Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!
A College Town with a Pretty Mountain Desert Setting, Tucson is Diverse and Reasonably Priced
Home to the sprawling University of Arizona (45,000 students) and a military base, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson was founded in 1776 while still a part of Mexico. The city (population 535,000 with 1 million in the metro area) is one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in the country, with Native Americans living here for 4,000 years before Spanish missionaries and soldiers arrived in the late-1600s. Present day Tucson is proud of its frontier, Mexican and Native American roots.
Retirees come for the pretty desert and mountain setting and for the endlessly hot, sunny days and dry air. In fact, 32% of residents are age 45 or better. The city has grown by 2% within the last decade and has a diverse population. Thirty percent of locals hold at least a four year college degree. Politics lean to the left. The cost of living is 5% below the national average. AARP calls Tucson one of the best places to live the simple life.
The city boasts a palpable Southwestern vibe, from the adobe and Mediterranean architecture to the large, iconic tree-like saguaro cacti that pepper the landscape. Neighborhoods range from bedraggled to very nice. The median home price is $220,000. La Cholla Hills is a 55+ community with Southwestern-style patio homes and casitas.
The growing cultural scene includes more than 200 arts groups, Ballet Tucson, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the Tucson Jazz Society and the Arizona Theater Company. The fun Historic Warehouse Arts District is home to festivals, art walks, art galleries and several farmers' markets.
World-class spas, casinos, University of Arizona athletics and 30 museums all provide further opportunities to stay active and involved. Residents enjoy more than 100 parks and 35 golf courses.
Fourth Avenue is a trendy shopping venue, with cute boutiques and cafes, and it is the site of an annual street fair that features the work of more than 400 artists.
The Tucson-Pima Public Library has 20 branches so access to an old-fashioned paper book is never far away. Computers, free wifi and computer classes are available, too.
The city has nine senior centers, most of which offer congregate meals in addition to classes and activities. Many local businesses - including restaurants, movie theaters, museums, performing arts organizations and travel services - offer discounts to older adults. Most local hospitals and all branches of the local YMCA have programs for people age 55 or better.
The SAGE Society (Study, Activity Growth and Enrichment), under the auspices of Roland Tseng College of Extended Learning at California State University Northridge, provides continuing learning-in-retirement experiences. Programs include discussion groups, study sessions, guest speakers, field trips and social events. The Univerisity has an Osher Lifelong Learning Insitute (OLLI), an organization that presents a variety of classes, trips and workshops for people age 50 or better.
Seven hospitals are sprinkled throughout town, and the University of Arizona Medical Center has won numerous national awards. It is nationally ranked in geriatric care, cardiology and heart surgery and is accredited by the Joint Commission. Medicare patients are accepted.
SunTran is the public transportation system and has 40 routes. The regular fare is $1.75, but people age 65 or better ride for $.75 (and monthly passes are available).
Outside of town, a short drive sweeps residents from the stark landscape of the Sonoran Desert (elevation 2,430 feet) to the cool evergreen forests atop Arizona's "sky islands." These rugged mountains, comprised of four separate ranges, reach more than 9,000 feet above sea level and provide year-round opportunities for hiking, fishing, camping and bicycling.
In the winter, Ski Area Mt. Lemmon in the Coronado National Forest manages 22 runs and offers free skiing to anyone age 70 or better! Tucson is a place where residents can ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon.
July's average high temperature is 100 degrees, and January's average high temperature is 52 degrees. On average, the city receives 12 inches of rain per year, and thanks to the surrounding mountain ranges, it is normally cooler and wetter than Phoenix two hours to the north. Monsoon Season comes in mid- to late-summer and can bring intense thunderstorms, flash flooding and high humidity.
Water is always an issue in the desert, and over the years, the groundwater levels underneath Tucson have decreased. Today the city has a solid water conservation program in place and draws water from both the ground and the Central Arizona Project Aqueduct. Although Tucson could run out of water one day, the University of Arizona's Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) projects sufficient sustainable supply for twice the current population, assuming that conservation efforts continue.
It is worth noting that Tucson has a poverty rate above the national average. Some of this, but not all, is attributed to the large student population. The northern and western sections of the city are the nicer areas, as they include upscale, urban neighborhoods with trendy restaurants, shops and galleries. Many of the golf courses and resorts that make Tucson a popular travel destination are in the northern parts of town.
Also worth noting is that most stats show that Tucson's crime rate as above the national average, but the Tucson Police Department disputes these numbers, saying that the crime rate is actually less than in similarly-sized cities throughout the U.S. They also point out that most violent crime occurs between people who know each other, not between random strangers.
Locals like to point out that car registration is expensive because the fees are based on a car's value. They also note that the local sales tax, paid online and offline, is a hefty 8.7%.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Probably | Is Arizona Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes
The higher than average poverty rate is a drawback, and the crime rate is potentially worrisome. Where a person lives in the city matters. Still, the lively arts scene, natural beauty, year-round outdoor recreation, dry air, reasonable cost of living, good transportation system, solid medical facilities and strong senior programs make Tucson a place to consider for retirement.
The Grand Canyon State was originally part of New Mexico. After the land was ceded to the U.S. in 1848, it became a separate territory. It did not enter the union until February 14, 1912. Copper was discovered in the area in 1848, and metals mining continues to be an important part of the economy. Cattle and tourism are two of the states other vital industries.
Although Arizona can be one of the hottest states in the union, air conditioning continues to bring more and more people to the urban areas. The Colorado Plateau spreads through Arizona from the north and is interspersed with remnants of the Rocky Mountains. The land flattens into desert near Phoenix. The Colorado River forms the state's western borders and snakes through the Grand Canyon.
Arizona is home to places with names like Nothing, a ghost town in western Arizona, and the Horspitality Resort.
The state is stubborn when it comes to time. It observes Mountain Standard Time on a year round basis.
Population - 6,931,030
Persons 65 years old and over - 17%
High school graduates, persons age 25+ - 86%
Bachelor's degree or higher, persons age 25+ - 27%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 31%
White persons, not Hispanic - 58%
Median household income - $50,225
Median home value - $167,500
Social Security taxed? No
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
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