I Have to Ask You: PHX vs. SEA

In this series, guest columnists respond to one of three topics selected by ELGL co-founder Kent Wyatt. This week Christian Williams provides insight into living Seattle and Phoenix.


Compare and contrast living in Seattle and Phoenix.

Let me start by saying – both areas are wonderful places to live. Each has a thriving economies with lots of opportunities. Not every place in the U.S. can say this.

I grew up in the northwest valley of the Phoenix area. I lived in the north end of Seattle for four years. Now, I work in Goodyear, located in the the southwest valley of the Phoenix area.

To compare and contrast living in each city, you should know that I love the sun. Phoenix is literally located in the “Valley of the Sun”; whereas Seattle is grey, cloudy, and misty for a good majority of the year. It rained 32 straight days when I lived there. It felt as Seattle was a constant 42 degrees from October to April; Phoenix felt 70 degrees during the winter and blazing hot from June to August. Personally, I would prefer three months of 100 temperatures instead of being bundled up for eight months of the year. However, the October leaves falling in Seattle is amazing to see.

Both cities are near the mountains which creates excellent hiking opportunities. The gray of Seattle often covers the beauty of the mountains. In Seattle, there is a phrase “The Mountain is Out” which means its actually a day where you can Mt. Rainier. we used to have a phrase “The Mountain is Out” meaning you could see Mount Rainier. Access to the mountains is easier in Phoenix. There are literally dozens of mountains throughout the city. You can get to a trailhead in no longer than 15 minutes. While Mt. Rainier is at least an hour drive from Seattle. 

Seattle traffic is awful. Phoenix traffic flows well. Seattle’s bus system is awesome. Phoenix’s bus system is limited but the light rail helps fill in the gaps. 

The core of Seattle feels dense, but within a few miles sprawls out into the hills. Seattle has great neighborhoods (Ballard, Wallingford, Queen Anne). Phoenix’s city center is beginning to transform into a more urban environment. Phoenix suburbs have their own quasi-urban downtown. Everything in Phoenix is 10 minute away.  

Seattle feels like a big city but the rest of the region felt small (3.5 million people); however. The Valley, on the other hand, feels like a dozen mid-sized cities (4.6 million people) with major destinations such as Old Town Scottsdale, Westgate in Glendale and Mill Ave in Tempe..

Seattle has neighborhoods full of food and culture; however, the city as a whole feels segregated. Whereas, Phoenix is a big, vast melting pot that feels more accepting.  

Seattle vs. Phoenix – everyone has their personal preference. I don’t mind 100 degrees for a stretch when it is 70 degrees the rest of the year. Phoenix offers affordable housing, an abundance of sports and concerts, man-made lakes, short journeys to Vegas or San Diego, forests within 90 minutes, a beautiful desert, and 300 amazing sunsets a year.


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