Where should I livein Tucson, AZ?
September 13, 2011 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Where should I live for two months in Tucson, AZ?

I'm headed to Tucson, AZ for work for October and November. I've never been to the area and I need to know where I should look for an apartment/casita/condo/house whatever. There seems to be a huge amount of temporary stuff available, that's good, but I'm not even sure what part of town I should be looking at. Here is my situation:

I'll be commuting to Tempe twice a week, leaving at around 3pm, coming back late at night. Two other times per week I'll be working at U of A starting around 5pm till late evening. I'll have a car.

My budget is around $1200, maybe $1400/month, but that doesn't mean I can afford a typical $1400 apartment, in my experience you pay a pretty big premium for a short term lease. With my free time I want to be able to hike and bike, so access to parks is good. Bikeable neighborhoods would be great, but not absolutely necessary. Access to nightlife isn't so important, I don't go to bars or fancy restaurants very often.

So what neighborhoods should I be looking at? Is the NW part of town nice? I could minimize my Tempe commute that way. I've seen a couple of nice places in the NE part of town, but it seems like they're pretty out of the way.
posted by skewed to Travel & Transportation around Tucson, AZ (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend the NW, somewhere relatively close (no more than 10 minutes) to the interstate. The area is very suburban, so not much in the way of nightlife and such, but it sounds like that's not a big loss.

By being there, you will shave somewhere between 30-45 minutes each way off your commute to Tempe. It's also a short hop down the interstate to the University (I can get there in less time than many of my colleagues who live physically much closer but have to use surface streets).

The newer areas in the NW have wide streets with good bike lanes, so you'll be okay on that front. There are some hiking trails in the general vicinity, but greater variety will require a trip west toward Oracle Rd and some of the trailheads there.

The biggest pain of living in Tucson is the time it takes to get anywhere if you have to cross town and can't use the interstate. For where you will be going, it sounds like the NW is the location that will minimize that pain.
posted by BlueDuke at 11:21 AM on September 13, 2011

You should be able to find something for much less than $1200/mo, though I'm not sure what month-to-month rates are here. Have you checked out Padmapper yet?

The NE would be a long commute to I-10 and the university. The NW might cut 10-15 minutes off your commute to Tempe, but it's also kinda boring. Tucson has a lot of sketchy/trashy neighborhoods, but most of the ones closer to the university or downtown are a little less sketchy.

If you're looking for easy access to I-10 and want to bike or walk to the U of A, I'd recommend checking out the West University, Dunbar Springs, and Iron Horse neighborhoods. Roughly between Speedway and Broadway N-S, and Main Ave and Euclid Ave W-E. These neighborhoods are a mix of students and families. You might also check out some of the neighborhoods closer to downtown - El Presidio, Armory Park, and Barrio Viejo all have some nice housing. To the east of the university, Sam Hughes and Blenman Elm are nice, but you'd have to drive through the university area to get to I-10.
posted by indeterminacy at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

To add to what indeterminacy said, all of those neighborhood are super bike friendly. I live apx. 2 miles from UofA and my bike is my primary means of transportation for school, work and errands. Living closer to campus and downtown is going to drastically increase your options for restaurants (not fancy) and things to do (not necessary bars and clubs, but independent movies, concerts, etc).
posted by lizjohn at 11:34 AM on September 13, 2011

Agree with BlueDuke. The key to your happiness will be access to I-10 for your trip to Tempe. I know it sounds crazy, but considering your schedule, have you given thought to getting a place in the Tempe area, and commuting to Tucson twice a week?
posted by teg4rvn at 11:47 AM on September 13, 2011

To be clear: the 30-45 minute savings to Tempe from the NW is in comparison to the N, NE, SE, or E of town. I agree with indeterminacy that the savings with respect to the UA area is probably closer to 20 or 25 minutes.

The University area will have more "bustle" and more options for things to do. It also comes with a correspondingly higher crime rate and higher prices for equivalent living conditions than the suburbs. Which is best for you will depend on your personal preferences.
posted by BlueDuke at 1:01 PM on September 13, 2011

I commute from Phoenix (where I live) to NE Tucson (where I am originally from) once a week. If I were going to do the schedule you have outlined, I would want to live in Midtown Tucson, leaning toward E or NE... But I may be biased because thats my old stomping grounds. I would want to live close to my job at least a couple days a week instead of far every day.

Tucson can be somewhat difficult to get around because of the lack of internal expressways, but leaving town at 3pm? No big deal at all- that is prior to the onset of rush hour. Just jump on Grant or Speedway and go 35, which is what the lights are timed for. My commute from door to door from Central Phoenix to very far NE Tucson at 7am and back at 3pm consistently takes me 2 hours to 2 hours 15 minutes, and the worst of the traffic is in Phoenix at around 5. If my Tucson destination was midtown (E of UA) instead of as far NE as it gets, that would probably cut 15-20 minutes off.

15-20 minutes twice a week isn't a big deal. Find somewhere you like and want to live, in a neighborhood that is comfortable to you. The midtown area around is totally fine and will have lots of things to do. Everything North of Grant and East of Craycroft or Swan is really nice, but there is less to do and your trips to the grocery store will be further.

The whole of Tucson is very bike friendly, much more so than Phoenix. It's also somewhat more artsy and crunchy. Do not miss Cafe Poca Cosa during your stay.
posted by LyndsayMW at 1:14 PM on September 13, 2011

Round about University Avenue is really nice (so 4th avenue, 1st Street, the little streets off the main drags), and central so access to I-10 is pretty straightforward. The foothills are nice as well but might be a little bit out of the way for you in terms of commuting and might be more expensive.

I was able to get an apartment just off 1st street and 1st avenue for about $700 p/m, but that was a year long lease, so you might have to pay more for a short term lease.

Seconding Lyndsay's comment about Grant and Swan, they're nice areas as well, although it depends on how far east you go since then you're heading away from I-10 (if I remember correctly!).

Oh, and go visit Bison Witches when you're there down on 4th avenue. Great sandwiches and soup in a bread bowl. Ace.
posted by Scottie_Bob at 3:34 PM on September 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I shoulda have been more specific about some things: my company is paying my rent so I really just want the nicest place I can get within budget. And I like being downtown in the middle of things, but not as much as I like being within a short distance of some good hiking trails or parks to hang out in. It might be different if I was settling down there permanently, but I'll mostly be hanging out by myself outside of work, so I don't think I really need to be in the thick of it.

So I'll look for something in the central or northwestern area of Tucson. The place I was looking at in the NE is near Sabino Canyon and it looks really nice but would be about 25 minutes to UA and 2 hours 10 minutes to Tempe, that commute would take a bite out of my free time. Unfortunately I'll probably have to choose a place before I get there, so I'm just relying on pictures from the landlord, that's why I wanted input on the neighborhoods and regions. Appreciate all the help!

Also, while I have an open thread, I don't eat out too often but I appreciate the restaurant suggestions. I've heard about Cafe Poca Cosa.. any particular taquerias stand out?
posted by skewed at 10:41 PM on September 13, 2011

I live in Tempe, but have friends who live in the Oro Valley area, less than 30 minutes north of the UofA and about an hour and 40 minutes from Tempe. The Pusch Ridge and La Reserve areas have beautiful condos, villas, apartments, etc., and easy access to Catalina State Park.
posted by kbar1 at 11:39 PM on September 13, 2011

El charo is good, as is el parador. Guadalajara Grill was a personal favourite of mine which does make-to-order salsa, great margaritas and live mariachi music.

Away from mexican, Cushing Street (downtown) is amazing, and you should definitely check out The Grill (the best tater tots ever!) and as I said, Bison Witches (pronounced Buy Sandwiches by the locals).

Lots of great hiking in Sabino Canyon and north of the foothills, although the heat takes a bit of getting used to (although when you're there, it'll be much cooler).

I'd also head to the Desert Museum if you have time.
posted by Scottie_Bob at 6:14 AM on September 14, 2011

A friend of mine lives there and provides this:

Please check it out and let me know what you think!
posted by wwartorff at 1:01 PM on September 14, 2011

My husband says Guero Canelo is amazing (I am not a meat eater), and when you are in Phoenix, Gallo Blanco Cafe is worth cutting out some free time to have dinner at.

There is also a Bison Wiches in Tempe on Mill Avenue.
posted by LyndsayMW at 7:34 PM on September 14, 2011

You want truly mind blowing tacos?

Pico de Gallo

My mouth waters just thinking about that place. I go for the shrimp or carne asada or fish tacos.
posted by atomicmedia at 8:22 PM on October 3, 2011

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