Cactus Heart

This Thanksgiving, our team decided to think about all the wonderful things in Tucson that we're grateful for  not just today, but every day.

Here are some of them. (And trust us when we say it was hard to only pick a few things we're grateful for — because there are hundreds.)

1. The community

While there’s a lot to be thankful for this year, I’m feeling especially grateful for our Tucson community.

Over the past few years, I have been extremely fortunate to meet so many wonderful people throughout the community and even luckier to share the stories of our community with all of Tucson. Even though Tucson is quite a large city now, it will always have that small-town feel to me due to the friendly people who call this city “home.”

The people of Tucson are a unique bunch who are filled with passion for our land, our history and, of course, our people. Tucsonans are quirky, eccentric and truly one of a kind. Without them, Tucson wouldn’t be the place we have come to know and love. So, thank you, fellow Tucsonans, for being you. ❤️

— #ThisIsTucson reporter Elvia Verdugo

2. The surprises

I love Tucson because our city is always full of surprises. Whenever I catch myself taking Tucson for granted, it unfolds itself a little bit more. Today it was the way our morning light was hitting faded purple spray paint on a sidewalk in my neighborhood, recalling lavender prickly pears at golden hour, the shades of violet in our sunsets. I felt completely clarified, a creature of the desert. 

This principle extends to every element of life here, and especially food: from the hidden gem restaurants, carnicerias and food trucks tucked into every dusty street corner; to the not-so-hidden gems, like La Estrella Bakery or Barrio Bread, where you’ll feel connected to our community on a whole new level. There’s so much to love.

— #ThisIsTucson food reporter Ellice Lueders

3. Monsoon season

I’m thankful for our rainy monsoon season.

I love chasing storms, with camera in hand, waiting for that one lightning strike. We all love the rain hitting our face after a couple weeks of triple digits.

And after every storm, we have a reason to escape our homes and experience a few greener days of nature and the critters within it.

— #ThisIsTucson event researcher Jen Bond

4. The art

Few things make my heart sing more than a trip to Pop Cycle on Fourth Avenue or Why I Love Where I Live at the MSA Annex. It's so comforting being surrounded by items made by local artists who love Tucson as much as I do. 

My water bottle is decked out in stickers made by local artists (my favorite is one by Annotated Audrey that says "sunshine and saguaros"), there's a gallery wall in my kitchen that features photos taken by local photographers, many of my earrings come from Juju and Moxie, art prints of desert scenes surround the TV in my living room. I also can't forget the awestruck feeling I get when walking by Tucson's many murals.

I'm so beyond grateful for the artists who put their heart and soul into their creations.

— #ThisIsTucson editor Gloria Knott

5. La Estrella Bakery

There’s no way I could have written this list without including the famous La Estrella Bakery. This Tucson bakery holds a special place in my heart as I grew up eating La Estrella tortillas and pan dulce in my Tata’s south-side home, located less than two blocks away from the OG La Estrella on 12th Avenue and Nebraska Street.

There is nothing better than walking to the bakery and picking up a dozen freshly cooked, steaming hot tortillas to make some yummy burritos or my childhood favorite, a warm tortilla slathered in butter. (Seriously, don’t knock it until you try it.)

This Tucson institution not only helped shape my childhood, but it’s still a staple in my life today as an adult. So this holiday season, I’m grateful for La Estrella Bakery and all of the happy memories they have brought to my life and their everlasting impact on the Tucson community.

— #ThisIsTucson reporter Elvia Verdugo

6. The kindness

I am thankful for how friendly and welcoming our city is. When I wrote an article about the inimitable Dona Matilde Santa Cruz, she brought me into her home with such warmth and generosity. Q, of Eleven Cafe, treats everyone who crosses the threshold of his coffee shop as a friend. When I see people on walks in my neighborhood, we say hi. 

I have countless examples of kindness given freely, from the fry cook at Super Carniceria El Ranchito to the gracious Dollie of Janet & Ray’s. Tucsonans have a rare generosity of spirit that, if you look for it, lends our city the cozy feel of a small town.

— #ThisIsTucson food reporter Ellice Lueders

7. The local businesses

I’m grateful to see how our local businesses have come together to support each other this year.

Local restaurants, mom-and-pop spots, boutiques, new businesses and organizations have teamed up in collaboration to bring our city outdoor markets, pop-ups, drive-thrus, patio music and free fun events to enjoy together. 

— #ThisIsTucson event researcher Jen Bond

8. The backdrops of saguaros

I feel so lucky to live in a city surrounded by beautiful views of mountains, colorful sunsets and — saguaros.

Blooming saguaros, saguaros with funky arms, crested saguaros, baby saguaros. They all make me feel at home.

We're lucky in Tucson to be home to an endless amount of hiking trails, allowing us to be up-close with our giant cactus friends. 

— #ThisIsTucson editor Gloria Knott

9. The fresh air on Mount Lemmon

The beauty of Mount Lemmon never gets old. With the lush green pine trees in the spring, the piles of fallen orange leaves in the fall, or the stunning city views year-round, there is always something to take in during a Mount Lemmon trip.

But, despite all of its grand beauty, there is one thing that I’m thankful for this year (and every year)  the first inhale of the glorious, mountainous air. With the first breath, the fresh air has a healing element that makes it feel like all of life’s troubles have seemingly drifted away.

So, every Mount Lemmon trip, I take a moment to close my eyes so I can take it all in. It’s truly a powerful moment that I would even dare to say is magical.

Sometimes, it really is the smallest thing that can make you feel alive and connected to your city all at once. Thank you, Mount Lemmon, for your stunning views, your accessibility to help Tucsonans escape the busy city life and your undeniable contribution to Tucson’s natural beauty.

— #ThisIsTucson reporter Elvia Verdugo

10. Our food service frontline workers 

I am grateful for all our frontline workers in the food industry. I could not do my job without you guys: waitstaff, dishwashers, line cooks, cashiers. The countless mom-and-pop small-business owners and hustlers who do it all. You are what makes Tucson’s local food scene so unique. 

Just because vaccines are more widely available does not change the demanding nature of these jobs, which should never be taken for granted. Especially with renewed community spread, these workers are still putting themselves at significant risk. 

So many special holiday memories take place around a table: these are the people who make many of those moments possible. Make sure you show them some love, too.

— #ThisIsTucson food reporter Ellice Lueders

11. YOU — our lovely readers

We truly could not do this without you and your support. For every story you open and read, for every Facebook post you share, for every Instagram poll you answer  thank you. 

Our mission is to help. Help you find the best restaurant to take your out-of-town cousin to. Help you learn more about that hiking trail so you don't go in thinking it's two miles when it's actually eight. Help you discover all the fun things to do over the weekend so you're quite literally never bored. Help you read about the many local artists that may have previously flown under your radar.

We can only hope that our stories help you fall at least a little bit more in love with Tucson each time you open a story, newsletter or social media post.

Thank you for taking the time to interact with us however you do. We couldn't do this with you.

With love,

The #ThisIsTucson team

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