Info on relocating to Tucson
March 20, 2006 8:29 AM   Subscribe

I will be relocating from Austin, TX to Tucson, AZ at the end of May. Please tell me everything about the city.

I have taken a job at the University of Arizona. I will be moving with my wife and our two kids. Anything you can tell me about the city would be helpful. We will be flying out to look for housing in about a month and a half. Here is the relevant info you might want:

I will be working in the Business School.
My wife stays home with our kids who are 3.5 and 1.5.
We will be renting either a 3 bedroom apartment or a home.

We would love info on all of the following (and on anything else you can think of that would be useful to know):
Where to live (both general neighborhoods, but also specific places/apartments)
Great restaurants
Fun things to do for adults
Fun things to do for kids
Information on schools
Places to avoid
Best local services (ie. cable, internet, etc.)

Thanks in advance for all of your help.
posted by bove to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In general, I would consider Tucson the Austin of Arizona. There is a lot to do in every aspect of eating out, places to see, culture, etc.

People who live in Tucson mostly love it.... and they have a lot of pride in their town. This is unlike the Phoenix metro area where people are not so attached to their city.

My advice would be TRY to live as close to the UofA as possible. Tucson has a horrible to non-existant freeway system so traffic is a bitch.
posted by cowmix at 8:58 AM on March 20, 2006

Best answer: Regarding living close to campus if possible--I definitely agree with cowmix. Traffic can be a pain in Tucson (though, I don't think it comes close to being the headache that it is in Phoenix). You might consider living a bit north of campus (north of Fort Lowell Rd., south of River Rd.), there are several elementary schools in the vicinity and it's probably bit less college-student infested.

I also work at the UA. There are many bike-friendly roads that will get you to campus--and with the great weather we have, there’s literally no excuse for not riding your bike if you’re close enough. Parking on campus is a terrible situation--you either pay hundreds of dollars per year, or you have to park way off campus and walk it (making commuting by bicycle even more appealing). Visit UA Parking and Transportation to find out more about the parking pass waitlist, and lot information.

Probably the best guide to food and life in Tucson I know of is the yearly Best of Tucson guide published by the Tucson Weekly (a good general source of Tucson events). No shortage of things to do and places to eat, all nicely categorized.

Once you’ve settled and want to take the wife out for a nice evening (and have a babysitter for the kids), I’d personally recommend hitting up Café Poca Cosa for their unbelievable food.

The music scene is kind of cool in Tucson because I feel like a lot of up and coming bands come through town, and you get to enjoy the music on a fairly intimate level (compared to fighting large crowds at big venues in bigger cities).

Finally, get outdoors--there’s a lot to do. Mt. Lemmon is a fun 40-minute drive to escape the dry, 100+ degree summer weather, with great trails for hiking and rocky, forested landscapes nothing like the desert below. Don't miss Kartchner Caverns State Park with the kids.

Good luck with the move.
posted by micradigitalis at 10:11 AM on March 20, 2006

I lived in Tucson 30 years and went to the U of A. The folks who have posted here already are on the mark regarding social life, politics, restaurants and things to do. I'll throw in a couple of restaurant recommendations: Kingfisher and Hacienda del Sol. Sabino Canyon was one our favorites places to go for a long weekend walk or hike.

For preschools, I can highly recommend 2nd Street School and Tucson Community School. 2nd Street is in the Sam Hughes neighborhood E of the university, and TCS is a couple of miles N. Our son attended both schools. The neighborhoods near these schools are also very friendly and civic-minded. The parks in these neighborhoods are teeming with toddlers in the afternoons when the weather cooperates. (We lived in Sam Hughes, and every 4th of July the neighborhood would have a small parade, complete with fife and drums, and we'd stop in Himmel Park, stand in a circle, and each read a sentence of the Declaration of Independence).

Public schools are hit-or-miss, although there are some very good ones.

The foothills around the city are quiet and beautiful, but having lived in both the foothills and the city we much preferred the city because we were close to everything and spent ALOT less time in the car. I agree that you should live as close as possible to the university, at least walking or biking distance.

Good luck and enjoy!
posted by ldenneau at 10:46 AM on March 20, 2006

I moved away from Tucson in August '05 after living there (and working for the University) for ten years, and I miss it every day.

Ditto what has been said re: living close to campus: You will want to avoid renting in the area immediately south and north of campus, which are traditionally student-house rentals and a bit shabbier than if you head east (Sam Hughes) or west (west university), where you can find some housing gems. You can find a rough overview here, and also use that site to ballpark some of the rental costs, even though it's aimed at student rentals.

Screw what people say about swamp cooling in the summer: get A/C. And covered parking for your car, which will fry if exposed.

The yearly Day Of The Dead/All Souls Procession is not to be missed, nor are 4th avenue and Epic Cafe. Hotel Congress. Char Thai. El Tiradito shrine. San Xavier Del Bac. Biking @ fantasy island.

Best HSI option: Cox cable.

Ditto what has been said re: Poca Cosa.

Damn. Now I'm homesick.
posted by bhance at 11:21 AM on March 20, 2006

Sushi Ten, a Japanese restaurant, on Speedway near Grant, is what I miss the most about Tucson. Good food, unbeatable price.
posted by dy at 1:03 PM on March 20, 2006

North of the University's starting to gentrify, a bit - my sib and her family live not far from Grant and Campbell, she has two toddlers, and they love it - they have very few problems (like, one a year) with drunk/loud students.

As for food/drink:
Casa Molina. Best salsa you'll find in Tucson, no contest.
a strawberry Eegee's on a hot afternoon.
Sausage Deli for greasy sandwiches. (they also have more healthy ones...)
FioRito's on Grant, for good Italian food.
Plaza Liquors on Campbell, for great wine/beer selection.
Second: Sushi Ten. It is actually possible to get good sushi in the desert.

If you can afford it, get both swamp cooling and AC. Swamp cooling's good when it's below about 85 or so and not hot enough to crank up the AC. Covered parking's a must, or at least a remote starter so you can attempt to cool things off before you get in your car.
posted by pdb at 2:28 PM on March 20, 2006

Best answer: Pico De Gallo -- the best tacos/burritos in the US and cheap. If you ask for a shrimp burrito, the owner will make it for you and come up with some reasonable price. Not because it's "off the menu," he's just trying to accomodate you. Get your dessert next door at Los Pollos Raspados (the place with the drawings of fruit on the walls), but good luck, they always seem to be closed. The "raspados" is crushed ice mixed with pulverized fruit/cream/milk, depends on what you order.

Nico's Tacos -- A chain, will do in a pinch. Again, the shrimp burrito is what you want.

Yoshimatsu -- traditional japanese food. Excellent decor, small Japanese gift shop, etc. Closest you're going to get to Japan out there. Big selection. Try a curry dish if you're not sure what to get.

Shogun Sushi. The cuts that sit on top of the nigiri (in the case of salmon) are extra long, they drape over the rice. You get all the amenities -- the edamame, the orange, the hot towel. Each day a different four or five sushi selections are half-price -- we found the best day to go to be Sunday (the best ones are half-off, and there are more of them).

Alejandro's Tortilla Factory. Simple, good tortillas, chips, and various cookies (including cinnamon "puercos"). They distribute to a lot of places. I think they have a panaderia?

Le Cave's Bakery. Best bakery in Tucson. Try the mango or pineapple empanadas, or the tres leches cake if you're feeling decadent.

La Estrella Bakery. Another great panaderia.

Beyond Bread (two locations). Great sandwiches. They're big, I would eat half and take half home, or split it with someone.

Congress Hotel. There's not much here for the vegetarian, but their desserts will knock you on your face. Try the chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. Don't share it with anyone, you'll kick yourself later if you do.

Time Market. Lots of good hard-to-find grocery items here.

17th Street Market. Foreign goods. Well-stocked. They even have Five Star Chocolate there. Hard to find from the main roads, make sure you get directions and not just a dot on a map.

G & L Import Export Corporation. Another large import grocery store with a deli in the back that I'd never tried out, but the article in the link favors it.

Trader Joe's. Like a gourmet grocery store. There are two, I think. It's cheap and they also have famous/popular national brands hiding under their own label for less.

Food City. You may be able to get Alejandro's tortillas here. This place is 10x better than Safeway's "Ethnic" aisle. There are several in the Tucson area.

99 Cents Only Store - There are 99 cent stores, and there is 99 Cents Only. There are some deals to be had here. For awhile I was getting rice milk from here (for 99 cents) when at Trader Joe's it was going for $2.49. It had French on the packaging as well as English, so I'm guessing it got trucked down from Canada. Sometimes the store has a horrible odor to it.

You want to go up Mount Lemmon not only for the drive, but for the excellent pie place in Summerhaven. Some local wag told me that when the fire ripped through, the firefighters saved the pie shop (for the pies) and the post office (so they could get their checks).

You will want to go to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Don't go on a hot day, it's a lot of walking outdoors.

You will also want to go to Saguaro National Park. There are two sections, on either side of I-10.

Brooklyn Pizza Company - Special Award, The Most Poorly Named Pizza Place Ever. There's nothing remotely Brooklyn about these pizzas -- they're deep. No thin crust action here. They're still good. We polished off a large and then both looked at each other mystified because we'd never done that before. Can't vouch for the calzones etc.

There are TV commercials that run constantly for some sort of wildlife experience museum (not the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum). Do not be swayed. From what I remember, this was at one time a trophy hunter's museum ("Look what I done bagged") and now they're trying to re-purpose it. But I think the guy in the commercials is dressed all safari-like. That's a clue!

Magpies Pizza - there's a buzz in town about Magpies. Never really figured out why.

Oddly enough, three of the places I'd avoid are all located on Ina Road.

Roma Caffe - No, no, no, no, no. I can make better Italian food and I know very little about making Italian food.

La Parrilla Suiza - They have a great tomatillo sauce, but that's about it. Very generic. You can do better in Tucson. There are two of these.

A Certain Car Wash on Ina Road - I'm not going to name it because I'm not 100% certain of the name ... but it has a giant square-ish red neon sign with some really poorly-designed neon of a guy (I think) taking a magnifying glass to a car (???). It's really awful, you'll know it when you see it. Anyway, it looks like a class joint, really big, well-lit, etc. My ex drove up and they were all over her trying to get her to upgrade her selection, fix her windshield, etc etc, just really non-stop upgrades, even after she told them repeatedly she didn't want anything extra. Obnoxious.
posted by user92371 at 6:57 PM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

A good friend of mine bought a house in Sam Hughes last year and loves the neighborhood, it seems several others in this thread do too.
posted by cali at 9:47 PM on March 20, 2006

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