Moving to Tucson

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Tucson for friend who's retiring?

April 2014

I have a dear friend who is a single, retired prof. woman looking for place less expensive than the Bay Area to retire. She is partially disabled (poor eyesight and hearing, side effects of diabetes and kidney disease) so she needs access to good public transportation in order to easily get to doctor's appointments, etc. She's looking for a place that offers culture and open-minded people - like Berkeley but affordable for a person on very limited income. And lastly, the city must not have very cold weather. She's considering Tucson. Any advice or recommendations about US or international cities most welcome. A concerned friend

Cost of living is quite a bit lower than in Bay Area. Summers are HOT HOT HOT & LONG. Most liberal area of Arizona. Electricity bill for AC can be quite high, don't know if local utilities buy your surplus if you have solar setup, but that would help. Must have a car & feel comfortable driving. Some neighborhoods are not totally safe, most seem pretty good. Might be an idea to check local papers online. Having U of Arizona is a good thing, brings some culture to area. Lots of snowbirds who come during winter & retired people there. Galloping Nana

I'm from Tucson, and the major drawback for your friend is that it is very spread out and there is not very good public transit. It would be especially tough for your friend since she has health issues, as the weather gets very hot, thus making waiting for buses especailly unpleasant. The University of Arizona area is a bit better than the rest of town, as thngs are more clustered there, and they are putting in a trolley line with transit-friendly housing along it. Still, I think it would be very challenging for someone in your friend's situation.

I think the previous poster did a good job of describing the city in general, and it does have a lot of the aspects your friend is looking for, in terms of people and culture - it is a neat place - but it doesn't sound like the logistics would work. Having grown up in the Southwest, in general I think that most Western cities tend to be spread out witih a lack of walkabiity and transit. former Zonie

Long-time Bay Arean moving to Tucson

Jan 2012

I am a long-time Bay Arean (who thinks that Berkeley and the Bay Area are the best places in the world to live). I have to move to Tucson to help my 88 year old mom (I tried with all my might to get her to move for the last 10 years to no avail). I found some areas near 4th ave (their 'Berkeley') which i have already started checking out. I am moving in April. If anyone has any leads on ANYTHING Tucson or any thoughts/advice etc.. please let me know! Many thanks.

I am a native Tucsonan having spent the first 25 years of my life there before moving first to Southern California then to the Bay Area about 3 years ago. While I loved growing up and Tucson and still love going back for visits, I can completely understand your hesitation about moving there. Moving anywhere from the Bay Area is difficult and Tucson is a larger leap in most people's minds.

However, this little Southwestern community has a lot to offer and while I would agree with you that 4th Avenue is probably as close to Berkeley as you'll get with its great cafes, restaurants, artist community feel and the University close by my advice to you would be not to spend too much energy trying to find Berkeley in Tucson as you will probably be disappointed. 4th Ave is great and I would actually encourage you to live in that area if that's the lifestyle you enjoy, but my caution comes from the fact that it is just one little street, not an entire city.

I would encourage you to embrace what Tucson has to offer rather than lamenting what you left behind - way easier said than done I know! But as a little encouragement here are a few things that I love and miss dearly about Tucson that you can't get in Berkeley: warm summer nights, late afternoon monsoons replete with fantastic lightening shows, sunsets that'll make you believe in God if you don't already, desert hikes in the winter and Sonoran Mexican food (best anywhere!) just to name a few. I'm not sure if you are into music, but Tucson also actually has a pretty good Indie music scene and gets a lot of great little bands that come through.

I'd be happy to talk further if you have any questions or want recommendations for something specific. Feel free to reach out and I hope you not only come to terms with your pending move, but that it ends up really working out for you....until you can make your way back to the promised land that is Renee

I grew up in Tucson, so I can tell you that it is different from the rest of Arizona and does not fit the 'red state' stereotype. It has a vibrant university community, as well as an art scene and other people who come for the weather/quirkiness of the place. I met a lot of amazing people with pedigrees who moved there so they could hang out in a low-key place.

In terms of areas, 4th Avenue (which you mentioned) is top on the list. Nearby, the downtown district is up and coming, with interesting restaurants (The Hub, among others) and the Rialto and Club Congress which have active music scenes. Armory Park in downtown is a neat historic neighborhood.

The Sam Hughes neighborhood is one of the more established neighborhoods in the center of town. it's also home to the Rincon Market which has a cafe/deli that is a hub for the neighborhood. When in town, I always run into someone I know there.

The University of Arizona is home to the Center for Creative Photography, which is a world class collection of great photographs - including Ansel Adams. There is always lots going on in and around the U - theater, lectures, etc., plus as always with a college town, many interesting people connected with the U.

Tucson has in common with the Bay Area that it can support great used bookstores -- Bookmans, which is almost an empire -- and used music stores - Zia. As well as it was the birthplace of the used clothing chain Buffalo Exchange.

My parents still live in Tucson and are always going to lectures, art events, and meeting interesting people. I checked with my mom and she sent some emails that I will forward to you off list. She suggested The Tucson Weekly (which is also on the internet) and Zocalo ( as two publications for goings-on. I would also suggest dropping by the Hotel Congress and checking with them about highlights in town -- it is an old hotel that is the home of Club Congress and the center of alternative/historic culture in town. Good luck! Former Zonie

Any Tips on Moving to Tucson?

Aug 2008

My family is planing to move to Tucson... I really could use any information about neighborhoods and elementary schools. We want to live in an urban/central neighborhood close to downtown and/or the university. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. -andrea

My sister has lived in Tucson for the past 10 or 12 years. She is in the Foothills area right up against the mountain (can’t remember the exact name), & her school district is generally considered the best in Tucson. I think they are just outside the actual Tucson city limits. Unlike most of CA, in many other locales, a city may have several different school districts, w/different standards, amount of funding, student mix, etc. Tucson is the most progressive place in the entire state of Arizona & U of A is probably the best college in Arizona. It has a world famous photography museum & department. It’s not as hilly in Tucson as most of the East Bay, but the really hot summers preclude much daytime bike riding. lila

I grew up in Tucson and left when I was 22. But my husband and I recently moved back there to be closer to my family and try it out. Fourteen months later, we were back in California. Tucson is a city that grew too fast and is still sort of stuck in the past. When I lived there as a kid, there were only several hundred thousand people. Now there are 1 million, and there is STILL no freeway to get from one end of town to another. The only freeway is for getting out of town. Imagine lots of cars getting around on surface streets, with no chance of going over like 40 miles an hour.

I almost chuckled when you mentioned wanting to live in an ''urban'' area. I think of Tucson as one giant suburb, with parking lots and strip malls everywhere, even in the central area. I'm not sure that there is much downtown -- growing up it was only a place to go if you worked there or wanted to see a show. I think it's better now, but I never knew anyone who lived downtown. Most people don't walk places like in real urban areas, and even if you could walk, in the summer it's too dang hot.

Most schools in Tucson aren't great, and the good ones seem to be on the east and northeast side, near the foothills. There might be some good ones in the central area, but since I lived on the NE side that is where I did my research when we moved back. District 16 is the one that everyone talks about (foothills). There are some good private schools, if you go that route.

As for neighborhoods, there are some really nice areas but also some pretty seedy areas. Stay away from the south end of town. I don't know much about the central/university area, though there are some older established neighborhoods there.

I'm not sure I'm much help here, and I'm obviously biased by having grown up there (for better or worse). I can tell you that if you've lived in CA for a long time, Tucson may be an adjustment. It's not as progressive as CA and it is definitely hotter than heck in the summer. Winters can be colder than you'd think, but not too bad. There are some great restaurants (and lots of them), cultural events at the university and downtown, great hiking, pretty views, but not much sports except UA. Former Tucsonian

Hi there - I lived in Tucson for 20 years - I moved 6 years ago so I'm sure some things have changed but I've kept up with friends who are still there. You are describing neighborhoods that are all part of Tucson Unified School District - kids generally go to their neighborhood school unless they wish to be part of a magnet program. (The magnets are plentiful at the MS and HS level, but not so much at the elementary level.) So choosing a particular neighborhood has an impact on where kids will attend. This web site lets you type in a prospective address and then it will show you which elementary school is for that area: adeluca

Moving to Tucson with young kids

June 2007

Hi, I'm moving to Tucson with my husband and two young ones (2.5 y/o and a 2 months old). I'm curious (not to say worried) about life in the Tucson heat with kids. Does anyone have experience with surviving the long hot summers there with kids? People (without kids) say they just limit their activities to very early in the morning (5am) or late in the evening. I don't see how this can apply to kids. Also, is there anything like BPN in Tucson? Did anyone take ''music together'' in Tucson? In short, any advice regarding life in Tucson with kids will be much appreciated. Many thanks, Soon to be new to Tucson. Alexandra

I grew up in Tucson, so I will tell you what I can remember about growing up in the heat. First of all, as kids the heat didn't seem to stop us too much. We still spent lots of time outside even during the day. We swam alot. We would go to movies during the day (I still have the inclination to go see a movie on a sunny day here). We would go to all the museums at the U of A (which used to be free) and downtown. Also spent lots of time in the main library. The desert museum is great (you can go into the bat cave to cool off). Colossal cave and Karchner caverns are also ''cool'' spots. Did I mention swimming? While I can't say I miss the 100 degrees in the shade thing (you definitely can't go barefoot very much and please beware of metal slides). But, there is something to be said about being in shorts and a t shirt at 10:00 pm eating ice cream. survived (and sometimes miss) the heat

Considering a move to Tucson

Jan 2004

My husband and 6 month old and I are considering moving to Tucson, AZ or Eugene, OR. We know lots about Eugene, (and saw a posting on this network), but don't know much about Tucson. We're looking for recommendations/suggestions/ideas about the area(s). Thank you! currently in Berkeley

We lived in Tucson for three years. It is a great place if you don't mind the heat. It is a great community with wonderful people. Email me if you want more specific information. Adriane