No. 4 City of Wellness

Climate, Culture and Recreation Draw Visitors


By Romi Carrell Wittman

Since the early days of the city, Tucson has been a haven for those seeking a healthier, more balanced life. 

With its dry climate and 300-plus days of sunshine each year, Tucson initially gained a reputation as a treatment center for asthma and tuberculosis patients. Today, it is world-renowned for its botanical splendor, diverse culture and amenities, year-round outdoor activities, top spas and overall embrace of healthy living.

In 2019, Jarrod Moss of Caterpillar jumped at the opportunity to work in Tucson. Moss, his wife, Autumn, and son, Josh, had lived all over the country, but they wanted to experience the biodiversity available here.  “As a biologist, I wanted to live in an area with wildlife that we wouldn’t encounter anywhere else in the world,” Autumn said.  

It was Tucson’s unique culture that drew Jamie Maslyn Larson here. A landscape architect born and raised in Phoenix, Larson has lived and worked in many cities. Last year, she accepted a position as executive director of Tohono Chul and made Tucson her home. Chief among her reasons was its authenticity. 

“Through economic or development policy, some cities have unintentionally eviscerated their spirit of place, wiping out their natural landscapes, undermining small business and erasing the culture that makes a place unique. Those cities have lost their soul,” she said. “Tucson citizens, on the other hand, seem to know what makes this place special and demand that policy makers embrace and celebrate its rich culture, protect the Sonora desert and deal with the quirks that make our city unique.”

Michael Guymon, president and CEO of Tucson Metro Chamber, echoed this feeling. “For many years, Tucson has promoted our quality of life to attract visitors and highly talented individuals,” he said. “The Tucson Sunshine Climate Club was created in the 1920s to promote Tucson as the place to live a healthy life and operate a business. While the Sunshine Climate Club no longer exists, today those strong quality-of-life values are evident in our cycling culture and our many wellness experiences and activities.”

Startup Tucson, a community nonprofit committed to growing small business and entrepreneurship, leveraged the region’s culture and community to attract remote workers during the pandemic. “For those looking to make a change and move from pandemic-hit big cities, Tucson has so much to offer,” said Liz Pocock, Startup Tucson’s CEO. 

New residents Calder and Lisa Hynes agreed. Calder was part of Startup Tucson’s first cohort and he and his young  family moved from Los Angeles to Tucson in 2021.

“A few people had shared Remote Tucson with me, including my parents,” Calder said. “We’d been considering a move so we could have a better lifestyle for our family.” 

The family considered other cities along the West Coast and Southwest. Having grown up in Tucson, Calder thought it would be a good fit. “We wanted to raise our kids in a place that was safe and would provide opportunities,” he said. “Living in Los Angeles as two full-time working parents, we didn’t have the time with our kids that we wanted.” 

Calder, who works at sports and entertainment agency Wasserman, had a job that went permanently remote. Lisa, on the other hand, had a position with Loyola Marymount University that was temporarily remote, so she had to decide whether she wanted to give up her position. After moving to Tucson, she was hired by the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. 

“Life here is immeasurably better,” Calder said. “I don’t have a commute and I can pick the kids up from school each day. And it’s just easier to get around Tucson. We can be more present. It’s like we’ve found all these extra hours in the day.” 

Tucson is also world-renowned as a top wellness destination. With two famous destination spas – Canyon Ranch and Miraval – visitors flock here each year to rest and renew the soul. Other features like The Loop, an award-winning paved mixed-use path that encircles the city, and the annual El Tour de Tucson cycling event also draw people from around the globe. 

Soon, the University of Arizona’s Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine will build its ambitious new headquarters here. Once completed, the 30,000-square-foot facility will be a central part of UArizona’s Health Sciences campus. 

The center, created in 1994 and currently spread out over several off-campus facilities, is internationally recognized for its evidence-based clinical practice, innovative education programs and research in integrative medicine. The center’s approach to wellness includes both conventional medicine and complementary therapies like acupuncture and massage therapy.  

At the center’s official groundbreaking in May, UArizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said, “Dr. Weil and the University of Arizona made medical history back in 1994 when he established the world’s first program in integrative medicine. (Now) the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine will have a home worthy of the center’s reputation for excellence.”

Tucson’s sterling reputation for health and wellness will continue to grow. As Guymon said, “The Loop provides year-round, safe cycling and, as a destination, individuals flock here from all corners of the globe to experience our wellness amenities. Tucson has a great and unique story to tell.”

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