I just finished reading this book that’s all about making the place you live a place you love.
It’s called “This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live” by Melody Warnick.
Although Warnick writes about her own quest to fall in love with Blacksburg, Virginia, I couldn’t help but think about Tucson the whole time I was reading the book.
I moved to Tucson for the University of Arizona, and it took a while before I could confidently say I loved Tucson. Our city didn’t make a great first impression for me.
That’s what Warnick battles in her Love Where You Live experiments. I wanted to adapt those for Tucson.
If you’re new to town or not exactly feeling like you fit in the Old Pueblo, here are some ideas to feel like you belong in Tucson, inspired by chapters from Warnick’s book. All of it is meant to help you put down some roots and see Tucson with new eyes.
Get out of your car
And this is the best weekend for that. Cyclovia Tucson is this weekend, April 8, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Put on by Living Streets Alliance, Cyclovia shuts down 2.5 miles to car traffic between the Lost Barrio and Himmel Park. You can ride your bike, walk, jog or whatever suits your fancy. See the city in a whole new way with tons of other Tucsonans.
If crowds aren't your thing, take the fam to the newly-completed Loop — 131 miles of multi-use trail around the Tucson area. Again no cars.
Walking will help you meet your neighbors, too. Do some scouting to see if there are any errands you can run on foot or by bike. Then, add a bit of fresh air to your next grocery store run or library excursion. Walking and biking will help you get to know the city more intimately.
Buying local literally supports your neighbors. If you're particularly interested in backing local ladies, we created this enormous list of women-owned businesses in Tucson. Even if shopping locally all the time is out of your price range (we totally get that), maybe commit to going local with one category of your purchases. Buy gifts at Inside + Out (more on them here) or pamper your pup at Rosie's Barkét (more on them here). Maybe you could consider getting plants from local nurseries such as Mesquite Valley Growers, Green Things or Desert Survivors (there are many more, so just pick your nearest local nursery).
You could also cash mob a local business by organizing a group of people to go spend a certain amount of money at a local business on a particular day. (Read more about the Tucson restaurant version of that here).
So there's that cash mob tactic we just mentioned — the next one is at Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria on April 22.
Or pick a place and become a regular, even just once a week. Coffee and tea are an easy, won't-break-the-bank way to do that. Here's a list of coffee joints you might like, based on your personality and what you're looking for.
Tucson is fortunate enough to have an amazing restaurant scene that is quickly gaining national recognition, including a designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
Our food writer Andi Berlin publishes a monthly list of new restaurants that might help you on your quest to eat local. Here's April's list.
You could also make a point of eating local at home — and not via take-out. Consider purchasing seasonal produce at a farmer's market (Start with this list: Note that times and availability vary seasonally). Or get down into the dirt and grow your own in a backyard — use the Pima County Public Library's Seed Library or Native Seeds/Search for desert-adapted seeds. You could also put roots down at a community garden. Contact the site coordinator for the garden you're interested in, and someone will get you set up.
Participate in fun stuff
We protest the complaint that there's nothing going on in Tucson. For starters, check our our monthly and weekly lists of things to do. You'll find things to do with the kids, your girlfriends and on date night.
Tucson has a calendar stuffed with annual festivals to anticipate. Biggies include the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase at the beginning of the year, La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Rodeo in February, the Tucson Festival of Books in March, the Fourth Avenue Street Fair in March and December, Cyclovia THIS WEEKEND and again in the fall, Cultivate Tucson in April, Return of the Mermaids during monsoon season, Tucson Meet Yourself in October, the All Souls Procession in November and the Winterhaven Festival of Lights in December. (Here's our 2018 calendar of big events). Get to know the rhythm of the community.
That's not to mention all of the music festivals, food fests and other markets going on all over town throughout the year. Pick one and check it out. Maybe make it a tradition. And what was that you were saying about boring?
Local politics affect each of us directly, so make an effort to know what's going on and how it impacts you and your neighbors. We'll insert a shameless plug here to promote subscribing to the Arizona Daily Star for local news. Write a letter to the editor, vote in local elections and attend public meetings.
Here's the schedule for Tucson City Council meetings, usually on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. Here are the schedules for the town council meetings of Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita and South Tucson. In the spirit of finding out what your elected officials are up to, you could also check out the Pima County Board of Supervisors, which usually meets Tuesday mornings.
The school boards also have meetings you can go to if you want a greater voice in your kid's education. Check out schedules for Tucson Unified School District, Marana Unified School District, Amphitheater Unified School District, Catalina Foothills Unified School District, Vail School District, Sahuarita Unified School District, Sunnyside Unified School District, Tanque Verde Unified School District and Flowing Wells Unified School District.
The blue skies, the warm winters, the towering saguaros, the SUNSETS.😍 We all know nature is one of the best things about Tucson.
Right now the city and surrounding desert are particularly beautiful as wildflowers, trees and cacti blossom. Try the challenging, but do-able trek up Tumamoc Hill just west of I-10. You'll probably see someone you know or meet someone you want to know.
Spend a Saturday away from it all at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Botanical Gardens or Tohono Chul. Or get out of town and take the family to Sabino Canyon or Catalina State Park for some impressive vistas. Hikes to Seven Falls and Romero Pools will connect you with the desert and WATER (hopefully).
If you're feeling done with the desert heat, head up Mount Lemmon for some hiking among pine trees and greenery.
Scout out favorite hikes and then bring visitors next time they're in town.
Find a cause that's making a difference in our city. Not only will you connect with others who care, but you'll actually be working to solve a problem you've noticed.
We have no shortage of inspiring local nonprofits, so here are just a few ideas to get you thinking:
• If you want to make books accessible to all kids: Make Way for Books
• If helping homeless teens finish school fires you up: Youth on Their Own
• If you're good at donation drives and want to see more kids living in healthy families: Casa de los Niños
• If you've got a big heart for hurting women: Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse
• If you want to tackle poverty: Primavera Foundation
And many more.
What makes Tucson feel like home for you?
For more ideas, read "This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving Where You Live" by Melody Warnick.