Nestled in the Sonoran Desert and bordered by five mountain ranges, Tucson, Arizona, is a city that blends modern energy with a rich cultural history. Known as “The Old Pueblo,” Tucson offers a lifestyle that can be both vibrant and laid-back. Here, the comforts of city life meet natural beauty, from the iconic Saguaro cacti to vibrant sunsets that illuminate the desert sky.
As you explore this guide to Tucson, you’ll discover the key factors that draw travelers, entice locals, and even make some visitors decide to call Tucson their home.
Tucson’s economy is as diverse as the desert landscape. The city is home to the University of Arizona, which brings a wealth of research, education, and employment opportunities. Tech and science jobs thrive here, thanks to a robust aerospace and defense industry and thriving optics and biotech sectors.
However, Tucson isn’t just about science and education. Tourism is a major driver of the economy, with visitors flocking to local landmarks, golf courses, spas, and resorts. There’s also a vibrant arts scene, with a downtown area that boasts galleries, theaters, and a creative community that adds to the city’s economic strength.
Cost of Living
Compared to many other cities of similar size, Tucson has a relatively low cost of living. As of 2023, it’s about 5% lower than the national average. Your budget will stretch further here, whether you’re dining out at a local eatery, hitting the shops downtown, or filling up your gas tank.
Bear in mind, though, that everyone’s cost of living can vary depending on personal needs and lifestyle. It’s always a good idea to crunch your own numbers when considering a move.
Weather & Climate
There’s one word to describe Tucson’s climate: sunny. The city averages more than 350 sunny days per year, perfect for those who thrive in warm weather. Summers can get quite hot, with temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Winter months, however, offer mild and pleasant temperatures averaging around the mid-60s to low-70s. Snow is rare, but the surrounding mountains get dusting, providing stunning views and winter recreational opportunities.
As of the last count, Tucson’s population sits around 550,000, making it Arizona’s second-largest city. The city is known for its friendly and diverse populace. A healthy mix of students, young professionals, families, and retirees all call Tucson home, adding to the vibrant tapestry of the city’s community.
Getting around Tucson is relatively straightforward. The city has a grid system layout, making it easy to navigate. The Sun Tran public bus service covers most of the city, while the Sun Link streetcar connects downtown with the University of Arizona.
Cycling enthusiasts will love the city’s bike-friendly streets and trails. And for those who prefer to walk, many of Tucson’s neighborhoods are quite pedestrian-friendly, particularly around the university and downtown areas.
Tucson’s real estate market is diverse, with an array of housing options to suit different needs. Whether you’re looking for a downtown condo, a family home in a quiet neighborhood, or a luxury residence with mountain views, Tucson has something for you.
As of 2023, the median home price in Tucson is somewhat lower than the national average, making it an attractive option for first-time buyers or those looking for a more affordable cost of living.
Tucson offers a wide range of schooling options for families. The city’s public school system includes several high-performing schools, and there are numerous private and charter schools to choose from. Higher education opportunities abound as well, most notably the University of Arizona, which offers a broad spectrum of undergraduate and graduate programs.
Attractions and Activities
From cultural gems to outdoor adventures, Tucson offers a diverse range of attractions that highlight the city’s unique character. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, foodie, or art lover, Tucson is bound to have something that will catch your eye.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Combining a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium in one, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum showcases the rich biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert. This interactive outdoor museum gives you an up-close look at the stunning flora and fauna native to the region.
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Known as “The White Dove of the Desert,” this beautifully restored mission, founded in 1700, offers a glimpse into Tucson’s Spanish colonial past. The architecture and artwork within the mission are nothing short of breathtaking.
Tucson Museum of Art
Showcasing a diverse collection of art, the Tucson Museum of Art is a must-visit for art lovers. From pre-Columbian to contemporary, the museum celebrates art from various cultures and periods.
Tucson is the first city in the U.S. to be designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, and it’s easy to see why. The city’s culinary scene reflects the region’s cultural diversity. From Southwestern cuisine to international flavors, there are countless eateries waiting to be explored. Visit the bustling Mercado San Agustin for a variety of local foods, or attend a Tucson Meet Yourself event to experience food from around the world.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
This natural oasis, located in the Santa Catalina Mountains, offers picturesque hiking and biking trails. Take the tram tour to enjoy the canyon’s beauty without exertion, or if you’re feeling adventurous, hit the trails and discover the wonders of the desert landscape.
Saguaro National Park
A trip to Tucson wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Saguaro National Park. Named after the iconic Saguaro cactus, this park offers stunning views and a variety of hiking trails for all levels. Don’t miss the scenic drive around the park, especially at sunset.
Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
For a break from the desert, take a drive up the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway. As you ascend, you’ll experience a remarkable change in ecosystems, from desert to forest. At the top, you can enjoy cool temperatures, hiking, and even snow in the winter.
More: Cities in Arizona