Set amid six mountains, endless lookouts, arroyo canyons, deep caverns, national parks and forest, the Sonoran Desert and saguaro cactus, Sunshine City was traditionally considered the ideal place to retire. At a little over half a million people, however, Tucson is becoming a trendy, ethnic city for 20-somethings. It was Forbes’ pick to head its Best City To Rent list, and Tucson’s official mission is to be an “internationally recognized center for innovation and creativity in the areas of science, technology, and the arts.”

Inhabited by the Hohokam Native Americans as well as Spanish missionaries, Tucson is rich in adobe architecture and archeological treasures. The Spanish Jesuit Mission San Xavier del Bac has stood for nearly 250 years, and the El Presidio Historic District, with its restored adobe architecture and Old Town Artisans, has been preserved. Tucson Mountain Park has the Old Tucson Movie Studios; the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Zoo and Botanical Garden; and picnic areas, lookouts, and hiking, biking and bridle trails. Pima Air and Space Museum is the largest privately funded air museum in the world, and Kitt Peak National Observatory boasts the largest array of optical and radio telescopes in the world. Tucson is also home to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, also the largest in the world, as well as the Tucson Folk Festival and Tucson Rodeo and Fourth Avenue Street Fair. By the way, Tombstone and its O.K. Corral are nearby, and so is Tubac, a popular art colony.

Tucson’s major industries are technology and education. The University of Arizona is ranked within the top 20 public research institutions in the U.S. and fourth for its health services. Its Tech Launch Arizona program seeks to support economic development and high-tech entrepreneurship. The university is one of the top employers in the area along with Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca and Raytheon Missile Systems Arizona Headquarters. TMC Healthcare and Carodelet Health Network maintain headquarters in Tucson. As for mining, Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc. is another significant employer, and ASARCO, Inc. is also headquartered here. Other high-tech employers in the area include Orbital ATK, Microchip Technology, General Dynamics and Boeing.

Tucson’s climate is a major player in its economic future. With water conservation and preservation paramount as the city works to keep local aquifers charged, the days of unlimited swimming pools, green lawn and sprawling golf courses are out, and biking, hiking, riding and touring are in. The Sonoran Desert and arid climate demand sustainable living. Cost of living in the Old Pueblo runs close to the national average. Housing runs 20 percent below, at $600 for a one-bedroom apartment and $900 for a double, but healthcare compensates at 15 percent above. For young professionals, Optics Valley has its eye on the future, and it’s high-tech and sustainable.

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