Tucson loves to celebrate its rich medley of cultures, architecture, and peoples. The community places an emphasis on preserving its colorful heritage and on maintaining a casual attitude despite fresh growth. Arizona’s oldest city established the same year Paul Revere made his famous ride through Boston has become a trendy spot for cosmopolitan ambience. Named ” a mini Mecca for the arts ” by The Wall Street Journal, and included in the book, ” 50 Fabulous Places to Raise Your Family, ” Tucson also is ranked ninth in the ” 12 Best Walking Cities in the U.S. ” list by Prevention Magazine; criteria includes low crime rates, mass transit, air quality, and the number of historic sites, museums, parks and gyms each city has.
The largest city in southern Arizona and one of the fastest growing urban areas in the Southwest, Tucson is both a bustling center of business and a laid-back university and resort town. The days of rowdy saloons and the Butterfield Stage rolling over dusty city streets may be gone, but the independent feeling of the Old West remains. Tucsonans embrace the quality of life and live in a place where the American dream can still come true, where individual voices can be heard, and where people are the driving force behind making things happen.
Nicknamed ” The Old Pueblo ” after the Spanish meaning for town or village, the name Tucson comes from the O ‘odham tribe and was pronounced chuk-shon, meaning ” spring at the foot of a black mountain. ” Continuously inhabited for more than 12,000 years, the area has been home to Native Americans, Spanish explorers, Mexicans, Europeans, and West-bound pioneers.
Archeologists have found evidence of the ancient Hohokum Civilization living in the Tucson basin as early as 900 A.D. The Santa Cruz River once flowed through this picturesque desert valley, supporting abundant wildlife and agriculture. In 1539, a Spanish expedition led by Fray Marcos de Niza traveled through the area in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola. Tucson is one of the oldest towns in the United States, founded in 1775 by Don Hugo O’Connor, an Irishman who was an officer in Spain’s military. He established the Tucson Presidio as a military outpost. When Spanish settlers arrived in 1776 the Presidio of Tucson was enclosed with an adobe wall for protection from the native Apache tribe, who quite obviously did not put out a welcome mat for the newcomers.
Tucson officially became part of the United States with the Gadsden Purchase of 1854 and served as the capital of the Arizona Territory from 1867 to 1877. Early Tucson was a major outpost, a Butterfield Overland Stagecoach stop, and a rowdy frontier town tempered only by social refinements of new settlers from more civilized cities back east. The town prospered and boasted a population of more than 7,000 by the early 1800s, making it one of the largest cities in the West. The arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1880 paved the way for modern growth, which was further stimulated by the founding of the University of Arizona in 1885. The University opened its doors in 1891 on land donated by a saloonkeeper and two gamblers.
After World War I, veterans with damaged lungs sought the dry air and healing power of Tucson’s climate. During World War II the opening of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the rise of local aeronautical industries attracted many military families. The city has experienced remarkable and steady growth since the 1950s, and many people have moved to the area from the Midwest and nearby California because of the lower housing costs and spectacular scenery. In recent years, the metropolitan area has become a popular resort and golf destination.
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY:
According to a forecasting project at the University of Arizona, Tucson is on track for the future with a robust economy, and projections estimate the population will top one million by 2010. Tucson’s competitive edge as a profitable place to do business is based on multiple factors, such as competitive wages, a moderate tax structure, a low cost of living, and availability of industrial sites, education and training programs. An $800 million downtown urban redevelopment project for revitalization, the Rio Nuevo Master Plan, is underway.
Tucson is ranked the third most Creative City in the U.S among medium-sized cities in the Washington Monthly. The Creativity Index ranks cities in terms of percent of employees working in creative and high tech fields, percent of high-tech industry within the local economy, innovation and diversity (measuring an area’s openness to different kinds of people and ideas). Tucson also is ranked Number Two nationwide in the Top 10 digital cities by the Center for Digital Government, rating how cities use technology to increase public access to local government and improve the delivery of services to their citizens. The Milkin Institute’s Best Performing Cities index gives Tucson an overall enviable rank of 17 out of 200 metropolitan areas, based on economic performance and ability to create, as well as keep, the greatest number of jobs in the nation.
The University of Arizona and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base are the two main employers in the city. Tourism, one of the most rapidly growing industries in the area, accounts for one of every 10 jobs and is expected to continue to be a major job provider. The arts contribute significantly to Tucson’s prosperity and provide 3,554 jobs. Federal, state and local governments employ more than 72,000 people in the Tucson area. Manufacturing employment in metro Tucson has more than doubled since the 1990s, with growth primarily due to the increase of high-technology manufacturers locating and expanding in Pima County.
Other strong sectors in the local economy are natural resources and mining, wholesale trade, construction, financial services, aircraft and missile manufacturing, dude ranching, and electronics research. Significant areas include aerospace, computer software, telecommunications services, and a growing infrastructure of biotech firms.
Land is abundant in the Tucson Metropolitan Area and, although Tucsonans treasure their pristine desert surroundings, new housing starts are consistently higher than the national average and prices are generally less than in other major metropolitan areas. Despite Tucson’s growth, housing and land costs are still well below the norm and the recent boom in real estate investing and construction is expected to continue. Diverse housing options range from 100 year-old haciendas to trendy downtown lofts, adobe estates designed by architect Josias Joesler, Santa Fe and Territorial designs, contemporary California Ranch styles, and environmentally-friendly solar and strawbale construction.
Tucson is one of a handful of cities to be awarded a Federal Empowerment Zone designation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, bringing a $500 million package of tax, financing, and workforce training incentives to workers and businesses in economically depressed areas of Tucson in order to encourage better paying jobs, economic development, and revitalization.
Tucson International Airport, the second largest commercial airport in Arizona, is served by 11 air carriers and is an air freight hub via Evergreen International. AMTRAK, Southern Pacific Railway, and two transcontinental bus lines serve the city. The Sun-Tran public transportation system was named the 2004 Outstanding Transit Organization by Arizona Transit Association. The city is located on Interstate 10, a major transportation and trucking route between California and Florida.
The University of Arizona, with an enrollment of more than 30,000 students and located in the heart of Tucson, is ranked among the top 10 research institutions nationally and is renowned for advances in optical sciences, medical sciences, electronics, scientific instrumentation, astronomy, geology and business studies. It has the heaviest concentration of astronomical science study programs and facilities in the world, and its Management Information Systems Department program (part of the Karl Eller Center in the School of Business) is ranked fourth in the country.
Pima Community College, the fifth-largest multi-campus college in the U.S., has an enrollment of more than 90,000 students at five Tucson campuses and 145 satellite facilities in region. The University of Phoenix, the largest private institution in the country, attracts to its Tucson campus thousands of working adult students seeking bachelors and masters degrees.
Metropolitan Tucson has eight school districts serving approximately 125,000 students in more than 120 elementary schools, 35 middle schools and 20 high schools. There also are 27 parochial, 103 private, and more than 10 vocational training schools in the area. Twenty technical and trade schools are in Tucson, with seven offering bachelors and masters degrees in subjects ranging from art to aeronautical science. The Southern Arizona Institute for Advanced Technology offers technician training programs to corporations and businesses in the areas of electronics, plastics, optics, telecommunications and information technology.
Tourism represents a significant part of Tucson’s economic base, contributing more than $2.3 billion annually to the metropolitan area. Ten top destination resorts – Westin La Paloma, Sheraton El Conquistador, Loew’s Ventana Canyon, Omni Tucson National Golf Resort and Spa, Westward Look, Miraval, Canyon Ranch, Dove Mountain, Tanque Verde Guest Ranch, La Tierra Linda, and Starr Pass Marriott – attract conventions and visitors from all over the world with first class services and facilities. Five regional malls – El Con, Park Place, Foothills, Tucson and La Encantada – and more than 180 shopping centers serve the greater Tucson area.
The Arts and Events
The arts contribute significantly to Tucson’s prosperity and represent a total economic impact of $96.8 million by eight major organizations: Arizona Opera, Arizona Theatre Company, Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, UA Presents, the University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography, the University of Arizona College of Fine Arts and the University of Arizona Museum of Fine Art. The film, video and production industry contributes to the local economy, and the Tucson Film Office aggressively markets Tucson to the film and commercial production industry.
The annual International Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show in February- the largest of its kind in the country – generates $76.5 million for the metropolitan Tucson area, and almost $6 million in state and local tax revenue.. Major conventions feed more than $15.6 million into Tucson’s economy.
Sports & Recreation
Tucson hosts spring training for three professional baseball teams: the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies and the Chicago White Sox. The city is also home to the Tucson Sidewinders Triple-A baseball club, nationally televised PAC-10 intercollegiate sports, men’s and women’s golf tournaments, bowling tournaments, bicycling races, and the world-famous Tucson rodeo. Outdoor recreation adds to the local economy with the more popular activities being hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, hang gliding, mountain biking, paragliding and tennis.
The Greater Tucson area has 15 hospitals, including the Tucson Heart Hospital, and a medical community of more than 2,000 physicians and 400 dentists. The University of Arizona’s Health Sciences Center has the state’s only College of Medicine and eight Centers of Excellence, including primary facilities for cancer, arthritis, heart, aging, respiratory, the Children’s Research Center, the Program in Integrative Medicine, and University Medical Center, with one of only nine organ transplant programs in the nation. Tucson Medical Center was named in the 100 Top Hospitals list in 1995.
The metropolitan area is home to several leading managed care companies, including Intergroup Health Care Corporation and Partners. The Muscular Dystrophy Association and the American Board of Radiology are headquartered in Tucson.
There are more than 4,000 Holistic medicine providers in the city. The nationally accredited Desert Institute of the Healing Arts offers certification in Massage Therapy, Zen Shiatsu, Reflexology and Thai Massage. The nationally accredited Arizona School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and the Asian Institute of Medical Studies offer masters degrees in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, headquarters for the Twelfth Air Force, is a key Air Combat Command installation generating an annual economic impact of $750 million in Tucson. The base is responsible for the combat readiness of eight active-duty wings in the western United States and Panama, with more than 35,000 personnel and 450 aircraft. In addition, the Twelfth Air Force is responsible for 21 units of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, with an additional 21,000 people and 360 aircraft.
Formerly the largest municipal airport in the country, Davis-Monthan was established as a military base in 1925 and was dedicated by Charles Lindbergh in 1927. Other federal agencies using the base include the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Customs Service Air Service Branch, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and a detachment of the Naval Air Systems Command.
- Population of Tucson: 514,725
- Population of Metropolitan Area: 892,798
- Incorporated: 1877
- County: Pima
- Elevation: 2,410
- Total Area of Tucson: 194.7 square miles
- Total Area of Metropolitan Area: 600 square miles
- Average July High: 99
- Average January Low: 38
- Annual Precipitation: 11.49
- Median Household Income: $30,981
- Median Age: 32
- City Sales Tax: 2.0%
- Property Tax: $17.50/$100 of assessed value
- Cable Internet Service: Yes
- Fiber Optics: Yes
- (information current as of 6/2004)
ACTIVITIES AND ATTRACTIONS:
Tucson is a great place to tune out the world by communing with nature on one of many scenic trails, or indulging the senses with a fine symphony, opera, dance or theater performance. The city’s museums preserve the area’s rich cultural heritage, while many festivals throughout the year celebrate the festive soul of Tucson.
There are a lot of activities for families to enjoy together in the area. Kitt Peak Observatory houses the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes, available for stargazing day or night. Old Tucson Studios is a popular Western movie set and theme park that never shuts down, where visitors can see how a movie is made behind the scenes or thrill to a roller coaster ride. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a zoo devoted to Southwestern animals and plants, was rated one of America’s top zoos in the country by Parade Magazine. Pima Air and Space Museum displays more than 250 modern and historical aircraft. The University of Arizona Flandrau Science Center offers unique science exhibits and programs for all ages, including hands-on displays, multimedia planetarium and laser light shows, a gem and mineral museum with more than 15,000 specimens, and a 16-inch telescope for nighttime stargazing. The Biosphere 2 Center is a $200 million facility on 250 acres built to help scientists discover what is needed to create a mini-eco system replica of Earth. Other popular family attractions in Tucson are the Reid Park Zoo, Tucson Children’s Museum, and Funtasticks Family Fun Park.
Museums & Historic Sites
One way to get in touch with Tucson’s wild and wooly past and varied cultures is to tour the city’s many museums. A few notables include the impressive Mission San Xavier del Bac, built in 1700 and the first Spanish mission established in the state. Arizona State Museum, the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest, houses some of the most significant collections in the world for the study of Southwestern peoples. The Arizona Historical Society Museum houses Arizonaâ€™s major historical documents and artifacts. The Titan Missile Museum, a Cold War-era nuclear missile silo, is an interesting attraction for contemporary history buffs.
The Tucson Museum of Art and the University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography have excellent exhibits. There are many art galleries pocketed around Tucson, most notably in the foothills along Skyline Drive, where galleries specialize in Western art, and El Cortijo Arts Annex, with several contemporary galleries. One of the best ways to take in the downtown Tucson art scene is on a docent-led Artwalk tour. The landmark DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun exhibits Ted DeGrazia’s original art in a gallery designed by the artist.
Music & Performing Arts
The arts are alive and well in Tucson, and there are an outstanding number of quality performing arts productions for a community its size. It is one of only 14 cities in the United States with a symphony as well as opera, theater, and ballet companies. Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the oldest continuously performing symphony in the Southwest, performs all year and gives summer performances under the stars in an outdoor amphitheater. The Arizona Opera is the state’s premier opera company. The Ballet Arizona presents winter performances, including a very popular annual holiday rendition of The Nutcracker. The centerpiece of the Tucson theater scene is the Temple of Music and Art, a restored historic theater dating from 1927 and home of Arizona Theater Company productions. The University of Arizona Centennial stages performances by touring national musical acts, international companies, and Broadway shows.
The Tucson Jazz Society books well-known jazz musicians into Tucson each year. The University of Arizona’s College of Fine Arts gives classical music and opera performances from fall to spring. The Invisible Theatre, a tiny playhouse in a converted laundry building, has been home to Tucson’s most experimental theater for more than 30 years. The Gaslight Theatre presents old-fashioned melodramas with villains, heroes, and defenseless heroines while the audience is encouraged to boo, hiss, cheer and sigh. Tucson is the mariachi capital of the United States, and the community enjoys listening to these strolling minstrels in restaurants and during community events.
Tucson is the only city in the U.S. to host three Major League Baseball Spring Training teams: The Arizona Diamondbacks, The Colorado Rockies and The Chicago White Sox.
Tucson is consistently rated one of the best golfing destinations in the West. During the winter months, the city is home to several horse shows including the All Arabian Charity, the Tucson Winter Classic, the Grand Canyon Classic Appaloosa Horse Show and the SAAHA Spring Jubilee. Tucson Raceway hosts NASCAR races, demolition derbies, motorcross, and monster truck events. El Tour de Tucson is an annual perimeter bicycle race. Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, an hour’s drive from Tucson, offers winter downhill skiing from December to April.
Recreation & Parks
There is no such thing as living in Tucson and staying indoors. Eternal blue skies, sunshine and picturesque settings beckon. Hiking, jogging, swimming, cycling, horseback riding, tennis, and bird-watching are daily activities in town. Catalina State Park is a great spot to hike, camp and enjoy nature. Saguaro National Park is divided into one area on the west side of town and the other on the east side, both with spectacular views, hiking trails and mammoth saguaro cacti. Sabino Canyon is a scenic hiking and biking area in town with lush desert flora and fauna following Sabino Creek. Tucson Botanical Gardens features 15 specialty gardens, including Nuestro Jardin (Mexican-American Garden) and Herb Gardens. Tohono Chul Park is a peaceful setting for walking in the pristine desert or having lunch in the tea room.
Nearby Organ Pipe National Monument is the nation’s largest preserve for the rare organ-pipe cactus. Throughout the region there are endless opportunities for hiking, biking, camping and bird-watching. The Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve is renowned for its outstanding scenic beauty and the diversity of its plant and animal life, including up to 14 species of hummingbirds. Colossal Cave, open for tours and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, showcases an awesome crystal cave located on the historic La Posta Quemada Ranch. Kartchner Caverns is a stunning limestone cave that has been protected since its discovery in 1974; it is also open for tours.
Festivals & Events
Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth, Fiesta de San AugustÃn, DÃa De San Juan, NorteÃ±o Music Festival, Oktoberfest, Tucson Meet Yourself Festival and Fiesta de Guadalupe are just a few of the many annual celebrations Tucsonans enjoy. Native American culture is celebrated at the Indian America competition, powwow and crafts market in January. The Yaqui Easter Lent Ceremony, the Wa:k Powwow in March, the Tohono O’odham Arts Festival and Waila Festival in April, and other Native American powwows, markets, and arts shows are held throughout the year.
The Tucson International Gem, Mineral, & Fossil Show, the largest of its kind in the world, is held in several locations all over the city every February. Many museums and universities, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Sorbonne, have displayed materials at the show. Other annual events include The Pima County Fair, the Fourth Avenue Artisans Street Fair, The Fiesta De Los Vaqueros Rodeo and Celebration, Spring Fling at the University of Arizona, Independence Day celebrations, Family Arts Festival, Bicycle Tour of the Tucson Mountains, Winterhaven Festival of Lights, Tucson Greek Festival and the Fiesta de los Chiles.
Resorts & Shopping
Tucson’s natural beauty makes it an ideal location for world-class resorts and spas, and although much of Tucson’s shopping is focused around five malls, there are many boutiques and small shops with Southwest character and unique wares on open plazas. The historic 4th Avenue neighborhood near the University of Arizona is fertile ground for unusual and artsy items, good little restaurants, and local art. El Presidio Historic District around the Tucson Museum of Art and Old Town Artisans is the city’s center for local and regional crafts. The city’s Lost Barrio section is a good place to look for Mexican imports and Southwestern-style home furnishings, as well as stores selling African and New Guinea imports and antiques from around the world. A great concentration of antique shops can be found along Grant Road in the center of town, and all kinds of furniture can be found along the Ft. Lowell Road Furniture District. Trail Dust Town is a replica 19th-century Western street with wooden sidewalks, small shops, galleries, and a central plaza with a gazebo. The Downtown Arts District has an eclectic mix of sidewalk cafes, vintage theaters, unusual shops, and art galleries.
Although Tucson doesn’t have the huge selection of bars and clubs other major cities have, there’s something in town to suit nearly every taste. Most of the major resorts have late spots for drinks or dancing. There are numerous nightclubs with live bands and groovy dancing, notably Club Congress, Rialto Theater, The Rock and Cactus Moon. Laff’s Comedy Club is Tucson’s live comedy showcase. Two Native American tribes operate casinos on their reservations at the edge of town.
Tucson sits in the heart of southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert valley at an elevation of 2,389 feet above sea level, surrounded by the world’s largest concentration of Saguaro cactus and protected by a ring of mountain ranges – the Santa Catalinas to the north, the Rincons to the east, the Tucson Mountains in the west, the Tortolitas in the northwest and the Santa Ritas in the south. Located along the now dry bed of the Santa Cruz River and Interstate 10, Tucson is approximately 115 miles south of Phoenix and 63 miles north of the Mexican border.
Known for its mild winters, dry desert air, low annual rainfall and abundant brilliance – about 360 days of sunshine a year, more than any other U.S. city – Tucson is a popular health destination, winter resort, and retirement community. The metropolitan area’s population swells from November through February as thousands of part-time ” snowbirds ” flee colder regions to enjoy Tucson’s warmth in the winter when temperatures hover around 68 degrees during the day. Tucsonans admit the summers sizzle when the mercury tops 104 degrees. But they insist, ” It’s a dry heat. ” About 12 inches of rain falls mostly from July to September, when Monsoon seasons spills torrents of rain and display spectacular lightning dances across night skies.
Nearly 860,000 people live in metropolitan Tucson, including thousands of part-time seasonal winter residents and students attending the University of Arizona. Tucson is the county seat of Pima County, the second largest city in Arizona, and the third fastest growing city in the U.S. Metropolitan Tucson’s land mass, totaling more than 600 square miles, has plenty of elbow room and space for growth. The median age is 32 years, with a diverse population of several ancestry groups, primarily Mexican, German, Irish, English, Italian, American and French.
Tucson is ranked Seventh Best City for Hispanics (a higher rating than Los Angeles or New York) in Hispanic Magazine’s list of Top 10 Cities for Hispanics. The criteria are based on the percentage of Hispanic political representation, the vibrancy of the Latin cultural scene, job opportunities and cultural growth. Native American inhabitants in the area include the Tohono O’odham living in the city, on the nearby San Xavier reservation and Tohono O’odham Nation land, as well as 6,800 Yaqui living in the city, on the nearby Pascua Yaqui reservation, and in the Yoem Pueblo in the town of Marana.
American Heritage magazine recently named Tucson the ” Great American Place. ” The metropolitan area has much to offer, and is known for nurturing the body, mind and soul. A sun-lovers’ climate and the lush Sonoran Desert hemmed by mountains, canyons, wildlife and desert trails promote active lifestyles. Intellectual and cultural liveliness are enhanced by the oldest university in the state, and by a high percentage of creative artists, musicians and writers who call Tucson their home. Colorful public art, supported by a strong community arts council, adorns more than 100 Tucson buildings. Unsurpassed medical centers rub shoulders with leading edge natural clinics, and offer such holistic thinkers as Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona. Tucson has earned a top ten honor from the U.S. Department of Energy for its Clean Cities Coalition, recognizing significant long-term contributions in advancing the use of alternative fuels in motor vehicles.
The city has been named one of ” America’s 100 Best Retirement Towns ” and Money Magazine ranks Tucson in the Top Six places to retire in the country. MSN.com recently chose Tucson as the fifth best place in America to live, rating 331 cities on cost of living, crime rate, education, home prices and weather. One of only 14 cities in the United States with a full complement of the arts, Tucsonans enjoy a flourishing cultural life. Cycling is both a leisure activity and an alternative mode of transportation with 600 miles of bicycle routes in the city. The League of American Bicyclists has honored Tucson with its prestigious Bicycle Friendly Community designation, and Bicycling Magazine recognizes Tucson as the Third Best Cycling City in the U.S.
The spas are world-class (a 2001 Zagat Survey ranks Tucson the Number One city for spas and resorts), the shopping is eclectic, and great dining is a tradition in many four-star restaurants. It’s the only city in the country with three major-league spring training teams, and the golf is par none. Not to mention sunsets too glorious for words.
Tucson has attracted well-known names for decades, and many call “The Old Pueblo” their home, including Andrew Weil, the doctor best known for promoting alternative medicine; Michael Bates, athlete; Bart Bok, astronomer; Tedy Bruschi; professional football player; Brooke Burke; model and TV host; Richard Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General; Ted DeGrazia, painter; John Denver; musician; Sean Elliott, professional basketball player; John Fina, professional football player; Barbara Kingsolver, novelist; Lee Marvin, actor; Paul McCartney, musician (The Beatles); Lute Olson, college basketball coach; Linda Ronstadt, musician; Garry Shandling, comic; and Kerri Strug, gymnast.
Filmmakers like the look of Tucson and have been using the city and its surrounding area as a backdrop for more than 78 years. A few films shot on location include ” Revenge of the Nerds, ” ” Groom Lake, ” ” Oklahoma, ” ” Bonanza, ” ” Lilies of the Field, ” ” The Outlaw Josie Wales, ” ” Three Amigos! ” “The Quick and the Dead, ” ” Traffic, ” ” Tin Cup, ” ” Magnificent Seven, ” ” Wild Wild West, ” and ” Spin. “