When many people think of Arizona, they think of the Phoenix Metro. What they might be forgetting about is the city of Tucson, located in the heart of Southern Arizona. Known as The Old Pueblo, it was home to Native American tribes and Spanish settlers before becoming part of Mexico and eventually Arizona and the United States. Its storied and colorful history is represented today by the vibrant architecture, iconic cuisine, and an ever-growing population.
The city’s name has roots in Spanish and the O'odham language, meaning "(at the) base of the black [hill]", which is a reference to the basalt-covered hill called Sentinel Peak (also known as “A” Mountain for the University of Arizona “A” etched on it).
At some point in the last 200 years, five different flags have flown over Tucson (American, Spanish, Mexican, Confederate, and the State of Arizona), to say nothing of the rich Native American history beforehand. As you can tell, the area is steeped in tradition. For a long time, it was actually the largest city and commercial epicenter in Arizona.
Phoenix eventually surpassed it between 1910 and 1920. However, it’s maintained its status as a strong economic hub thanks to companies such as Raytheon, Texas Instruments, IBM, and the 150 or so companies involved in the design and manufacture of optics and optoelectronics systems, which earned Tucson the nickname “Optics Valley.”
For years, downtown Tucson was where you went to work but that was about it. That’s changed in recent years as more housing was added and the restaurant and retail scene started to flourish. Those looking for entertainment will find it in the Tucson Museum of Art, Children’s Museum of Tucson, or the restored Fox Theater.
There are also plenty of historical homes and buildings you can visit to get a sense of how this ranch town became a city. Downtown is also home to some of the city’s biggest events each year, including the All Souls Procession and the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. No wonder the city was recently named one of only nine World Festival and Event Cities.
Food & Drink
In 2015, Tucson was the first place in the United States to be designated a City of Gastronomy by Unesco and it’s easy to see why. The city offers up plenty of expected dishes, such as tamales and huevos rancheros, but is also full of all kinds of cuisines to make it a complete food destination.
If you’ve never had a Sonoran hot dog or a cheese crisp, you’ll be able to sample plenty of them here. Pizza fans will want to make time for Pizzeria Bianco, considered by some to be the best pizza place in the country. La Estrella Bakery is a must-visit for Mexican baked goods or fresh tortillas. If you’re looking to sit down and enjoy brunch, consider Agustin Kitchen and their menu full of American cuisine with a twist.
There are 14 active adult communities in the Tucson Area to choose from. Some of the communities are located in suburbs outside of the city, including SaddleBrooke Ranch in Oracle, Sun City Oro Valley in Oro Valley, and Del Webb Dove Mountain in Marana.
For those looking to stay in the city, SaddleBrooke is the largest at 4,589 homes. Those looking for a more intimate community might want to consider Altura, which includes 240 homes priced between the $100s and $400s. For active adults looking for the most affordable option, Northridge Estates offers attached homes that range between the mid $100s and low $200s.