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Skyline of tall buildings and a mountain during sunset in Tucson

18 Things to Know About Living in Tucson

Thinking about moving to Tucson? The Old Pueblo is rich with Wild West history, beautiful desert sunsets, tons of outdoor recreation, and some of the best Mexican food in Southern Arizona. Here are 18 things to know about living in Tucson!

Live Affordably in Tucson’s Great Job Market

Tucson is one of most affordable places to live in Arizona! A slightly-lower cost of living than the U.S. average—combined with housing averaging 25% less than the national number—makes this Southwest city a great place to live. You can find plenty of budget-friendly housing options in safe, affordable Tucson neighborhoods, but you’ll have to act fast—it’s currently a hot buyer’s market! Residents looking to purchase homes can find even more possibilities—with income averaging $37,973 per household, people can more easily save money while living in the Southwest. To top it off, this Arizona city’s relatively low unemployment rate of 3.2% and ranking as a top city to work remotely help residents feel secure. As part of the Arizona Sun Corridor, Tucson offers a thriving job market with industries in aerospace, healthcare, tourism, manufacturing, and education. Residents can explore job opportunities at some of the Tucson metro’s top employers like Caterpillar Inc., Tucson Medical Center, Raytheon Technologies, and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Everyone’s a Wildcat Here

Boy and girl jumping in front of a fountain. Photo by Instagram user @uarizona

Photo via @uarizona

Home to the University of Arizona, Tucson’s collegiate pride runs deep. With just over 51,000 students and 15,000 employees, it’s easy to see how life in Tucson can still feel like a college town even with a total population of more than 546,000. Plus, the impact of the university is obvious among the local job market—Tucson has even been named a top city for emerging tech! Whether your dream is to work closely with NASA, spend some time in the Poetry Center, or attend medical school, there’s a program at the U of A for everyone.

Great for Snowbirds & Retirees

Did you know Tucson is one of the sunniest cities in the U.S.? Filled with endless warm weather and little to no snow each year, snowbirds who like to escape to their summer home for the winter flock to this Southwest Sunbelt city. These factors are also what makes the Tucson lifestyle attractive to retirees! With lower independent living costs, a plethora of retirement communities, plenty of outdoor activities for older adults, and no tax on Social Security benefits, it’s not surprising that Tucson is one of the best places to retire.

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Be Ready for Unique Seasons

One of the biggest changes for people moving to Tucson is the seasons. In general, the best time to visit Tucson is from November to March, which is when you’ll most likely experience heavy traffic from snowbirds and tourists. In the summer, however, you’ll get some relief, as this is the off-season. That said, though Tucson has 286 sunny days a year, Arizona’s monsoon season takes place from mid-June to the end of September and can bring thunderstorms, high winds, and even dust storms—and don’t forget about the scorching desert heat and 100-degree days when the storms clear!

Check out this great timelapse video of monsoons around Tucson to see for yourself!

Outdoor Recreation Galore

When it comes to Tucson attractions, the area’s wide open spaces and natural beauty are must-sees. Bike the trails or go horseback riding at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Check out Sonoran Desert habitats as you trek through 21 acres of native plants, hold a Eurasian Eagle Owl in the palm of your hands, and visit the Warden Aquarium at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Go camping, practice archery, hike the Gates Pass Trail, or refine your birdwatching skills at Tucson Mountain Park. Head into the Santa Catalina Ranger District to make your way up Mount Lemmon for incredible views of the valley. Explore specialty gardens such as the Cactus & Succulent Garden and Barrio Garden, or marvel in wonder at the Butterfly Magic exhibit at Tucson Botanical Gardens. View stalactites and stalagmites that have been forming for millions of years during an underground cave tour at Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Or go backcountry camping and view the petroglyphs at Saguaro National Park.

A Dog-Friendly City

German Shepard Sitting at the top of Sentinel Peak in Tucson. Photo by Instagram user @thatboybalto

Photo via @thatboybalto

Moving to Tucson, Arizona with your four-legged friend? Tucson is one of the best U.S. cities for dogs! Not only can you explore the amazing Tucson hiking trails surrounding the city, but you can also have some bonding time at one of the many Tucson dog parks like Smiling Dog Ranch, Brandi Fenton Memorial Park, or Purple Heart Park! Leash up your pup and spend the morning at one of Tucson’s farmers markets. Go for a jog with your four-legged friend on your side at Catalina Park or play fetch in the open space at Armory Park. Teach your dog how to swim or have a doggy pool party at Soggy Dog Club. And be sure to hit up all the dog-friendly patios throughout the Tucson metro, including The Boxyard, Arizona Beer House, and more!

Tucson Is a Biker’s Paradise

With excellent weather and 131 miles of car-free paths available via The Chuck Huckelberry Loop, it’s easy to see why Tucson is one of the top cycling cities in the U.S. If you don’t have your own bike, the Tugo Bike Share program provides affordable access to bikes at over 40 stations across the city. Those interested in competitive biking can sign up to be one of the 6,000 people participating in the annual El Tour de Tucson or join in the bike races at the Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder. Not interested in road or competitive biking? The local desert thrilling and nature-filled terrain for mountain bikers!

Stargaze in the Sonoran Desert

Guy staring up at the night sky looking at stars. Photo by Instagram user @catsphotoshoot

Photo via @catsphotoshoot

The Sonoran Desert might be known for its epic sunsets, but what happens when the sun goes down is equally breathtaking. Expansive dark skies and minimal light pollution make viewing the desert constellation patterns one of the most unique things to do in Tucson. Find unbelievable Tucson stargazing views right from your backyard, or head up to the summit of a sky island and view neighboring planets, distant galaxies, and other celestial wonders at the University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon Sky Center. Purchase lenses, telescopes, or other astronomy related equipment at Starizona. Or explore our vast galaxies inside the EOS Planetarium Theater at Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium.

Dive In to Tucson’s History

Though it wasn’t officially incorporated as a city until 1877, Tucson has a long, rich history dating all the way back to the ancient Hohokam Indians. Today, Tucson historic sites and museums fill the city where residents can learn about Spanish, Mexican, and American influences, as well as about the modern-day native peoples of the Tohono O’odham Nation—all of whom have helped shaped Tucson into what it is. See the adobe walls that gave birth to the Dirty T when you visit the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum (known as Old Pueblo). View incredible Spanish-Colonial architecture and hear more about the mission’s Franciscan roots at San Xavier del Bac Mission. Spend an afternoon exploring exhibits that detail Tucson’s roots and the Old West at Arizona History Museum. Or head to the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum to learn more about the local indigenous history and culture.

Check Out Kid-Friendly Activities

Looking for fun things to do with kids? You’re in luck—there’s certainly no shortage of family attractions in Tucson! Bring your little ones to view a large collection of miniature figures, dioramas, and dollhouses at The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures. Get up close to a pygmy hippo in an underwater viewing area, explore the Temple of Tiny Monkeys, or attend events like the Little Critters Workshop or Junior Zoo Keeper at Reid Park Zoo. View over 400 aircraft on display across 80 acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits at the Pima Air & Space Museum. Let your kids roam the Bodyology and Gravity exhibits or enroll them for summer camps like Brick Builders at Children’s Museum Tucson. Enjoy a family fun day by racing go-karts, playing mini-golf, and riding bumper boats at Funtasticks. Experience live-action cowboy gun fights, enjoy wild west train and wagon rides, or explore the gold mine at Old Tucson. Or get a day pass and spend an afternoon rock climbing, bouldering, and more at Rocks and Ropes.

Downtown Is a Hot Destination

Cars on a street in Downtown Tucson. Photo by Instagram user@downtowntucson

Photo via @downtowntucson

The two billion-dollar revitalization project of the Rio Nuevo District and development of Tucson public transportation, with the addition of the SunLink streetcar, has helped transform Downtown Tucson into a hub for arts, business, and entertainment. Stop by Congress Street each month to see a live concert, try out a new food truck, or peruse what local artisans have for sale at 2nd Saturdays. Attend a great lineup of live music acts with guest lectures, art installations, and more at HOCO Fest. Check out shops and restaurants made from shipping containers at MSA Annex—where you can sip on a craft beer at Tap & Bottle Westbound or sample vegan burgers and spicy fries at Beaut Burger. And don’t forget to stroll through Old Town Artisans when you’re looking for things to do in Downtown Tucson, where you can find vintage clothing, organic eats, contemporary art, and more!

Experience Pride in the Desert

In 1977, Tucson Pride became Arizona’s first and longest-established LGBTQ organization. The city is chock-full of youth and family resources—including workshops, advocacy, organizations to join or volunteer with, non-profits, sports, and more. Tucson embraces and celebrates diversity and inclusion all day, every day—but especially during the Tucson Pride Parade. Party in Downtown Tucson with over 5,000 attendees at Armory Park, packed with hundreds of vendors, food trucks, artists, live music, and more! Or have brunch and enjoy entertaining drag queens perform at HighWire for Tucson Pride Brunch. Or head over to one of many gay bars in Tucson—hit up IBT’s for dance parties, drag shows, trivia nights, and karaoke. Enjoy live music, karaoke Sundays, and happy hour food and drink at Brodies’s Dark Horse Tavern.

It’s Not All Desert

You’ll be met with a mini mecca for arts, entertainment, and culture when you settle down in Tucson! Get lost in galleries of Colonial Latin-American Art and attend artist talks at Tucson Museum of Art. Catch a classic movie or play trivia while sipping on a variety of tap beers at Casa Film Bar. View independent foreign films and documentaries or attend Loft Kids Fest, the free Tucson film festival for children, at The Loft Cinema. Attend live musical experiences such as Cello Here, Cello There or Star Wars: Return of the Jedi In Concert at Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Browse the archives of master photographers at the Center for Creative Photography. Learn about the southwest’s indigenous Navajo and Hopi tribes or view an extensive collection of textiles, maps, and more at Tucson Desert Art Museum. Or attend Free Third Thursdays, enroll your kids in a summer camp, or browse current exhibitions like Raven Chacon: While Hissing and New Histories at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson.

Attend Tucson’s Annual Events

Tourists and locals alike can enjoy Tucson festivals and cultural events throughout the year. Commemorate the passing of loved ones and celebrate life by viewing unique art installations, building ofrendas, and participating in the ceremonial burning of “The Urn” for the Dia de los Muertos-inspired All Souls Procession Weekend. Gather with 600,000 people to browse crafts from local artists, sample street food from incredible Tucson food trucks, and jam out to live music at the 4th Avenue Street Fair. Attend book panels and signings or stop by the free book tent at the Tucson Festival of Books—one of the largest book festivals in the U.S. Grab a bucket of popcorn, support indie film artists, and attend post-screening Q&As at Film Fest Tucson. Immerse yourself in Tucson’s rodeo roots and watch cowboys ride a 2,000 pound bull, dance the night away inside a barn, or cheer on little ones competing in roping events at the nine-day La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. Enjoy extreme circus stunts, sea lion shows, live music performances from big-name artists, and more at the 10-day Pima County Fair. Or appreciate one-of-a-kind fossils, minerals, and stones, and buy world-class jewelry at the largest and oldest gem show in the world, the Tucson Gem Show.

Cheer on Your Favorite Sports Teams

If you’re living in Tucson but aren’t attending the university, don’t worry—you’ll be inducted into the Wildcat spirit as soon as you yell your first “Bear Down!” And you’ll get lots of practice during University of Arizona football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer games throughout the year. Watch the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL) hit the ice or the Tucson Sugar Skulls (IFL) score a touchdown at Tucson Convention Center. Cheer on FC Tucson (USL) at Kino Sports Complex. Or explore some of the best golf courses in Tucson, with tournaments like the Cologuard Classic!

Home of the Chimichanga

Wooden tray of chimichangas. Photo by Instagram user @elcharro.cafe

Photo via @elcharro.cafe

Have you ever wondered who invented the chimichanga? A favorite fun fact about Tucson is that the El Charro Café—one of the oldest continually-operating best Mexican restaurants in Tucson—is cited as the birthplace of the chimichanga. Learn about how Tia Monica Flin accidentally dropped beef tacos into a frying pan and, in an attempt not to curse in front of children, created this Mexican food staple. Visit one of the three standalone locations of El Charro Café in Tucson to sample The Carne Seca Platter, Seafood Enchiladas, and, of course, the famous chimichangas.

All Hail the First U.S. Capital of Gastronomy

Plate of bacon and eggs with a coffee. Photo by Instagram user @prepandpastry

Photo via @prepandpastry

How do you become America’s first City of Gastronomy and get added to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network? Have a long history of quality food! While Tucson’s desert location makes this accolade unexpected to some, this award is unsurprising to those who know about the region’s 4,000-year history of farming and agriculture. Experience Sonoran cuisine at some of the best restaurants in Tucson when you book a Tucson Food Tour. Start your morning with a Prickly Pear Mimosa and an order of Snickerdoodle Pancakes or Breakfast Tacos at Baja Cafe. Order the Poblano Verde Beni, Sweet Potato Hash, and Chickpea Scramble at Prep & Pastry. Enjoy the Old Pueblo Burger, Camarones Culichi, and rotating craft beer at gastropub, Ermanos Bar. Get a taste of Southern cuisine when you order the Hushpuppies, Shrimp & Grits, or the Chicken & Waffle at The Parish. Sample plant-based Mexican food on a menu that changes daily at Tumerico. Or attend endless Tucson’s food and drink festivals throughout the year.

Enjoy a Night Out in Dirty T

Guy DJing at a club. Photo by Instagram user @hifitucson

Photo via @hifitucson

Tucson has plenty going on after dark! From casual breweries to Downtown Tucson bars and packed college clubs, there’s a Tucson nightlife experience suited for everyone. Enjoy a boozy brunch with Bottomless Mimosas or dance into the morning at bar and lounge Playground Tucson. Grab your cowboy boots and enjoy a night of honky-tonk dance lessons, live music, and great drinks at country club bar, The Maverick. Experience a unique night out with rooftop telescopes and galaxy-themed cocktails like the Lunar Lemonade, Cosmic Mule, and Starry Night at the solar-powered Sky Bar Tucson. Attend live jazz shows and sip on small-batch mezcals, craft cocktails, or regional wines at The Century Room. Hear the latest DJ spin, go dancing, or share the Nemo Fishbowl cocktail with friends at Hi-Fi Tucson. Or if you’re looking for something a little different, head to Congress Street in Downtown Tucson and attend a comedy show or catch a live music concert at the Fox Tucson Theatre or Rialto Theatre.

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Moving to Tucson? Extra Space Storage has convenient storage facilities throughout Old Pueblo that can help make the transition easier. Find self storage near you!