Tucson is a large and growing Sun Belt city known for its attractive setting, pleasant climate, and cosmopolitan nature. It attracts retirees and a younger crowd. The area consists of an attractive, modern downtown with a small historic district, surrounded by suburbs laid out in a grid. The University of Arizona, about a mile north of the downtown, brings college-town feel (particularly on football weekends and during the basketball season). Tall, forested mountains surround the city up to an elevation of 9,000 feet. Into the mountains are numerous planned communities and higher-priced homes, many around golf courses.
The economy is mainly supported by the university, retirees, and high tech-industry. Several large companies including IBM, Raytheon, Intuit, and Texas Instruments have facilities in the area. Some of these businesses have proven to be cyclical in the past but are doing reasonably well now. The cost of living has been rising and is now above the U.S. average, and home prices have escalated rapidly.
The climate is close to ideal. The high altitude moderates the desert heat while the southerly location and dry surroundings moderate winter influences and create a generally pleasant atmosphere. The arts and culture scene is strong for a city its size. On the downside, the crime rate is persistently high, and some sprawl issues including relatively long commutes, poor air quality and areas of bland housing and commercial infrastructure are evident.
Located at the foot of the Catalina Mountains, Tucson lies in a broad, flat valley with many dry riverbeds and washes. The soil is sandy, and vegetation is mostly brush, cacti, and small trees. The climate is mid-altitude arid, characterized by a long hot season from April to October. Temperatures above 90 prevail from May through September, with 100 degree-plus temperatures an average of 41 days per year. Humidity is low and diurnal temperature ranges are high, often over 30 degrees F. Summer thunderstorms, which can flood otherwise dry washes, produce 50% of annual precipitation. Pacific storms provide more steady rain from December through March. Snow may fall in higher mountains, but is infrequent in the city. Clear, sunny days are commonplace with some dust and haze at times. First freeze is late November, last is late February.