Top 4 Cities for Snowbirds to Roost

Cold winter weather is inevitable. But there is an escape.

Hiking at Tahquitz Canyon near Palm Springs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking at Tahquitz Canyon near Palm Springs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Residents of the northern half of North America have long found respite from winter’s chill by fleeing to the southern half. As refugees from the frozen north, snowbirds avoid winter’s bite, snow and blowing snow, and treacherous icy sidewalks and streets by migrating southward.

Northerners have a bounty of options for destinations. Here’s a look at four places that snowbirds might call their winter home.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs acquired the title “Playground of the Stars” many years ago because what was then just a village in the desert was a popular weekend Hollywood getaway. Today, the village has grown and consists of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

There are two weekly markets that are more than just shopping trips, they are events. On Thursday evenings, Palm Canyon Drive turns into Villagefest, a street fair replete with fragrant food stands, local and imported crafts, and tantalizing fresh produce. Live music accompanies you as you stroll past the many stalls. Saturday and Sunday mornings, the College of the Desert in Palm Desert hosts another street fair.

Great blue heron at Venice Audubon Rookery. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great blue heron at Venice Audubon Rookery. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sarasota

Sarasota and her string of eight islands are tucked into the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida.

Sarasota County encompasses nearly 40 miles of shoreline and include the City of Sarasota, Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key, Manasota Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, City of Englewood, Nokomis, City of North Port, Osprey, and the City of Venice.

Thanks to the legacy of circus magnate John Ringling, Sarasota is known as the “Circus Capital of the World,” with many offerings designed to honor the past, present, and future of the circus.

Venice Area Audubon Rookery is a renowned location for bird photography and is free to all visitors daily year-round.

Phoenix

Desert Botanical Gardens at Papago Park in Phoenix. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert Botanical Gardens at Papago Park in Phoenix. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds favor Phoenix. It’s not hard to figure out why. During the winter when the snow and rain flies up north, the Valley of the Sun offers up some of the greatest winter weather anywhere.

Phoenix offers a variety of attractions that should satisfy some of the most discriminating tastes and leave some great life long memories.

One of the finest botanical gardens anywhere is in Papago Park. Home to one of the world’s largest cactus gardens, the variety of plants come from all over the world.

Opportunities abound for day trips in and around Phoenix. Some of the trips, like the Grand Canyon, are long drives. Others like visiting Prescott, Mogollon Rim, or Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon are much closer, offering visitors more time to enjoy the destination.

One of the most popular day trips begins in Goldfield near the community of Apache Junction. Goldfield is the reconstruction of the valley’s only ghost town. The Apache Trail continues into the mountains from Goldfield.

Mission

Altamira Oriole at The Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park/World Birding Center south of Mission. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Altamira Oriole at The Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park/World Birding Center south of Mission. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, Mission welcomes the thousands of Winter Texans that call Mission their temporary home. With winter temperatures averaging 72 degrees and with a ZERO percent chance of snow… why wouldn’t they?  And there is never a shortage of activities to do, places to visit, or delicious Tex-Mex food to eat.

Mission offers some of the most spectacular locations for birding and butterfly watching on earth. The Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park/World Birding Center and the National Butterfly Center have created havens for the special species unique to the area, and invite birders and naturalists to their sites by offering viewing stations, watching towers, interpretive centers, and various programs.

Striking Green Jays with bright green backs, purple-blue heads, and yellowish-green under parts; radiant orange Altamira Orioles; Great Kiskadee, an eye-catching mix of black, white, yellow, and reddish-brown; and raucous Plain Chachalacas are just a few of the very common birds you can find congregating at feeding stations placed throughout the park.

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous

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