The National Geographic and Resonance Magazine gave Tucson a friendly nod in a recent study detailing the best cities in America. The report listed the 50 best cities home to more than a million residents, and the 50 best with less than 1 million residents. With a metro population at 998,000, Tucson took second place in the latter category.
According to Dan Gibson, Visit Tucson’s director of communication, Tucson’s ranking “is significant for us, because it reaffirms what we believe about Tucson.”
Gibson said that Tucson is a southwestern destination filled with great food, beautiful scenery, unique culture and friendly people.
The report includes six different categories used to judge a city: Place, product, programming, people, prosperity and promotion. The categories take into consideration the cost of living, weather, nightlife, youth, food, arts, culture and economic security.
Resonance President Chris Fair said that Tucson deserves a top spot on the list. He cited shopping, food, culture and nightlife as why The Old Pueblo was included in the best city in America conversation.
The report called Tucson a youthful city, citing that 25 percent of the residents are between the ages of 20 to 34 years old, which results in a “youthful” and “innovative” urban environment. The report also praised Tucson’s love for bike lanes and culturally appropriate food. The report called the city a booming foodie mecca that is a “place that prioritizes food as part of a cultural heritage worth protecting.”
Kate Marquez, executive director of Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance, said there are thousands of people dedicated to shaping the future of Tucson’s growing economy through arts and culture. Tucson is home to more than 2,000 arts related businesses, Marquez said, ranging from museums and symphonies to film and architecture. These businesses employ thousands of people, and leave a cultural footprint on the region.
The report also praised Tucson for how it promotes itself. Fair said Tucson is the No. 1 city on Google trends. He said that national interest in Tucson is on the rise, partly due to the positive media attention.
“When some people hear ‘Tucson,’ they think of the desert and tumbleweeds rolling across empty sand dunes, but it is not like that at all,” Gibson said.
Gibson said that UA basketball is an attraction that has helped spread a positive image of Tucson, and that Bill Walton raving about the saguaros along with majestic sunset shots of the mountains on national television certainly doesn’t hurt.
“When we can show people that Tucson is a warm beautiful place, especially when it is snowing in Chicago, people think ‘wow, it looks amazing out there,’” Gibson said.
UA student and architectural major Austin Hunt grew up in Los Angeles, but came to Tucson for school. He said he feels that Tucson is a “booming little town,” with plenty of opportunities for people and businesses. He said one good thing about Tucson is that it is home to “vast space that will allow for easy expansion and future urban planning opportunities.”
Though the report relayed mostly positive news for Tucson, Fair said that there were several areas in which the city needed significant improvement.
“Economically, Tucson ranked quite low,” he said.
Despite the need for some improvements, Fair said he believes Tucson can improve by adopting a strategy for attracting corporate interests that will merge well with the entertainment, and culture, for which Tucson is home.