Tucson Guide - Shop Local

Feature Story — Spring/Summer 2018

Finding Her Desert Home

One millennial finds Tucson has a lot to offer

If three years ago you told Quinn Miller that she would not only be living in Tucson, Arizona, but that she would be active in the community and genuinely happy with her life there, she would have given a simple and concise “no.”

Growing up in Los Angeles, Quinn never saw herself leaving the metropolis. Everything she needed was there in her southern California hometown. But once her boyfriend got accepted into a PhD program at the University of Arizona and asked her to move to Tucson with him, she changed her answer to “I don’t see myself living there.”

Thankfully, that isn’t the end of Quinn’s story, and she reconsidered so she could experience life in another city; after all, LA would always be a short drive away if she yearned to return to her comfort zone. So she and her boyfriend packed their bags and headed to sunny Tucson to start their next chapter.

A hidden gem in the desert

When Quinn arrived in Tucson, she saw the sleepy town she imagined. But once she got out of her Armory Park apartment and actually explored Tucson’s revitalized downtown, she saw more than what the moniker “Old Pueblo” suggests.

“People don’t expect all the culture that’s here,” Quinn said, noting the UNESCO-recognized cuisine, history, and art found all around the city.

Quinn thinks one of Tucson’s strongest assets is its people. “When they ask how you’re doing, they actually care.” The genuine nature of Tucsonans gives the city a quality of realness, and adds a lot to Tucson’s easy way of life.

Top-notch cuisine—some of Quinn’s favorite places are 5 Points Market & Kitchen, Seis Kitchen, Reilly Craft Pizza, Cup Café, The Coronet, and Exo Roast Co.—rounds out the offerings downtown, all easily walkable or just a short ride on the Sun Link Modern Streetcar that travels through downtown to the University of Arizona. “I didn’t realize how nice it was to live a life where I didn’t have to spend two hours a day in a car.”

After the sun goes down, vibrant nightlife keeps the urban core alive with awesome breweries like Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, Tap + Bottle, and Crooked Tooth serving up craft brews, mezcals—a Tucson staple—and innovative cocktails. Quinn satisfies her dancing moods at Hotel Congress and Playground right in the heart of downtown, and for live music she heads to the Rialto Theatre.

Quinn found her places to relax in the hustle and bustle, too. Yoga Oasis is one of her top places in Tucson, and pottery classes at the Tucson Clay Co-op provide her with a creative outlet.

Rounding out Quinn’s favorite aspects of Tucson is its Sonoran Desert setting. “The natural surroundings were a really big surprise for me—the desert landscape is so beautiful.” It’s easy to tell the how much Quinn adores being outside here. “Tucson is a green desert surrounded by beautiful mountains—it’s entirely different from what people think of when they picture a desert.” Quinn loves to take visitors to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park to experience the desert life, and pop up to Mt. Lemmon to cool off during the summer or play in the snow during winter. The Loop—a network of more than 100 miles of paved trails surrounding the city—makes for a perfect way to show off Tucson, too.

Even with all the natural beauty on the outskirts of Tucson, the authentic and colorful casitas in the old barrios always draw her back to downtown. “I love the Tucson architecture. It has such a unique vibe.”

Modern boom town

Quinn isn’t the only one attracted to Tucson’s downtown. Caterpillar has recently moved its regional offices to the urban core and is building a 150,000-square-foot facility—the Caterpillar Tucson Mining Division—at the west end of the streetcar route in the Mercado District. Many high-tech startups and longstanding local businesses also fill the towering buildings of downtown, making it a great environment for college graduates.

Career opportunities aren’t just located in the center of town. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on the southeastern side of the city is one of Tucson’s top employers. In fact, its presence is the reason the city has such a high number of high-tech industries—Raytheon Missile Systems, Universal Avionics, Honeywell Aerospace, and Bombardier Aerospace all have a large presence in Tucson, as well as Texas Instruments, IBM, and Intuit. That’s not even mentioning the roughly 150 Tucson companies designing and manufacturing optics and optoelectronics, earning Tucson the nickname “Optics Valley.”

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The University of Arizona, located just east of downtown, also attracts highly skilled researchers, and has worked closely with NASA on several missions to Mars. Banner University Medical Center employs many students and graduates of the university, as do Tucson’s other large healthcare employers Ventana Medical Systems and Sanofi-Aventis.

New home

Quinn has connected with Tucson and embraced this new life. “I feel like I’ve found a really nice community.” Compared to living in Los Angeles, life is more relaxed for Quinn here. “I have time to spend on the people and things I love, while also developing my professional skills outside of work.”

And she’s taken her love for the community to new heights by rising up to President of Ad 2 Tucson, an affiliate of the American Advertising Federation geared toward young professionals who work in advertising, marketing, communications, and media. Ad 2 and another organization, Tucson Young Professionals, helped Quinn get her footing in Tucson when she first moved to the city, and now she is instrumental in doing the same for other millennials in the community.

“I feel like I’m in a really good spot.” All of Tucson’s offerings with low price tags have definitely spoiled Quinn. “I now have a house and I have a good job, and I have time and money to go out and do things that I really enjoy, such as hiking with my dog and getting food and drinks with friends.” And she regularly encourages her friends to visit so she can showcase the city and let them be as surprised as she was.

“I love Tucson, and I do feel at home.”