Moving to Tucson, AZ: A Bellhops City Guide

Sure, you’re probably aware of the dry, hot weather and the landscape strewn with cacti, but Tucson also has mountain ranges in all directions, tons of resorts and spas, championship golf courses, and an impressive food scene. It also has highly-esteemed museums and galleries featuring work by world-renowned artists.

For those considering moving to Tucson, we’ve explored both the expected and unexpected, and gathered the resources necessary to help make your decision easier. Also, if you're interested in Arizona, but not sure if Tucson is right for you, check out our guide on moving to Arizona. (Oh, and by the way, we're Bellhops—movers in Tucson and around the country.)

Wherever you decide to move, we’d like to make it a little easier. Sign up here for $50 off your next move.

Living in Tucson: The Basics

  1. A Brief Overview of Tucson

    Because Tucson is in the desert, it can get extremely hot during the summer, exceeding 100 degrees on many days, but the winters are mild and enjoyable. You also don’t have to worry about mowing your lawn, because, you know, landscaping isn’t really a thing there.

    But Tucson isn’t just about unique scenery. Amazon, the online retailer, has consistently ranked it one of the Most Well-Read Cities in America—perhaps due to the presence of the University of Arizona and its 35,000 undergraduates. (Perhaps that’s also why it hosts the fourth-largest book festival in the country, the Tucson Festival of Books.)

  2. The (Reasonable) Cost of Living in Tucson

    According to Numbeo, it costs a four-person family around $3,000 a month to live in Tucson (excluding housing). Expenses for a single person run around $900 a month (excluding housing).

    When it comes to renting, apartments tend to range from $800 to $1,300, depending, of course, on where you want to live.

    If you would like a more thorough review of the cost of living in Tucson, Expatistan is a great site that will provide you with an extensive list of expenses such as health care, groceries, clothing, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

  3. Jobs in Tucson

    Tucson’s largest employers are the University of Arizona, defense contractor Raytheon, and the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, which together employ around 34,000 people. The leisure and hospitality industries also play a considerable role in the local economy, employing more than 45,000 people. IBM, Texas Instruments, Honeywell Aerospace, Ventana Medical Systems, and Intuit Inc. also have a large presence in the city.

    The average monthly income is around $2,400 after taxes.

  4. Getting Around the City

    Although owning a car is recommended because the city is so spread out, Tucson has a bike score that ranks in the top ten for large American cities. The average commute is around 24 minutes, which is just below the national average of 25 minutes.

    As for public transportation, Tucson has two options:

    Suntran: A bus service that offers stops throughout the metropolitan area. It operates from 6 a.m. to midnight every day and costs $1.75 per ride for adults, or $4 for an unlimited day pass.

    Sun Link Streetcar: With 19 stops, this four-mile route connects five popular areas, including the University of Arizona. It runs Monday through Wednesday, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and until 2 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. One-way tickets cost $1.74, and 24-hour passes are $4.50.

  5. Crime in Tucson

    In a report released in November of 2018, Tucson was named the most dangerous city in Arizona, but this fact can be deceiving, given that comparing it to other cities in the state does not mean that it ranks on similar countrywide lists. Nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of the crime in your hometown, and this interactive map is a great resource for determining the level of safety in particular areas.

Living in Tucson: The Lowdown on the Best Neighborhoods for You

As with many cities, Tucson’s neighborhoods are diverse and ever-changing, so we’ve tried to simplify things by briefly highlighting some of our favorites. If you’re interested in a more extensive review of specific types of neighborhoods, make sure to check out our other guides: “Best Suburbs of Tucson”, “Best Neighborhoods for Families in Tucson,” and “Best Neighborhoods in Tucson.”
  1. Sam Hughes

    In Sam Hughes, this tree-lined area near the University of Arizona, you’ll find a mix of professors, students, artists, and young professionals living in turn-of-the-century Territorial-style houses and mission-style bungalows. Plenty of shops and restaurants are within walking distance, and it’s also easy to get downtown.

  2. Dove Mountain

    This upscale golf-course development is located at the base of the Tortolita Mountains, in the suburb of Marana, just north of the city. Over the past few years, Dove Mountain has become one of the most popular neighborhoods in Tucson because of its amenities and easy access to the freeway.

  3. Catalina Foothills

    Just north of the city, at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Catalina Foothills offer some of the best views around. It has a minimalist feel, with narrow streets that wind through the hills. Its subdivisions have all been built to blend in with the desert landscape, and nearby there is in an upscale shopping center with some of the area’s finest restaurants, shops, and art galleries.

  4. El Presidio Historic District

    The city’s first neighborhood, El Presidio is named for the Spanish military garrison that once stood there. Large, historic homes from that period have been restored, and the area is full of excellent art and food. Some highlights include the Tucson Museum of Art and El Charro Café, which has truly great chimichangas and margaritas.

  5. Armory Park

    Part of the National Register of Historic Places, Armory Park is located downtown and features wide avenues lined with homes of a variety of different styles, including Victorian, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, and Territorial. If you have kids, the nearby Tucson Children’s Museum is a great place to take them on a rainy day.

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Tucson Culture, Art, and Shopping

  1. Great Cultural Events in Tucson

    The Tucson Festival of Books, which we mentioned earlier, is just one of many events that Tucson hosts each year. Here are a few others worth knowing about:

    The Fourth Avenue Street Fair: There are actually two Fourth Avenue Street Fairs, one held in December and another held in late March/early April. Staged between 9th Street and University Boulevard, they feature arts-and-crafts booths, food vendors, and various performers.

    The Tucson Rodeo (Fiesta de los Vaqueros): Otherwise known as Rodeo Week, this event is so popular that most schools give students two days off so they can attend.

    All Souls Procession Weekend: Held in early November, this event is modeled after the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and happens to be one of the largest festivals in the city. It combines aspects of many different cultural traditions and includes a parade featuring floats, sculptures, and memorials.

  2. Art and music in Tucson

    When it comes to art, Tucson has several museums, such as The Tucson Museum of Art, The University of Arizona Museum of Art , which includes works by Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko, and the Center for Creative Photography, a leading museum with works by Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, and Edward Weston.

    Other museums include the iconic DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, as well as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a combined zoo, museum, and botanical garden devoted to indigenous animals and plants of the Sonoran Desert.

    If you love classical music, then you’ll certainly want to visit the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and the Arizona Opera.

  3. Shopping in Tucson

    And when you need to get some shopping done, the city offers a variety of destinations to satisfy whatever you’re looking for.

    The Tucson Mall and Park Place Mall offer a full range of major retailers such as Macy's, Banana Republic, Foot Locker, Charlotte Russe, and Victoria's Secret, as well as chain restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory.

    For a more upscale experience, La Encantada has a curated collection of shops that include Anthropologie, J. Crew, Tiffany & Co., Brooks Brothers, St. John, Louis Vuitton, and, of course, an Apple Store—all amid manicured courtyards and buildings with Spanish-tile roofs.

    Fourth Avenue, near the University of Arizona, is also a great way to spend an afternoon—whether you’re a local or just visiting. With more than 100 shops—ranging from boutiques and bookstores to jewelers and art galleries—you’ll be charmed by both the variety and vitality of this part of town.

The Pros and the Cons: Things You’ll Love—and Perhaps Learn to Love about Tucson

We’ve mostly focused on the pros of moving to Tucson, and that makes sense because there are a lot them. But like any city, it has its share of drawbacks as well. Here, we’ll briefly weigh a few of those—along with the top benefits—to help you decide whether a move to the city is the right choice for you.

  1. Cons: Housing Prices are Rising

    According to this report, as well as this one, the average home in Tucson just soared above $300,000 for the first time—and is still increasing.

  2. Pro: Even With Housing Prices Rising, They’re Still Relatively Affordable

    According to that same report, the local housing market is “still more affordable than it has been on average historically, which is counter to the national trend.”

  3. Con: The Extreme Heat

    We’ve mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again. The city gets above 100 degrees on a regular basis, and it rises above 90 degrees about 143 days a year.

  4. Pro: It’s a Mecca for Outdoor Enthusiasts

    Yes, it is surrounded by desert, but it also has seven of the world’s nine “life zones,” including grasslands and alpine forests, making it perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities—from horseback riding and hiking to snow skiing and caving.

Additional Resources for Moving to Tucson

For all the things we didn't cover, and for more of what we did, here are some other sites that will help you with your decision on moving to Tucson, AZ:

  1. Three Helpful Links

    • City of Tucson's Official Site: The name says it all. Geared more toward residents, this site will teach you everything you need to know about living in the city.
    • Visit Tucson: This site is geared more toward those who plan to visit—offering ideas for things to do, restaurants to visit, and places to stay and shop.
    • Arizona Daily Star: Tucson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning newspaper.

Good Luck with Your Move to Tucson

And that’s it. Our job is done. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your potential move, that’s OK. It’s all part of the process. Hopefully, what we’ve provided will help alleviate some of your anxiety and enable you to decide if Tucson is the right move for you. If you decide to take the plunge, don't hesitate to reach out to your friends here at Bellhops. We coordinate local and long distance moving services in Tucson and we would love to help.