PopulationMetro: 1,022,769
Arizona’s second city is ascending fast, with bold city leadership, placemaking and food scene dating back millennia.

Arizona’s second city is ascending fast, with bold city leadership, placemaking and food scene dating back millennia.

After dominating the Small Cities ranking in 2017, it’s in tough against larger, more robust cities.

Still, the city holds its own in the #37 spot, powered by its #16 finish in our multifaceted Place category, spanning metrics like Air Quality, Weather and Parks & Outdoor Activities.
Its Weather—always sunny and well over 100 degrees more often than not from June to September—ranks #6 for U.S. large cities.

Place 47
Product 12
Programming 11
People 46
Prosperity 26
Promotion 7

With a #15 ranking, it also surpasses places like Boston, Houston and D.C. for Parks & Outdoor. And Tucson is poised to ascend rapidly due to a torrent of new investment in all manner of green and common space. Its new Sun Link LRT is sure to improve quality of life, focusing on less cars and more walkability designed to pull the sprawling population together, closer to downtown.

Urban innovation that taps its outdoor bounty by increasing access to it is not a hard sell for a town where almost 25% are aged 20 and 34. You can thank the University of Arizona for the city’s youthful bounce. Also, for the museums (including a biosphere) and planetariums that keep visitors busy, as do the casinos, caving adventures and Old West tours. Tucson ranks #16 for Museums and #19 for Attractions.

Emboldened city leaders have been swinging for the fences, first by telling the world that Tucson is “The Winter Training Capital of America,” made possible by the area’s five mountain ranges long used as Stairmasters by cyclists and triathletes in the know.

Downtown Tucson

More recently, Tucson wasn’t satisfied with its 700 miles of bike lanes. The result? Even more incentives to cycle, facilitated by new mixed-use bike boulevards along less popular driving roads—more than 150 miles worth.

Despite its obsession with placemaking and incorporating the built environment with the natural, this town knows how to kick back, too, as indicated by its impressive Shopping (ranked #14 among small cities) and deep Mexican culture, with the border less than 20 miles away.

Tucson’s low ranking in our Restaurants subcategory (#33) will ascend quickly as more people discover that Tucson is a booming foodie Mecca. It’s the oldest continually farmed city in North America (extending back more than 4,000 years) and the first recipient of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network designation for gastronomy, designed to prioritize food as part of cultural heritage worth protecting. And devouring.