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Supposedly staid Scottsdale actually more fun than Vegas

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

LAS VEGAS - Sitting at one of the outside tables at Mon Ami Gabi - the Paris casino's pretend French bistro - one sees many more strollers than strippers going by. In fact, spend a few days in Vegas and you're liable to become convinced this is the baby capital of the world. The cute, little critters are everywhere.

Getting pushed down The Strip, day or midnight. Craning up from their comfortable prone positions to catch the Bellagio's shooting fountains show. Letting their displeasure be known in the buffet lines.

Stroller City anyone?

Of course, you won't hear about any of this from Las Vegas' casino-greased, big-moneyed publicity machines. Those catchy What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas TV spots never include dirty diapers (though a whole lot of them stay here). Vegas has worked very hard to uncleanse its image in recent years, attempting to erase every bit of the wholesome taint that the Fun City family vacation campaign from the early 2000s left on the town. Only problem is the truth is there are more families than ever patrolling The Strip.

That sound you hear is the gnashing of the teeth of Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority officials. For the LVCVA's masterfully obscured this fact by spending tons of cash and suggesting the Return To A Sinful Sin City angle to lazy travel writers everywhere.

They never expected reality to bite back. Certainly not in the form of a city as old money and supposedly staid as Scottsdale. Nevertheless, recent trips to both Sin City and Senior City revealed that it's no Jose-Canseco-truth-teller stretch to declare that Scottsdale is actually the more seriously decadent golf destination.

I know what you're thinking. What's next, St. George, Utah, being featured on E's "Wild On"?

Suspend your Dan Rather disbelief for a moment.Read on and you'll find six sinful reasons Scottsdale outsizzles Las Vegas for your golf dollar.

No. 1: The Golf's Better. Notjust by a little either. We're talking the difference between Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning. Las Vegas gives you Cascata, a course that tries to trumpet exclusivity by charging golfers $500 per round. Scottsdale counters with the TPC of Scottsdale, a course that lets golfers play the Funhouse of the PGA Tour, that par-3 16th that steals the show at the FBR Open every year.

The difference does not just show up in the top-flight courses either. Going down a tier or two only makes this truth starker. Vegas golf is as top heavy as Dolly Parton. Get below the first wow and you're wondering what all the fuss is about. Scottsdale, on the other hand, delivers consistent play over a wide range of price levels and course reputations. McCormick Ranch, a 36-hole complex with superbly tended fairways and huge practice facilities, is considered a neighborhood course by many in the Scottsdale area.

In Las Vegas, a McCormick Ranch would be charging $230 a round easy.

Granted, it's a little unconventional to talk about the actual golf when discussing "golf" destinations these days. It often seems like the game itself is about the last thing many golf vacationers are concerned about.As Jerry McGraw, who books Grand Strand golf trips for a living, notes, "A lot of guys would leave their clubs at home, if they didn't think it would make the wives suspicious."

Still, if by some strange reason you're interested in course quality, Scottsdale's the winner.

No. 2: Cheap Vegas An Illusion.Sure it's possible to get a dirt-cheap hotel room and eat $3.99 steaks that taste dirt seasoned in Las Vegas. But if you're going to do that, why not just go to Myrtle Beach and drop the illusion? Las Vegas is a place above almost all others where the fun ratio is equivalent to your spending ratio. Face it, you're going to drop some serious cash here, no matter how well you think you've budgeted everything. I recently listened to a bartender in San Diego wonder, three weeks after the fact, how he and three buddies managed to spend $700 on champagne alone at a trendy Sin City nightclub.

It's Vegas, baby.

Considering what you're going to end up buying, the Scottsdale hotel room that's $15-$20 more per night doesn't loom as such a deal breaker anymore.

No. 3: The Women Are More Real & Just As Spectacular. Spend any time hanging out at the Kazimierz World Wine Bar or the Martini Ranch in Old Town Scottsdale and you're not going to be disappointed. The Phoenix-Scottsdale area is one of those places that attracts model types from other parts of the country. It's not an L.A. or New York-strength magnet, but it's not that far off either.

And unlike in Las Vegas, you're not constantly wondering if the pretty girl flashing you a smile from the end of the bar is "working" that night.

No. 4: The Food's Better. LasVegas gets a lot of ink as the new gastronomical capitalof the world. In truth, it's the place celebrity chefs goto charge outrageous prices they couldn't get anywhere else, including New York, for food that's inferior to what they cook in the restaurants where they made their names. Vegas is where chefs who are already famous reach for the big payday from customers who don't know any better. Sure, it's good. If you're from Des Moines.

Scottsdale is largely filled with younger chefs, still trying to make it. This means you get more inventive food for a third of the price.

No. 5: The Sideshows Are Grander. Scottsdale offers the NBA's most exciting team, a ballpark with a remodeled pool and art galleries galore, all a short drive away. Vegas boasts gambling, more gambling and Celine Dion tickets at $200 a pop.

Did I forget Danny Gans? Yeah, thankfully.

No. 6: It's Fun To Sneer At The Trend. Vegas is so in right now, so mainstream, that it might as well be Microsoft. Believe it or not, Scottsdale is actually the rebel in this competition. This is the place that's reinventing itself, the place that's more liable to push the envelope.

Still not convinced. Go ahead and fixate on Vegas.

Just try not to disturb the babies, okay?

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Vegas vs. Scottsdale

    David Terry, St. George, Utah wrote on: Mar 2, 2005

    Chris Baldwin,
    You are a real piece of work. You can q


    • RE: Vegas vs. Scottsdale

      Mark wrote on: Mar 8, 2005

      David Terry, Don't be jealous of Arizona golf.....dude is right! We have it all and you never get back from a vacation in Phoenix thinking how did I spend $700 on champagne? The courses are better, the women are better and it doesn't suck all your money at the tables....oh yeah, we have casino's too! big deal!


Dates: January 12, 2018 - May 31, 2018
TPC Scottsdale is considered part of a world-class destination as it sits adjacent to the AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. This setting offers the ideal location for business, group and leisure travelers.
Price range: $272