Nobody likes being the new kid.
You have to use GPS to get everywhere. Everyone you meet is a stranger. And you don't have any established take-out favorites yet.
Chances are, if that's not you today, you've definitely crossed paths with someone new to our city recently. Between the University of Arizona, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, snowbirds and your average job transfer, Tucson has a lot of newcomers.
And they probably don't know how amazing our city is, because, we'll admit, sometimes Tucson doesn't make a great first impression.
This was Kristin Tovar's experience. She came to Tucson first as a UA student and again when she moved here from Seattle before she got married. At first, Tucson did not wow her.
"When I came back from Seattle, I bought guide books about Tucson," she says. "I wasn't a tourist, but I wanted to know what there was to appreciate here. What it is that draws people to Tucson to pay and go on a vacation here."
She also thanks her college roommate, a born-and-raised Tucsonan who introduced her to what the city had to offer.
"She took me under her wing and showed me what Tucson was all about," Tovar says. "It was simple stuff like where do I go get a desk for school. Just making me part of her life."
Tovar points out that connecting people to resources we take for granted can go a long way in helping people feel settled. Where do you get your car fixed? Who is your pediatrician? What hair salon do you frequent?
Tovar now owns (and founded) Why I Love Where I Live, a local business with tons of adorable Tucson swag. Getting connected to the community helped her feel at home here. Now she wants to do the same for others.
"Always leave an open spot at the table..." she says. "If you're going out to dinner with friends or having a party or going on a run with a group, always invite a new person. Look for someone who may need a place to get plugged in. It doesn't mean you'll be best friends, but you can be one part of them finding their group of people."
(We also have a story about how to find your people in Tucson. Check that out here).
Whether you're acquainted with a UA student starting college on Aug. 26 or you noticed some new neighbors down the street, why not show them why you love Tucson? The city, by the way, has its 244th birthday on Tuesday, Aug. 20. We think helping others feel at home here is the perfect way to celebrate.
Here are five ways you can welcome newcomers to Tucson.
Hike Tumamoc Hill
This 3-mile round-trip hike will reward you with panoramic views of the city. Bring some new friends and point out Tucson landmarks — downtown, the University of Arizona, the Catalina Mountains. You can hike Tumamoc any day between 4 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The road is paved all the way up, but the steep climb and switchbacks on the second half of the hike can really kick your butt — the elevation does rise 700 feet from bottom to top, after all. You will feel it in your calves.
This is also a great way to introduce newcomers to desert hiking 101: Bring lots of water, lather on the sunscreen, stay on the trail and don't touch cacti EVER. Even if they look fuzzy. Here's our guide to conquering Tumamoc.
Get more Tumamoc hiking tips here.
Go to Tucson Meet Yourself
We love Tucson Meet Yourself so much. This epic, three-day festival is a foodie's dream — so much so that its affectionate nickname is Tucson Eat Yourself. Take your new friends.
Because dozens of vendors converge downtown to prepare foods from around the world, we recommend tackling the festival as a team and sharing dishes. You'll want to try as many as possible.
Beyond the food, Tucson Meet Yourself has an entertainment line-up of music and dance performances showcasing traditional cultures. You'll get a taste of Tucson at its best.
This year, Tucson Meet Yourself is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 11 through Sunday, Oct. 13 .
Visit tucsonmeetyourself.org for more information.
Volunteer with Iskashitaa Refugee Network
This local organization serves refugees from around the world who have settled in Tucson. Through Iskashitaa, refugees learn how to harvest and preserve local produce that would otherwise go to waste. Simultaneously, they practice English, learn to navigate Tucson and develop job skills.
Volunteers help harvest produce, redistribute it to refugee apartment complexes, help refugees connect to local resources and assist the nonprofit in other ways. Volunteer once or regularly to help these newcomers make a home for themselves in Tucson.
For more information, visit iskashitaa.org.
Create a Tucson welcome basket
Everybody loves a good care package — especially when it's stocked with goodies from your new hometown. Here are a few ideas about what to include, but you could take this any direction.
• Tickets to our next Storytellers night. Hear authentic stories about life in Tucson. Our next night is Holiday Stories at the Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave. on Tuesday, Dec. 17. Tickets cost $12. Get more info here.
Sign up for International Friends
The Tucson nonprofit International Friends connects international students at the UA with local families. You commit to hanging out with a UA international student once a month for the school year, likely their first year in Tucson.