities.” — Melisa Camp of Greenhab & Elite Education
What is the best neighborhood for families in your city?
“Of course I think Estrella (a community near Phoenix) is a great place for families, with plenty of family-friendly events, outdoor amenities, parks, and great schools. But you don’t have to take my word for it — on several occasions, Arizona Foothills Magazine has ranked Estrella as the top master-planned community for children.” — Amy Kristosik of Estrella by Newland Communities
“It totally depends on your lifestyle, but if close proximity to downtown and walkability to restaurants, parks, grocery stores, and the [Austin] Children’s Museum is important to you, I highly suggest Mueller!” — Jamie Dorobek of C.R.A.F.T.
“North Scottsdale offers high-scoring public schools and plenty of family-friendly activities, such as hiking and ice-skating.” — Cassandra Johnson of Everyday Childhood
“One of the most desirable and affluent areas is Eanes School District, which offers enviable schools throughout greater Rollingwood and Westlake Hills. This area of the country sports some very impressive academic statistics!” — Joe Reider of Home Style Austin
What is the best outdoor activity in or around your city?
“Austinites love to be outdoors. For visitors or new residents, renting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard on Lady Bird Lake allows fun exploration and a unique view of downtown Austin. You can also take a picnic lunch along for the short hike up Mount Bonnell. You’re in for an amazing view!” — Brittany Highland, Editor of The Austinot
“Phoenix and its surrounding areas, like Goodyear, are filled with so many amazing hiking and bike trails. The surrounding Sierra Estrella mountains provide picturesque views and plenty of trails offering opportunities to get out and get active.” — Amy Kristosik of Estrella by Newland Communities
“Most people would say to check out Barton Springs Pool, the crown jewel of Austin swimming holes. I’d suggest the less-crowded but equally enjoyable Deep Eddy Pool, or make the 30-minute drive out to Hamilton Pool Preserve, an incredible natural pool nestled inside a cave with gorgeous jade-green water and a spectacular waterfall.” — Michael Wilt of Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation
“Hiking Thunderbird Mountain in Phoenix on a clear day will get you exercise, fresh air, [and] an introduction to the wonderful people of Glendale. Perhaps even better than the exercise you’ll get is an incredible view of the Arizona Cardinals football stadium. If not hiking, it’s watching a Cardinals game with the [stadium] roof open.” — John Crow of Century 21 Northwest Realty
What is the best golf course in the city or its surrounding areas? What makes it great?
“Talking Stick Golf Club is always in fantastic condition, is surrounded by the gorgeous scenery of north Scottsdale, and their staff are so friendly and attentive!” — Cassandra Johnson of Everyday Childhood
“Omni Barton Creek Resort is rated the number one golf course in Texas, with four world-class golf courses situated on 4,000 acres in the scenic hills of west Austin.” — Jane Ko of A Taste of Koko
“With more than 180 courses throughout the metropolitan Phoenix area, there are some great choices from which to choose. Troon Golf, known for their customer service standards and accolades, is an industry leader and operates several quality courses in the area, including Kierland Golf Club in Scottsdale, The Phoenician, and the Golf Club of Estrella in Goodyear.” — Amy Kristosik of Estrella by Newland Communities
“Nothing says quintessential Austin like grabbing your wedge and putter, a cooler stocked with your favorite beverage, and your canine companion and hitting up the laid-back nine-hole Butler Park Pitch and Putt course located in the middle of the city. More serious golfers should head to Wolfdancer Golf Club at the Hyatt Lost Pines resort, where the rolling hills and banks of the Colorado River make for a serene and challenging course.” — Michael Wilt of Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation
What is the best way to beat the heat on a hot day in your city?
“Immerse yourself in it, try not to hide too much in the A/C, get to a body of water often, and hydrate!” — Molly McManus, City Editor at CultureMap Austin
“Lounging by the pool. Whether it’s in your own backyard, at a community pool, or one of the fabulous resorts around Phoenix, poolside is the way to be during Arizona summers. Just be sure to use plenty of sunscreen.” — Amy Kristosik of Estrella by Newland Communities
“Take a dip in Austin’s Barton Springs Pool.” — Matthew Torno of Jenkins Custom Homes
“Catch a movie at the Cine Capri or rent a poolside cabana at one of Phoenix’s many resorts!” — Cassandra Johnson of Everyday Childhood
What is the best neighborhood for young professionals in your city?
“Downtown Phoenix has become the place to be. Great urban lifestyle, close proximity to the essentials, and connected to everything else by light rail. Check out Portland on the Park, 44 Monroe, and if you like baseball, Summit at Copper Square. Directly across from the Arizona Diamondbacks Stadium.” — John Crow of Century 21 Northwest Realty
“CenPho and Arcadia have lots of bars and restaurants, as well as affordable rents, and are close to everything.” — Cassandra Johnson of Everyday Childhood
Where can you find the best nightlife in your city? Are there any specific places that visitors and locals alike should be sure to check out?
“Austin nightlife isn’t just Sixth Street anymore. All of Austin’s vibrant downtown offers something for everyone who wants to get their groove on. Definitely check out Antone’s, where Stevie Ray Vaughan got started. The Moody Theatre, where ACL [Austin City Limits] is, literally rocks the city from the heart of the Second Street Shopping District. — Joe Reider of Home Style Austin
“Valley Bar in Downtown Phoenix — it’s a great music venue but also has fantastic cocktails and a wonderful hipster charm.” — Lindsay Viker of Couture in the Suburbs
“Downtown Austin still has the best nightlife. Do not miss the State Capitol, Barton Springs Pool, and a drive through the nearby Hill Country with a stop for BBQ.” — Matthew Torno of Jenkins Custom Homes
“Downtown Phoenix is where it’s at! Thanks to our light-rail system, you can easily preparty at the George & Dragon English Pub on the north end of downtown before heading to a Dbacks or Suns game and then head across the street to the Hard Rock Cafe or Stand Up Live for a show! End the night partying at The Duce, with pingpong and cornhole, or head over to the outdoor patio at The Vig for a late-night beverage in a hip atmosphere.” — Cassandra Johnson of Everyday Childhood
Where can you find the best Southwestern-style food in Phoenix?
“Fajita’s, off I-17 at Peoria, has hands down the best fajitas not only in Phoenix but anywhere! With a large, built-in grill in the center of the restaurant, they specialize in grilled shrimp and beef and chicken fajitas, and their delicious, fluffy tortillas are handmade in-house!” — Cassandra Johnson of Everyday Childhood
“If you want to impress your friends with fancy atmosphere, you’ll miss the best food in Phoenix. If you truly want great Mexican cuisine, go to Valle Luna, Carolinas, or Popo’s.” — John Crow of Century 21 Northwest Realty
Where can you find the best Texas-style barbecue in Austin?
“For barbecue from the heart of Texas, I like Black’s on Guadalupe (great for taking home and eating while watching Netflix) and Freedmen’s on campus (a classier barbecue joint with a fantastic happy hour).” — Molly McManus, City Editor at CultureMap Austin
“Franklin BBQ is hailed as the best, but not everyone has, no exaggerating, four hours to wait in line. For a shorter wait and arguably equal quality, check out nearby Micklethwaite Craft Meats.” — Al Harris of Sparefoot
What is your favorite local attraction?
“Austin is home to the world’s largest urban bat colony. Locals and tourists gather around the Congress Avenue Bridge each night to watch them take flight. It is majestic!”— Al Harris of Sparefoot
“Spring training! We’re fortunate to be the home of the Cactus League, and fans come from around the country for the experience. The Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians play in Goodyear, just down the hill from Estrella, and as a Cleveland native, I enjoy taking advantage of the chance to see my team in action.” — Amy Kristosik of Estrella by Newland Communities
“Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World, but that’s just the beginning. We have a wealth of world-class museums and beautiful outdoor spaces to experience. To get the best of both worlds, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and explore the butterfly garden, interactive children’s garden, natural Hill Country trails, and more.” — Christine Felton of Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau
“The Phoenix Zoo is the best local attraction. The new Sumatran tigers exhibit is up close and personal, and there is always something new there. On hot days, the kids (and adults) can get wet in two splash pads. We also go to ‘Zoolights’ every year to see Santa.” — Melisa Camp of Greenhab & Elite Education