Overtones of Mexican and American Indian culture are a key part of the city's southwestern feel. Most striking are the bleached white parapets of San Xavier del Bac Mission, located just south of the city on the Tohono O'odham tribal reservation. Admission to the mission, which dates to 1783, is free. Other attractions include the "Boneyard" where 4,400 aircraft of all sorts are parked on the sprawling campus of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. Bus tours run regularly from the adjacent Pima Air and Space Museum, and admission to both costs less than $20.
For visitors, seasonal deals abound. Kate Reynolds, who blogs at TucsonOnTheCheap.com, says many resorts offer generous hotel credit that can cut the price of a five-star room in half when meals and spa extras are priced in.
For snowbirds looking for a vacation retreat that won't strain their bank account, Tucson is home to a plethora of over-55 communities where manufactured homes can be had for less than the cost of a luxury car. Most used mobile homes range from $15,000 to $30,000, but fixer-uppers can sell for as little as $6,000, according to Phyllis Denison, who, with her husband, Charlie, not only lives in one but also sells them.
Lastly, no discussion of Tucson is complete without a nod to the city's unavoidable summer heat (the mercury regularly edges into triple-digits.) It's a deal-breaker for some, but Denison puts it this way: "You get used to it."