Tucson skyline at sunset

A faint rainbow appears over downtown Tucson and the city after monsoon storms on July 24, 2017.

Tucson turns 246 years old today, Aug. 20.

That's right — our favorite city is older than the entire state of Arizona. Anyone have 246 candles we can light atop a prickly pear-flavored birthday cake?

Before we tell you some of the reasons why we ❤️ Tucson, we wanted to give you a heads up on two very special events.

The first is none other than Tucson's birthday celebration to be held at the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum. The free party starts at 6:15 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 20 and will include mariachi music, traditional folklórico and waila music, plus family activities and food.

And Tucson isn't the only one with a birthday today. Reid Park Zoo's elephant Nandi — who was the first elephant born in Arizona and is now a big sister to baby Penzi — turns 7 today!

From 8-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, the zoo will have cupcakes for the first 400 guests, plus keeper chats and elephant-themed activities. You'll also get to watch the elephants munch on some enrichment treats.

OK, onto some of our fave things about Tucson (in no particular order) 🎉🎁🎈

A bolt of lightning illuminates a column of rain drenching midtown, part of a powerful monsoon cell that dropped rain, winds and hail over parts of Tucson, Ariz., July 20, 2021.

1. The weather

Yes, admittedly, sometimes it's so hot that it feels like we're all going to sweat until winter. But we have a beautiful fall and winter mostly full of sunshine, and we don't (usually) have to worry about shoveling snow in our driveways. It's a glorious thing, really.

And we also get to enjoy a beautiful monsoon (especially this year!) filled with rain and the smell of creosote floating through the air. 

Occasionally, we do get snow. And yes, most of us freak out about it. I personally think few things are prettier than a saguaro covered in snow.

A takeout spread from Tacos Apson, with (clockwise from top left): flour tortillas, refried beans, a papancha, costillas tacos, parillada platter and a chicken taco. 

2. The food

I think we can all agree on this one: The food here is incredible. We were deemed a U.S. City of Gastronomy in 2015 for A REASON.

And so much more.

The campus of the University of Arizona with the football field directly west of Bear Down Gym, Feb. 14, 1929. 

3. The history of its buildings and businesses

Tucson has been around for centuries which means it holds years and years of history.

We see that history every day with the historic buildings still standing tall (I'm looking at you, Historic Pima County Courthouse), restaurants that have served generations of Tucson families, events we all went to when we were kids and still go to now, and businesses that have survived decades of economic ups and downs.

More history: The event at the Presidio that we mentioned earlier is officially called the "Celebration of All Things Tucson/S-cuk Son." The name is a nod to Tucson's roots — "S-cuk Son," pronounced "Skuk-shone" in the Tohono O’odham language, means "spring at the base of the black mountain."

This tree is dubbed the "kindness tree" at Palo Verde Park. The tree is a hub for neighbors and community members to leave and take small trinkets such as pocket angels, kindness rocks and seeds for gardening. 

4. The community

Some of our favorite stories to write are centered around the community — neighbors creating kindness trees, kids doing cool things, people giving back to local organizations (and people starting local organizations!).

Tucson is filled with kind people who make Tucson the city that it is.

This mural of a mesh of a Gila monster and a Quetzalcoatl dragon was created by Jessica Gonzales at Amazing Discoveries, 238 S. Tucson Blvd.

5. The art

Is Tucson a maker city? Who's to really say, but we'd like to think so.

Tucson is home to so many artists, from the ones who paint Gila monsters and saguaros on the walls lining our streets, to the makers carefully crafting everything from jewelry and coffee mugs to art prints, skincare products and crazy face masks.

A baby javelina hangs out with their mom in Ruth Russell’s backyard on July 23, 2019.

6. The views, plants and wildlife

How could we write a story about our favorite Tucson things without mentioning the views? 

First of all, you know those stop-what-you're-doing-and-take-a-picture-immediately sunsets that I'm referring to. And then there are the mountain views we get to see from every angle.

Plus, all of the plants that we get to surround ourselves with every day: The beautiful saguaro giants and colorful blooms atop cacti in spring. The bright yellow Palo Verde flowers and the purple fruit that pop up on prickly pears.

And all of the adorable wildlife that we love spotting (from a safe distance, of course): Javelinas, coyotes, bobcats, hummingbirds, roadrunners and bunnies. 

If it isn't obvious yet, we have a big crush on Tucson and wish it the most magical 246th birthday possible 🍰🎊


#ThisIsTucson is member-supported. Your contribution helps our team bring you stories that keep you connected to the community. Become a member today.