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5 Things to Know About Living in Tucson, AZ

Once a hard-scrabble military outpost, now a thriving, fast-growing city, Tucson is one of the brightest jewels of the Sonoran Desert. Famous for its rustic beauty and rich, cultural tapestry, Tucson is one of the Southwest’s most exciting and dynamic destinations. No matter where you go, the city’s Indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, and American heritage is plainly visible, woven into the city’s food, buildings, and traditions. A dynamic melting pot with low cost of living, robust economy, exuberant nightlife, and stunning scenery, it’s no wonder the city’s become one of the country’s most popular moving destinations. For anyone curious about settling down in Arizona and the Southwest, here are five things you should know about living in Tucson.

Tucson, AZ

Resilient Economy

Tucson’s diverse economic base has given it a remarkably strong and competitive job market. Thanks to investment in several key business sectors, the city rebounded quickly from economic downturns in 2008 and 2020. Skilled workers are in high demand by corporations in and around the city, helping fuel the growth of major industries, including:

  • Aerospace. Tucson ranks fifth in the nation for aerospace and defense, supplying parts and technology for missiles, aircraft, and space systems. Military contractors such as Boeing, L3Harris, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman have extensive manufacturing, assembly, distribution, warehousing, and research facilities in the area.
  • Education. The University of Arizona is one of the state’s largest educational institutions. Besides employing close to 3,000 full-time and part-time faculty, the school’s space science programs generate hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The imaging equipment and robotic landers developed by university research teams have helped spearhead NASA missions to Mars and near-Earth asteroids.
  • Healthcare. In addition to its numerous hospitals and clinics, Tucson is also home to some of the nation’s top pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing facilities, run by companies such as Roche Tissue Diagnostics, Sanofi US, and the Critical Path Institute. These businesses employ thousands of scientists and technicians to develop the next generation of vaccines, medication, and diagnostic and monitoring devices.
  • Renewable Energy. Located in the heart of the Sunbelt, Tucson is a leading provider of solar energy. As well as incorporating clean-energy resources into the city’s electrical grid, local power companies have transformed Tucson into one of America’s largest solar development and manufacturing centers.

Affordable Housing

The cost of living in Tucson is low compared to the rest of the country and the state. While new arrivals will see only modest savings on groceries, utilities, and transportation, they can expect significant savings on housing. Rent on a one-bedroom apartment in Tucson is approximately $270 lower than the national average, while rent on a two-bedroom is approximately $230 lower. Meanwhile, home buyers in Tucson pay $19,000 less than the national average, and $93,000 and $469,000 less than they would in nearby Phoenix or Scottsdale, respectively.

Diverse Melting Pot

Tucson is one of the oldest, continually inhabited parts of the United States. Originally settled by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O'odham Nation, successive waves of immigration also brought Jesuit missionaries, Spanish soldiers, Mexican villagers, and American cowboys. As a result, living in Tucson gives you direct access to the cultures that shaped the American West, most notably:

  • Native Americans. The indigenous Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O'odham are still a major presence in the community, actively working to share and preserve their heritage. Native languages are commonly spoken by tribal members, while local galleries and museums such as the Arizona State Museum, the Tucson Museum of Art, and the Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery sell and showcase their traditional artwork and crafts. For a deeper look at Native American food, dance, and rituals, visit the annual Tucson Pow Wow.
  • Mexico. Tucson boasts it has “America’s best Mexican food,” with everything from street tacos to Sonoran hot dogs and rich Oaxacan mole, not to mention the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant. The city’s historic barrios are stuffed full of Spanish fountains and colorful adobe houses, while Mariachi music and Mexican folk dances are a common feature at most public festivals. Thousands of people come every year to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and take part in Tucson's yearly All Souls Procession, in honor of Mexico’s Day of the Dead.
  • The United States. All around Tucson, you’ll find mines, jails, railroads, saloons, and ranches - relics of the Wild West. Tombstone, site of the legendary gunfight the OK Corral, is just a few miles south. For a real taste of cowboy culture, check out the Tucson Rodeo, one of the country’s longest running celebrations of roping, riding, and traditional American folk music.

Captivating Wilderness

Tucson has mountains stretching in every direction. The rugged hills and valleys are a huge draw for adventurers and nature lovers. With an impressive collection of parks and wilderness areas in and around the city, Tucson has several ways for residents to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

  • Hiking. The Santa Catalina Mountains, Rincon Mountains, Santa Rita Mountains, Tucson Mountains, and Tortolita Mountains contain hundreds of miles of trails for hikers to explore. The landscape includes vast tracts of sandy desert, colorful cacti, canyons teeming with wildflowers, as well as groves of aspen, pine, and cottonwood trees.
  • Biking. Tucson is a biker’s paradise. Besides the warm climate and clear skies, there is an immense network of bicycle paths that connect the city center, outlying neighborhoods, state parks, and mountain ranges, giving bikers full run of the city and parts beyond.
  • Jogging. Whether you prefer paved roads or rugged trails, Tucson offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the city’s clean air and stunning views. The Rillito River Park Path is perfect for an evening run or early morning jog. For a challenge, head out to Sabino Canyon or Saguaro National Park to test your mettle in the rocky terrain.
  • Rock Climbing. Nestled inside the Santa Catalina Mountain Range, Tucson’s Mt. Lemon is one of the top climbing destinations in the country. Over 9,000 feet high, its steep, craggy walls contain over 2,700 routes for climbers of all backgrounds and skill levels.
  • Bird Watching. The Sonoran Desert is parched, but teeming with wildlife. Tucson’s extensive but isolated mountain peaks are part of a series of “sky islands” linking the region to the Rocky Mountains and Mexico. Over 500 species migrate through the area every year, much to the delight of bird lovers.

Booming Nightlife

Tucson is fun during the day and exciting after dark. Its collection of clubs, bars, and theaters means that there’s something to see practically every night. Though there are plenty of great spots all over town, residents looking for a good time tend to concentrate on:

  • 4th Avenue. The beating heart of downtown Tucson, 4th Avenue is where you’ll find the city's liveliest bars, shops, and restaurants. Vintage clothing, handmade jewelry, hard-to-find books, craft cocktails, and local brews ‒ it’s all here, along with burgers, tacos, and sandwiches piled high with fine ingredients. Every spring and winter, the city’s merchants, chefs, and vendors host a massive festival, the 4th Avenue Street Fair, filled with carnival food, artists, and entertainers from all over the country.
  • Congress Street. Congress Street is sometimes referred to as Tucson’s cultural center. It’s a blend of old and new, where modern skyscrapers sit next to barrio shops, historic train stations, and haunted hotels. People come to visit the city’s top breweries, antique shops, and entertainment venues. Its home to notable landmarks such as the Temple of Music and Art, Rialto Theatre, and Fox Tucson Theatre are located here, where you can see some of America's top musicians and comedians.
  • Mercado District. Situated at the western end of the Sun Link Streetcar, the Mercado District is full of artisan coffee shops and cafes. At night, you’ll find live concerts, outdoor movies, and food truck roundups. One of the best spots for Mexican food, it also hosts the grand finale of the city’s annual All Souls Procession, with crowds of artists, acrobats, and practitioners of traditional Mexican folklore.

Moving to Tucson

North American is a full service moving company. We don’t just transport household goods, we help organize your entire move, from planning to packing to final delivery and setup. No matter how big or complicated the task, we have the skills, resources, and experience to handle it. Take the stress out of moving. Call us today for a free quote!