The Samos neighborhood is a small, but essential slice of central Tucson, located just about a mile or so North of the University of Arizona campus and offering up great housing as well as some interesting choices for food, drink, shopping and more!
So what’s there? It’s a bit deceiving when you see the stretch of Campbell which necessarily serves as the neighborhood hub, since it looks like a nasty collection of aging strip malls. But look a little closer and you’ll see that for this little stretch (technically between Glenn and Grant, but let’s give it from Ft. Lowell to Grant) there is an awful lot of good stuff to explore – just to name a few: Bookmans, Viva El Caribe, Rainbow Guitars, Cali Grill, Prep & Pastry, Blue Willow, Cartel Coffee, Plaza Liquors, Raging Sage, The Folk Shop, Goodness, Yoshimatsu, Native Seeds, Brushfire BBQ, Pastiche, Sauce and even entrenched local faves like Eegees, Casa Molina, Nico’s and Lucky Wishbone! The streets are peppered with interesting metal art sculpture work, there’s a very cute Little Lending Library (http://littlefreelibrary.org/), and a community message board to boot.
If you are the type who likes to hoof it to your destination, there are no barriers to walking around in this neighborhood, but there are a couple of important things to be aware of. First, there are almost no sidewalks along the side streets. This means you are either walking in the street or in the dirt. The dirt is fine, but it is also commonly where people park their cars, so your out in the street again. Walking in the street is fine except that it, too, is where people commonly park so you might have to walk around a car and therefore into the lane of traffic. And while there’s not much traffic on the side streets, there are a few intersections which lack a stop sign, so traffic can be moving fast in some places, especially as people try to create shortcuts around backups on Grant and Campbell, or as the pizza delivery drivers speed to their destinations. The major streets which form the neighborhood borders all sport nice sidewalks, with the only concern there being along Campbell where the sidewalk is interrupted almost constantly by ingress and egress points for the local businesses. Walking these sidewalks can be a nervous affair, and if your destination is on the other side of Campbell you have 5 lanes of traffic, often with no median, to contend with (there are designated, and signaled, crossing areas if you don’t mind changing your route to use them). If this all sounds overtly negative, let me try to be more clear: it is very easy to walk around the area, but you should be aware of this issues. This awareness will make it a safer and more pleasurable experience for you.
This is also a very bikeable neighborhood. Each major street sports a bike lane, and of course Mountain is a treat for cyclists. The side streets are broad enough that only the jerkiest of drivers will have trouble passing you safely.
And if you aren’t interested in powering yourself from place to place, there is plenty of bus service to the area, obviously. Cat Tran also serves the area for the U of A folks. If you don’t mind a short walk or bike, the streetcar is about a mile away, which can be a really nice way to get downtown. Being central, the alternative cab services like Uber and Lyft are readily available.
However you choose to get to them, you will not run out of dining options in Samos any time soon, certainly, and the variety is impressive: Thai, Mexican, Pizza, Japanese, BBQ, Caribbean, Indian and so on. Beyond that you also have Bookmans, Rainbow Guitars, The Folk Shop, Sarnoff Art, Native Seeds, etc.. In all, it’s a great place where you have ready access to many things. The only thing it would appear to lack is a proper neighborhood bar, but not everybody would give that as much importance as I would!
For groceries and essentials there is the Albertsons/Osco at Glenn and Campbell and it is more than sufficient. There is also an Ace Hardware at the same corner and Wells Fargo and Chase banks have neighborhood branches as well.
Like many Tucson neighborhoods, Samos does suffer from a lack of parks. There is a tiny little scrap of a park along Grant, but it is hardly the place you’d like to go have a picnic or take the kids for a day. There isn’t anything else to speak of in the way of recreation within the neighborhood itself, the primary highlights being a proximity to the U of A, and Mountain Avenue and it’s easy access to the river trails.
So what’s the verdict? Samos is a very nice neighborhood by my humble estimation. In all it is a small, comfortable and artsy place with the huge benefit of being bordered on one side by one of the best stretches of major street in the city (Campbell Ave) and being very close to much of the best of Tucson including downtown, 4th Avenue, the U of A, The Loop bike path, etc.. Enjoy!