Phoenix vs Los Angeles
People from Southern California are spoiled. I mean L.A. has everything! The beach, the desert, the mountains, and a bustling city. What more do you need? But when people from L.A. talk about their next door neighbor Phoenix, AZ there is a little bit of a rivalry going on. Why is that? Culture differences? Jealousy? There’s no denying that the people of Phoenix are very different from the people of L.A. So lets take a look at 6 differences between living in Phoenix vs Los Angeles and then you can decide for yourself.
Coming from a Southern Cali girl…
I was born and raised in Southern California and never expected to live anywhere else. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and as I got older, I progressively moved further and further south, eventually purchasing my first home in a lovely city called Lakewood which is close to Long Beach and near the border of Orange County.
But when we had the housing bubble of 2006, my house literally tripled in value and the idea of selling and moving was much too attractive to pass up. So I sold my house and my husband and I took our “winnings” and bought a new custom home in Las Vegas, Nevada where I pursued a career as an interior designer for the hospitality industry.
Unfortunately 3 years later in 2009 when the housing bubble burst, everything fell apart for us. That beautiful new house was underwater and I had been laid off from my job. Interior design careers then became practically obsolete. On top of it all, I became pregnant with my son in 2010 and by that time we were out of luck and money. Moving back to L.A. was no longer an option financially.
The only other prospect available to us was moving to Phoenix, AZ where my hubby’s family lived. That seemed like the only option we had to get back on our feet and it was not an option I was too happy about. But I did know that after the horrible string of luck we had in Vegas, we needed a fresh start. Besides Vegas is a desert too, so how much worse could it be?
So in the middle of summer 2010 while I was 9 months pregnant and we packed up all of our crap and headed to Phoenix, AZ. Therefore, as a native Angelino, these are my personal opinions of Phoenix vs Los Angeles. You may or may not be offended.
1. Phoenix vs Los Angeles Weather
Phoenix really only has 2 seasons – perfect and REALLY freaking hot. In November through April, you can expect to enjoy gorgeous 70-80 degree days with cool 50-60 degree nights. But come May through October, the gates of hell open up. We are talking 109-115 degrees on average. Having an air conditioner is not a luxury, it is vital to life. Yes, you will die if you do not have one.
But then from June through September, we get a little respite from the heat in the form of a Monsoon. In fact it’s not even called Summer. In these parts it’s called Monsoon Season. If you don’t know what a monsoon is, it is a crazy thunderstorm with rain and lightning. I like to joke that the heat is so intense it even makes the sky cry!
Monsoons also bring with them intense high winds, dust storms called Haboobs (go on, say it – you know you want to), and flash floods. They can be pretty destructive but the lightning shows are pretty incredible. The rain is usually super heavy, except that it usually only lasts long enough to get your car dirty. And since your wiper blades have already dried out months ago, they will be useless by the time you actually need them.
And speaking of cars, if yours is black or you have leather interior, people will look at you like you are crazy. Um…you are. Regardless of what color car you have, you will want a steering wheel cover although you will have already burned your hand on the door handle and seat belt by the time you get in.
Phoenix summers can be super expensive. With triple digit temperatures come triple digit electric bills. And if you are one of the lucky ones to have a pool, you can enjoy swimming in what feels like warm pee because you don’t even need a heater! That same hot water will also be coming out of all of your pipes at all hours no matter what temperature your faucet is set to. Refreshing.
We know you are laughing at our suffering in Phoenix. We get it. Typically L.A. weather is usually pleasant all year round and is what draws so many people to Los Angeles. Sure, you have June Gloom, El Nino, and the Marine Layer which burns off in the afternoon and the rest of the year is incredibly mild.
I remember when summers in L.A. would get to maybe 101 degrees on it’s hottest day. With an awesome breeze from the nearby pacific ocean, you only needed an open window and a portable fan to cool off in the summer. For many L.A. homes air conditioning was a luxury therefore many homes to this day don’t even have an a/c. But people in L.A. don’t really need a pool. You can just cool off by going to the beach or even running around in the sprinklers.
However, over the past few years L.A. summers have been getting increasingly hotter – pushing closer to 111 degrees. Welcome to my world! So even though now I’m pointing and laughing at you, I’m also kind of worried for you guys! Regardless of whether it’s 99 or 110 degrees, it’s still too freaking hot. You probably wouldn’t even notice the difference anyway if you were just crazy enough to go outside. But wait, you don’t have A/C…
So while Phoenix has Monsoon Season, L.A. has Earthquake weather. Angelinos like to predict Earthquake weather – although everyone has their own definition of what exactly “earthquake weather” is. For me it was when it would be super hot in the daytime and then it would be foggy at night in parts of town where fog doesn’t usually reach like the Valley or Downtown. Remember the Northridge earthquake? That’s right. I predicted that! I just didn’t expect it to fall on my freaking birthday. True story.
In the battle of Phoenix vs Los Angeles weather, L.A. still has the edge. At least neither of us have to deal with hurricanes, tornadoes, and snowstorms. Although a white Christmas just once would be nice.
2. Phoenix vs Los Angeles Cost of Living
Living in Los Angeles used to be somewhat reasonable. You could rent a 2 bedroom apartment in the San Fernando Valley for around $700 a month back in the early 90s. But the cost of living has tripled in the last 20 years. Heck, nowadays that same apartment goes for around $1700. You are lucky if you can find a studio apartment for less than $1000. Maybe they still exist in the valley, but who wants to live there anyway? (I’m kidding). But if you want to live anywhere nice, you are going to have to fork over the big bucks. A typical Los Angeles house like the one below costs around a million dollars.
Oh, did I mention, your gas prices suck? On top of high gas prices, gas stations want to charge you an additional “convenience fee” for using a debit or credit card. Can we talk about parking fees? When I used to live in L.A. you’d only have to pay to park at fancy restaurants with a valet. But now you have to pay to park practically everywhere – even where you work! And it’s super expensive, like upwards of around $15 just for the privilege of parking your car at a seedy neighborhood parking lot, just so you can walk 5 blocks to eat at that restaurant in Silverlake or shop at that store on Melrose. What is up with that?
Now in parts of Phoenix, you can actually BUY a brand new 2000 square foot house out here for around $250,000. And you can totally rent a 4 bedroom house for under $1200. With a yard and everything!
Sure the houses all look the same, just in various shades of beige, brown, or white stucco and you’ll probably have rocks for landscaping – if you’re lucky, you might even have a cactus or two. But at least you will have air conditioning!
Our gas prices are always lower than yours. This year I was actually able to get gas as low as $1.35 a gallon just a few months ago. What?! The last time I paid less than $1.50 for gas in L.A. I was still in high school in the late 80s. Take that L.A.!
Here is a really cool link from Numbeo that shows how the cost of living compares between the two cities.
In the battle of Phoenix vs Los Angeles Cost of Living – Phoenix wins hands down. At those prices, you can grow to love beige stucco.
3. Phoenix vs Los Angeles Neighborhoods
L.A. is a huge mix of good and bad areas and they can all be in the same city. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley in areas like Reseda, Van Nuys, and a gang infested town called Panorama City. But then you head a few miles southwest and venture into Chatsworth, Sherman Oaks, and Granada Hills where the homes are much more affluent.
When I moved out on my own, I lived in Hollywood for a few years in the early 90s and while it was a pretty active city, it was also very dangerous and not a safe place for a woman to walk alone at night. Following my stint in Hollywood, I then moved to Venice Beach which is a really cool little beach town with lots to see and do. Parts of Venice are super cool, but head a few blocks in the wrong direction and you may find yourself feeling a little uneasy – and this is in the same city! Many of the homes and businesses in L.A. are very old and in serious need of renovation.
Los Angeles has beautiful flowers, grass and trees. As far as wildlife, you have squirrels, racoons, possum, and mountain lions. Phoenix is the land of asphalt, concrete and cactus. But there are also a fair share of farms and desert mountains – if you like that sort of thing. We have coyotes, roadrunners, quail, vultures, lizards, rattlesnakes, and javelinas. We both have cockroaches (blech), Junebugs (ahhhhhh!), crickets (nope!) but we have the added bonus of scorpions that are actually clear and blend right into the carpet (yay!).
Phoenix is pretty easy to navigate. The whole city is comprised of a grid system. You have the “Streets” on the East and the “Avenues” on the West. In the middle is Downtown. The Avenues change into the Streets at Central – the heart of downtown.
There are some pretty cool neighborhoods all over Phoenix. On the East side, you have wealthy areas like Scottsdale and Paradise Valley where you can find many homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Then you have Tempe which is a college town with a very active night life where you can find a ton of bars and clubs with stupid kids getting into bar fights and puking in bushes.
Downtown is pretty clean and fairly safe. The homes are older, but many have undergone renovations and the city has really been cleaned up. There is a lot of culture in downtown phoenix with a hip and urban vibe. We do not have a “Skid Row”. Downtown has many gay friendly bars and vintage homes that have been converted to unique restaurants and businesses. There is also a very lively arts district. It is comparable to downtown Portland without the rain.
The west side is home to the Cardinals Stadium and Westgate Entertainment District which is sort of like Universal City Walk with less tourists. There are lots of farms with beautiful fields of green crops and blooming flowers. Granted there is less to do on the west side, but that is because it is still being built up. Practically everything is brand spanking new! We also have one of the only five Cancer Treatment Centers of America – which is good to know.
*On a side note, people from the east side always talk smack about the “Avenues” and granted, there are several seedy areas in the avenues outside and surrounding Central Phoenix. But there are also some pretty shady parts in the “Streets” too *cough* central Mesa *cough*. If east-siders would just venture a little further west of the 101 there are some really beautiful neighborhoods to be seen. I live on the west side of Phoenix and I love it! It’s right next to Litchfield Park which is a quaint small historic town with huge estates and mansions that you can own for around $600k. Yeah, that’s right L.A.
On the west side (specifically past 108th avenue), the neighborhoods are safe, quiet, and there is a park in every community. But that’s okay, east side. I don’t want you guys coming to the west side anyway. You might blow my chance of buying a brand new 2000 s.f. house for $250k.
In the battle of Phoenix vs Los Angeles Neighborhoods – it’s a toss up. Los Angeles is a cool place to live if you can afford it. I really miss the flowers, grass, and the beach, but I also enjoy my personal safety just as much. And in Phoenix, you can get so much house for the money! Personally I think Phoenix is a better place to raise a family.
4. Phoenix vs Los Angeles Stuff to Do
Los Angeles has lots of stuff to do. You have Disneyland (if you live in L.A., get yourself a season pass – it’s worth it), Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, and the beach just miles away. There is also Hollywood Blvd, Griffith Park, and Santa Monica Pier. But unless you can afford to live close by, you will have to fight the traffic to get there, mortgage your house to park there, and then fend off tourists once you are there.
There is also alot to do in Phoenix. We have Farmers markets all over town. There are beautiful hiking and biking trails. We have lots of sports events all year with one of the most popular being Spring Training in 10 different Phoenix locations to watch some of your favorite baseball teams. Golf is huge out here if you are into that sort of thing.
We also have two zoos, casinos, bowling alleys, bars, comedy clubs, and lots of weekend events. And for my fellow goths out there used to the awesome club scene in L.A., don’t despair. There is a decent club scene out here for all you lovely creatures of the night – with much less drama (L.A. goths know what I’m talking about). There is also surprisingly large fetish scene if you are into stuff like that.
In the summer Phoenicians just have to get more creative. Since you can’t go outside, you will have to plan indoor activities. But Phoenix has lots of museums like the AZ Science Center, Childrens Museum, Wet N Wild Waterpark, and even indoor amusement parks. You might want to invest in some season passes to some of the local museums. Sites like *Groupon and Living Social can really come in handy and save you quite a bit of money on stuff like that!
And if you want to get away for a while, Prescott, Flagstaff, and Sedona are only a few hours away.
In the battle of Phoenix vs Los Angeles Things to Do – Because we are stuck indoors for 5 months out of the year, Los Angeles wins this one. But L.A. summers are getting hotter each year. It might not be the winner for much longer.
5. Phoenix vs Los Angeles People
LA has a very culturally diverse population. They don’t call it the Melting Pot for nothing! You have every race and every nationality as neighbors and some even have their own neighborhoods. There’s China Town, Little Armenia and even Little Ethiopia!
On the downside, most of the people in LA are not from LA and you are just one boob job away from getting “afflicted”. The level of pretentiousness can be a little nauseating. Everyone is trying to be discovered and has to own the best clothes and the best cars. I swear every other car on the 134 is either a BMW or Mercedes. It is not uncommon to see celebrities at the grocery store or Jerry’s Deli.
The majority of the population is liberal, progressive, and open-minded. But if you are used to living a high class lifestyle in Brentwood or Beverly Hills but want to be surrounded by Republicans, you would feel right at home in Scottsdale. Plus we have just as many cougars here as we do coyotes.
Phoenix is a very conservative city. There is a church on practically every corner and several stores and restaurants are closed on Sunday. And the people here sure love their guns. You will often see them carrying them out in the open at the gas station or grocery store. In LA when you see someone carry a gun, it is usually to rob someone. Needless to say after moving to Phx from L.A., it can be quite unnerving seeing a guy putting his potting soil in the trunk of his car in the parking lot of Home Depot with an AK-47 strapped to his body. (Ok I don’t really know if it was an AK-47, but that is the only gun name I know). Regardless, why the hell would anyone need to take their gun to Home Depot?! But I get it. You love your gun.
There is a very large senior population here as well. You will often see them driving their golf carts in Sun City or Youngtown (the oldest retirement city in the U.S.A.) – ironic, right? Much of the population consists of Whites, Indians (both Hindu and Native American because casinos), and Hispanics – just make sure you have your papers in case Sheriff Joe pulls you over.
You will be probably be sorely disappointed when you meet someone who you think is so freaking cool only to find out that they are on the completely opposite end of the political spectrum. But then you have to remind yourself “Oh yeah. Arizona.” However, the younger population is much more progressive out here. And you can usually find some like-minded individuals if you know where to look! Meetup.com is a great resource. Just try to ignore the thousands of F*ck Obama bumper stickers and confederate flags. You don’t want to start any trouble. Remember what I said about guns?
In the battle of Phoenix vs Los Angeles People – For me, L.A. wins by a landslide. For the elephants in the room, Phoenix will probably be your cup of “Tea”.
6. Phoenix vs Los Angeles Traffic
You can’t do a comparison of Phoenix and Los Angeles without talking about traffic.
In L.A., whether you are on the 405, the 101, the 10, the 5, or the 110 you will be in traffic at any given time of the day. And if you have to commute “over the hill” from the valley into the city, you are stuck with taking either the congested 405, the dangerous Sepulveda Pass, or the acid trip that is Laurel Canyon. It takes at least an hour and half to get anywhere. Everyone is always late. This drives me crazy. I definitely don’t miss the L.A. traffic.
In Phoenix, we do have our fair share of traffic especially in the winter when the “snowbirds” are in town. Snowbirds are people from colder climates like Minnesota or Canada who have homes out here that they live in for 7 months out of the year. But during the summer the snowbirds leave (thank goodness) and the freeways and streets clear up so it’s smooth sailing even during rush hour. The freeways are also well kept and you could even call them decorative. And if you don’t want to take the freeway, the streets run straight through from east to west. It takes longer, but still super easy.
In the battle of Phoenix vs Los Angeles Traffic – It’s no contest. Phoenix wins.
Phoenix vs Los Angeles – Where Would You Rather Live?
I’ll be honest. When I first moved to Phoenix, I was incredibly homesick. I still really miss the green grass, the ocean, the culture and of course my friends. But after living here in Phoenix for the past 6 years, I have actually grown to love it here. I have a great job and am raising my family in a lovely and affordable house in a safe and quiet neighborhood. And after a little searching, I have been able to find like-minded people and have made several new friends. The nice things is, if I ever feel like visiting L.A. it is just a 6 hour drive away on the 10. Until you hit the 405…
In a battle between Phoenix vs Los Angeles, which would be the clear winner for you? Leave me a comment and let me know!
*Disclaimer: I was not compensated for writing this post, but it does contains affiliate links which means I may be compensated a small amount if you click through and purchase. Full disclosure policy here.**