City Showdown: Phoenix vs. Tucson

Which Arizona city do you prefer?
Which Arizona city do you prefer?
Which Arizona city do you prefer?

While many retirees flock to Arizona to settle during their Golden Years, they still have to decide on which city to retire: Phoenix or Tucson. Although both cities are popular among the 55+ crowd and just two hours from each other, they do offer their own set of unique characteristics that set them apart.

 Similar Climates

Both cities share plenty of similarities like mountain views, sunny skies, beautiful natural scenery, vibrant attractions, and great active adult communities throughout. The cost of living in both cities is also generally below the national average, making it an affordable retirement destination for Boomers. Phoenix and Tucson are both located in the Sonoran Desert, which provides hot summers and mild winters with the only difference being that Tucson’s higher elevation allows for more rain and cooler temps than Phoenix.

Difference in Size

Phoenix is the capital of Arizona and is the state’s largest city. Due to Phoenix’s size and fast growth, the city endures more traffic but luckily has an extensive freeway system, making it easy for residents and visitors to travel across town efficiently.

Tucson is smaller in size so it has fewer major roadways such as Interstate 10 that connects travelers to Phoenix in the north and Interstate 19 that connects to Mexico’s border in the south.

Difference in Terrain

Although both cities offer mountain views, Phoenix’s landscape is generally more flat with rocky peaks rising in the distance. The city has a larger grid of streets that allow for residential and commercial properties to be spread out and divided into urban villages.

While Tucson offers a town feel rather than a city vibe and is surrounded by five major mountain ranges, perfect for outdoor adventurers. Tucson, which is located about 120 miles southeast of Phoenix, is the second largest city in Arizona and offers a smaller population and a more small-town vibe than Phoenix.

Tuscon Attractions

Although smaller in size, Tucson provides almost the same type of modern and urban amenities that are found in Phoenix. Tucson hosts annual festivals and cultural events like the Pima County Fair, Tucson Festival of Books, The Tucson Rodeo, and Tucson Folk Festival. Residents also have great cultural attractions in the area like the Arizona Historical Society, Tucson Museum of Art, Fort Lowell Museum, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Phoenix Attractions

Of course, Phoenix and its surrounding area also provide endless attractions, entertainment, and events. Some notable places of interest include the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Symphony Hall, Arizona Capitol Museum, Phoenix Zoo, and the Desert Botanical Garden.

Golf is also a popular pastime in this area and has some of the best fairways in the state. Retirees will find numerous golf courses in and around Phoenix including Encanto Golf Course, Palo Verde Golf Course, Arizona Biltmore Golf Club, and Lookout Mountain Golf Club. In addition to museums and golf, Phoenix is also home to many professional sports leagues like the Phoenix Suns (NBA), Arizona Cardinals (NFL), and Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB).

Active Adult Communities


Active adults searching for age-restricted communities will have no problem finding them in Phoenix or Tucson. But the only problem may be narrowing down which community and location they want to live in. Although it’s not technically located in the city of Phoenix, Sun City Arizona in Sun City was the first 55+ community in not only the state but the country.

Since its inception in 1960, other builders have followed Del Webb’s path and developed active adult communities in the bustling Phoenix area like Trilogy at Vistancia in Peoria, Victory at Verrado in Buckeye, and Trilogy at Wickenburg Ranch in Wickenburg. Retirees can also find established age-restricted communities in the city of Phoenix such as Ahwatukee Retirement Village and Northtown.


Not to be outdone, the Tucson area also offers Baby Boomers amenity-rich active adult communities in the area. Retirees can find new construction options in communities like SaddleBrook Ranch in Oracle, SaddleBrooke in Tucson, Del Webb at Dove Mountain in Marana, and Del Webb at Rancho Del Lago.

Boomers who are looking for resale-only homes in established 55-plus communities will also have plenty of options in the city of Tucson that include La Cholla Hills, Altura, Casas Del Oro Norte, Mona Lisa Village, and Northridge Estates.

While both cities offer similarities and a few distinct differences, retirees should check out Phoenix and Tucson to determine which location best suits their active adult lifestyle.

Can you spot the $207,744 difference between these identical homes?

Financing is the difference!

Get the details in The 62+ Loan Homebuyers Guide.

55places Mortgage is a joint venture between Mutual of Omaha Mortgage and
Details here.

Share this post:

We're here to help! (800) 928-2055

Call us to speak with a customer service representative.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get Weekly Updates

I agree that 55places and its affiliates, partner providers or agents may call, text, or email me about my inquiry, which may be made with automated means. I understand that my consent is not a prerequisite for buying a property. I may revoke my consent at any time by contacting [email protected] Message/data rates may apply. I also agree to’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

The Best Places to Snowbird in 2021

We’ve gathered 25 of the best places for snowbirds, including cities in Florida, Arizona, California, Texas, South Carolina, and Nevada. For each entry, we’ve also provided a list of recommended 55+ communities in the area. If you’re ready to find your own winter retreat this season, here are some of the best places to consider.

55+ Communities Near Lakes in the Charlotte Area

Dreaming of spending your retirement on the water, boating, fishing, swimming, or just relaxing, soaking up the sun every day? Then, Charlotte, North Carolina should be on your radar.

A happy group of elderly people living in a 55+ community meet the age requirements.

What Are the Age Requirements for a 55+ Community?

For many, the answer to “What are the age requirements for a 55+ community?” may seem obvious. You have to be 55 or older, right? No, that’s not always the case. In fact, there are many scenarios where there’s only one resident who is 55 or older. Also, there are rare cases when no residents is 55 or older. 

55+ Communities Near the Philadelphia International Airport

Active adult homebuyers who seek homes for sale near an airport have options in several Pennsylvania and New Jersey suburbs, but real estate here is in high demand, so availability can be limited. The best advice? If you find something you like, grab it before someone else does!

55+ Communities With Condos for Sale Near Orlando

Condos are a great option for active adults who want to live in or near Orlando, Florida. Some condos are in communities on the water and others include golf courses, private restaurants, and recreation centers. Let’s look at some of the most popular 55+ communities with condos for sale near Orlando.

Is Greenville, South Carolina a Good Place to Retire?

If you’re considering retiring in the Southeast, Greenville in South Carolina should definitely be on your list of places to consider. This mid-sized city has quickly become one of the fastest-growing cities in the South. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re considering retiring in Greenville.

New Jersey 55+ Communities With Easy Commutes to Philadelphia

People travel into Philadelphia for different reasons. Many people work there while others have family who call it home. And there are those who have theater memberships or frequently patronize the restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions on that side of the bridge. For them, living within easy commuting distance to Philadelphia is very beneficial.

About 55places

We’re changing the way people 55 and older are searching for their perfect next place. With a national network of hand-selected real estate experts, plus comprehensive information, unbiased content, and on-the-go insight about thousands of communities across the country, we’re a trusted resource paving the way from here to home. Whether you’re interested in a low-maintenance single-level residence, an active lifestyle or age-qualified community, an intimate enclave, or anything in between, we can help you make your next move the best one yet.

Scroll to Top