Are you a fan of winter? Although there are many who enjoy the white-powdered slopes, snowman-building ventures or sitting by the fire while drinking a warm cup of whipped cream-covered cocoa, there are others who flock to the sun any chance they get. The seasonal escapees who follow the sun, sand and the call of sunscreen have an eternal need for vitamin D all year long. When the leaves begin to turn and fall off the trees and winter feels as if it’s on its impending arrival, they’re planning their escape and dreaming of sunny skies and flip-flop-wearing days. There are many places south of the Mason-Dixon line or west of the Mississippi to spend your winter months. Depending on what you’re looking for, the snowbird destinations offer community, comfort, friendly folks, and endless sunshine to cure your Winter woes. Which spot suits your fancy?
Key West, Florida
Known for miles of sand, unique sunset celebrations, eclectic entertainment, colorful characters, and tropical island flair, the southernmost city in the continental United States welcomes visitors and a special flock of returning seasonal regulars annually. Winter’s high season can be crowded with snowbirds and northerners uprooting their families and running south for school holiday breaks. One of the few places in the country that throws a magical nightly sunset party, Key West shares its laid-back and spirited vibe with all who enter. Duval Street takes care of your rumbling tummy with cafes and ice cream treats galore. You can fish to your heart’s content or wander the art galleries and even chat with the many local and national artists in residence who are happy to share the reasons behind their creations. Head on down to Mallory Square for the endless evening celebrations starring interesting entertainment and featuring the sun in all her glory as she waves goodbye to the day.
The days are filled with sunshine, the beaches are open all year round and the attitude is easy. For a historical overview and to get your feel around town, check out the Old Town Trolley Tour as it shows you the sights of the city. With an eclectic mix of military and tourism, artistry and history, personality and ease, Key West keeps visitors, locals and snowbirds content in a world of year-round warmth.
St. Augustine, Florida
Orlando isn’t the only place in Florida where magic exists. Affectionately known as ‘the nation’s oldest city’, St. Augustine is located a short distance from the land of Mickey Mouse. With centuries-old history, this northern Floridian city has endless beaches, is considered a vacation hotspot and has something for the young and old alike. Dating back to 1565, this friendly city is filled with outdoor fun, architectural delights and history. Explore, discover, investigate, taste, learn, dream and delight in the historical landmarks, eateries, landscapes and heritage steeped within these streets. Showcasing both views of the Intracoastal and the waves of the Atlantic, this city shares both serenity and exploration. Spend some time learning about what life was like ‘then’ at the country’s Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse. Visit the spectacular collections at the Lightner Museum or check out the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Spend your time enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the town.
Whether you’re wandering the cobblestone streets, taking in the coffee at a quaint café, chatting with locals, shopping with tourists, learning the rich and layered history or lounging by the sea, St. Augustine will keep you happily occupied. There’s plenty of sand on which to lay your towels and plant your chairs. You can choose to bounce from beach to beach and find ones that are dog-friendly or shell-friendly, human friendly or filled with utter solitude. Spending your months ditching winter and hunkering down in sunshine-filled Florida will keep your fishing, diving, sailing, surfing, strolling, beachcombing, wandering and hungry soul truly happy.
San Diego, California
If you’re looking for year-round sunshine, you can find it in the southwest corner of the United States. Known as ‘America’s finest city’, San Diego is situated just north of the Mexican border. Known for having the best annual weather in the entire country, the temperate climate allows for an outdoor lifestyle all year. There’s easy access to the ocean, a constant stream of activities, countless hiking trails and access to various rounds of golf daily. As many parts of the north get blanketed with one type of weather, here we have access to many. If the skier in you still wants to know you can find your favorite slope, Bear Mountain is a few hours’ drive away. If sometimes you just want to take a walk in a winter wonderland but relax on the beach on the same day, Julian provides your winter fix in only an hour’s drive from downtown. Perhaps you want to cross a border, check out a new culture and sleep in your own bed all at the same time; Mexico is a quick day trip adding wonders of all kinds to that one 24-hour period. San Diego is a city filled with transplants that have chosen to make this city home.
With the West Coast laidback vibe rampant throughout the city and surroundings, your favorite shorts and flip-flops are all you’ll need. Spend your mornings surfing waves and your afternoon hiking trails. Whether you’re having a sundowner at Coronado’s Hotel del Coronado or watching the sunset from the bluffs of Torrey Pines, there are heaps to keep you happy and busy in San Diego. Check out the state park beaches in Carlsbad, visit with the seals in La Jolla Cove, people watch at the spectacle of Ocean Beach Pier, take in a view of the city from high above at Cabrillo Point or let your taste buds do the learning with authentic Mexican fare in Old Town. For tons of history, heaps of sights and delightful city and water views, try a SEAL tour traversing water and land or view the sights of the city with the Old Town Trolley Tour. Downtown is filled with bars and restaurants in the historic Gaslamp District. Saturdays find hundreds wandering the cordoned-off streets in Little Italy at the city’s largest farmers’ market where you can taste sea urchin or organic anything. Life in San Diego is always filled with sunshine and a positive attitude – come join the fun!
With the backdrop of the Sonoran Desert, Tucson, is a perfect spot for snowbirds. With affordable rentals, a thriving cultural arts scene, boundless energy and over 300 days of sunshine per calendar year, Tucson invites visitors year-round. With no humidity and a lot more than sunshine, this spirited university town offers patrons vitamin D, arts and culture, heaps of eateries, a revitalized downtown area and one of the largest markets in southwestern Arizona, St. Phillips Farmers’ Market. There are live music venues, fabulous dining, and galleries aplenty, and although it hails as Arizona’s second-largest city, the community feel is ever-present. Every Monday, join others at the ‘Meet Me At Maynard’s’ 2-mile ‘DocWalk’ to get healthy, active and informed. What a fabulous way to spend a part of your day and meet others with similar interests. This walk/run through the historic district shares stories, architecture, history and friendship – all are welcome – feel free to join in the fun. Day trips to many places including the Old Tucson Studios western movie set where Little House on the Prairie was filmed and the fabulous natural world of Saguaro National Park are all within reach. Dude ranches are available for daytime fun and overnight stays. Grab your guests for an all-inclusive stay allowing multi-generational travel and fun for all. With museums, zoos, galleries, eateries, access to caves and more sunshine than you can muster, Tucson welcomes all.
The city of natural wonders everywhere, Sedona, Arizona is a city filled with modern comforts, infectious energy, authentic artwork, lands of all colors, galleries, kindness and more. One of the most affordable snowbird locations, Sedona offers over 200 miles of biking and hiking trails, festive cultural celebrations, and heaps of attractions. No humidity and reliably warm weather help keep Sedona as a spectacular snowbird destination. With film festivals, local artists showing their works at galleries, monthly art tours and more, this city set in a tax-friendly location is one to add to your research lists. With wellness on its mind, Sedona caters to your every need. For those 10,000 daily steps we’re all trying to reach, there are countless nature-friendly hiking paths to keep you active as well as day trips through the Grand Canyon. There are yoga studios aplenty and doctors and wellness centers at the ready. Put on your walking shoes to visit Slide Rock and Red Rock State Parks. Check out the rock towers at Crescent Moon Picnic Area where you can often spot smiling brides and grooms posing for wedding shots. If you need your Vegas fix but don’t want to leave town, try your hand at the blackjack and poker tables at Cliff Castle Casino Hotel. Sedona has wine festivals, chili cook-offs and music festivals. You can sail above the land in your very own hot air balloon or wind your way through the waterways in your paddle-friendly kayaks. Take in a dinner theater show at the Blazin’ M Ranch or tantalize your taste buds with a tour of the vineyards. Whatever you fancy, it’s here in Sedona.