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Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city is located 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border and 118 miles southeast of Phoenix, down Interstate 10. It is literally surrounded by four mountain ranges, Santa Catalina to the north, Rincon to the east, Santa Rita on the south and Tucson Mountains to the west.
Tucson, known as “The Old Pueblo,” sits at a higher elevation than Phoenix, at almost 2,600 feet above sea level, compared to just over 1,100 in Phoenix. That may seem insignificant, but it is enough to afford noticeably cooler temperatures during the hot Arizona summers.
The centerpiece of Tucson is clearly the University of Arizona, which takes up 380 acres in the middle of the city. Ironically, the university, now considered one of the top institutions in the nation, was almost lost when no one would donate land on which to build it. In 1885, 27 years before Arizona became a state, the territorial legislature granted Tucson $25,000 to build the university. At the time, Prescott was the territorial capitol.
As the story goes, Tucson’s legislative contingent had trouble crossing a flooded Salt River and therefore made it to Prescott well after most of the smoke-filled, back-room deals had been done. They had gone with hopes of landing the territory’s first mental hospital, which carried an allocation of $100,000. Fearing a backlash from the people back home, they settled for the university instead.
Today, the University of Arizona has more than 36,000 students and is an economic engine, as well as a strong cultural influence for the town.
Archeological findings indicate Tucson’s earliest inhabitants date back as much as 12,000 years. Indigenous people farmed the area and built canals to transfer water to their crops. Mission San Xavier del Bac, known as “the White Dove of the Desert,” was established in 1692 and still stands a few miles outside Tucson, serving the Tohono O’odham reservation today.
As settlers moved west, Tucson had its share of colorful characters, including Wyatt Earp, who shot and killed Frank Stillwell near the train station. For ten years, from 1867 to 1877, Tucson was the capitol of the Arizona Territory.
Many of today’s residents were introduced to the city through their military service. Because of the area’s many cloudless days, it is a mecca for flying and sky-diving. It is home to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base as well as Fort Huachucha, which is occupied by units of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center.
Tucson is surrounded by tremendous natural beauty and its mild climate affords a wide range of activities for those who love the outdoors. It is also within easy driving distance of several other interesting Arizona towns, such as Tombstone, Bisbee and Summerville. It has Old Tucson Studios, a movie set used in more than 300 feature films and television shows as well as countless commercials and print projects. There is Saguaro Park, which features hundreds of acres of the iconic Saguaro Cactus. And, of course, it offers magnificent Arizona sunrises and sunsets.
Enjoy a great Tucson Vacation and stay at one of the many resorts and spas or Tucson hotels.
Arizona Tourism has been bringing you information about Arizona since 2001. We live in Arizona and have hiked many of the trails we write about, we’ve stayed in the hotels we feature and have lived the Arizona experience. Join us as we travel through Arizona to provide you the most complete information about vacationing in Arizona.
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