TUCSON – Diverse Natural Beauty
Nestled just 60 miles north of the U.S. / Mexico border, Tucson is a rich mix of Native American, Spanish and Mexican cultures. Its name comes from the Pima Indian word “schook-sun,” which means a “spring at the foot of a black mountain,” a nod to the area’s mountainous terrain and desert surroundings. Located about 118 miles southeast of Phoenix, Tucson are the second largest city in Arizona and the 32nd largest city in the United States. Its metropolitan area is home to just over 980,000 residents, with the city itself numbering over 520,000 according to the 2010 United States Census. So what makes the Tucson area so special? Beyond its natural beauty, it’s a diverse combination of factors that offers something for everyone. With more than 630 miles of bike paths in the metropolitan area, it’s clear that its residents have embraced the state’s reputation as a place to truly experience and appreciate the great outdoors. In fact, Tucson hosts El Tour de Tucson, the largest perimeter bicycling event in the Union, with some 10,000 participants every autumn. Besides its miles of striped bike paths, Tucson also has 72 miles of shared use paths, and more than 100 miles of residential bike routes. It’s no surprise that Tucson was named one of the “Top five best cycling towns” in the U.S. – and the “friendliest city” and one of the “Top 10 U.S. cities to visit” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine. And, the U.S. Department of Transportation has designated General Hitchcock Highway – commonly known to residents as the Catalina Highway – as one of “America’s Byways” and “One of the most scenic drives in the nation.” Winding from the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains to Summerhaven, a charming mountain village on Mount Lemmon that sits at an 8,200-foot elevation, the road is a veritable nature drive of ecology, with distinctive saguaro and cholla cacti along the way. The city’s rich cultural heritage has garnered honors as one of the Top 10 cities for Hispanics in 2009, according to Hispanic magazine, and its thriving business community – especially technology – has resulted in more than 1,200 companies employing in excess of 50,000 Southern Arizona residents, 150 of which are involved with optics and optoelectronics systems and garnering the city with the unofficial nickname of Optics Valley. In addition, Tucson serves as the home of the University of Arizona, the first university in the state as well as an international hub of astronomical and technological research, and affiliated astronomy efforts such as Kitt Peak National Observatory and Steward Observatory, a joint venture between the University and the Vatican Observatory Research Group and manages multiple telescopes across Southern Arizona.
TUCSON’S RICH AND COLORFUL HISTORY
Known as the “Old Pueblo” Tucson has a rich multicultural history that includes Spanish, Mexican and Native American influences and centuries-old traditions. According to University of Arizona research, Tucson’s first residents hunted for bison and wooly mammoth between 12,500 and 6,000 B.C.E. Later, in 300 A.D., the Cochise and Hohokam Indian cultures came to farm the area’s rich valley terrain. In 1692, Spanish missionaries discovered the Indian village S-tukson (which means “black base”), and by 1804, about 1,000 people lived in traditional adobe villages. The 1848 Gold Rush in California attracted even more residents to the area, and Arizona was named the 48th state in 1912. During World War II, Davis-Monthan Field served as an important training base, bringing an influx of military families to the city, many of who chose to stay, raise families and retire here. As for geography, Mexico is a close neighbor at 60 miles south, and the city was actually part of Mexico when Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. But, thanks to the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 (also known as the Treaty of La Mesilla), when the U.S. bought parts of southern Arizona and New Mexico to make way for the construction of a transcontinental railroad, the city became part of the U.S. and was named the capital of what was then known as the Arizona Territory. The epitome of the “Wild, Wild West” in the 1860s, Tucson was a rough-and-tumble frontier town coming into its own like many other western cities of the day. In fact, the town of Tombstone – where the famous “Shootout at the OK Corral” happened – is just 50 miles southeast of Tucson. The city is still known for its Western roots and culture.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Tucson sits atop a plain in the Sonoran desert, surrounded by five minor ranges of mountains: the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Tortolita Mountains to the north, the Santa Rita Mountains to the south, the Rincon Mountains to the east, and the Tucson Mountains to the west. The high point of the Santa Catalina Mountains is 9,157-foot Mount Lemmon, the southernmost ski destination in the continental U.S., while the Tucson Mountains feature the 4,687-foot Wasson Peak. The city’s mild weather and warm, dry climate coaxes both residents and visitors outside to enjoy the sunshine. The surrounding mountains offer cooler temperatures and an outdoor dichotomy that allows residents to swim, hike and ski – all in the same day! The average minimum temperature is 54F (12C), and the average maximum is 82F (28C), while the rainfall is minimal – only about 12 inches annually. Summer is the warmest time of the year, with hot, dry temperatures in the 100s during the day but comfortable nights normally in the 70s and 80s. The humidity is only about 10 percent in the spring and early summer, resulting in a much drier heat – and a top reason why the state has long been known as a healing destination. Summer also ushers in a monsoon period in Southern Arizona, which begins on June 15th, and ends on September 30th. During this time, the humidity climbs with a buildup of daily cloud cover, which is then followed by afternoon and evening thunderstorms and rainfall. Many Tucsonans welcome the monsoons—which is considered by many residents as its own annual season—as it blocks the bright, warm afternoon sun experienced in early summer and can actually drop temperatures as far as 20 degrees or more. And don’t forget cooler nights in fall and winter, when it’s not unusual to experience temperature drops in the low 30s. It even snows every once in a while, with skiing and other snow sports the activity of choice for residents at nearby Mt. Lemmon. Love parks? Tucson is home to several national parks, including Catalina State Park and Saguaro National Park, as well as more than 125 citywide parks for fun and recreation. And, the city’s climate means that it’s also a golfer’s paradise, with its mix of municipal, private and unique desert courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Tom Fazio, Tom Weiskopf, Jack Nicklaus and other pros. As for spectator sports, Tucson is home to several professional sports clubs, including two minor league baseball teams, the Tucson Padres, a triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres that plays at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, and the Tucson Toros, a member-team of the independent Golden Baseball League that has made Tucson and its historic Hi Corbett Field its home for much of the past 42 years.
A PLACE TO GROW: TUCSON’S THRIVING BUSINESS COMMUNITY
Economically, Tucson thrives on its vibrant tourist culture and attractions, as well as a healthy and diverse business climate. Research indicates that more than 40,000 Tucson-area jobs are directly related to tourist activities, such as resorts, hotels and attractions that account for more than 3.5 million annual visitors. In all, 10.4 percent of all Tucson MSA jobs are tourism oriented resulting in about $2 billion in economic impact. And, though it’s a relatively small city, Tucson celebrates the arts in style with ballet, symphony, live theater and opera that also provide significant jobs and economic impact for the city. Manufacturing and technology are also big business in Tucson, with companies like IBM, Raytheon Missile Systems, Honeywell, Texas Instruments and others bolstering the city’s reputation as a thriving place to do business by establishing a major presence here. Recent city economic research estimates that the city’s technology industry employs about 50,000 and generates a whopping $4 billion in revenues. In fact, the Milken Institute ranked Tucson 77 out of 200 on its 2010 Best Performing Cities Index, which takes into consideration each state’s research and development, ability to attract workers, and the “dollar volume entrepreneurs are willing to risk spending.” Even more significant, many businesses have either relocated to or expanded within Tucson, leading Expansion Management magazine to name the region as the “Top mid-sized county in the country for business recruitment and attraction.” And, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy ranks Tucson third among mid-sized metropolitan areas for “high-impact firms – those companies that have at least doubled their sales and employment in the past four years.” There’s no doubt that Tucson continues to thrive in a challenging economy, and that it’s a great place to start and grow a business.
TUCSON ARTS & CULTURE
The arts thrive in Tucson, thanks to resident demand and a passion for a stimulating creative community. In fact, The Wall Street Journal has even called Tucson a “Mini-Mecca for the arts!” From chamber music to film, opera, ballet and theater, there’s something for every artistic taste and persuasion in Tucson. A vibrant performing arts sector includes the Arizona Opera; the Arizona Theatre Company; Ballet Arizona;
Ballet Tucson; the contemporary Beowulf Alley Theatre Company; the Borderlands Theater that tells the unique stories of the southwest border and Mexican heritage; Broadway in Tucson/A Nederlander Presentations, which brings top musical productions to the city; the historical Fox Tucson Theatre; the Tucson Jazz Society; the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, which is celebrating its 82nd season; and much more. Tucson is also home to a number of public museums throughout the city and on both the University of Arizona and community college campuses, as well as a host of private galleries that cover a range of interests, from the arts and aerospace to children’s museums, cultural centers and history. The Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson Children’s Museum, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson Botanical Gardens, Arizona History Museum, and the Castaneda Museum of Ethnic Costume, Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium; Pima Air & Space Museum; and the “La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum” are just a few of the city’s diverse cultural offerings. (Visit www.TucsonMuseums.org to explore an interactive map to Tucson-area museums.) Tucson also hosts its share of fun festivals, including the long-running Arizona Film Festival, the largest film festival in the state; the Tucson Folk Festival; La Fiesta de los Vaqueros – Tucson Rodeo; the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase – the largest event of its kind in the world that attracts high-end jewelers and rock fans alike; and the Great Tucson Beer Festival, which benefits Sun Sounds – an organization that provides audio access to information for those who can’t read print because of a disability.
FINE FOOD & ECLECTIC SHOPPING
While Tucson is famous for its Mexican and Southwestern cuisine – including Janos, The Grill at Hacienda Del Sol and El Charro Mexican Café – named one of the “21 Most Legendary Restaurants in America” by Gourmet magazine – it also has a lot to offer foodies of all palates and persuasions. Think five-star dining at the Anthony’s or classic pit barbeque at Bubb’s Grubb – and everything in between. Once you’ve satisfied your appetite, it’s time to work it off with some shopping! The city has a range of options, from artisan and craft malls to antique shopping or the latest styles at area malls and shopping centers. Major malls include the Tucson Mall (Dillard’s, JC Penney, Macy’s and more than 200 specialty shops); Park Place (Macy’s, Dillard’s, Sears and 160 specialty shops); El Con Mall, Tucson’s first enclosed shopping center; and the Foothills Mall, with outlet stores, specialty boutiques and a 15-screen movie theater. There’s also the luxury outdoor La Encantada, with such brands as St. John, Louis Vuitton, Cole Haan, Tiffany & Co. and Apple. Don’t miss the charming boutiques and shops in downtown Tucson on Fourth Avenue, where a historic trolley runs each weekend; the Casas Adobes Plaza with its Old World plaza and upscale specialty shops; or Main Gate Square, an urban shopper’s paradise near the University of Arizona, positioned in the center of charming historic neighborhoods.
THRIVING TUCSON COMMUNITIES
There’s no doubt that Tucson is a big draw for families. The August 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine named Tucson’s Oro Valley as “One of the Top 10 Places in the Country to Raise a Family”– a ranking based on home affordability, public safety, environmental protection and quality of schools. It’s also a very livable city. Recent city statistics found that the average commute time is just over 25 minutes each way – shorter than most cities of similar size and population. Housing is also an affordable option in the Tucson area, with the median sales price hovering around $150, 000 (as of June 2013).
Area communities in Pima County include the city of Tucson, Catalina, Green Valley, Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita, South Tucson, Tucson and Vail. In Cochise County, just southeast of the city, communities include Benson, Bisbee, Douglas, Sierra Vista, Tombstone and Wilcox And in Santa Cruz County, west of the city, communities include Elgin, Nogales, Patagonia, Rio Rico, Sonoita and Tubac. Area attractions include Pena Blanca Lake and Patagonia Lake in Patagonia State Park, which includes a beach, picnic area, campground, tables, hiking trail, marina and market; and several area wineries, including Callaghan and Sonoita Vineyards. Choose from charming inner city history, downtown urban living, luxury developments around the city or quiet suburban neighborhoods – there’s no shortage of diverse housing in Tucson. Welcome to a city that residents and visitors adore – and that you will, too. As you explore the Tucson Relocation Guide and the city that it represents, Tucson will surely become a favorite place to live and enjoy life!