Tucson, Arizona

|footnotes = 1 Urban = 2000 Census }}

Tucson is the seat of Pima County, Arizona, United States, located 118 miles (188 km) southeast of Phoenix and 60 miles (98 km) north of the U.S.-Mexico border. As of July 1 2006, a Census Bureau estimate puts the city's population at 518,956, with a metropolitan area population at 946,362. In 2005, Tucson ranked as the 32nd largest city and 52nd largest metropolitan area in the U.S. It is the largest city in southern Arizona and the second largest in the state. Tucson is also the site of the University of Arizona.

Major incorporated suburbs of Tucson include Oro Valley and Marana northwest of the city, and South Tucson and Sahuarita south of the city. Communities in the vicinity of Tucson (some within or overlapping the city limits) include Casas Adobes, Catalina, Catalina Foothills, Flowing Wells, Green Valley, Tanque Verde, New Pascua, and Vail.

The English name Tucson derives from the Spanish name of the city, Tucsón [tukˈson], which was borrowed from the O'odham name Cuk Ṣon (roughly "chook shown"), meaning "at the base of the black [hill]", a reference to an adjacent volcanic mountain. Tucson is sometimes referred to as "The Old Pueblo".


Tucson was probably first visited by Paleo-Indians, known to have been in southern Arizona by about 12,000 years ago. Recent archaeological excavations near the Santa Cruz River have located a village site dating from 4,000 years ago. The floodplain of the Santa Cruz River was extensively farmed during the Early Agricultural period, circa 1200 BC to AD 150. These people constructed irrigation canals and grew corn, beans, and other crops while gathering wild plants and hunting animals. The Early Ceramic period occupation of Tucson saw the first extensive use of pottery vessels for cooking and storage. The groups designated by archaeologists as the Hohokam lived in the area from AD 600-1450 and are known for their red-on-brown pottery.

Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino visited the Santa Cruz River valley in 1692, and founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac about 7 miles (12 km) upstream from the site of the settlement of Tucson in 1700. The Spanish established a presidio (fort) on August 20 1775 and the town came to be called "Tucson." Tucson became a part of Mexico after Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Following the Gadsden purchase in 1853, Tucson became a part of the United States of America, although the American military did not formally take over control of the community until March 1856. From August 1861, until mid-1862, Tucson was the capital of the Confederate Arizona Territory. Until 1863, Tucson and all of Arizona was part of New Mexico Territory. From 1867 to 1879, Tucson was the capital of Arizona Territory. The University of Arizona, located in Tucson, was founded in 1885.

By 1900, 7,531 people lived in the city. At about this time, the US Veterans Administration had begun construction on the present Veterans Hospital. Many veterans who had been gassed in World War I and were in need of respiratory therapy began coming to Tucson after the war, due to the clean dry air. The population increased gradually to 13,913 in 1910, 20,292 in 1920, and 36,818 in 1940. In 2006 the population of Pima County, in which Tucson is located, passed one million while the City of Tucson's population was 535,000.

During the territorial and early statehood periods, Tucson was Arizona's largest city and commercial area, whereas Phoenix was the seat of state government and agriculture. The establishment of Tucson Municipal Airport increased its prominence. By the 1920s-30s, Phoenix outgrew Tucson and has continued to expand. Tucson has still been growing but at a slower pace.

Geography and climate


According to the United States Census Bureau, Tucson has a total area of 195.1 square miles (505.3 km²), of which, 194.7 square miles (504.2 km²) of it is land and 0.4 square miles (1.1 km²) of it (0.22%) is water.

The city's elevation is 2,389 ft (728 m) above sea level. Tucson is situated on an alluvial plain in the Sonoran desert, surrounded by five minor ranges of mountains: the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Tortolita Mountains to the north, the Santa Rita Mountains to the south, the Rincon Mountains to the east, and the Tucson Mountains to the west. The high point of the Santa Catalina Mountains is 9,157-foot Mount Lemmon, the southernmost ski destination in the continental U.S., while the Tucson Mountains include 4,687-foot Wasson Peak.

The city is located on the Santa Cruz River, fomerly a perennial river but now a dry river bed for much of the year (called a "wash" locally) that floods during significant seasonal rains. (The Santa Cruz becomes a subterranean stream part of the year although it may appear dry.)

Tucson is located along Interstate 10, which runs through Phoenix toward Santa Monica, California in the northwest, and through El Paso, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana, toward Jacksonville, Florida in the east. I-19, runs south from Tucson toward Nogales and the U.S.-Mexico border. I-19 is the only Interstate highway that uses "kilometer posts" instead of "mileposts", although the speed limits are marked in miles per hour instead of kilometers per hour.

Environmental sustainability

Tucson is considered to be in a natural location for the development of a solar energy community, but the city has not yet undertaken this in any significant way. Perhaps the biggest sustainability problem is potable water supply. Household water use is the principal drain on the water supply, with agriculture a close second. In 1997, the 35 golf courses in the area consumed about 10% of the municipal water supply, and since then, 16 of the remaining 25 or so courses use reclaimed water.

As a result, residences consume the vast majority of municipal water. Like golf courses, agricultural lands are turning toward reclaimed water. Mining and other industrial water uses combined accounted for about a 15% of water use in 1997. Although Tucsonans find lawns and swimming pools less acceptable than their neighbors in Phoenix, massive drawing down of groundwater resources over the last 100 years has occurred, visible as ground subsidence in some residential areas.

Tucson's reliance on the Central Arizona Project Aqueduct, which passes more than 300 miles (480 km) across the desert from the Colorado River, casts doubt over "sustainability" claims even at current population levels. This points to the need for further efforts at re-use and recycling, prompted by Pima County and the city in numerous outreach campaigns.


More than 100 years ago, the Santa Cruz River flowed nearly year-round through Tucson. This supply of water has slowly disappeared, causing Tucson to seek alternative sources.

From 1803 until 1887, Tucson residents purchased water for a penny a gallon from vendors who transported it in bags draped over burros' backs. After that, water was sold by the bucket or barrel and delivered door-to-door in wagons.

In 1881, water was pumped from a well on the banks of the Santa Cruz River and flowed by gravity through pipes into the distribution system.

Tucson currently draws water from two main sources: Central Arizona Project (CAP) water and groundwater. In 1992, Tucson Water delivered CAP water to some customers that was referred to as being unacceptable due to discoloration, bad odor and flavor, as well as problems it caused some customers' plumbing and appliances. Tucson's city water currently consists of CAP water mixed with groundwater.

In an effort to conserve water, Tucson is recharging groundwater supplies by running part of its share of CAP water into various open portions of local rivers to seep into their aquifer Additional study is scheduled to determine the amount of water that is lost through evaporation from the open areas, especially during the summer.


Similar to many other Western U.S. cities, Tucson was developed on a grid plan, with the city center at Stone Avenue and Broadway Boulevard. While this intersection was initially near the geographic center of Tucson, that center has shifted as the city has expanded far to the east. An expansive city covering substantial area, Tucson has many distinct neighborhoods.

Earliest neighborhoods

Tucson's early neighborhoods (some of which are covered by the Tucson Convention Center) include El Presidio; Barrio Histórico; Armory Park, directly south of downtown; Barrio Anita, named for an early settler; Barrio Tiburón (in the present Fourth Avenue arts district), designated in territorial times as a "red light" district; El Jardín, named for an early recreational site, Levin's Gardens; and El Hoyo, named for a lake that was part of the gardens. Up until the building of the Tucson Convention Center (or TCC), El Hoyo (Spanish for pit or hole) referred to this part of the city, which was inhabited mainly by Mexican-American citizens and immigrants from Mexico. Other historical neighborhoods include the University neighborhood west of the University of Arizona, Iron Horse and Pie Allen neighborhoods just east of downtown, Sam Hughes neighborhood (named after an instigator/hero of the Camp Grant Massacre), located east of the University of Arizona, and Menlo Park, situated adjacent to Sentinel Peak.


Downtown Tucson is undergoing a revitalization effort by city planners and the business community. The primary project is Rio Nuevo, a large retail and community center that has been in planning for more than ten years. Downtown is generally classified as north of 12th Street, east of I-10, and southwest of Toole Avenue and the Union Pacific (formerly Southern Pacific) railroad tracks, site of the historic train depot and "Locomotive #1673", built in 1900. Downtown is divided into the Presidio District, Convention District, and the Congress Street Arts and Entertainment District.

Tucson's tallest building, the 23-story UniSource Energy Tower is situated downtown and was completed in 1986. The proposed Century Tower for downtown would surpass the Bank Building at 27 stories. Other high-rise buildings downtown include Bank of America Plaza, and the Pioneer (completed in 1914).

Attractions downtown include the historic Hotel Congress designed in 1919, the Art Deco Fox Theater designed in 1929, the Rialto Theatre opened in 1920, and St. Augustine Cathedral completed in 1896. Included on the National Register of Historic Places is the old Pima County Courthouse, designed by Roy W. Place in 1928. El Charro, Tucson's oldest restaurant, is also located downtown.

Central or Midtown

As one of the oldest parts of town, Central Tucson is anchored by the Broadway Village shopping center designed by local architect Josias Joesler at the intersection of Broadway Boulevard and Country Club Road. The 4th Avenue Shopping District between downtown and the University and the Lost Barrio just East of downtown also have many unique and popular stores. Local retail business in Central Tucson is densely concentrated along Fourth Avenue and the Main Gate Square on University Boulevard near the UA campus. The El Con Mall is also located in the eastern part of midtown.

The University of Arizona, chartered in 1885, is located in midtown and includes Arizona Stadium and McKale Center. Historic Tucson High School (designed in 1924), the Arizona Inn (built in 1930), and the Tucson Botanic Gardens are also located in Central Tucson.

Tucson's largest park, Reid Park is located in midtown and includes Reid Park Zoo and Hi Corbett Field. Speedway Boulevard, a major east-west arterial road in central Tucson, was named the "ugliest street in America" by Life Magazine in the early 1970s, quoting Tucson Mayor James Corbett. Despite this, Speedway Boulevard was awarded "Street of the Year" by Arizona Highways in the late 1990s.

South side and South Tucson

The Southside contains the city of South Tucson, with an area of approximately 1¼ square miles (3¼ square kilometers), which is completely surrounded by the city of Tucson. The South side is generally considered to be the area of approximately 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) north of Los Reales Road, south of 22nd Street, east of I-19, west of Davis Monthan Air Force Base and southwest of Aviation Parkway. Much of Tucson's Mexican-American population live on the south side and South 12th Avenue is considered as the cultural locus of the working class Mexican-American population. The Tucson International Airport and Tucson Electric Park are also located here.

South Tucson has been struggling heavily with dangerously high crime rates. In most crime categories, South Tucson has higher 2005 crime rates than those of Camden, New Jersey, which is the United States's most dangerous city on Morgan Quitno's statistics. This is misleading because South Tucson is combined with Tucson's rates in the Morgan Quitno's statistics. South Tucson (as a standalone city) has more than four times the United States average in larceny, theft and assault.

West Tucson

West Tucson is a combination of urban and suburban development. Generally defined as the area west of I-10, West Tucson encompasses the banks of the Santa Cruz River and the foothills of the Tucson Mountains. Attractions in West Tucson include Saguaro National Park West, Sentinel Peak, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson Studios, and the Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa.

On Sentinel Peak (also known as "'A' Mountain"), just west of downtown, there is a giant "A" in honor of the University of Arizona. Starting in about 1910, a yearly tradition developed for freshmen to whitewash the "A", which was visible for miles. However, at the beginning of the Iraq War, anti-war activists painted it black. This was followed by a paint scuffle where the "A" was painted various colors until the city council intervened. It is now red, white and blue except when it is white or another color decided by a biennial election. Because of the three-color paint scheme often used, the shape of the A can be vague and indistinguishable from the rest of the peak. The top of Sentinel Peak, which is accessible by road, offers an outstanding scenic view of the city looking eastward. A parking lot located near the summit of Sentinel Peak was formerly a popular place to watch sunsets, view the city lights at night, or engage in necking. This is no longer possible as a recent ordinance has forced the closing of Sentinel Peak at 8 p.m. Every evening, Tucson police set up a barricade blocking the entrance while they enforce the evacuation of all visitors off the mountain.

North Tucson

North Tucson includes the urban neighborhoods of Amphitheater and Flowing Wells. Usually considered the area north of Fort Lowell Road, north Tucson includes some of Tucson's primary commercial zones (Tucson Mall and the Oracle Road Corridor). Many of the city's most upscale boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries are also located on the north side including St. Philip's Plaza. The Plaza is directly adjacent to the historic St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church (built in 1936).

Also on the north side is the suburban community of Catalina Foothills, located in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of the city limits. This community includes among the area's most expensive homes, sometimes multi-million dollar estates. The Foothills area is generally defined as north of River Road, east of Oracle Road, and west of Sabino Creek. Some of the Tucson area's major resorts are located in the Catalina Foothills, including the Hacienda Del Sol, Westin La Paloma Resort, Loews Ventana Canyon Resort and Canyon Ranch Resort. La Encantada, an upscale outdoor shopping mall, is also in the Foothills.

The foothills area is home to Tohono Chul Park (a botanical garden) near the intersection of Oracle Road and Ina. Also the DeGrazia Gallery of the Sun near the intersection of Swan Road and Skyline Drive. Built by artist Ted DeGrazia starting in 1951, the 10 acre property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features an eclectic chapel, an art gallery and a free museum.

East Tucson

East Tucson is relatively new compared to other parts of the city, developed between the 1950s and the 1970s, such as Desert Palms Park. It is generally classified as the area of the city east of Swan Road, with above-average real estate values relative to the rest of the city. The area includes urban and suburban development near the Rincon Mountains. East Tucson includes Saguaro National Park East. Tucson's "Restaurant Row" is also located on the east side, along with a significant corporate and financial presence. Tucson's largest office building is 5151 East Broadway in east Tucson, completed in 1975. Park Place, a recently renovated shopping center, is also located there.

Near the intersection of Craycroft and Ft. Lowell Road are the remnants of the Historic Fort Lowell. This area has become one of Tucson’s iconic neighborhoods. The Fort abandoned at the end of the 1800s was rediscovered by a trio of artist in the 1930s. The Bolsius family Pete, Nan and Charles Bolsius purchased and renovated surviving adobe buildings of the Fort - transforming them into spectacular artistic southwestern architectural examples. Their woodwork, plaster treatment and sense of proportion drew on their Dutch heritage and New Mexican experience. Other artists and academics throughout the middle of the 20th century, including: Win Ellis, Jack Maul, Madame Cheruy, Giorgio Belloli, Charels Bode, Veronica Hughart, Edward and Rosamond Spicer, and Ruth Brown, renovated adobes, built homes and lived in the area. This rural pocket in the middle of the city is listed on the National register of Historic Places. Each year in February the neighborhood celebrates its history in the City Landmark it owns and restored the San Pedro Chapel.

Situated between the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Rincon Mountains near Redington Pass northeast of the city limits is the community of Tanque Verde. The Arizona National Golf Club, Forty-Niners Country Club, and the historic Tanque Verde Guest Ranch are also in northeast Tucson.

Southeast Tucson

Southeast Tucson continues to experience rapid residential development. The area includes the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The area is considered to be south of Golf Links Road. The suburban community of Rita Ranch houses many of the military families from Davis-Monthan.

Northwest Tucson

The expansive area northwest of the city limits is diverse, ranging from the rural communities of Catalina and parts of the town of Marana, to the affluent town of Oro Valley in the western foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, and residential areas in the northeastern foothills of the Tucson Mountains. The community of Casas Adobes is also on the Northwest Side, with the distinction of being Tucson's first suburb, established in the late 1940s. Casas Adobes is centered around the historic Casas Adobes Plaza (built in 1948). The Foothills Mall is also located on the northwest side. Continental Ranch(Marana), Dove Mountain(Marana), and Rancho Vistoso(Oro Valley) are all masterplanned communities located in the northwest, where thousands of residents live.

Many of the Tucson area's golf courses and resorts are located in this area, including the Hilton El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort in Oro Valley, the Omni Tucson National Resort & Spa, and Westward Look Resort. Catalina State Park and Tortolita Mountain Park are also here.


Tucson has two major seasons, summer and winter; plus three minor seasons: fall, spring, and the monsoon.

Summer is characterized by low humidity, clear skies, and daytime high temperatures that exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37°C). The average overnight temperature ranges between 68°F (20°C) and 85°F (29°C).

The monsoon can begin any time from mid-June to late July, with an average start date around July 3. It typically continues through August and sometimes into September. During the monsoon, the humidity is much higher than the rest of the year. It begins with clouds building up from the south in the early afternoon followed by intense thunderstorms and rainfall, which can cause flash floods. The evening sky at this time of year is often pierced with dramatic lightning strikes. Large areas of the city do not have storm sewers, so monsoon rains flood the main thoroughfares, usually for no longer than a few hours. A few underpasses in Tucson have "feet of water" scales painted on their supports to discourage fording by automobiles during a rainstorm. Arizona traffic code Title 28-910, the so-called "Stupid Motorist Law," was instituted in 1995 to discourage people from entering flooded roadways. If the road is flooded and a barricade is in place, motorists who drive around the barricade can be charged up to $2000 for costs involved in rescuing them.

Fall lasts from late October to November or December. It is much like summer, and similarly dry, with days above 100 degrees typical into early October. Average daytime highs of 84 °F (28 °C), with overnight lows of 55 °F (13 °C), constitute typical fall weather.

Winters in Tucson are mild relative to other parts of the United States. Daytime highs in the winter range between 64 °F and 75 °F (18−23 °C) , with overnight lows between 30 °F and 44 °F (-1 –7 °C). Although rare, snow has been known to fall in Tucson, usually a light dusting that melts within a day.

Spring begins in late February or March, and is characterized by rising temperatures and several weeks of vivid wildflower blooms. Daytime average highs range from 72 °F (23 °C) in March to 88 °F (31 °C) in May with average overnight lows in March of 45 °F (7 °C) and in May of 59 °F (15 °C).

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Extreme High °F
Avg High °F
Avg Low °F
Extreme Low °F
Avg Precipitation in. 1.0 0.7 0.7 0.3 0.2 0.2 2.3 2.3 1.4 0.9 0.6 1.0
Source: Weatherbase


As of the census of 2000, there were 486,699 people, 192,891 households, and 112,455 families residing in the city. The population density was 965.3/sq mi (2,500.1/km²). There were 209,609 housing units at an average density of 415.7/sq mi (1,076.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 70.15% white, 4.33% black or African-American, 2.27% Native American, 2.46% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 16.85% from other races, and 3.79% from two or more races. 35.72% of the population were Hispanic of any race.' The Native American inhabitants in the area include primarily Tohono O'odham (formerly called the Papago), living in the city, on the nearby San Xavier reservation, and in the Tohono O'odham Nation, who may be descendants of the prehistoric inhabitants, as well as 6,800 Yaqui (the Yoeme), living in the city (largely in Old Pascua, and the Barrio Libre neighborhoods), the pueblo of New Pascua, and in the Yoeme community in the town of Marana.

There were 192,891 households out of which 29.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.7% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.7% were non-families. 32.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.12.

In the inner-city, the population has 24.6% under the age of 18, 13.8% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 19.2% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 96.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,981, and the median income for a family was $37,344. Males had a median income of $28,548 versus $23,086 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,322. About 13.7% of families and 18.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.6% of those under age 18 and 11.0% of those age 65 or over. Although the median income is relatively low and the city has a higher-than-average poverty rate, note that these statistics include a contingent of perhaps as many as 25,000 college students from out of town at the University of Arizona, who mostly have low incomes despite having a medium quality of life.

Politics and Government

Pima County supported John Kerry 53% to 47% in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. As a trend, Tucson and Pima County vote Democratic, as opposed to the overwhelming GOP support in the state's largest city, Phoenix. This led to the alleged gerrymandering of Tucson into two Federal Congressional districts, one that (at the time) contained a vast majority of Democratic voters and the other a bare majority of Republicans. Tucson is governed by a six member city council and an elected mayor.


Much of Tucson's economic development has been centered around the development of the University of Arizona, which is currently the second largest employer in the city. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, located on the southeastern edge of the city, also provides many jobs for Tucson residents. Its presence, as well as the presence of a US Army Intelligence Center (Fort Huachuca, the largest employer in the region in nearby Sierra Vista), has led to the development of a significant number of high-tech industries, including government contractors, in the area. Today, there are more than 1,200 businesses employing over 50,000 people in the high-tech industries of Southern Arizona.

The City of Tucson, Pima County, the State of Arizona and the private sector have all made commitments to create a growing, healthy economy with advanced technology industry sectors as its foundation. Raytheon Missile Systems, Texas Instruments, IBM, Intuit Inc., Universal Avionics, Misys Healthcare Systems, Sanofi-Aventis, Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., and Bombardier all have a significant presence in Tucson. Roughly 150 Tucson companies are involved in the design and manufacture of optics and optoelectronics systems, earning Tucson the nickname "Optics Valley".

Tourism is another major industry in Tucson, which has many resorts, hotels, and attractions. A significant economic force is middle-class and upper-class Sonorans, who travel from Mexico to Tucson to purchase goods that are not readily available in their country. In addition to vacationers, a significant number of winter residents, or "snowbirds", are attracted by Tucson's mild winters and contribute to the local economy. Snowbirds often purchase second homes in Tucson and nearby areas, contributing significantly to the property tax base. Other snowbirds and "perpetual travelers" can be seen in large numbers arriving in autumn in large RVs towing small cars.

Arts and culture

Annual cultural events and fairs

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

The Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is held every year in February for two weeks. It is one of the largest gem and mineral shows in the world, and features many of the finest mineral specimens. There is no single location for display of minerals, but rather dozens of locations spread across town. The show has an estimated attendance of more than 50,000 people from over twenty countries. Attendees frequently include the general public, experts, beginning collectors, museum employees, dealers, retailers, and researchers. Many museums and universities, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Sorbonne, have displayed materials at the show.

Tucson Folk Festival

For the past 21 years the Tucson Folk Festival has taken place the first Saturday and Sunday of May in downtown Tucson's El Presidio Park. In addition to nationally known headline acts each evening, the Festival highlights over 100 local and regional musicians on five stages in one of the largest free festivals in the country. All stages are within easy walking distance. Organized by the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association, volunteers make this festival possible. Arizona's only community radio station KXCI 91.3-FM, is a major partner, broadcasting from the Plaza Stage throughout the weekend. In addition, there are numerous workshops, events for children, sing-alongs, and a popular singer/songwriter contest. Musicians typically play 30-minute sets, supported by professional audio staff volunteers. A variety of food and crafts are available at the festival, as well as local micro-brews. All proceeds from sales go to fund future festivals.

Fourth Avenue Street Fair

There are two Fourth Avenue Street Fairs, in December and March, staged between 9th Street and University Boulevard, that feature arts and crafts booths, food vendors and street performers. The fairs began in 1970 when Fourth Avenue, which at the time had half a dozen thrift shops, several New Age bookshops and the Food Conspiracy Co-Op, was a gathering place for hippies, and a few merchants put tables in front of their stores to attract customers before the holidays.

These days the street fair has grown into a large corporate event, with most tables owned by outside merchants. It hosts mostly traveling craftsmen selling various arts such as pottery, paintings, wood working, metal decorations, candles, and many others.

The Tucson Rodeo (Fiesta de los Vaqueros)

Another popular event held in February, which is early spring in Tucson, is the Fiesta de los Vaqueros, or rodeo week. While at its heart the Fiesta is a sporting event, it includes what is billed as "the world's largest non-mechanized parade". The Rodeo Parade is a popular event as most schools give two rodeo days off instead of Presidents Day. The exception to this is Presidio High, which doesn't get either. Western wear is seen throughout the city as corporate dress codes are cast aside during the Fiesta. The Fiesta de los Vaqueros marks the beginning of the rodeo season in the United States. Fiesta de los Vaqueros, the premier event of the rodeo year, is held at the beginning of the rodeo season.

Tucson Meet Yourself

Every October for the past 30 years, Tucson Meet Yourself has presented the faces of Tucson's many ethnic groups. For one weekend, dancing, singing, artwork, and food from more than 30 different ethnicities are featured in the downtown area. All performers are from Tucson and the surrounding area, in keeping with the idea of "meeting yourself."

All Souls Procession Weekend

All Souls Procession is one of the largest festivals in Tucson. Celebrated since 1990, it is held on the first Sunday in November. Modeled on the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), it combines elements of African, Anglo, Celtic, and Latin American culture. At sundown, thousands of people garbed in myriad costumes, mostly of the deceased, gather near the corner of Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard: Epic Cafe. In 2005, the Tucson Police Department estimated that 7,500 people participated in this event. The non-profit festal culture organization Many Mouths One Stomach organizes this event to acknowledge, mourn and celebrate deceased loved ones, and the "grand mystery" of death. Starting in 2006, the All Souls Procession became a 4-day long series of events. On Thursday evening the Fine Art Photography Exhibition opens, as well as the Evolving Community Altar. Friday evening is the MMOS Fundraiser Dance of the Dead. Saturday afternoon and evening is the Procession of Little Angels, and the Personal Altars Vigil. Sunday evening is the All Souls Procession, which snakes through the historic Fourth Avenue and downtown areas, and leads to the culmination of the entire festival: The Grand Finale.

Museums, art collections, and other attractions

The Arizona Historical Society, founded as the Pioneer Historical Society by early settlers, has a collection of artifacts reflecting the city's history--many focusing on the era before statehood was attained in 1912--as well as a fine collection of original documents in its library, including many interviews with early residents.

The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase is held annually in Tucson, and is the largest gem and mineral show in the United States.

The Fremont House is an original adobe house in the Tucson Community Center that was saved while one of Tucson's earliest barrios was razed as urban renewal. Originally named the Fremont House after Gov. John C. Fremont, who rented it for his daughter, it is now known as the Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House to more accurately reflect its Latin heritage.

Fort Lowell Museum is located on the grounds of a military fort, established in 1873 during the "Indian Wars" period and abandoned in 1891.

The Tucson Museum of Art was established as part of an art school. It contains nearly 6,000 objects concentrating on the art of the Americas and its influences. The museum also operates several historic buildings in the neighborhood, including La Casa Cordova, the J. Knox Corbett House, the Edward Nye Fish House and the Stevens/Duffield House.

The University of Arizona Art Museum includes works by Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko as part of the Edward J. Gallagher Memorial Collection, a tribute to a young man who was killed in a boating accident. The museum also includes the Samuel H. Kress Collection of European works from the 14th to 19th centuries and the C. Leonard Pfeiffer Collection of American paintings.

The UA campus also features the Center for Creative Photography, a leading museum with many works by major artists such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

The Mission San Xavier del Bac is a historic Spanish mission, located 10 miles (16 km) south of the city. It was founded by Father Kino in the 1660s as one mission in a chain of missions, many of which are located south of the border. The present building dates from the late 1700s. The mission, which still actively functions, is located in the Tohono O'odham nation reservation southwest of Tucson off of I-19.

The Historic DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun is an iconic Tucson landmark in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Built by the famous artist Ettore DeGrazia the property, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features an expansive adobe Museum of DeGrazia's work, an adobe chapel called the Mission in the Sun that featuring stunning murals, gardens, and the artist home and grave site.

Old Tucson Studios, built as a set for the movie Arizona, is a movie studio and theme park for classic Westerns. It was partly destroyed in 1995, allegedly by arson, but has since been rebuilt.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a non-traditional zoo devoted to indigenous animals and plants of the Sonoran Desert. It pioneered the use of naturalistic environments instead of simple cages for zoo animals. It is located west of the Tucson Mountains.

The Pima Air & Space Museum, featuring over 250 modern and historical aircraft, is located to the southeast of the city near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) is a facility where the federal government stores out-of-service aircraft. Bus tours are conducted regularly from the Pima Air & Space Museum.

Titan Missile Museum is located about 25 miles (40 km) south of the city on I-19. This is a Cold War era Titan nuclear missile silo (billed as the only remaining intact post-Cold War Titan missile silo) turned tourist stop.

Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum has an inventory of 150 vehicles, ranging from small buggies to wagons, surries, and coaches. Historic artifacts from pioneer days and a re-created Western Main Street represent what early Wild West Tucson looked like, and what it offered in terms of businesses and services.

The Museum of the Horse Soldier includes artifacts and ephemera detailing Western cavalry and dragoon military units.

Shops in Summerhaven on Mount Lemmon offer such items as jewelry and other gifts, pizza, and delicious fresh-fruit pies. The legacy of the Aspen Fire can be seen in charred trees, rebuilt homes, and melted beads incorporated into a sidewalk.

Fourth Avenue, located near the University of Arizona, is home to many shops, restaurants, and bars, and hosts the annual 4th Avenue Street Fair every December and March. University Boulevard, leading directly to the UA Main Gate, is also the center of numerous bars, retail shops, and restaurants most commonly frequented by the large student population of the UA.

El Tiradito is a religious shrine in the downtown area. The Shrine dates back to the early days of Tucson. It's based on a love story of revenge and murder. People stop by the Shrine to light a candle for someone in need, a place for people to go give hope.

Trail Dust Town is an outdoor shopping mall and restaurant complex that was built from the remains of a 1950 western movie set. Trail Dust Town contains a number of historical artifacts, including a restored 1920s merry-go-round and a museum dedicated to Western cavalry and dragoon military units.

Performing arts

Theater groups include the Arizona Theatre Company, which performs in the Temple of Music and Art, a mirror image of the Pasadena Playhouse; the Invisible Theatre; Live Theatre Workshop; Beowulf Alley; and the Gaslight Theatre, which performs melodramas. In 2004, the NY based Nederlander Organization also opened a local operation. Broadway in Tucson presents the touring rpodcutions of many Broadway style events at the Tucson Music Hall. Additionally, many bands perform at the numerous local clubs.


Due to its location in the Sunbelt and subsequently little oxidation and the availability of older vehicles that require little restoration, Tucson, like Phoenix has a prolific tuning and hot-rod following. The Speedway Boulevard is often packed with tuners and hot-rodders on Saturday nights, showing off and discussing modifications.


Musical groups include the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1929, the Arizona Opera Company, founded as the Tucson Opera Company in 1971, the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, founded in 1939, Tucson Girls Chorus, Catalina Chamber Orchestra, Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra and Civic Orchestra of Tucson.

Mariachi music is popular and influential in Tucson, and the city is home to a large number of Mariachi musicians and singers. Mariachi is celebrated annually at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference.

Tucson is also home to a small but committed independent music scene, nearly all of which is concentrated in the city's downtown area. Neko Case, Calexico, Doo Rag, Giant Sand, and Flagrante Delicto are among the prominent musical artists based in Tucson. Local performers also receive some airplay (and occasionally play live) on the community radio station KXCI. The Tucson Area Music Awards, or TAMMIES, are an annual event.


The University of Arizona Wildcats sports teams, most notably the men's basketball and women's softball teams, are often the subject of national attention as well as strong local interest. The men's basketball team, coached by Hall of Fame head coach Lute Olson has made 24 straight NCAA Tournaments and won the 1997 National Championship. Arizona's Softball team has reached the NCAA National Championship 12 times and has won 8 times, most recently in 2006.

Tucson is home to the Tucson Electric Park, the spring training location of the Arizona Diamondbacks (NL) and the Chicago White Sox (AL). The Colorado Rockies (NL) practice at nearby Hi Corbett Field. These teams, along with the nine that practice in nearby Phoenix, make up the Cactus League.

The Tucson Sidewinders, a triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, won the Pacific Coast League championship and unofficial AAA championship in 2006. The Sidewinders play in Tucson Electric Park and are in the Pacific Conference South of the PCL. The Sidewinders were sold in 2007 and will be moving to Reno, Nevada after the 2008 season.

The Tucson Toros are a professional baseball team that played in the PCL from 1969 to 1997 and won the PCL championship on two occasions, in 1991 and 1993. They are owned by Jay Zucker of Tucson Baseball, LLC. They were once a triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros and are now members of the independent Golden Baseball League, as of September 1, 2008 They will play their home games at Hi Corbett Field.

Tucson was given a gold rating for bicycle friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) in late April, 2007. Tucson hosts the largest perimeter cycling event in the United States. The ride called "El Tour De Tucson" happens in November on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and has as many as 10,000 participants from all over the world, annually.

Tucson Raceway Park hosts NASCAR-sanctioned auto racing events and is one of only two asphalt short tracks in Arizona.

The first organized quarter horse races were run in Tucson in the 1930s at the Rillito Downs, where they are still run today.

Parks and recreation

The city is home to more than 120 parks, including Reid Park Zoo. There are five public golf courses located throughout the area. Several scenic parks and points of interest are also located nearby, including the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, and Biosphere 2 (just north of the city, in the town of Oracle).

Mt. Lemmon, 25 miles north (by road) and over 6,700 feet above Tucson, is located in the Coronado National Forest. Outdoor activities in the summer include hiking, birding, rock climbing, picnicking, camping, sky rides at Ski Valley, fishing and touring. In the winter, skiing and/or sledding is sometimes available at the southernmost ski resort in the continental U.S. Summerhaven, a community near the top of Mt. Lemmon, is also a popular destination.

Tucson is a popular winter haven for cyclists, and is one of only eight cities in the U.S. to receive a gold rating or higher for cycling friendliness from the League of American Bicyclists. Both road and mountain biking are popular in and around Tucson with popular trail areas including Starr Pass and Fantasy Island. Maps can be found online for both road and mountain bikers. Tucson is the home to the Tour de Tucson, a famous cycling event held annually in November.

The University of Arizona Wildcat's swim teams, both men and women, recently won the NCAA national championships. The University of Arizona has an internationally recognized swim team, with swimmers coming from places like Japan and Africa to swim.


There are two major daily newspapers in Tucson; the Arizona Daily Star (morning), and the Tucson Citizen (afternoon). The Citizen is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Arizona, established in 1870. There are also several free, weekly newspapers, including the Explorer and the Tucson Weekly (an alternative publication). The Downtown Tucsonan, Tucson Lifestyle Magazine, "Lovin' Life News," and the DesertLeaf are monthly publications covering arts, architecture, decor, fashion, entertainment, business, history, and other events. The Arizona Daily Wildcat is the University of Arizona's student newspaper, and the Aztec News is the Pima Community College student newspaper.

The Tucson metro area is served by many local television stations and is the 70th largest designated market area (DMA) in the U.S. with 433,310 homes (0.39% of the total U.S.). The major television networks serving Tucson are: KVOA 4 (NBC), KGUN 9 (ABC), KOLD-TV 13 (CBS), KMSB-TV 11 (FOX), KTTU 18 (My Network TV), and KWBA 58 (The CW). KUAT-TV 6 is a PBS affiliate run by the University of Arizona (as is sister station KUAS 27).

See also: List of Radio Stations in Arizona (Tucson)


Tucson follows the "weak mayor" model of the council-manager form of local government. The 6-member city council holds exclusive legislative authority, and shares executive authority with the mayor, who is elected by the voters independently of the council. An appointed city manager, meanwhile, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city.

Both the council members and the mayor serve 4-year terms, and none face term limits. Council members are nominated by their wards via a ward-level primary held in September. The top vote-earners from each party then compete at-large for their ward's seat on the November ballot. In other words, come election day, the whole city votes on all the council races up for that year. Council elections are severed: Wards 1, 2, and 4 (as well as the mayor) are up for election in the same year (most recently 2007), while Wards 3, 5, and 6 share another year (most recently 2005).

Tucson is known for being a trailblazer in voluntary partial publicly-financed campaigns. Since 1985, both mayoral and council candidates have been eligible to receive matching public funds from the city. To become eligible, council candidates must receive 200 donations of $10 or more (300 for a mayoral candidate). Candidates must then agree to spending limits equal to 33¢ for every registered Tucson voter, or $79,222 in 2005 (the corresponding figures for mayor are 64¢ per registered voter, or $142,271 in 2003). In return, candidates receive matching funds from the city at a 1:1 ratio of public money to private donations. The only other limitation is that candidates may not exceed 75% of the limit by the date of the primary. Many cities, such as San Francisco and New York City, have copied this system, albeit with more complex spending and matching formulas.

Robert E. Walkup (R) was elected mayor on November 2 1999, re-elected for a second term on November 4 2003 and again for a third term on November 6 2007. He was preceded by: George Miller (D), 1991-1999; Tom Volgy (D), 1987-1991; Lew(is) Murphy (R), 1971-1987; and Jim Corbett (D), ?-1971.

Tucson is divided between the 7th and 8th congressional districts of Arizona. The city center is in the 7th District, represented by Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, since 2003, while the more affluent residential areas to the north and east are in the 8th District, represented by Gabrielle Giffords, also a Democrat, since 2007.


Post-secondary education

Primary and secondary public education

Primarily, students of Tucson residents attend public schools in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). TUSD encompasses the central Tucson valley, including the lower Catalina Foothills and segments of the Tanque Verde Valley. There are, additionally, a large number of publicly funded charter schools available, many of which have a specialized curriculum.

Other school districts in the Tucson metropolitan area include:


  • Tucson International Airport is Tucson's public airport and is located six miles (10 km) south of Tucson's central business district. TIA is the second largest commercial airport in Arizona, providing nonstop flights to 18 destinations throughout the United States, and 1 destination in Mexico. Overall, Tucson International Airport serves 19 destinations. Due to the active presence of the Arizona Air National Guard at the site, the airport is much busier than most other airports that have the same level of civilian traffic.
  • Interstates 10 and 19 are currently the only two freeways in the metropolitan area. Tucson does not have a large freeway system such as Phoenix's.
  • Sun Tran is Tucson's public bus system. It was awarded Best Transit System in 1988 & 2005 and serves the major part of the metropolis of Tucson. The city remains largely dependent on automobiles for transportation.
  • Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Tucson three times weekly in both directions, operating its Sunset Limited between Orlando, Florida and Los Angeles, California.
  • Old Pueblo Trolley operates weekend heritage streetcar service between the Fourth Avenue Business District and the University of Arizona. There are plans to extend it downtown, but no funds are currently allocated.
  • Cyclists are common in Tucson due to compatible climate, extensive commuter bike routes, off-road mountain biking trails, and bike facilities throughout the city. The Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee (TPCBAC) was established to serve in an advisory capacity to local governments on issues relating to bicycle recreation, transportation, and safety. Tucson was given a gold rating for bicycle friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists in late April, 2006.

In popular culture

  • The third line of Get Back, the song by The Beatles is "Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona for some California grass."
  • The 2008 comedic film Hamlet 2 starring Steve Coogan humorously satirized Tucson as the setting, calling it the the place where "dreams go to die".
  • Tucson is mentioned in the popular ABC show Ugly Betty, quite frequently as the character Henry Grubstick is from Tucson.
  • Many major motion pictures have been filmed in the Tucson area. Many, particularly classic western films, were shot at Old Tucson Studios, including Tombstone (1993). Andy Warhol's controversial film Lonesome Cowboys (1968) was also filmed in the area.
  • The TV show The High Chaparral (1967) was filmed in Tucson. The song "Throw the Jew Down the Well" from Da Ali G Show was filmed at the Country West bar on Ruthrauff Road.
  • A visit to Tucson is part of Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957), where the protagonists meet up with a friend on Fort Lowell Road (an east-west arterial in north-central Tucson). The city is described as being "situated in beautiful mesquite riverbed country, over-looked by the snowy Catalina range. The city was one big construction job; the people transient, wild, ambitious, busy, gay; washlines, trailers; bustling downtown streets with banners; altogether very Californian.
  • Two United States Navy ships have also been named USS Tucson in honor of the city.
  • The 1987 teen romantic comedy Can't Buy Me Love (film) was filmed and set in Tucson. One of the scenes featured the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
  • Many of the scenes from the comedy Major League were filmed at the Hi Corbett field in Tucson which is home to the Colorado Rockies for Spring Training.
  • The sitcom Hey Dude, which aired on Nickelodeon, was filmed on location at the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.
  • Exterior scenes from Revenge of the Nerds were filmed in Tucson and on the University of Arizona campus. Many of the buildings are easily recognizable, as well as footage of the old Speedway exit of I-10.

Local place names

  • Speedway Boulevard was the northern city limit of Tucson in the late 1800s. It was so named because of horse and buggy "drag races" that would take place Saturdays along its straight length of a half mile. Street numbering starts one block south of Speedway and increases southward at intervals of one-eighth, one-tenth, or one-twelfth of a mile, depending on the historic density of the areas. The highest street number is 48th Street. Avenue numbers begin one block west of Euclid Avenue (the edge of the old university quarter) and increase westward, ending before the Santa Cruz River. The highest avenue number is 17th Avenue. House and building numbering is based from a zero point at the junction of Stone Avenue and Congress Street and is incremented by 100 every one-eighth, one-tenth, or one-twelfth of a mile, again depending on the historic density of the areas.
  • Drexel Road, located on the south side of the city, is named after Francis Anthony Drexel, the father of Saint Katharine Drexel. Drexel owned property along the road in the 1800s. Another Drexel-related site is the Benedictine Sisters Monastery, built on the east side of town (now the middle of town) in 1940 with funds donated by St. Katharine.
  • Ina Road, a major east-west thoroughfare north of town, is named for UA physical education professor Ina Gittings. Although the street is pronounced "Eye-nah" she pronounced her name "Eee-nah."
  • Rita Road, located on Tucson's southeast side, is popularly believed to have been named by Howard Hughes in honor of his then girlfriend Rita Hayworth. Hughes Aircraft was located there in the 1950s. It is also widely believed to be named for the Santa Rita Mountains located southeast of Tucson. However, Rita Road was named for its connection to the small community of Rita, which was the El Paso and Southwestern (EP&SW) railroad stop serving the Santa Rita ranch. Rita was located just SE of Rankin, AZ which was located less than quarter-mile northeast of the present-day intersection of Kolb and Valencia. Rita was nearly due west from Esmond, AZ. Few traces of Rita survive, but Rankin and Esmond are easily located. Trivia: heading east from Tucson the railroad stops on the EP&SW were Aldona, Santa Cruz, Rita, and Vail. On the Southern Pacific heading the same way you'd pass Polvo, Wilmot, Rankin, Esmond, and Vail. The community of Rita was shown on local maps until at least 1922.
  • Until the late 1960s, city bus route number 1 was called the Binghampton route. This route went from downtown, past the university, and to the community of Binghampton around the Ft. Lowell Road and Dodge Road intersection. Binghampton was a farming community that was absorbed into the city in the 1940s.
  • Grant Road was originally two different roads, Grant Road and North Street. Because of map platting irregularies, the road starts eastward from Stone Avenue to First Avenue then veers south a block to the North Street alignment at Park Avenue, continues to Campbell Avenue, kicks north a block to the Grant Road alignment and continues eastward. The Grant Road alignment is exactly one mile north of the Speedway alignment, but the North Street alignment was preferred in the Park Avenue to Campbell section because the section line was laid out differently for the subdivision directly south and following the Grant Road alignment would have necessitated demolishing many homes.

Sister cities

Tucson has eleven sister cities:

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See also


Further reading

  1. Evelyn S. Cooper: Tucson in Focus: The Buehman Studio ; Arizona Historical Society; ISBN 0-910037-35-3 (hardcover, 1995). A sample of the Buehman Collection, which includes 250,000 glass plate and nitrate negatives from the 1870s to the 1950s.
  2. Roy P. Drachman: From Cowtown to Desert Metropolis: Ninety Years of Arizona Memories; Whitewing Press; ISBN 1-888965-02-9 (hardcover, 1999); ISBN 1-888965-03-7 (paperback, 1999)
  3. Bernard L. Fontana: Biography of a Desert Church: The Story of Mission San Xavier del Bac; Tucson Corral of the Westerners; ASIN B0006RHO88 (paperback, 1996)
  4. George Hand: The Civil War in Apacheland; (Part 1 of George Hand's diary) High Lonesome Books; ISBN 0-944383-36-X (paperback, 1996)
  5. George Hand: Whiskey, Six-Guns and Red-Light Ladies; (Part 2 of George Hand's diary) High Lonesome Books; ISBN 0-944383-30-0 (paperback, 1995)
  6. John Bret Harte: Tucson: Portrait of a Desert Pueblo; American Historical Press; ISBN 1-892724-25-1 (hardcover, reissued 2001)
  7. Bonnie Henry: Another Tucson; Arizona Daily Star; ISBN 0-9607758-2-X (hardcover, 1992)
  8. William D. Kalt III: Tucson Was a Railroad Town;VTD Rail Publishing; ISBN 978-09719915-4-5 (paperback, 2007)
  9. Allan J. McIntyre: The Tohono O'odham and Pimeria Alta; Arcadia Publishing; ISBN 978-0738556-33-8 (paperback, 2008)
  10. Rosalio Moisés: The Tall Candle: The Personal Chronicle of a Yaqui Indian; University of Nebraska Press; ISBN 0-8032-0747-6 (paperback, 2001)
  11. Muriel Thayer Painter: A Yaqui Easter; University of Arizona Press; (paperback, 1971) Read online
  12. Federico Jose Maria Ronstadt: Borderman: The Memoirs of Federico Jose Maria Ronstadt; University of New Mexico Press. (hardback, 1993) Read online
  13. Don Schellie: Vast Domain of Blood: The Story of the Camp Grant Massacre; Westernlore Press; ASIN B0006BW3N0 (paperback, 1968)
  14. Jack Sheaffer and Steve Emerine: Jack Sheaffer's Tucson, 1945-1965 Arizona Daily Star; ISBN 0-9607758-1-1 (hardback, 1985)
  15. Thomas E. Sheridan: Del Rancho al Barrio: The Mexican legacy of Tucson; Arizona Historical Society (paperback, 1983)
  16. Thomas E. Sheridan: Los Tucsonenses: The Mexican Community in Tucson, 1854-1941; University of Arizona Press; ISBN 0-8165-1298-1 (paperback, reissued 1992)
  17. C. L. Sonnichsen: Tucson: The Life and Times of an American City; The classic book on Tucson's history; University of Oklahoma Press; ISBN 0-8061-2042-8 (paperback, reissued 1987)
  18. Arizona Daily Star: Star 200 Trend Tracker
  19. Bancroft: History of New Mexico and Arizona, San Francisco, 1880

External links

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