A Week Discovering Tucson...

Oct 29th, 2005, 03:52 AM
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A Week Discovering Tucson...

My husband and I, who are shooting for early retirement, want to go to Tucson for a week to see how it compares to some other places we are considering living for part of the year (that part when it is not unbearably hot). I have decided to check out Tucson due to the posts on here from all of you who like it.

I have been reading through prior posts but would like a concise list from you on what unique things you all like to do and experience while you are there. From that list I will really start my more intense research.

So what restaurants do you like, what hiking/biking places do you like (impotant to us), what indoor things are there that you like, sports, cultural venues, etc.? Don't feel the need to expand on your list if you don't feel like it, I will do the research, although it would be nice to know where things are (north of downtown, etc.) as I am just getting my bearings on locations.

MikePinTucson, I am really hoping to hear from you! I'd like to know what you like about living there, and what you don't like.

Thanks very much in advance.
emd is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 07:28 AM
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I live in Tucson and would suggest you don't look at the city from a tourist point of view when you visit here. I know a week is a very short time to get a handle on a place, but try and focus on what it would be like to live here rather then just visit.

There are alot of hiking areas around, we do not hike so I'll leave that one for someone else to answer - but I do know it's a hikers paradise if that is your thibng. We don't bike either but I will ask you that if you do please be very careful on the roads around Tucson. Most are quite narrow and bikers are at risk.

Take a good hard look at the part of town you are interested in, i.e. Northwest, Oro Valley, Foothills, Northeast, Marana, etc. Spend time there. Go to the grocery store, see where things are in proximity to where you may buy a house. Many of the new areas are MILES away from things. If that is OK with you, fine, but it would not thrill me to drive 12 miles each way for groceries or to Home Depot.

Sports center around the UofA, we have a great basketball team The Sidewinders (Diamondbacks farm team) play here and several teams do their Spring training here.

Cultural venues are not exactly up to par with bigger cities. We normally go to Phoenix to the theater (the Gammage Auditorium on ASU campus is FAR superior to Centennial Hall, on UofA campus in the way of acoustics, etc.) Centennial does get shows, etc. look at their website for a list. Desert Diamond Casino and Casino of the Sun very often have top name performers, but they are usually here for only 1 (or 2 days at most). The Tucson Convention Center (downtown) also has various performances during the year.

Take a good close look at the streets where you might want to live. Most need work. The city is way behind in road construction/maintenance. Oro Valley is probably the most progressive in street work and improvements. Two lane roads are hell during rush hour and the Freeway is a laugh here because we basically only have Interstate 10 which does not go across town.

Check out the shopping if you are a shopper. Tucson Mall is the largest, 125 stores or something like that. Dillard's, Macy's, Penney, Sears anchor and Robinson-May (which will soon be closed and Macy's is moving into that spot). There is talk about a Nordstrom's coming to Macy's spot but who knows. Park Mall on the east side of town is smaller. Foothills Mall in the Northwest is small, mostly outlet stores but they have a great Barnes&Noble.

There are frequently activities on UofA campus during the year. The Arizona State Museum has many events, just look at their website for details.

For "early" retirement I'd suggest NOT living in a retirement community, I think it is better to live where there is a mix of age brackets.

There are alot of restuarants in Tucson and they range from inexpensive to high end. Cafe Poca Cosa, Terra Cotta, Soleil, Vivace are all nice as are many many others. If you like PF Chang's we have a great one as well.

We rarely go "downtown" Tucson, we live in Northwest, about 5 miles from I-10. I like being on the NW side of town fairly close to the freeway as it is much easier to get to Phoenix. Living on east side of Tucson adds another 1/2 hr (or more) to trip to Phoenix. We frequently fly out of Sky Harbor airport in PHX rather then TUS. Fares are cheaper and more more selection of airlines, etc.

There is lots and lots of new construction in Marana - but they also have lots and lots of traffic as the railroad tracks cause tremendous backups at the Cortaro on/off ramps of I-10. A new underpass will be built a little further up I-10 (eventually) but it will take years to complete.

Good luck with your visit - but be careful and do not fall for real estate agents who tell you "stores are coming" if you buy in an area with all new homes and nothing else in sight. Stores will come but it will be years.

I hate to only focus on "troublesome" things, but one needs to be aware when they consider living in a city what it is really like. Tucson is OK, but it "needs alot of work" road wise. That is my major issue here.
Lori is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 07:58 AM
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Hi emd,

Hard to know where to start.

University of Arizona basketball, one of the best year in and out in the country.

U of A softball --same as above (there were, I think 5 current or former players on the Olympic team that blew away the competition.

U of A soccer and volleyball and women's baskeball have good, well-respected programs.

Spring training -- I don't watch baseball, but there are a number of teams that use Tucson for Spring training.

Tucson has a AAA baseball team.

Outdoor activities -- too many to mention, but a lot of hiking on / around Mt. Lemmon, Saguaro Nat'l Park East and West, Sabino Canyon. There are dozens of hiking trails in the Rincon Mountains (east side) And further off, in Southeast AZ, there is much more in Chiricahua mountains and Santa Rita mountains. I don't bike, so I can't help you there.

Restaurants -- I am kind of a "meat and potatoes" person, and there are a lot of good steakhouses. Also there are a lot of really good Mexican food restaurants. A few fine Italian restaurants and pizza places (not the chains). Tucson has a lot of very fine restaurants. It really depends on your tastes. I can give you a list of my favorites, if you are interested. But I live on the far east side, and don't make it to the northwest area too often. And my tastes might be "simpler" than many other people, so I tend to not go to some of the restaurants that have fine food, but seem more interested in how it looks.

As for indoor / cultural, the University has a program called "UA Presents" that has plays, operas, etc. There is also the Tucson Convention Center, which also has performances. there are also various theater groups around the City, but that is something I don't get into, so I wouldn't be much help.

There are, on most weekends, crafts fairs and farmers' markets.

There is even a wine-making area in Southern Arizona, down around Sonoita and Elgin.

If you want to send me an email, I can send you a lot of links to various things. Here is one:


The local newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star, has a section, on thursdays, called "Caliente" that lists everything going on in Tucson and Southern Arizona over the coming week. Here is the link to the local newspapers:


What I really like about Tucson -- so much sun, and being able to plan things outdoors all year round with almost no chance your outdoor activities will be rained out. I am also a gardener (veggies), and I like being able to have fresh vegetables all year.

What I don't like -- it does get quite hot here in the Summer. So you really need to restrict strenuous outdoor activities to early in the day. Traffic can be bad, and I think the northwest side of Tucson is the worst because there are so few good north/south streets.

Where on the north side are you looking?

Let me know if I can be of any help. Can give you web sites for specific things, if you like.

Oh, I also am a member of the Arizona Barbecue Association, which has some nice events around the state during the year. Just mentioned that because I don't know where your interests or your husband's lie.

I would be delighted to meet you both to share a "welcome to Tucson" drink when you get here. Do you know anyone in Tucson?
MikePinTucson is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 08:37 AM
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One thing I forgot to mention is that winters are very crowded in Tucson because it does attract "snowbirds". It adds to the already traffic hell (I work at UofA). If you come down during the winter months you will see a different city then during the rest of the year.

Also - it is true winters are mild, but we do get "cold" weather. It can drop into the low 30's or high 20's on occasion and snow on the higher elevations is common. Just so you realize wearing shorts in Jan. may not be practical
Lori is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 09:22 AM
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Well, you are getting different perspectives, aren't you? But one thing in common -- traffic is bad and getting worse. Whenever the local governments (city or county) come up with a plan, it has to go to the voters and invariably gets shot down.

Park Place mall, on the east side, inderwent a renovation a few years ago, and now, I believe is as big as, or bigger than, the Tucson Mall. Not sure, though, because I have never been in Tucson Mall (can you believe that, Lori? It's true). I'm not big on going shopping.

On flying out of Phoenix, versus Tucson, it used to be the case that you could save a lot by flying out of Phoenix. But now there is not much, if any, difference. Particularly if you drive to Phoenix and pay to park for a couple of weeks, and maybe for a hotel overnight, if you have an early flight. Funny, but I was booking trips from TUS to EWN (New Bern, NC), and it was cheaper flying out of Tucson. Even funnier, the flight conected in Phoenix, on the same airline, and the same flight out of PHX, but it was $100 more taking it from Phoenix. If you can figure that one out, let me know. But PHX is much larger, so the ARE more flights to more places, flying non-stop.

We don't go to Phoenix much at all, maybe once or twice a year, so the extra time (30 minutes, from the far east side) doesn't matter to us.

The restaurants Lori mentioned are very good, all of them. Maybe if you can let us know how your tastes run, we can come up with some good suggestions. Between us, we should be able to cover most of the town.

Lori is right about biking. traffic is bad for that, unless you get out of town or do mountain biking. There is a good bike path on Old Spanins Trail, on the eastside. You can take it from Broadway, out to Saguaro National Park, and there is a very hilly 9 mile loop inside the park you can ride.

Lori, you work for UA? I just retired from the UA last November.
MikePinTucson is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 09:50 AM
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Wow, I came home after doing errands and have alot to read! Thanks so much- I particularly appreciate hearing from you who live there.

I'll review what you wrote later today and post again when I have some time, just wanted to say thanks now for the replies so far.

Mike, I am particularly interested in the flying out of Tucson idea as I may still be consulting at that point and we alos hope to travel quite a bit. And one other quick thing- I was referring to mountain biking only. I won't bike on the streets.

More later. This is great info.
emd is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 10:48 AM
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Sorry, Mike, I have to disagree about flying out of PHX vs. TUS. Last year we saved $200 each by going out of PHX to Fort Lauderdale. Trips like 'Vegas, LA, Dallas or Chicago are ok to do out of TUS but it pays to check the fare out of Sky Harbor for most everything else. British Airways also flys non-stop to London from Phoenix which we found to be great!! One good thing about parking the car at PHX vs. TUS is that they have regular covered parking garages up there. For a few days leaving the car outside at TUS is not too bad but for a longer period of time we prefer the covered parking. Another thing is that there are many many more non-stops out of PHX whereas you almost always have to change planes someplace when you fly out of TUS.

I forgot Park Mall was remodeled, I never go over there There is new "high end" shopping at Campbell and Sunrise now including AJ's Fine Foods. Lots of new restuarants in that area too.
Lori is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 11:54 AM
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I don't live in Tucson and have only been there once (this past January). The weather was pleasant enough at that time for doing pretty much anything outdoors. We did run into some snow on our drive up Mt. Lemmon, but that's to be expected because it's a ski area.

There are plenty of hiking trails around Tucson. Saguaro NP (East and West), Catalina State Park, Sabino Canyon and Mt. Lemmon are all good places (the last 3 are either north or northeast of town). Mt. Lemmon is especially good in summer because it's elevation makes for much cooler temps. You can research any of them to find out the mtn biking status of their trails.

From my limited time there, it did seem like there roads weren't up to par, in terms of having major roads leading to and from various areas. It seemed like I-10 was the only major road, and everything else was a city street. That may not matter to someone who's retired, because you can adjust your schedules to avoid driving during rush hour to some extent. It did seem like things were sprawling out a bit, and as Lori said, you may have to drive a ways to get somewhere. That may not be an issue for retirees though. I would guess the sprawl might increase the possibility of having wildlife (snakes, etc.) in your backyard as well.

Flights into Tucson were more expensive, so the relative closeness of PHX was nice. I'm sure there are some reasonable flights out of Tucson if you can be flexible in travel dates/times.

All in all, I liked Tucson. I don't think I'd want to live/work there, but I might want to live/retire there, if that makes sense. While you're there checking things out, definitely go to Saguaro NP (either one or both) and the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.
Oct 29th, 2005, 12:25 PM
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I see by Lori's reply that I am not the only one who doesn't travel to the other side of town.

emd, it's good you also got a response from a non-Tucsonan to get a different perspective.

Emd, do your own research on flights. I certainly don't want to get into any arguments on this forum. but it really DOES depend on where you are going. I just checked prices to 9 different cities from both Tucson and Phoenix. I just picked a 1 week period, from Feb 15 to Feb 22 and did a search on Orbitz. The ONLY ones where there was a significant difference were Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.

To Las Vegas, both non-stop, it was $131 from TUS and $123 from PHX

Chicago -- $192 from TUS, $204 from PHX, both N/S

JFK $232 from TUS $234 from PHX (1 stop both)

Washington, DC $224 from TUS, $276 from PHX (both 1 stop)

San Francisco (1 stop) cost $8 more from TUS, but N/S was $70 more

LAX (both N/S) TUS was $2 cheaper

TUS to MIA was over $150 more expensive than out of PHX and FTL cost $135 more. So you should do some homework, particularly if you know where you are mot likely to travel to in your consulting work.

Whenever I fly out of Tucson, I usually have a family member who can drop me off at the airport, so parking expense is not an issue. But if I fly out of Phoenix, I have to figure on anywhere from $5.00 to $10.00 or more per day parking. Which can quickly negate any savings from less expensive airline tickets. Not to mention the gasoline cost of driving $100 miles each way. Tucson doesn't have covered parking currently, but if I am not mistaken they are building a multi-story garage.

Well, don't want to hijack this thread with too much on airline tickets. Just do some checking yourself.

Let us know if we can be of any more help. If you would like a day by day suggested itinerary, between Lorin and me, we could probably come up with some things for you.
MikePinTucson is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 02:11 PM
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Again, I just have a few minutes and will have more time tomorrow to post back (homecoming dance tonight for the kids). My thoughts about the flight situation is that I am concerned about living 2 hr drive from a major airport (this is one thing of many that really concerns me about Sedona, as much as I love it). If we could puddle jump from Tucson to Phoenix to catch direct flights, that is great. I'll look into the routes/fares for places I know we'll be going, like D.C. and Boston a few times a year, and internationally (hopefully- that is what we've been saving for all these years).
I really appreciate the info on the road situations- never would have realized any of that and now we can be aware of it as we travel about town.
You each have valuable input. Mike, spring training is a BIG deal - my husband goes for a week to FLorida every year for that, and my son is a pitcher, we are big baseball fans. That is another thing we'd miss in Sedona. I'm a gardener also and definitely want the milder dry climate.
I don't think we could stand the summers and are looking into traveling to other areas of the US to maybe rent a place for the summers if we stay most of the year in AZ.
Lori, thanks for the info on diff. parts of town. And Weasel, thank you too re the "sprawl info"...I don't particularly want to be driving all over the place on surface roads w/alot of traffic.
I think it sounds like there is alot to keep us busy. We may look closer at Phoneix also. I client of mine just moved to Chandler area close to South Mountain and loves it. But that will be another trip to check Phoneix out. I hope to get through several of these "discovery" trips in the next year.
I'll be back w/more questiond after I sit tomorrow and read the posts again. You all have alot of good info from some different perspectives.
emd is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 02:39 PM
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Check out the lovely Kartchner Caverns (call in advance to make reservations).
The housing in Tucson is going up due to the cost of housing in other states, such as California, and folks moving to AZ to retire. Check out some of the developers websites such as Pulte and KB Homes to get ideas.
enjoylife is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 05:26 PM
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I've spent a lot of time with friends in the Green Valley/Sahuarita area about 15-20 minutes south of Tucson and really like it. You're close enough to easily go to Tucson, but there are also several places to shop and eat in the communitites themselves. Just thought I'd add another area to your thoughts!
Postal is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 05:52 PM
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emd: Sedona and Tucson are vastly different. Remember, these are my opinions only, but I think of Sedona as an "artsy" kind of place but not one I'd care to live in. For me, the town is too small, I do need more "city". Sedona is at least 2 hrs from PHX airport and Sky Harbor is on the south side of PHX meaning you have to drive through alot of traffic to get to it (freeway traffic). While I do not know what is important to you I know I'd not be overly happy having to drive 100 miles to get to major malls, theater, etc. Sedona is lovely, but to me it is a nice place to visit, not to live there. I imagine Sedona has a small airport for private aircraft.

Tucson has alot of faults traffic wise, and sprawl wise, but it does have an airport and you can go non-stop to Chicago, Dallas, LA, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Newark ... (Mike will let me know if I forgot any cities .. Mike you are great !!) . Tucson a/p is a smallish place without long lines to get through security. You can always take a flight from TUS to PHX and change. Actually, a co-worker of mine who went to Boston every other week would fly TUS-Vegas an then connect to Boston. It worked fine for her. If you are contemplating international travel then British Airways flies non-stop to London from PHX and I believe Continental code shares with Lufthansa and flies to Frankfurt (or at least they used to). We have used BA out of PHX and it's a good flight.

Chandler is a nice suburb but it is relatively flat (as opposed to Tucson where we have mountains surrounding the city). I would not choose to live in Chandler, altho I frequently go to the Mall up there to shop. Chandler is on "this side of Phoenix" and we live in the Northwest side of Tucson making it easy to go between the two areas.

Happy reading, emd, and keep us posted.

Lori is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 07:45 PM
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I love this ! When I left Tucson, many years ago, I had to SPELL the name for people....and now my hometown is on the map and people WANT to live there.
It is a beautiful place (in the non-summer months )
I know you think you have traffic, but you have to see Mr.R5's Sonoma-Marin commute M-F.

and yes, we go back to visit once a year
This is why books on tape was invented !

BTW, Lori & MikeP, My dad was a UA Dept Head, my SIL works for the VP of Research, I am a grad
(B.Architecture) and my nephew is
an undergrad. Perhaps we should plan a GTG when emd visits !
razzledazzle is offline  
Oct 30th, 2005, 06:23 AM
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Hey, Razzledazzle, a GTG would be great.

I would definitely second everything Lori just wrote. Sedona IS great to visit, for the beauty, not the town. I also would not want to live there. Too isolated for my tastes. And the mountain views from all over Tucson make it much more scenic than most of the Phoenix area.

I kind of chuckled at Theweasel characterizing Tucson as "sprawling". True, Tucson is starting to spread out, but if you REALLY want sprawl, visit Phoenix. But Tucson does have some major traffic congestion, which is the worst on the northwest side (just in my opinion). Oracle Road is a nightmare to try to navigate in both directions. And that road is really the only road that goes all the way to downtown, so it really gets clogged. I live on the east side, about 15 miles from downtown, and I could drive to and from work (downtown and at the University) in 30 minutes or less (on surface streets. The same drive from a like distance on the northwest side would likely take at least twice that long.

So, when you do come to visit, don't restrict yourself to the north side. As Postal mentioned, Green Valley is just 20-30 minutes south, down the freeway from Tucson, and our and our airpot is on that side of town. But, GV is a retirement community, which is fine if that is what you are looking for. Also, Vail and Sahuarita are maybe 15 minutes east of Tucson, just off I-10, so you might also want to check that out.

Happy reading.
MikePinTucson is offline  
Oct 31st, 2005, 08:26 AM
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I just moved to Tucson in July as my husband is with the Border Patrol. Prior to moving here, we lived in Flagstaff and I find Tucson is alot friendlier. Flagstaff is gorgeous, but it is a very closed community, so I'm really loving Tucson - except for the summer heat.

I agree about the driving and roads here. I live in the NW off Cortaro about 5 minutes to I10. To get anywhere on the east side, especially deep east can take up to 45 minutes depending on traffic, even if you take the freeway. The other day it took me almost an hour to get home from Tucson Medical Center.

As for the airport, I recently flew out of Tucson for my FIL's funeral in Newark. We had previously booked a flight to go visit and believe it or not, the flight cost the same flying out of Tucson as it did from Phoenix. This was on America WEst. Next week, I am flying to TX for my dh's graduation and I'm flying SW from Tucson via Albuequerque. I really don't mind having to go to a major center to transfer planes. When we lived in Flagstaff, we always had to go to Phoenix to fly out to anywhere because flying out of Flag was cost prohibitive. There were not the same deals flying out of there that are out of Tucson.

I am from Canada and it is very expensive to fly out of Phoenix directly to Calgary. I would have to drive from Flag, fly to LAX and get a cheaper flight from there. I also looked at various overseas flights and always had to go to either LAX, SFO, or other major airports to go to some international destinations. You can get a few flights to Canada and the UK out of Phoenix, but that's pretty much it. Of course, flying anywhere in the US is much different and Phoenix has far more options than Tucson.

I found a great parking lot in Tucson near the airport when I went to Newark in early Oct. It is the first lot on the right hand side. I think it is across the street from the Hampton Inn and it's called something like "Parking Lot of America" or something to that effect. The logo is a map of the US with the stars and stripes inside. It costs $3.50 per day, they pick you up right at your car, no lugging your bags to a busstop on the other side of the lot. When you get on their shuttle bus, they give you a card with your parking space number. When you return, you show that to the driver and he drops you off right at your car and loads your bags into the trunk. If that lot is full, they have a lot just up the road for $4.50 per day.

If I drive to Phoenix, especially with the cost of gas, it is more expensive. Add to that paying higher costs for parking there than here.

Maybe because I hated driving to Phoenix from Flag anytime I wanted to fly anywhere, but I much prefer flying out of Tucson. When I am coming home, I just want to get home and not fight the traffic coming out of Phoenix and then have a nearly 2 hour drive home.

Living in Flag, we made frequent trips to Phoenix for decent shopping. We don't have to do that here. Tucson has great restaurants, shopping and the people are friendly. I was very unhappy in Flagstaff and I'm so glad to be here.
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