Skyline of tall buildings and a mountain during sunset in Tucson

15 Things to Know About Living in Tucson

Thinking about moving to Tucson? The Old Pueblo is known for its desert sunsets, cactus-filled landscapes, sunny days, and cowboy culture, but it’s so much more than that! Wondering what it would be like to relocate to South Central Arizona? Here are 15 things to know about living in Tucson!

An Affordable City with Steady Growth

Skyline of buildings and mountains in Tucson. Photo by Instagram user @seanparkerphotography
Photo via @seanparkerphotography

With a cost of living that’s 8% lower than the national average and 6% lower than the state average, Tucson is an affordable place to live in Arizona. Housing costs are also 25% lower than the national average with median home prices around $132,200 and median rent prices around $772. But you’ll have to act fast if you’re planning to buy a home in Tucson, as it’s currently a hot seller’s market. The growth of the city is also working wonders for Tucson’s job market, which, according to local sources, is the best it’s been in a decade. And as part of the Arizona Sun Corridor—the sprawling metropolitan area connecting Tucson to Phoenix—the city’s expansion is predicted to continue at a momentous rate!

Everyone’s a Wildcat Here

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

As the home of the University of Arizona, Tucson’s collegiate pride runs deep. With just over 45,000 students and 16,000 employees, it’s easy to see how Tucson can still feel like a college town even with a total population of 545,975. Plus, the impact of the university is obvious among the local job market to the point that 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. If you’re living in Tucson but aren’t attending the university, don’t worry—you’ll be inducted into the school spirit as soon as you yell your first “Bear Down!” And you’ll get lots of practice during football, basketball, baseball, and soccer games throughout the year.

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Great for Snowbirds & Retirees

Two elderly people riding bikes. Photo by Instagram user @theforumattucson
Photo via @theforumattucson

It’s not just students who call Old Pueblo home! Warm weather, sunny skies, and little to no snow each year are all reasons why snowbirds like to live in Tucson. These factors are also what make this city a great place for retirees! With lower independent living costs, a variety of outdoor activities for older adults, and no tax on Social Security benefits, Tucson is a popular place to retire in Arizona.

Be Ready for Unique Seasons

Lightning in the sky above Tucson. Photo by Instagram user @seanparkerphotography
Photo via @seanparkerphotography

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, don’t expect Tucson’s 286 sunny days a year as much during the summer. 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!

Downtown Is a Hot Destination

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

The revitalization of the Rio Nuevo District and development of the Sun Link streetcar has helped transform a once-stagnate city center into a hub for the arts, business, and entertainment. Stop by Congress Street each month to attend 2nd Saturdays and see a concert, try a new food truck, or peruse what local artisans have for sale. Attend the annual HOCO Fest, a music festival that also features guest lectures, art installations, and more. Check out shops and restaurants made from shipping containers at the Mercado San Agustín Annex, where you can sip on a craft beer at Westbound or sample vegan burgers and spicy fries at Beaut Burger. Another fun thing to do in Downtown Tucson is to stroll through the Old Town Artisans, where you can find vintage clothing, organic eats, and contemporary art!

Dive into Tucson’s History

White Mission San Xavier del Bac with cacti in front of it. Photo by Instagram user @morgan_lorraine_
Photo via @morgan_lorraine_

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, the city is filled with historic sites 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. Visit the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum (known as Old Pueblo) to see the adobe walls that gave birth to the city. Check out Mission San Xavier del Bac to view the incredible Spanish-Colonial architecture and hear more about the mission’s Franciscan roots. Spend an afternoon at the Arizona History Museum to discover exhibits about Tucson’s Wild West roots. Or head to the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum to learn more about the local indigenous history and culture.

Outdoor Recreation Galore

Cacti in a desert at sunset. Photo by Instagram user @marknavarrophoto
Photo via @marknavarrophoto

When it comes to Tucson attractions, exploring the area’s wide open spaces and natural beauty are some of the best things to do. Hit the trails or go horseback riding at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Check out different Sonoran Desert habitats and trek through 21 acres of native plants at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Go camping, practice archery, or refine your birdwatching skills atTucson Mountain Park. Visit Reid Park Zoo to see Squirrel Monkeys, Bearded Dragons, and African Elephants. Head into the Santa Catalina Recreation Area to make your way up Mount Lemmon for incredible views of the valley. You can also find some of Arizona’s best golf courses and tournaments in Tucson!

It’s Not All Desert

Two women looking at a piece of art of a woman. Photo by Instagram user @tucsonmuseumofart
Photo via @tucsonmuseumofart

While the cacti, exotic birds, and horned lizards of Saguaro National Park are what many think of when imagining Tucson, there’s more to see and do than that! Find luxury shopping at La Encantada with stores like Anthropologie, Brighton Collectibles, and Williams-Sonoma. Or get deals at stores like Calvin Klein, Levi’s, and Adidas at Tucson Premium Outlets. Take your little ones toMini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures, recognized as one of the best things to do in Tucson with kids. See over 150 planes at the Pima Air & Space Museum—another family favorite. Learn about Latin-American, Western, Indigenous American, and Asian art at Tucson Museum of Art. Or stop by Casa Film Bar, where you can watch a documentary or play trivia while sipping on a glass of wine.

Enjoy Living in a Bike-Friendly City

Guy riding his bike in the desert. Photo by Instagram user @vamosatucsonoficial
Photo via @vamosatucsonoficial

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 36 stations across the city. Those interested in competitive biking can sign up to be one of the 6,500 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 offers thrilling and nature-filled terrain for mountain bikers!

Don’t Forget to Look Up

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 the desert constellations some of the best things to see in Tucson. Find unbelievable stargazing right in your backyard or take a Milky Way photography course and watch a lunar eclipse live stream at the University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon Sky Center. You can also head about an hour outside of the city to Kitt Peak National Observatory, one of top stargazing spots in the U.S., where you can attend evening stargazing programs.

A Festival for Every Season

Man dressed in white and gold holding a heart for a festival. Photo by Instagram user @allsoulsprocessiontucson
Photo via @allsoulsprocessiontucson

Festivals and cultural events are some of the top things to do in Tucson for tourists and locals alike! Commemorate the passing of loved ones by making a mask, designing a puppet, or creating an alter for the Dia de los Muertos-inspired All Souls Procession Weekend. Be part of the Tucson Festival of Books—the 4th largest book festival in the U.S.—and compete for literary awards, access 300 author presentations, or play with kids at the literary circus. Grab your cowboy hat, boots, and get ready to remember Tucson’s rodeo roots at the nine-day La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. Or stop by the largest and oldest gem show in the world, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, to appreciate one-of-a-kind fossils or buy world-class jewelry.

Go Back in Time at Old Tucson

Three people walking through Old Tucson on horses. Photo by Instagram user @oldtucson
Photo via @oldtucson

Searching for unique things to do in Tucson? Visit Old Tucson for a one-of-a-kind Wild West experience! This family-favorite attraction has been the set of more than 400 movies and commercials. Start the day with a tour and learn about the location’s 75 years of film history. Take a break to ride a horse, screen a saloon musical, see a Civil War reenactment, or watch a shoot-off and other high-intensity stunts. If you’ve worked up an appetite, you can also get your fill of brisket, yams, and apple pie here!

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 Mexican restaurants—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 Crispy Chicken Flautas, Fresh Corn Tamales, and, of course, the famous chimichangas.

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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 get named a World City of Gastronomy and 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, the award is unsurprising to those who know about the region’s 4,000-year history of agriculture. Take a Marana Gastronomy Tour to learn about the ancient Sonoran foods and their influence on today’s cuisine. Looking for some of the best places to eat in Tucson? Enjoy a boozy brunch with Roasted Veggi Beni, Avo & Herb Toast, or Green Chile French Toast at Prep & Pastry. Order authentic Neapolitan-inspired pizza at Fiamme Pizza. Or head to Tumerico to sample plant-based Mexican food on a menu that changes daily!

There’s Nightlife for Everyone

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

Tucson also has lots of fun things to do after dark! From casual breweries to packed college clubs, there’s a nightlife experience for all interests. Get in touch with honky-tonk culture at The Maverick with live country music, dance lessons, and football viewing parties. Experience a unique night out with telescopes and galaxy-themed cocktails at the solar-powered Sky Bar. Stop by LGBTQ favorite IBT’s for dancing, karaoke, and drag shows each week. Visit Hi Fi to hear the latest DJ spin, see live music, go dancing, or try an adult milkshake. Or if you’re looking for something a little different, attend a comedy show, see Flamenco dancing, or catch a touring concert series at the Fox Tucson Theatre.

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