For many baby boomers suffering the shock waves of 2008's market losses, it's so long, South Beach. Instead of retiring to Maui, soon-to-be retirees are scaling back expectations. But even though popular and pricey retirement locales may be out of reach, there are still plenty of excellent places that will tickle your fancy without busting your budget.
Consider Columbia, S.C., a colorful capital city with a riverfront esplanade where the median home price is just more than $147,000 (another plus: property taxes that average just over a grand annually). Or the bustling city of Aurora, Colo., where the median home costs $40,000 less than in neighboring Denver.
A city's affordability extends beyond housing, however. A night out on the town can cost a bundle in big cities like New York and Miami, but you'll find loads of free or low-cost entertainment in less ritzy locales. Kansas City, Mo., which is undergoing a major downtown revitalization project, offers free concerts and theater in area parks. And in Columbus, Ohio, seniors can get reduced admission to everything from baseball games to symphonies.
You may not be able to swing retirement in a California beach town, but living near the ocean is still a possibility. For example, you might consider passing over pricey Fort Lauderdale for the more down-to-earth and reasonably priced Jacksonville, Fla.
Cheap transportation also plays into a city's affordability. Bus rides are free for seniors in Eugene, Ore., and Ann Arbor. The Michigan town also offers discounted taxi rides. Plus, not every retiree will be able to kiss the workforce goodbye completely, so it helps to find a city with a strong job market. Many affordable retirement spots, including Kansas City, Fort Worth, and Eugene, are employing more people than they were a year ago.
To find affordable retirement spots, U.S. News revved up our best-places-to-retire online search tool and worked with Onboard Informatics, which also provided the underlying data. We sought out places with a low cost of living and reasonable housing prices that still offered access to the services and amenities that people should look for in an ideal retirement spot. Each city on the list has high-quality healthcare and elder-care facilities, as well as an abundance of educational and cultural events.
Not all of the places on our list will feel downright cheap to those hoarding hard-earned dough for future expenses, but they all offer a good value for your retirement dollars:
If your idea of retirement is sitting in a rocking chair and watching the time go by, don't come to Ann Arbor. This lively college town has so many concerts, art fairs, lectures, sporting events, courses, museums, and other attractions—many of them free—that it practically knocks on your door and begs you to come out. Seniors even get free bus service and discounted taxi rides. "There's an interest group here for just about anything you can imagine," says Ron Powell, a retired professor who moved to Ann Arbor with his wife, Jeanne, earlier this year.
Much of that activity revolves around the University of Michigan, whose 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students account for about a third of Ann Arbor's population. And needless to say, the retiree population includes plenty of voluble Wolverine fans. Bill and Janet Cassebaum met in Ann Arbor in the 1950s, when he was a law student at Michigan and she was an undergrad. They married in town, then moved to eastern Pennsylvania, where Bill practiced law for 40 years. They finally returned to Ann Arbor after retiring in 1998—and still haven't had their fill of college sports. The couple regularly takes in baseball, basketball, and of course football at Michigan Stadium, which seats more than 100,000 and is known as the Carnegie Hall of sports. The games (and tailgate parties) help draw their two teenage grandsons for a visit. Their 5-year-old granddaughter prefers the local parks and the Hands-On science museum.
The Cassebaums also spend time behind the scenes helping to organize some of the local activity. Janet, 75, is active in the Ann Arbor City Club and recently ran a fundraising campaign to help renovate a historic building in town. Bill, 78, volunteers as a timer for college track meets, a pleasant reminder of his days as a high-jumper. "It's low-level," he says, "but I can still participate in athletics."
Ann Arbor is just far enough from Detroit—about 40 miles to the west—that it feels insulated from Michigan's battered auto industry. And real estate prices have held up much better than in other parts of Michigan, where a depressed economy has hammered home values. But the access to a major city comes in handy. The Detroit metro airport has nonstop flights to most big cities, and the Cassebaums can fly easily to southwestern Colorado, where one daughter lives.
The Powells lived in Ann Arbor years ago and noticed when they returned that it had grown from a quaint college town into a small city, with a skyline and more diversity. Big-city amenities include ethnic restaurants, ample shopping, and visits by world-class performers like Yo-Yo Ma and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. There are also two premier medical systems: St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and the University of Michigan Medical Center. "Between the two, we feel like we're getting top-notch healthcare," says Ron Powell.
The biggest complaint is the demise of the local paper, the Ann Arbor News, which ceased daily delivery and became a Web operation in July. There's also the little matter of winter. Ann Arbor, known as "Tree Town," is verdant and pleasant in the summer, with a full change of seasons. But winters can be snowy and cold, with moisture from nearby Lake Huron and Lake Erie contributing to a high proportion of cloudy days. But retirees do have advantages over Mother Nature. Edward Couture and his wife, Marilyn, moved to Ann Arbor from Los Angeles after he retired in 1994 and have no regrets about the perennial sunshine they left behind. "When you're retired, if the weather's bad, you're not compelled to go anywhere," Couture says. "You just stay in the house." Then, when the maintenance troops have shoveled them out of their condo, they head out for tai chi, history classes, free concerts, or volunteer gigs. In Ann Arbor, nobody stays in the house for long.
Nestled in a pocket of the Blue Ridge Mountains, two hours away from any major city, Asheville, N.C., might be assumed to lack culture and polish. Not so. On any given Friday night, you might stumble upon a street-corner bluegrass band, an art gallery opening, a festival (if you're lucky, the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival), and maybe even a mime. "Life is never dull here," says Sheila Murphy, who retired to Asheville in 2003 with her husband, Dennis, after moving 31 times (he worked in the oil business). "You can do things for free, for a nominal fee, or a donation, and see all kinds of plays, shows, and music should you desire."
Retirement is definitely not ho-hum for the Murphys, who hold cooking classes in their home. They teach slicing-and-dicing skills and sessions on making holiday dinners, using leftovers, and grilling. The classes are offered through the local North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement, which runs a sort of "college for seniors" in which members pay $115 for two months of unlimited classes. They're held at the center, members' homes, and on campus at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.
On Saturdays, you'll find Jan Moran—who recently came out of retirement and works as a marketing consultant—at one of Asheville's farmers' markets stocking up on veggies and grass-fed local beef. "It's the best-quality food, and it's also a social experience," says Moran, who moved to Asheville from Tucson, Ariz., more than two years ago after her husband, Paul Rollins, revealed a "secret desire to return to North Carolina," where he had grown up. (Jan was sold on the area after a visit.) The market's organic produce is often more expensive than at the local grocery, "but the meat I buy comes farm to market, and the people charge less than at the store," she says.
As visitors have discovered, a trip to Asheville's extravagant Biltmore Estate comes at an extravagant price: $55, and no senior discount. But if it's absorbing architecture you're after, the city is dotted with unique buildings, including the Art Deco city hall, the breathtaking Spanish Baroque Basilica of St. Lawrence, and the Jackson Building, a gargoyle-flanked, neo-Gothic masterpiece. Admission, of course, is gratis.
Real estate in this mountain enclave is pricier than in many cities of its size, but a drive down the winding Blue Ridge Parkway, a frozen custard at the Grove Arcade, or a lazy afternoon spent listening to drummers in Pritchard Park are reminders that everyday life in this laid-back town is easy on the wallet. The secret about Asheville may be out, with more and more retired people flocking to the city, but as retiree Fred Teach puts it, "Asheville's still a gem. It's magnificent."
Aurora may rub elbows with Denver, but it assuredly is not a suburb. Home to roughly 300,000, the city covers a whopping 154 square miles and includes nine colleges and universities, seven golf courses, and 10,000 acres of parks, trails, and open space within its city limits. Housing is reasonable, to boot: In 2008, the median home price was $138,000, roughly $40,000 less than in Denver.
Want to feel young? Visit the centrally located Aurora Center for Active Adults, and you'll be bowled over by an enthusiastic crowd and an array of activities, all of which are free or have a minimal cost. In the lobby of the building, retirees enjoy a friendly but competitive game of Wii bowling. An intense match of doubles Ping-Pong draws a crowd of spectators upstairs. The popular billiards room is occupied, the gym is bustling with exercisers, and classrooms are filled with students of ceramics and watercolor painting. The crowd (mostly made up of those 50 and over) is often on the move, attending Colorado Rockies baseball games or day-tripping to the mountains for a picnic.
Many retirees say Aurora's climate is a big draw: The sun shines some 300 days a year, the humidity's low, and Indian summers are an occasional treat. Despite its considerable expanse, "Aurora's like a 'big' small town," says Jo Creager, a retired teacher. That's a common attitude among retirees at the center, including Cristobel Nallathanby, a New Jersey transplant: "It's things like the farmers' market and neighborhood block meetings that make this a homey place to live."
Aurora's location is an extra. The polychromatic Rocky Mountains, which are within an hour's drive, make for a mesmerizing backdrop in some parts of the city. Having a car is nice but not necessary: A ride downtown on Denver's light rail costs just a buck, and a senior discount on the skyRide bus will deliver you to Denver International Airport for $4. Cyclists can take advantage of Aurora's many bike trails, which extend to the Cherry Creek Reservoir and even downtown Denver.
Brick bungalows and Victorian houses are predominant in residential neighborhoods, and kitschy signs, rehabbed storefronts, and galleries line one of the city's main thoroughfares. In the East End Arts District, the Fox Arts Center—a restored movie theater from the 1940s—has its own theater company and showcases musicals, plays, and other performances.
Sure, there are plenty of chain restaurants, but you also can find a cheap meal at the many family-owned ethnic eateries. It's hard to beat the $7 lunch special at La Cueva Restaurante: a plate of tamales smothered in green chili sauce.
Columbia, S.C., has a knack for shortchanging itself. Locals often explain their city's appeal by listing its proximity to other destinations: less than two hours' drive to Charleston, 1½ hours to Charlotte, N.C., 2½ to Savannah, Ga. It can sound as if the thing they like best about Columbia is that it's so easy to leave. But maybe residents are just loath to give up their real secret: that you can live a lot on a little in this sunny and colorful capital city.
Low housing costs are a big reason to breathe easy. Columbia's median home price is about $147,000, and average property taxes are just over a grand. "The housing is so much more affordable here, after being in Atlanta," says Jewell Hill, who moved back to Columbia with her husband from Georgia's capital when they retired 13 years ago. Columbia's seniors don't live in conclaves, so house hunters can choose Victorian-style homes on historic streets or ultramodern apartments near the city's new riverfront esplanade, in a neighborhood dotted with art galleries.
Fun is cheap, too, as visitors can choose between events at the contemporary green-glass Richland County library, exhibits at the Columbia Museum of Art, and strolls around the historic downtown, past the governor's mansion and university buildings dating to 1805.
The 27,500 University of South Carolina students lend the city a particular vibrancy. In the funky Five Points neighborhood, students and seniors together scout for bottles of sauvignon blanc and sea salt at the Gourmet Shop. "We find now that retirees want the same things that 20-somethings do," says Patrick Mason, 63, publisher of CarolinaLiving.com and an avid yogi and bicyclist who favors a landscaped trail along the riverfront. Columbia's official slogan is "Famously Hot," and that's right on in the middle of July. But residents get all four seasons to enjoy nearby Lake Murray's 78 square miles for boating, fishing, water-skiing, and swimming.
Columbia has the advantages that come with being a capital city and college town, as several hospital systems have facilities in the area. For preventive care, residents ages 50 and older can head to the Capital Senior Center for tai chi, yoga, and Pilates classes, and a good bit of socializing. Member Daisy De Laine Block, 82, started tai chi classes on the advice of her physical therapist. "I thought it was something Bruce Lee did," Block jokes. Now she's a true believer.
With abundant green spaces, friendly Midwestern neighbors, and enough low-cost activities to keep a full-time scheduler occupied, Columbus, Ohio, is one of the nation's most underrated retirement spots. Situated along the winding shores of the Scioto River, Columbus has made a name for itself as the state's capital, home of the Ohio State University Buckeyes, and the headquarters of major corporations like Nationwide Mutual Insurance and Bob Evans Farms. A rich history and a four-season climate make this college town a delightful place to keep your legs loose and your mind active.
Tucked into an impressive skyline of towering stone buildings and sleek, mirrored windows is the 81-year-old Ohio Theatre—the busiest performing arts venue in the state—where seniors can get reduced-price tickets to see everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Over at the Columbus Museum of Art, $8 allows seniors to check out magnificent works by Picasso, Renoir, and O'Keeffe.
For wildlife of a more active variety—such as an Amur tiger—consider an afternoon at the Columbus Zoo, the nation's top-ranked zoo and a big source of pride for the community (senior admission: $6).
Sports enthusiasts have plenty to cheer about. The 10,000-seat Huntington Park—which opened just this year—provides a stunning setting to watch the Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians (senior tickets: $7 reserved, $3 general admission). And things really heat up in September when Ohio State's football season begins. But even if you aren't one of the 100,000-plus fans squeezed into Ohio Stadium for the games against the University of Southern California, you can still benefit from the city's connection to this first-rate public research university. Through Ohio State's Program 60, seniors can chose from a host of noncredit courses to take free of charge. "It would be difficult, I think, for a city to have much more to offer," says Joan Plankell, an 80-year-old, retired high school teacher who lives in Columbus.
Columbus also presents many opportunities to establish a more intimate connection to the community. Seniors can donate their time to local hospitals or social service organizations or even become ushers at Ohio State football games, says Carol Ventresca, executive director of Columbus-based Employment for Seniors. "You will never have a problem becoming a volunteer in Columbus." While the recession has made it more challenging for seniors to land full- or part-time jobs, Ventresca is planning workshops designed to help them turn hobbies or interests into small businesses of their own. And with median home prices at just $106,000—and expected to increase over the next decade—Columbus is an attractive place to launch a new commercial venture or a pleasant retirement.
Saturday market in Eugene overwhelms the senses. Surrounded by artists selling kaleidoscopic wares, free-spirited folks dance to a cover band's Grateful Dead tunes. Others stroll through the adjacent farmers market or lounge in the grass, enjoying a summer breeze laced with incense. It's enough to make you want to kick off your Birkenstocks.
But if bongos and tie-dye aren't your thing, don't count Eugene out just yet. Tucked in the southern Willamette Valley between the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains, the city has much to offer in the way of natural beauty, the arts, and recreational opportunities—all of which retirees can take advantage of on a budget.
Home to the University of Oregon and nicknamed "Track Town USA" for its rich running heritage, Eugene is rife with outdoor activities for the older set. Hiking clubs, for example, offer camaraderie and opportunities to explore the area's countless waterfalls and old-growth forests. The Obsidians outdoor club carpools to trail heads, often in the mountains. "It's highly organized," says Jim Duncan, the group's president, a retired professor who moved from Chicago to Eugene in 2001. "We pack lunches, and each year we have a summer camp and set up a kitchen in the woods."
Summer is beautiful in Eugene, and it's also a time when you can find free entertainment most nights of the week: marching bands, outdoor movies, live theater performances, and concerts of all sorts. One of the season's most anticipated events is the three-week Oregon Bach Festival, which showcases world-class musicians and singers from around the world. This year, more than a dozen of the festival's events were free.
At $242,000, Eugene's median home price is steeper than the nation's overall, but $170,000 will buy you a charming, two-story home near both the Willamette River and the RiverRidge Golf Course. Getting around is a cinch and easy on the wallet. Bus rides cost nothing for those 65 and older ($1.50 otherwise), or you can bike just about everywhere on the city's expansive trail system. There's also plenty of affordable eateries, such as the quirky Off the Waffle, where "authentic Liège waffles" go for $3. Toppings cost extra, but, yes—in case you're wondering—the restaurant is willing to barter.
Fort Worth enjoys a reputation as an upscale cow town. The midsize city melds the low-key feel of the small towns that dot the dusty expanses just to its west with the suburban sprawl and studied glitz of neighboring Dallas to the east. The resulting mix is part rodeo, part Rothko, and locals say it's just the spot for a great retirement. "You can be as cosmopolitan or as laid-back and country as you want to be," says Margaret Puckett, a retired education professor and longtime Fort Worth resident.
The city, founded as a stop on Chisholm Trail cattle drives, retains many of the trappings of its history as a rough-and-tumble frontier town. The Fort Worth Stockyards are home to stock shows and a destination for country-western dance fans who take advantage of weekly lessons at Billy Bob's Texas, billed as the world's largest honky-tonk.
Avid collectors enjoy scouring for the best deals at the Montgomery Street Antique Mall, the largest in Fort Worth, where 240 stalls hawk everything under the sun and visitors stumble on the Secret Garden Tea Room tucked away inside. "You run into items that spark a memory of something you or your ancestors had," Puckett says.
Culture lovers also enjoy some of the state's best art and music. Fort Worth is home to two world-class art museums, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which include notable works by Richard Serra and Philip Guston. The zoo and the nearby Fort Worth Botanic Garden deserve an honorable mention, as do several museums devoted to the city's Western-tinged history, including the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. For a supercheap evening at Bass Performance Hall, a downtown landmark flanked by two 48-foot-tall angel sculptures, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra offers discounted tickets to seniors over 65 on Friday and Sunday performances for as little as $8.
Housing costs are generally affordable. Retirees don't tend to cluster in the area, but apartment-style retirement residences have sprung up near the downtown Sundance Square area, home to some of the city's best nightlife. More broadly, Texas was spared much of the worst of the housing slump, and Fort Worth has held up better than many other areas of the state. In 2008, the median home price was $128,500.
Fort Worth is also a city where helping out is a tradition. Retirees say the city offers ample opportunity to get involved in the community, thanks to an engaged local government and active volunteers. Don Smith, director of United Way's Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County, says that Fort Worth is "one of the most engaged cities I've ever worked in."
In Florida, the farther north you go, the more Southern it gets. Jacksonville is a perfect example. Take Hemming Plaza in the downtown area, where, amid chess players on benches, stands an obelisk dedicated to Floridian Confederate Army heroes E. Kirby Smith and J.J. Dickinson. But Jacksonville isn't living in the past. The city, which uniquely blends old influences with the new, offers an eclectic host of affordable activities for retirees looking for something different from the typical tropical getaway.
Although it's the fourth-largest metro area in the state, Jacksonville doesn't feel like a big city. "I grew up in a small South Carolina town where everybody waves. Here, it's the same thing," says Frank Cummings, a retiree from the Navy who was born in Jacksonville and returned in 1999. You'll find that small-town atmosphere in the San Marco neighborhood. There, palm-tree-lined streets and rows of small shops and restaurants resemble a miniature old Florida town—despite its location just a few miles from Jacksonville's skyline. One artifact of the city's past in San Marco is Theatre Jacksonville, a community theater group that has run continuously for 90 seasons, making it the longest-running in the state. Senior tickets for plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest are available for $20. But San Marco also has elements of a big city, including a multitude of affordable restaurants that range from Middle Eastern to Thai.
Jacksonville also offers the expected Floridian pastimes. "I can be from my house to standing with my feet in the sand in 20 minutes," says Jim Dowd, a retiree who is originally from Nashville and lives at Westminster Woods, a retirement community on Julington Creek (a tributary of the St. Johns River, which is popular for fishing and boating). The city's neighborhoods capture both its past and its future growth—Riverside, full of stately homes, is a historic district dating to the 1800s, while in the expanding southeastern part of the city you'll find new carriage homes in the Sweetwater active living community.
It's generally cheap to live in Jacksonville, compared with the rest of the state. The city's median home price is $150,500, versus $275,900 in Fort Lauderdale and $291,550 in Miami. Part of the reason housing is so affordable is that the city has never been a vacation spot like many cities farther south. But residents aren't missing the tourists. Says Dowd: "In the rest of Florida, you think vacations. In Jacksonville, it's more like being at home."
It's early afternoon, and Ed Smith's saxophone playing has an older Kansas City crowd up and moving. Smith's trio has drawn about 100 bystanders, and a couple of dozen are cutting a rug. It's fitting that live music is a regular feature at the Don Bosco Senior Center in Kansas City, the city that gave jazz legends Count Basie and Charlie Parker their starts and that is home to the American Jazz Museum.
To retirees like Elaine Catalano, 80, a lively music scene is part of what makes Kansas City a fun and affordable place to live. "It's easy to have a good time in this city," she says while taking a break from the music. "Like this dance—there are all kinds of free dances at senior and community centers. You just have to know where they're going on."
Smack in the country's middle, Kansas City offers a reasonable cost of living that's typical of the Midwest, with a median home price of about $118,000, nearly 20 percent below the national average. But K.C. is not a sleepy town. It offers a rich mix of sounds and flavors, from jazz clubs and symphonies to succulent barbecue and fresh sushi. It's also a place that can keep older folks busy without busting their banks: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art asks only a donation for entry, free concerts and theater are frequently held in area parks, and the Crossroads Arts District throws open the doors of its galleries once a month for free tours. Kansas City has made big-city investments in culture, including a $4 billion downtown revitalization project. Nearing completion is the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, a striking and privately funded complex that will be home to the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera, and the Kansas City Ballet.
Retirees often say they like Kansas City because, for all its big-city benefits, the area allows easy and affordable living. Sally Chapple, 78, says that she planned to move elsewhere after her husband died 28 years ago. After all, they'd lived in Kansas City only a couple of years. She tried exotic locations in Italy, the Caribbean, and elsewhere, but she always returned. "It just felt like home to me," she says. It didn't hurt that the city offers a better bang for the buck—when health issues arose, Chapple found it easy to slip into Bishop Spencer Place, an upscale retirement community that's a short walk from Country Club Plaza, a well-known area of shops and restaurants.
There's nothing upscale about the blocks around the Bosco Center. But like many urban quarters in America, this one is changing as new immigrants arrive. Down the street are a pair of Vietnamese restaurants and the Thanh Tuna gift shop.
All that is part of the excitement of retiring to Kansas City, says Mary Fern Woods, 75, who moved here from Pratt, a small town in Kansas. "I have friends in Pratt that I do miss," she says, and she drives back occasionally to see them. But Woods likes the free Bosco Center dances, live concerts downtown, discounted group trips arranged at community centers, and the variety of restaurants and shops. "There are," she says, "just a jillion things to do here."
Tucson, Ariz., is a scenic southern landing for birds of all sorts. Northern snowbirds fleeing harsh winters flock here; idle military jets sprawl over a massive aircraft "boneyard" in the city limits; and a breathtaking variety of avian life fills the sky, despite the desert heat.
Kathy Olmstead, a retired teacher and longtime birdwatcher, says Tucson's outdoor offerings make it a great spot to retire cheaply. Olmstead says the first stop for local and visiting birders is the Sweetwater Wetlands, an unlikely oasis formed by a nearby sewage treatment plant. It's a reliable spot for hunting Harris's hawks, red-winged blackbirds, and more elusive species like the emerald-tinged elegant trogon. Beginning birders can take advantage of more than 150 free birding excursions led each year by the Tucson Audubon Society (where Olmstead volunteers). Tucson is a mecca for fans of outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and biking. For seniors, a visit to nearby Saguaro National Park can include what may be one of the best deals for retirees anywhere: If you're 62 or over, a National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass is good in any national park and costs just $10. "You can do a lot of things without spending money outdoors," Olmstead says. "I still feel like I'm on vacation, and I moved here in 1953."
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."