30 Things You Need To Know About Tucson Before You Move ThereDespite its ancient-sounding nickname, Old Pueblo has a lot of new and exciting things to offer.
1. Yes, There Are Still Real Cowboys Here
Source: Flickr user Pete GregoireTucsonans are über proud of their vaquero roots. La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros celebrates the American bronc-buster in all its glory every February with a week of rodeo as well as the country’s largest non-motorized parade, so y’all go on and saddle up!
2. Tucson Takes Technology Further And Way, Way Higher
Source: Flickr user Dennis YangTake a tour of the lab where the largest and most precise telescope mirrors in the world are made or sign up for a space flight in a futuristic balloon with Tucson’s own Paragon Space Development Corporation. Even Mayor Jonathan Rothschild is weighing in on the Tucson Tech game!
3. Tucson Is The Coolest Place On Two Wheels
Source: Flickr user bill85704Between the twice-yearly Ciclovia event, which opens several miles of public streets to bicycle and pedestrian use, the world famous 107-mile “El Tour de Tucson” ride in November, and Outside Magazine’s selection of Tucson as the nation’s Best Bike Town, the Old Pueblo’s got pedal power pegged.
4. It May Be A Desert, But Tucsonans Know How To Eat (And Drink) With The Best
Source: Flickr user stu_spivackTucsonans love gourmet food. Foodies will revel in the locally sourced, organic mind-bending cuisine and local beer and wine options throughout the city, but especially downtown.
5. Tucson Is The Hipster’s Natural Habitat
Source: Flickr user kretyenTucsonans have known for a long time that our sleepy city is a mighty cool place to be, but it seems the rest of the world is starting to catch on. A travel writer for the San Francisco Gate called it “a surprisingly hip little burg” and we were recognized on Hipstercrite.com soon thereafter. Tucson has long served as a sort of hub for the tattooed and mustachioed between Portland and Austin, so bust a moby, knock back a bronson, and go check out that totes deck thrift store.
6. You Want Sunshine? We Got It.
Source: Flickr user Julien HalerTucson essentially has only three seasons—summer, spring, and fall. We basically skip winter each year (what everyone else calls “winter” we call “sweater weather”) and roll right back on into spring. With more than 350 days of sunshine every year, you’ll never have to bear the thought of shoveling snow again.
7. But When It Does Rain, It Pours
Source: Flickr user kretyenWe get so little rain here—about six-inches all-told every twelve months—that when it does start to come down you can expect to find a handful of hippies dancing in the flooded streets. The upside, of course, is that with so little rain most locals have come to appreciate our annual two weeks of monsoon downpour; the downside is that nothing in the Sonoran Desert—including the roads—was built to withstand any kind of weather aside from the hot and dry. Good luck getting to work.
8. Tucson Is Within Biking Distance Of An Alpine Forest
Source: Flickr user Raquel BaranowOkay, so maybe thirty-plus miles straight up the side of a mountain isn’t the average person’s idea of “biking distance,” but take the hour drive from Tucson up Mount Lemmon and you’re sure to pass by a number of hardcore cyclists along the way. The coolest part of this drive? The elevation change makes Mount Lemmon into South Arizona’s own little piece of Colorado.
9. Lute Olson And Sean Miller Are Infallible Here
Source: Flickr user Neon TommyEat, drink, sleep, watch Arizona Basketball—so goes the life cycle of the Tucson native. With a long history of NCAA Tournament success, Wildcat fans have been aching for their second national title since 1997. And fan loyalty is so extreme that most Arizona Tournament games on the West Coast sound as if they were being played in Tucson’s McKale Center. Bear down, Arizona!
10. Tucsonans Know How To Throw A Party
Source: Flickr user cobalt123http://www.flickr.com/photos/66606673@N00/10784579334/sizes/z Between the weekly Heirloom Farmer’s Markets at St. Philip's Plaza and the monthly Second Saturday events downtown, there is always something fun brewing in this desert haven. Favorites include the cultural festival “Tucson Meet Yourself” (dubbed “Tucson Eat Yourself” by locals) and the Mexican Dia de Los Muertos-inspired “All Souls Procession,” the giant parade that culminates in an incredible fire and live music show. No black tie necessary.
11. We’ve Been Here More Than 4000 Years
Source: Flickr user ginsnobWell, maybe not “we” exactly, but Tucson is perhaps the oldest continually inhabited settlements in North America. The Hohokam Indians settled here thousands of years ago along the banks of the Santa Cruz and Rillito Rivers, which have long-since dried up, though traces of their existence can still be found around town in the form of pottery shards and ruined adobe pit houses. Probably why the Arizona State Museum boasts the world’s largest collection of Southwestern pottery.
12. Tucson Is Spiritual AND Spirited
Source: Flickr user Scott Hudson *People from all over flock to Southern Arizona to see the San Xavier Mission or to seek spiritual advice from local shaman, but few also know of Tucson’s haunted history. Check into a haunted room at the Historic Hotel Congress or look for La Llorona—the wailing woman—along the banks of the dry Santa Cruz River. But beware—seeing her is said to be a terrible omen.
13. When We Say “WILDlife,” Boy, Do We Mean It
Source: Flickr user JasonEverybody knows that the desert southwest is home to all sorts of creepy-crawlies like tarantulas, rattlesnakes and scorpions, but did you know it also supports populations of deer, javelina, mountain lions and even a jaguar or two? Tucson is also a major destination for bird nerds since the area is home to the largest diversity of bird species outside the Amazon rainforest.
14. You Can’t Beat Dry Heat
Source: Flickr user Ken BosmaThough it can get pretty sticky around monsoon season, a typical day in Tucson has a humidity of ten percent or less. You won’t even need to towel off after a dip in the pool most summer days, so we’ll take a dry hundred-degree day over a wet 85 degrees any time!
15. Still, Tucsonans Are As Tough As Cactus Needles
Source: Flickr user Masonite BurnEven dry, 108 degrees in the sun is nothing funny, and all the kids who grew up spending their summer breaks amidst the saguaros will tell you the same. Survive an entire summer here through monsoon and you’ll feel like you can handle just about anything.
16. Tucson Has A Richer Literary Tradition Than All Your Libraries Combined
Source: Flickr user Ken BosmaJack Kerouac stayed here for a spell in the 50s and gave us a nod in On the Road. Luis Alberto Urrea came here to write The Hummingbird’s Daughter and David Foster Wallace and Richard Russo both graduated from and taught at the U of A. Oh, and the annual Tucson Festival of Books—the fourth-largest event of its kind in the nation—attracts famous authors by the hundreds, so study up!
17. Tucson Is A Rock-Climber’s Paradise
Source: Flickr user Mary FairchildBetween the world class climbing gym that is Rocks and Ropes and the fact that the desert is literally made up of thousands of boulders and sheer cliff faces, it’s not hard to understand why adrenaline junky outdoorsy-types often find their way here. Hiking, bouldering, climbing and slack-lining at all levels can be enjoyed pretty much anywhere inside or around the city itself.
18. Downtown Tucson Finally Got The Facelift It Deserved
Source: Flickr user Randy HeinitzFor a long time it looked like the hundred-million-dollar Rio Nuevo Project was all going to be for naught. But in the last few years with the development of the modern streetcar system, expanded pedestrian access and more incredible bars, restaurants and art galleries than ever before, it’s safe to say the atmospheric and economic results of that effort are (finally) starting to show.
19. Art Is Kind Of Our Thing
Source: Flickr user IrishFiresideThough the rising cost of rent downtown has got a lot of local artists worried about affordable studio space, one look at the guide for the annual Open Studio Tour and you’ll see that Tucson’s art scene is alive and well. From metal sculpture to glass to paper and ink, Tucsonans are creating fine art that has attracted international attention. For a classic taste of the southwest, visit the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun where Ted DeGrazia--“the world’s most reproduced artist”--is buried.
20. Our Desert Is So Beautiful It Borders On Ridiculous
Source: Flickr user Megan McCormickWhen the water is flowing at Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon and the wildflowers are blooming in Saguaro National Park, there are few places more breathtaking than the Sonoran Desert. The nights are calm and cool with clear skies reminiscent of every western campfire cliché.
21. Things Move A Little Slower Here
Source: Flickr user Ken BosmaMaybe it’s the heat, but don’t be surprised if it takes an extra minute or two to get that drink order out on the patio. But don’t worry, in time you’ll learn to plan around the city’s pace, and once that urgency is gone from your daily routine, so goes the stress.
22. We’ve Got The Best Mexican Food Outside of Mexico
Source: Flickr user stu_spivackBottom line, being this close to the border you’d hope we have the recipes right. Mi Nidito in South Tucson has hosted presidents and countless celebrities, and El Charro Café claims to have made the first ever chimichanga in the 1920s.
23. South Tucson Is Actually An Entirely Different City
Source: Flickr user Raquel BaranowThey’ve got their own mayor and everything, though only one-tenth the population. Basically separated from Tucson proper by 22nd Street, South Tucson lags significantly behind their northern counterpart in average education level and household income. Efforts are underway to desegregate the border neighborhood by holding festivals and events that operate simultaneously in both municipalities.
24. You’re Probably Looking For The Desert Museum, Not The International Wildlife Museum
Source: Flickr user werwin15The taxidermy collection at the International Wildlife Museum is really quite incredible, and the castle-like building that houses it is pretty cool, too. But if you’re new to town and heading west on Speedway to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum—which is actually a world-class zoo that displays native animal species—keep going past the castle, through the mountains and to the end of the road for an incredible experience you won’t soon forget.
25. Tucson Sunsets Are Hands Down The Best
Source: Flickr user Michael WifallMaybe it’s something you have to see to understand, but there is nothing quite like twilight bouncing off of the Santa Catalina Mountains—it is the definition of “purple mountain’s majesty.”
26. Tucson Is More Than Just A Haven For Golden-Agers
Source: Flickr user Ken BosmaYes, a lot of people come here to retire. And why not—the golfing, medical care and weather are all magnificent! But you might be surprised to find out that the median age in the Old Pueblo is actually four years below the national average. How about calling it the Young Pueblo instead?
27. Tucson’s Home To A Mid-Century Neon Legacy
Source: Flickr user David GallagherTucson is right along the path of old US Route 89, which ran coast-to-coast and saw about the same amount of traffic as her more famous counterpart to the north, Route 66. In 2011, the City of Tucson passed an ordinance to help protect and preserve some of the classic neon signs from along Route 89 to great local fanfare.
28. It’s A Secret Celeb Hideaway
Source: Flickr user slagheapOprah frequents Tucson’s Miraval Resort and Gerard Butler can occasionally be spotted at Lowe’s Ventana Canyon. Old Tucson Studios has seen every western star known to man from John Wayne to Elvis and big names like Paul McCartney, Harrison Ford and Farrah Fawcett have all called Tucson home at one point or another.
29. The Landscape Is Mostly Brown, But Tucsonans Are Big On Building Green
Source: Flickr user Ken BosmaWith all that sun, you better believe that Tucson businesses are taking advantage of solar—just ask Brooklyn Pizza Company on popular 4th Avenue. And local architect Rob Paulus knows what it means to build with recycled materials, and even recycled buildings, such as the repurposed Ice House Lofts.
30. We’re Small City With A Big Sound
Source: Flickr user Gregory TaylorLocal WaveLab Recording Studio has hosted big names like K.T. Tunstall and Amos Lee, and the dusty desert feel of Calexico has gone worldwide. The Latin flavor of Tucson music—with artists like Brian Lopez, Domingo DeGrazia (son of painter, Ted) and Sergio Mendoza y La Orkestra—is unlike any other, and you can check it all out on the Local’s Only Show on independent KXCI Radio.
Zip Codes and Neighborhoods in Tucson, AZ
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