Tucson. It’s a funny name and for some people it can be difficult to spell. I’ve seen it spelled Tuson, Tuscon, Toson and other machinations of jumbled letters. It is a sure-fire way to spot a newbie if they hesitate or stumble when trying to spell it. So, if you are going to be a Tucsonan, make sure you are comfortable with the spelling.
Tucson is an Indian name meaning “at the base of the black hill.” Today that hill is known as Sentinel Peak which sits at the south west corner of the city and is marked with a big white “A” signifying the University of Arizona.
Before I ever visited Tucson, I had a picture of it in my head. I envisioned Tucson as a flat, brown, windy little Cowtown. Boy, was I wrong. Tucson is a vibrant, sprawling community with an upbeat college vibe and a healthy arts scene. And, after our rains, the hills and desert turn into a beautiful emerald green carpet.
Tucson is Hip
So how hip is Tucson? Well, take a guess; what would you say is the fastest growing industry in Tucson? If you guessed microbreweries, you would be correct. How’s that for hip?
Tucson is experiencing an explosive growth of microbreweries and most of them cannot keep up with the demand for their craft beer. A lot of the breweries can only supply enough beer for their retail outlets to be open a few days a week. Some sell out of their product in mere hours after replenishment.
Fun Events in Tucson
On January 22, 1934, the infamous bank robber, John Dillinger and his cohorts decided to take a break and kick back in Tucson. They chose the Hotel Congress which still operates in downtown Tucson. Dillinger was sound asleep when a fire broke out in the basement of the hotel, quickly spreading to the third floor where he was staying. Firemen responded and evacuated guests via ladders. These same firemen fought the flames and retrieved luggage from the guest rooms, Dillinger’s included. These bags were later discovered to contain guns and money – $23,816 in cash to be exact. The firemen recognized Dillinger and his gang from reading True Detective magazine while resting at the firehouse. Five hours later, the Tucson police had one of the nation’s most notorious criminals in custody. The Tucson police did what the FBI and police departments in numerous states had failed to do.
Tucson still celebrates Dillinger Days every third weekend in January at the Hotel Congress. The fun consists of a reenactment of the event, food, drinks and music along with tours and informational lecture about that famous day in Tucson.
El Tour de Tucson
This event takes place in November of each year. It is touted as “America’s Largest Perimeter Bicycling Event – it is for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Riders can pedal one of several courses, each having its own challenges. During this event, cyclists from all over the world converge on Tucson to participate in this city-wide activity. For more information, see their website.
Tucson Gem Show
This show competes with Tour de Tucson as one of the most attended events in the city. The gem show draws exhibitors and visitors from all areas of the globe. Each January and February, large tents and temporary buildings spring up throughout Tucson, each hosting exhibitors that offer dazzling displays of gems and minerals for sale to the public or to dealers.
Tucson has great beer, no doubt, but it also has innovative and fun restaurants. In fact, Tucson has been designated a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy. What does that mean? It means that a respected organization – the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization – has recognized Tucson as a city on the cutting edge of food creativity. If you like food and unique restaurants, Tucson is sure to please.
For the art scene lovers, Tucson is home to numerous galleries. Some of the more popular:
- Etherton Gallery
- Madaras Gallery
- Solar Culture
- DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
- Davis Dominguez
- Conrad Wilde
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- Philabaum Glass
Strike Up the Band
Tucson is home to the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, bringing a full slate of classical as well as contemporary performances to the Tucson area. The TSO takes it’s music to several different locations throughout the city, bringing culture all the residents of Tucson.
Tucson is the home of the University of Arizona with its 42,000 students. The University was formed before Arizona was even a state. The U of A is home to the Arizona Wildcats which are part of the Pac 12 conference. The team’s slogan and battle cry is “Bear Down.” I wondered, after seeing the “Bear Down” slogan at every team function, why they refer to a bear instead of a cat? Turns out it has nothing to do with an actual bear.
In 1926 the student body president and athlete, John Salmon, was in car accident and was hospitalized. One of his frequent visitors was coach J. F. McKale. Right before Salmon’s death, the coach reportedly asked him if he had any words of wisdom for the team. He reportedly told the coach “Tell them, tell the team to bear down.” Some years later, a song was written which is still sung at games today – Bear Down, Arizona. The “Bear Down” slogan is prolific, being seen on every campus building, on tee shirts, beer glasses, billboards and even underwear.
The city of Tucson is big. The metro population is over 1 million and the city is very spread out; a fact you’ll soon discover when driving across town. It can easily take from 45 minutes to an hour to get from the south end to the northwest side of town. Newer developments seem to creep northward and eastward, with the south and southwest being the older parts of Tucson.
- The 3rd cleanest air in the country
- The largest concentration of Saguaro cactus in the United States (pronounced sawaro)
- 350 days of sunshine
- Lower rates of skin cancer than Vermont, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and many more
- Unemployment rate lower than the national average
- Low cost of living – median house price is $126,300
5 Distinct Weather Seasons
Tucson boasts 5 seasons of weather instead of just 4 like the rest of the nation. In Tucson we have Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and Monsoon. The Monsoon runs from June to mid-September and brings the majority of our much needed rain. This season was a record breaker, with the heaviest rainfall in 118 years. My backyard rain gauge recorded 2.9” of rain on July 8 of 2016.
But it’s a dry heat…
Is Tucson Hot? Absolutely – for three months out of twelve. When residents of colder states are outside enjoying the summer months, Tucsonans are keeping cool inside air-conditioned spaces or in swimming pools. When winter comes around, colder states see people bundled up by fireplaces with blizzard conditions outside – and that is when Tucson really shines. While others are feeling the chill, we are strolling outside in shorts and polo shirts, enjoying golfing, biking and hiking. We have nine months of spectacular weather that brings “snowbirds” from other states flocking to the mild temperatures of Tucson.
I used to live in Seattle where we had 3 months of nice weather and 9 months of gray, depressing, drizzle – I’ll take Tucson any day.
Tucson Has it All
To me, Tucson has it all – great weather, great U of A sports, a great cultural scene, friendly people, a laid-back attitude, first class medical facilities, low cost of living, spectacular mountain and desert scenery, and hey – the weather is not too bad either.
Find out what the snowbirds already know – Tucson is the place to be in the winter.
For me, Tucson is the place to be all the time.