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Moving to a new city is never easy, and moving to a new place amid a pandemic presents its own unique challenges.
But don't worry, Tucson newbies we've got you covered with a few ways to get more acquainted with our special slice of the Sonoran Desert.
Whether you're new here, or just looking for new things to do here are 9 ideas for getting to know Tucson a little better.
Special thanks to our #ThisIsTucson members, who represent a range of Tucson newcomers and long-time residents, for sharing some of their ideas for this story!
Tucson is a foodie paradise owing to the diversity of cuisines and restaurants you'll find here (and our UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation). The food scene is one of the best things about Tucson and we've seen the pandemic take a toll on many of the beloved restaurants that have shuttered over the last year, so now more than ever it's important to support the local restaurants that contribute to Tucson's vibrancy.
Whether you're in the mood for tacos or Thai, you'll find the best of the best in Tucson. Our food writer Andi Berlin is constantly trying new places and finding the best dishes in town. Here are the 10 best things she ate in 2020 to help you get started on your food journey. She's also regularly updating this massive list of eateries with patios where you can enjoy dining al fresco.
Sign up for a library card
Tucson is a book-loving town, just look to how the annual Tucson Festival of Books has grown to be the third-largest book festival in the country as proof. We also have a robust library system in the Pima County Public Library. With 27 branches all throughout the county, there's a good chance there's a library in your neighborhood or nearby.
More than just a place for checking out books, branches also serve as community hubs with creative programming for babies to seniors, and there's so many other things you can access with a library card — like seeds to start a new garden, telescopes for viewing the starry skies and streaming movies. The library has limited services because of the pandemic, but is offering curbside pick up of materials, virtual programs and you can still sign up for an eCard online to access the library's digital collection and programs or you can apply for a standard card via email. Find more info about getting a library card here.
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Enjoy the great outdoors
We're sure the 300-plus days of sunshine we get each year is likely one of the reasons you moved here and there's no shortage of ways to stay active and soak it up.
To learn about all the flora and fauna that make our biome so special, you have to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. With more than 1,200 plant varieties and 240 desert creature species on display, this living museum is part zoo, part botanical garden and also houses an aquarium, natural history museum and art gallery. This is also the place you'll want to take your family and friends to see when they come to visit.
Hop on your bike or take a walk along The Loop, 136 miles of paved car-free paths which encircle the city, and was just named the Best Recreational Trail in USA Today's 2020 "10 Best Reader' Choice" travel awards.
Trek up Tumamoc Hill, a popular Tucson destination, which is just a few minutes west of downtown and is perfect for those who want to be immersed in nature but stay close to the city or anyone who wants a workout for their calves (it's steeper than it seems).
Lace up your hiking boots or sneakers and explore one of the many hiking trails throughout Tucson. We know there's so many to choose from, but we compiled hiking guides for seven of the trails we've written about for our Helpful Hiker series to help you get started. Or use this pretty awesome Pima County interactive trailhead map to find trails close to home.
Of course, you can always take a stroll through your neighborhood to become better acquainted with your new surroundings and neighbors, here's a guide to identifying some fo the flora and fauna you might see on a springtime walk.
Get ready for the heat
If you moved here during our glorious fall, winter and spring months, be warned: summer is coming.
Last year was one for the history books and not just because of the pandemic, but 2020 was also the driest year on record in Tucson with only 4.17 inches of annual rainfall (more than six inches below average) and it was the second hottest year on record with an average annual temperature of 72.6 degrees. The National Weather Service predicts 2021 will be pretty similar. In 2020 Tucson also had the most 100-plus days on record at 108 and the most 105-degree plus days at 57, according to this Arizona Daily Star story.
To get ready for summer, make sure you've got a reusable water bottle to take with you any time you leave the house to keep hydrated at all times, a sun visor for the windshield of your car to keep out some of the heat when you're parked anywhere and stock up on sunscreen. If you're planning to keep active during the summer be sure you plan your hikes, walks and cycling adventures for early in the morning before it's too hot.
Tucson's summer drink of choice is an Eegee, a refreshing slushie that you'll find at Eegee's sandwich shops in every part of town. Plan to drink lots of those to cool off.
Public pools and splash pads have mostly been closed or only open for lap swimming amid the pandemic, but Pima County Natural Parks, Resources and Recreation recently shared they're hiring lifeguards for county-run pools so we're hopeful those (and the city's pools) will be able to reopen for recreational swim this summer. 🤞
Volunteering is good for the soul, good for the community and a good way to meet new people. There are still in-person opportunities to volunteer at places like the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, COVID-19 vaccination sites and Casa Alitas migrant shelter, but local organizations also have virtual opportunities, too. United Way of Southern Arizona's volunteer database has several opportunities to help at a variety of non-profits.
Watch a sunset
Tucson's sky puts on a glorious show every night when the sun goes down and the azure sky turn to cotton candy hues or fiery arrays of oranges and reds. Because every sunset is lovely, it's easy to sometimes take this sky spectacle for granted, but when you have some time, make a dedicated effort to pack a picnic, take a pause and enjoy this majestic experience. Gates Pass is Tucson's go-to spot for sunset watching, but other prime locations are Saguaro National Park East and West, Tumamoc Hill and atop Grotto Hill at San Xavier del Bac Mission.
Visit Tucson's Birthplace
You've seen "A" Mountain and you'll probably drive or bike up it one day to check out some stunning city views. But, it's also worth a visit to the Mission Garden at the base of the mountain to learn more about Tucson's origins and its 4,000-plus year agricultural and cultural history.
Tucson sits on the ancestral land of the Tohono O’odham people, who established villages along the fertile area along the Santa Cruz River below Sentinel Peak or “A” Mountain — where they cultivated crops of corns, beans and squash — making Tucson the longest continuously farmed area in the United States. The 4-acre Mission Garden has orchards and vegetable gardens that represent this history and hosts a variety of outdoor events for all ages.
Take a Mural Tour
It feels like a new mural pops up every week somewhere in the city and Tucsonans love admiring them all. Jessica Gonzales, Joe Pagac and Danny Martin are some of Tucson's most prolific muralists, but dozens of artists have contributed to the beautiful artwork that graces our walls. Here are 80 to keep an eye out for.
We created the free newsletter #HowToTucson course specifically to help introduce new Tucsonans to the weather, food, outdoors and culture of our city, plus what you can expect from local schools and civic life.
Through eight newsletters sent every-other-morning, you'll learn the basics from local experts and links to more stories and local resources to help you become a more rooted desert-dweller. Sign up for the #HowToTucson newsletter course here.