Snowbird destinations: Arizona, Part 3

More Arizona Snowbird roosts


The American Indians called the place Stjukshon—“springs at the foot of the black hill.” The word sounded like “Tucson,” and thus became the name of the Arizona city that grew there.

Saguaros and barrel cactus silhouetted against late afternoon light on the Catalinas at Catalina State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drawn by the mild climate, Snowbirds find Tucson to be a vibrant and welcoming city, permeated with old-fashioned Western hospitality and many wonderful activities.

Tucson is a city full of unique and interesting places to explore such as the old historic area, two units of Saguaro National Park, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Pima Air & Space Museum, Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Sabino Canyon, Catalina State Park, Tohono Chul Park, Tucson Botanical Gardens, Arizona State Museum, Mission San Xavier del Bac (“The White Dove of the Desert”), Titan Missile Museum, Old Tucson Studios, Biosphere 2, and Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a living museum where visitors stroll among Sonoran plant life and see living birds and animals that inhabit this unique environment. Called one of America’s 10 best zoos, it has nearly two miles of easy trails through the 21 acres of displays.

For a relaxing day amid the desert flora and fauna walk the trails at Tohono Chul Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tohono Chul Park, a 49-acre desert preserve is a peaceful oasis in the middle of a busy commercial area on Tucson’s northwestern side. Translated from the Tohono O’odham language, Tohono Chul means “desert corner”. Listed by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top 22 Secret Gardens in the United States and Canada, it is a leading Southwest center of desert nature, arts, and culture.

Nestled in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, Sabino Canyon provides an opportunity to hike through some of the beautiful Sonoran Desert. We usually take the narrated 3.8-mile tram ride over nine stone bridges to the end of the canyon and hike back along the creek or return on the high trail.

Often referred to as “The White Dove of the Desert”, Mission San Xavier del Bac is located 12 miles south of Tucson on the Tohono O’odham reservation. Acclaimed as the finest example of mission architecture in the United States, this beautiful old mission was built between 1783 and 1797.

Pima Air & Space Museum is among the largest air and space museums in the world, and the largest non-government funded aviation museum. Items on display include more than 275 aircraft and spacecraft, including many of the most historically significant and technically advanced craft ever.

Be careful when you visit Tucson. You may fall in love with this unique part of the world, as we did, and never want to leave.

Snowbirds flock to Yuma, the "Winter Lettuce Capital of the U.S." © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the hottest spots in terms of growth is YUMA (Yearly Uncontrolled Migration of the Aged), which doubles in population during the peak travel months of January, February, and March. With an estimated population (July 2009) of 91,105, Yuma is the largest city in the state outside the metro areas of Phoenix and Tucson.

Why do snowbirds flock here?

Yuma is Arizona’s warmest winter city and the sunniest community in the United States, with an “annual average possible sunshine” ranking of 90 percent, based on five decades of official government records.

In 1937, Yuma witnessed a record low of 19°F. Chilly for the desert, but in 1979 the city made up for it with a record high of 124°F! Now THAT’S a scorcher.

Nestled in the Yuma and Gila River valleys of southwestern Arizona, Yuma’s climate blends pleasant desert sunshine with the cool waters of the Colorado River. Many Snowbirds choose to stay on BLM land around Yuma but most will opt for an RV park, resort, or mobile home village as their winter home.

Every day during the winter season, thousands of American and Canadian snowbirds cross on foot into Algodones, a small Mexican border town. Many Snowbirds refer to Algodones as the “dental capital of Mexico.” There’s also a proliferation of eye doctors and eyeglass services, pharmacies, and general health care services in this border town.

To be continued tomorrow…

Worth Pondering…

When I walk in the desert the birds sing very beautifully

When I walk in the desert the trees wave their branches in the breeze

When I walk in the desert the tall saguaro wave their arms way up high

When I walk in the desert the animals stop to look at me as if they were saying

“Welcome to our home.”

—Jeanette Chico, in When It Rains

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