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Tucson, AZ

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I've never been to this area of the country, but there's a good chance that I will end up accepting an offer from the University of Arizona. I will be visiting prior to making any sort of decision. Any thoughts on the Tucson or Phoenix area are appreciated.

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I've never been to this area of the country, but there's a good chance that I will end up accepting an offer from the University of Arizona. I will be visiting prior to making any sort of decision. Any thoughts on the Tucson or Phoenix area are appreciated.

Tucson is GREAT. Phoenix is shit. Either way, wear lots of sunscreen.

I'd recommend having a car if you're moving to Tucson. I didn't have one when I lived there and 75 percent of the time I was fine riding the public buses and taking the occasional taxi, but the buses stop running very early in the evening so if I wanted to stay out later... well, I did a lot of walking.

-The desert is magnificent. I can't stress this enough.

-There are mountains everywhere you look. It's going to fuck with your head.

-It gets REAL hot in the summer, sometimes between 110-120 (fahrenheit). You'll get used to it, but you'll drink more water than you ever have in your entire life.

-Rent is cheap, even cheaper if you have a roommate.

-A lot of the apartment complexes have swimming pools.

-The Mexican food is so flavorful your palate will weep with joy.

-There's free wifi in most of the coffee shops and free municipal wifi in the business-district part of downtown.

-There are good places to buy records and see bands.

-Cheap booze, readily available.

-There's supposedly a lot of property crime, but I didn't experience any problems. Guess it depends where you live, how well your building is managed, and how flashy your lifestyle is.

-The "downtown" is kinda desolate and sketchy but it's getting better. BTW, there's a good yoga studio down there that offers $5 drop-in classes.

-Unsurprisingly, most of the city's cultural life happens near the university. The campus is HUGE though.

I can't think of much else.

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Oh, one more thing: I was really impressed by the pizza there! Brooklyn Pizza Company and Upper Crust in particular. Magpie's less so, but their calzones are where it's at.

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Amigo,

I can offer a good bit of insight as I grew up (and currently live) in Phoenix, but I went to school in Tucson at the UA. I myself am off for an MPA in the fall (I'm down to Syracuse, George Washington, and the University of Georgia). Let's begin.

First, let me preface my comments with the following admission: I love Arizona. Although I'm leaving for grad school, I have every intention of coming back. The culture, the weather, the people - it's utterly fantastic.

Phoenix:

- BIG city. It just surpassed Philadelphia as the 6th largest city in the country.

- Therefore, a wide variety of cultural offerings. As I'll mention in a moment, Tuscon's offerings are little more...organic. Phoenix has that, too, but also offers a lot more urban, hip attractions.

- Major sports teams in every sport, plus Spring Training for baseball (Tucson has a few teams for this as well, and nothing beats an afternoon in the outfield grass - cheap tickets, cold beer, and all the glorious sunshine you could desire).

- Lots of different vibes - there's Scottsdale if you're into the glitzy, meat-market sort of thing. Tempe for Mill Ave. and the college vibe. Downtown Phoenix for the urban, artsy crowd. Phoenix really does offer it all.

- Take note, Phoenix is a two hour drive from Tucson. So, with a car, it's easy to take weekend trips there, but just keep in mind that it's not like they're next door neighbors or anything.

Tucson:

- Amazing food. Tucson is the king of independent eateries - sure you'll find chain restaurants, but the real jewels are all the mom and pops places. Make sure you get your Mexican food on at El Guero Canelo (the "redhead" translated loosely), BBQ at Mr. K's, pizza at No Anchovies. Also pretty cool, on campus the Jewish student center has a little cafe with all sorts of cool vegetarian fare.

- Amazing weather. It gets nice and chilly in the winter (50's) for a change of pace, but the real draw is the abundance of sunshine. Which results in a few things - great chances to explore the outdoors as well as an oveflow of attractive, tanned coeds. Nothing wrong with a little eye candy on the way to class...

- Very community-oriented. Because Tucson revolves around the university, there's a real connection between the town and the university. Whereas ASU (the other, inferior university to the north) feels like the ugly product of urban sprawl, UA feels like a true community.

- Similarly, the campus is very nice. It's compact, has an amazing new student union, and is perfect for taking a nice walk or bike ride. I never had any problem making it to classes on time, even if it involved needing to walk across campus from one class to another.

- Lots of cultural experiences - the Latino influence is undeniable and adds much to the vitality of the city, there are a good number of clubs to see good, quality indie rock at, and the bar scene is surprisingly palatable (i'm not one for the sorority/frat orgy bar, and there are definitely a few of those, but there are many other good ones).

- The atmosphere there is just very relaxed. I spent a semester "abroad" at the University of Maryland during my undergrad, and I was amazed at how palpable the difference was in atmosphere there. At UA, you'll find a place dedicated to scholarship but not to the point of being overdriven. People accuse West Coast schools of being apathetic, but I think that's misleading. The vibe is definitely different, much less fast-paced, but that doesn't mean that your fellow students will be slackers.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. Please, ask any more questions you may have! And enjoy!

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[This is the original poster].

Wow ... thanks for the detailed responses.

Good food, good music scene, lot's of sun ... so far I'm sold on the area. I've been really pleased to read about all of the great local food establishements in the area (I despise chain restaurants). The presence of good local eateries is something that does rank relatively high on my "city assessment list" (the fact that there is great mexican food is just icing on the cake :D ).

The fact that people are more laid back out west doesn't bother me at all. I see it as a huge positive. I'm from the northeast, but have always felt that that my personality would be a better fit on the west coast. That being said, I really do enjoy living in the northeast but will try to head out west without any sort of bias towards either region.

There is a possibility that I will have some extra cash to buy a used car to get me from point A to point B (it'll be a real POS), but I'll probably try the bus/taxi/bum_ride_off_friend system for a while. This will take some getting used to since I've used my car to do everything for the past 5 years (last 2 years of undergrad + 3 years working). Is there a supermarket/pharmacy/shopping_center that's within walking distance of the UA campus (just for day to day stuff, I don't need a huge mall or anything)?

Any advice on general areas to look into housing? Is there a part of the city that most graduate students choose to live in? I really don't know if I'd be able to handle "on campus" living after living in my own apartment for the past 3 years (is it worth even considering on campus housing?).

The only other thing I can think to ask is if anyone has a bar recommendation? I like going all sorts of bars, but would be less interested in going to the ones that are crammed with 10,000 people on a night. Something that's a little laid back, but still draws a crowd is probably more of my style.

Thanks again for all of the help.

locura 81 -

I am currently in upstate NY (about 1.5 hours away from Syracuse). I haven't ever been to the city/school (drive past it all the time on trips), but I know a few people who went there. If you have any general questions about upstate NY I may be able to help. I will say this: If you do end up going to Syracuse, you may want to start thinking of 50 degree days as a blessing during the winter time (which around here lasts from roughly November - April).

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This is the original poster again. I created an account so that my messages aren't posted by "Guest".

original poster = duffman1024.

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tucson has some amazing cycling if you're into that. out in tucson mountain park you'll find gates pass -- incredibly fun to ride up. each year there is "el tour de tucson" which is a great time, terrific food, and beautiful scenery.

can't reccomend it enough.

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[This is the original poster].

Is there a supermarket/pharmacy/shopping_center that's within walking distance of the UA campus (just for day to day stuff, I don't need a huge mall or anything)?

There are a ton of convenience stores on the streets surrounding the campus. And the big supermarkets are all on bus routes -- I liked the Fry's on Grant near 1st Ave and that's just a short ride from campus. There are Trader Joe's and Wild Oats too, if that's your scene.

Any advice on general areas to look into housing?

I lived on 1st and Prince, which is a bit boring but there's shopping down on Ft. Lowell and up towards Roger Rd., and a big mall nearby. Campbell Ave. is a better residential area; there's a lot more shopping/cafes/etc and it's well-lit at night. Since Speedway is the main drag a lot of people choose to live near there, but it goes on for miles -- you'd probably want to be closer to the university and not all the way out by Tanque Verde. Armory Park (the yuppie historic area near downtown) is very beautiful, but I'm not sure about the availability of rentals.

The only other thing I can think to ask is if anyone has a bar recommendation? I like going all sorts of bars, but would be less interested in going to the ones that are crammed with 10,000 people on a night. Something that's a little laid back, but still draws a crowd is probably more of my style.

I didn't take full advantage of the bar scene when I was there, but I liked Plush (on 4th Ave). Bars don't seem that popular in Tucson... I think a lot of the people that live there just keep their homes well-stocked with alcohol. :-)

I am currently in upstate NY (about 1.5 hours away from Syracuse).

I did my undergrad in Binghamton.

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Hey Guest,

Thanks for the offer about upstate NY. As it stands, UGA has offered me a tidy sum, and it will be awfully hard to turn down, unless Syracuse matches (GW has, more or less, matched, but I'm just not sure about their program). Just today, here in Phoenix, it rained for the first time in 143 days. Now this isn't natural - although a desert, we do get some rain!:) And as I've taken great pleasure in the weather today, I already caught myself thinking, "Wow, it's a bit cold out." It's 45 degrees outside. Syracuse and I would likely not get along well with each other...but it's only a one year program anyway.

Re: Bar Scenes. My fav. is a dive-ish bar on Broadway and Craycroft or so. It's called Kon-Tiki and makes a decent attempt at a tropical theme. But, the drinks are strong (and "diverse" - that is, there are probably 25 different concoctions they makes (in addition to you call its), all of which taste similarly) and the scene is varied - a good mix of upperclassmen/grad students, random locals, etc. Definitely better than braving the meat-market known as Maloney's or Dirtbag's.

Re: Transportation. Welcome to the Southwest; now get a car. Okay, maybe that was dramatic. But in all honesty, you'll probably find that you really, really want a car. It's not a must, but it will make things much easier (especially if you want to sample the abundant culture of Tucson - the city, as most Western cities do, sprawls out quite a bit). Still, with a bicycle and lodging near enough to campus, you would be just fine.

Re: Housing. Depends what you're looking for. I know that the U. just built some new grad housing. Drawbacks? a) it's still, despite all attempts at avoiding the term, a "dorm" B) it's located across from Coronado Hall, king of crazy, freshman dorms at UA - otherwise known as Score-o-nado. The good news is that housing nearby is really, really cheap. I lived 3 miles from campus (I did have a car) and paid $600/mo. for a nice two-bedroom apt. (thus I paid only $300). There's always houses to rent as well, and the area surrounding the university is good and safe.

Any more Q's, just ask. Oh, and I second your affirmation that independent eateries ought to be an important factor in choosing a school :D And if that's the case, a choice for UA would be a wise one!

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Thanks to everyone who's spent so long answering other people's questions - it's really helped to give me an idea of what I could expect if I accept my place at the U of A as well.

I'm not sure how to term this question in the right way, but is Tucson TOO spanish/Mexican in feel? I'm from England, and much as I love Spain and like the idea of Mexico/Mexicans, I want to live somewhere that is very definitely America. Is it very obviously America? Are there, for example, vast non-English speaking communities/areas?

My second question, really, is equally subtle. How would you describe Tucson politically/culturally? Obviously Arizona is a red state, but is it broadly traditional/conservative? Is it more Southern or Western, culturally? My litmus tests on that distinction would be: do people get scoffed at for going to church and/or listening to country music? Please speculate on any of these issues for me!

Lastly, this might sound like a stupid quesiton, but what sort of vehicles do typical people drive down there? I want to get either a Mustang or a pick-up for that authentic American-ness: but will everyone be driving little japanese cars and make me luck like a real jerk?!

Thanks people.

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well, you've got your posh white republicans living in oro valley and the foothills, and south tucson is practically all hispanic... it's a mix. tucson is the most liberal city in arizona, i believe. it's definitely not 'too spanish in feel,' although if you drive an hour south into mexico, you'll feel like you're in a completely different culture.

my best friend is from tucson, as am i, and she adores country music, and i think it's rotten. tucson is very open-minded; no one cares what you do as long as you don't press your beliefs on others. for example, we get itenerant preachers that come to the UofA campus every spring, and there are students that heckle (the majority, i imagine) and students that sit and listen.

during the last election, i saw an equal mix of kerry/bush bumper stickers on cars.

also, no one will care what car you drive, although it seems like arizona's gas prices are higher than those in the rest of the country, so something fuel-efficient might be wise.

u of a really is a great school. i went there for undergrad and have lived there forever so i'm definitely ready to apply elsewhere for grad school, but it's really a great place. and you will grow to love mexican food!

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I am a foreigner and have been living in tucson for nearly 5 years. I was an undergraduate at the UA. I LOVE Tucson and wish I can stay here for graduate school (my major dept has "weird" policy that not taking their own undergrads). If you like biking, hiking, camping (or outdoor activities in general), Tucson is a great place! The living expenses is lower than other big cities in the US, I believe.

You absolutely need a car if you live in Tucson. I didn't have a car when I was an undergraduate and hated to bug my friends for giving me rides. If you live near campus, biking is the best. Almost every street near campus has bicycle lane.

Winter weather is good if you don't like the cold. Summer is hell! However, compare to humid and hot summer weather in other US cities, Tucson might be better since it is very dry.

The mexican food in Tucson is great! BUT seafood eater has to suffer........

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David,

Let me hazard a few answers to your questions.

Re: American-ness. Without lapsing into a rant about what exactly constitutes the American spirit, I would say that you'll find Tucson to be very American. In a way, it's more American than you'd find in major cities - there are more independtly-owned establishments. That means Wednesday nights at Lucky Strike bowling alley (does it get any more American than that?) or stopping in March to enjoy Rodeo Week (four days of rodeo, my friend - it's a sight to behold).

Are there pockets of non-English speakers? Definitely. Welcome to living an hour and a half from Mexico. But that's part of what makes Tucson so endearing. Moreover, I'd temper comparing whatever experiences you have with Spain to those with Mexico/Mexicans. Those are two entirely different places, and though they share a common language (albeit different dialect...of course, within Mexico there are a number of dialects), their cultures are very distinct.

Re: Cultural atmosphere. A nice mix. The campus has outspoken members of both sides, as does the community, though I'd say that, once outside the university-area, it grows a little more conservative. You definitely won't be scoffed at for attending church (I never was), but there isn't much scoffing at the liberal groups/demonstrations within the city either. Whatever your persuasion, you'll find like-minded people here.

Re: Transportation. Like any place, it's a mix of cars. On-campus, you'll see a surprisingly high number of luxury-type cars. You can thank Arizona's low out-of-state tuition and our close proximity to California for that. A Mustang or pick-up, though, would definitely be the ideal way to slip unnoticed into the fabric of society. Please, if you go Mustang, at least go for an older one. Same can be said of the pickup. Tucson can be a little dusty, Western-y, so the more you feel comfortable with that vibe the better.

Once again, I cannot voice loudly enough my support of attending the UA/living in Tucson. She may not be that blonde bombshell like Boston or DC, but she's definitely the kind of girl you want to spend the rest of your life with, if you catch my drift...:)

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Re: Transportation. Like any place, it's a mix of cars. On-campus, you'll see a surprisingly high number of luxury-type cars. You can thank Arizona's low out-of-state tuition and our close proximity to California for that. A Mustang or pick-up, though, would definitely be the ideal way to slip unnoticed into the fabric of society. Please, if you go Mustang, at least go for an older one. Same can be said of the pickup. Tucson can be a little dusty, Western-y, so the more you feel comfortable with that vibe the better.

one of my very favorite things about tucson was the amount of meticulously preserved classic '60s and '70s muscle cars riding around in the streets. thanks to the dry heat, cars don't rust!

it was great to live in a place where the SUV was not the dominant mode of transportation.

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I'm seriously considering a grad program offer at UofA. I need help figuring out the best way to apartment search in Tucson. Craigslist is the way to go in Chicago, where I live now. But I haven't found very many listings near the UofA on craigslist-tucson. Can someone point me in the right direction? How do UofA students (not the beer-binging, "let's live with 20 of our closest friends" undergrads) typically find apts.? Local paper? Online? Apt search services? Roaming the neighborhoods for "rent" signs? Also, what is the timeline for signing a lease in Tucson. Where I did my undergrad, you often had to sign the October before the following August for an apt (insane!). Is Tucson the same way, i.e., am I SOL for finding a decent place this fall? Thanks in advance for the help!!

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I'm going to the UofA this fall, so your questions are ones I've been thinking about too.

The school has an online off-campus housing listing that I've been browsing. It's pretty much just an online classified site for apartments in the Tucson area...but it does seem to have a good number of listings including ways to find roommate situations if you're interested in going that route. I don't think based on the availability of some places that you're SOL for getting a place in the fall (at least for my sake too I hope we aren't)

Here's the link if you don't already have it:

http://www.union.arizona.edu/csil/csa/offcampus/online

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anyone have some new information to offer about Tucson? It looks like I'll be going there in the fall, or (if I get into the UW) choosing between Tucson and Seattle (where I was born and raised). I've heard lots and lots of great things about Tucson, so any of the downsides would be good to know as well. Thanks!

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I grew up in Phoenix and very much prefer Tucson. Its more calm and people are generally nicer. I'm not sure how Seattle is, but you need a car here. There's plenty to do, but you'll have to drive to it! Right around the campus is nice enough, and up north in the foothills is also very nice. I live a couple blocks north of campus, so I can't tell you much about driving to the university except that Campbell and 1st Ave, the two big north/south streets that border the campus, get quite busy from like 3pm to 6pm, as you'd expect. Hopefully some current grad students, who probably live farther from campus, can help you out more.

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I'm considering going to UofA this fall for my Ph.D. My boyfriend will be moving with me and we were considering buying a house, since we will be there for a while and with his salary we would be able to afford it... What areas of Tucson are good/nice areas to live in?? Online there's a ton next to the Indian Reservation, but I"m not so sure that would be a great area?? How's the North/Northwest side of the city?? Any thoughts??

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Hi everyone, I've lived in Tucson for the past 3 1/2 or so years and just finished my undergrad at the U of A. If you want, you can check out my view of the town/school on my blog. It's in this post:

http://foundinfiction.blogspot.com/2009 ... nyone.html

It's geared towards potential Creative Writing MFA-ers but there's some general info, too. Includes links. Hope it's helpful.

Good luck!

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I'm considering going to UofA this fall for my Ph.D. My boyfriend will be moving with me and we were considering buying a house, since we will be there for a while and with his salary we would be able to afford it... What areas of Tucson are good/nice areas to live in?? Online there's a ton next to the Indian Reservation, but I"m not so sure that would be a great area?? How's the North/Northwest side of the city?? Any thoughts??

If you don't mind commuting a little, living in the foothills (north Tucson, up around Skyline/Sunrise and Campbell) is very nice; the drive takes maybe 10 minutes normally, but Campbell, 1st Ave, and other north/south streets get pretty packed at peak hours. They have plenty of very nice apartments up there, but I'm not sure exactly how expensive they are. I suspect they might be stretching a UofA grad stipend a little bit. Same goes for the houses. But if you can find something in your budget and don't mind a little bit of a drive during peak times, the area is very nice.

There's a good amount of housing between Grant and Prince, and 1st Ave and Country Club. Some of those neighborhoods are kind of bad, but there are lots of nicer ones too. There are probably some houses for sale in that general area. Besides that, you'd really have to want to commute. A grad student I know lives way north in Marana, which takes her about 45 minutes in the mornings, I think, and she leaves before the morning rush.

You could try finding some housing in the Sam Hughes neighborhood, directly east of campus. Most of the neighborhoods for a couple miles due east from the campus are pretty good, between Broadway and Speedway.

Those are some general areas to start. I rented an apartment through undergrad, so I haven't had to go through a house search in Tucson.

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Native Tucsonan checking in - I went to the other side of the country for my undergrad, so I'm speaking as a townie rather than as a college student.

Some answers and highlights:

- Someone asked about the political climate: Tucson in my experience is pretty middle-of-the-road, definitely more liberal than most of AZ. Our county trends blue in national elections and our Republican mayor published a letter during the last election arguing against banning gay marriage. That says a lot, I think.

- The influence from Mexico: We have some of the best Mexican food in the country, for one. I can't eat "Mexican food" in the northeast because I'm so spoiled. Personally I really like that we have more cultural diversity than a lot of places, but I'd say it's still quite American. Just southwest-y. As someone previously mentioned, we have Rodeo weekend, which is very distinctly Tucsonan (the public schools get vacation days for it and everything).

- More about the weather: Has anyone mentioned the monsoon yet? My favorite season, with big thunderstorms rolling in at night to break the summer heat. Happens late July-August. In general, yes it is hot, but for most of the year it's just plain nice and sunny. Carry a water bottle and you'll be fine.

- Transportation: I agree it'd be difficult to really get around without a car. Traffic's also gotten a lot more worse than it was when I was little. That said we do have one of the best bus systems around, especially for a sprawling western city. Main shopping areas (malls, Targets, supermarkets, etc) are all located on high-frequency bus routes, so you could do it if you had to. There's a Walgreens pharmacy on practically every corner. Tucson is also great for biking, especially given the weather. Bike lanes are plentiful and generally people seem a bit more respectful of bike riders than in other cities I've seen, particularly in the UA area where there are hordes of them. The UA campus itself is dominated by bike riders and pedestrians.

- The people and culture: It's so laid back here; it's not that we're lazy, we're just easygoing. After spending 4 years living in the northeast and visiting the various big cities out there, I much prefer the friendlier, calmer west coast style. People are just less pushy, it seems. Generally there's more to do here than people sometimes think; we have a lot of museums, including some unusual ones like the Desert Museum, the DeGrazia Gallery, and the Pima Air and Space Museum. Lots of good restaurants, far more to the music scene than just country/western. There are a few big street fairs a year in the downtown area, where you find the kooky alternative shops and boutiques. If you're outdoorsy there's great hiking and camping year-round, and you can always drive up the mountains (an hour's drive, maybe) and suddenly you're in a deciduous pine forest that gets snow and everything. Big change from all the cacti. If you come here be sure to drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon, there's a hamlet up there called Summerhaven that has the best little pie shop ever.

Wow, I sound like I was hired by the city gov't to do PR. I've just really come to appreciate how nice a place it is, I guess. One more thing: gorgeous sunsets. Ok, I'm done.

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