5 Best Snowbird Destinations in Arizona

For those that don't know, Arizona is a fantastic place to go to in the winter. It's great for all the snowbirds out there who love to get away from the colder months and treat themselves to a little bit of warm weather. RVing in warmer weather is always such a treat. Not only are the roads easier/safer to travel on, but you also have much more freedom regarding where you can stay in USA.

Arizona has Beautiful mountains, Cactus Forests, and the best National Park in the United States; The Grand Canyon. April weather should not be too hot or cold even though it is a desert. This should still be the cool season for Arizona. It is also a drivable distance to San Diego, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. It is also not near as expensive as California.

Best Snowbird Destinations in Arizona

Arizona is a great place for RVing whether you choose to go for the activities, events, or the warmth and sun. So, we've put together some of the best destinations for snowbirds in Arizona.

1. Tucson

Tucson area is a lot more interesting than anything in Phoenix. Depends on what you enjoy, but Tucson is worth far more than a day trip. The big lightning storms and clouds create extraordinary sky drama. And by June, the snowbirds have mostly flocked home to their roosts in the Midwest and the Northeast, so apparently the place just has a less “geriatric” feel.

Don’t be afraid of the borderlands south toward Mexico. (Tucson is almost in Mexico.) People imagine the border as a dirty desert hellhole. Tucson does have a slightly more rugged character than Phoenix. The afternoon heat has created a culture where people tend to stay indoors more often during the day. Downtown Tucson does feel kind of lifeless in the afternoon, but it perks up in the evening.

Throw in the Botanical Gardens, the art museum, breweries, distilleries, and some of the funky murals around town and you could easily entertain yourself for more than a day. If you like murals and public art, Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row is so-so. But Tucson easily holds its own. Then there’s Greater Tucson. Really a nature lover’s paradise.

The mountains in that area are part of the Madrean Sky Islands. What looks like sort of a desert waste from the basin where Tucson sits is actually covered in pine trees once you get to a higher elevation. A drive up to Mount Lemmon or Mount Wrightson, both several thousand feet higher than Tucson, is basically like going 4 hours north to Flagstaff. Lemmon and the Catalinas are on the edge of town.

And if you hike up Mount Wrightson, the vegetation changes pretty fast. In those 16 miles from Green Valley, you come up out of the Sonora Desert into a place that feels almost like Canada. Hiking or camping up there with the whipoorwills at dusk is really something else. You have to be pretty fit to get toward the summit. But if you’re sick of the heat on the valley floor, the temperature can drop about 10 degrees with that altitude.

It can even be cold at night. Even April and May there look kind of like autumn in more northern parts of the United States. In April, Madera Creek can be a rushing mountain stream — really refreshing to sit next to — though it had dried up completely by mid-May. And if you're into history, there’s a shitload more of that in the Tucson area than almost anything you’re going to find in Phoenix.

Tombstone is about an hour east of Tucson. Bisbee is former copper-mining town turned into sort of a modern artists’ colony. And Tubac down by the border is like a mini-Santa Fe. Tubac was actually the mother town of San Francisco. The Spanish, hounded by the Apache, left Tubac in the late 1700s, bound for Northern California.

And just down the road, about 15 minutes south of downtown Tucson, you can see the oldest European building in Arizona — San Xavier del Bac Mission, built in 1797. You’re never going to see anything like this in Phoenix. San Xavier del Bac, located on an Indian reservation, is one of the few places in the United States where you can see authentic Baroque architecture. This was the Spanish Empire until 1821, and Mexico until 1853.

Drive up the Mount Lemmon Highway into the Catalinas and you can get a pretty sweet view over the city. Then there’s the night sky. Southern Arizona is a dark sky lovers’ wonderland. It has some of the clearest skies in the U.S., so there are several major astronomical observatories in the area, including MIT’s Whipple Observatory on Mount Hopkins and the Kitt Peak Observatory an hour southwest of town.

The city of Tucson does a pretty good job of controlling light pollution. While most U.S. cities have those terrible orange tungsten lights that just blow wasted energy out into space for no reason, Tucson neighborhoods require that street lights and lights on your house be pointed downwards — mostly to protect the view for the observatories in the area, but also to help animals at night.

You’re basically driving through little pools of darkness in between houses, which has an interesting visual effect to someone coming from a corner of the U.S. where we illuminate every square inch to feel “safe.” You can definitely see some urban light pollution from a place like Mount Wrightson. But compared to other cities, city light is just far less obnoxious on the horizon.

On a moonless night, you can catch a pretty full view of the stars and the Milky Way from right outside Green Valley, the edge of the Tucson metro area. Phoenix must have some of this, too. Phoenix should be the quick day trip and Tucson your main destination. If you’re flying, flights are almost always a lot cheaper to Phoenix.

The corner of Arizona around Tombstone, Bisbee and down toward Patagonia and Green Valley is one of the most scenically stunning corners of the United States.

Of course, this won't come as a surprise to many. Green Valley is a popular place to visit all year round. With recreation centers like golf courses, swimming pools, and fitness centers - what more could you possibly need? We also love how many restaurants and bars Green Valley has. It's perfect for those days when you just don’t feel like cooking.

We will note, over 80% of Green Valley residents are retired. So, if you're traveling as a young family or couple, this may not be your first choice. Either way, it's such an experience. The motto of Oro Valley is it's in our nature, which perfectly highlights their outdoor craze. It has tonnes of outdoor activities for you to get stuck into - including an archery range.

It also has a drive-in movie theater, which is perfect for romantic getaways. You’ll find tonnes of fellow vacationers and locals alike at the farmers market, or playing a round of golf.

2. Chandler

Beware, a vacation here might make you dream of living here. Sun Lakes is also a short ride away to Rawhide, a really scenic 1800s old Western town. We’d recommend that you check out all the walking paths, especially if hiking is something that interests you. Sun Lakes has beautiful views, activities, and country clubs to offer.

3. Mesa

This is for all those arts, entertainment, and culture lovers. This is an indie place to travel to, and perfect for all the snowbird art lovers. You can enjoy movie nights on Main Street, farmers market, and even a baseball league. It has so much to offer and will ensure that you’re always doing something exciting.

Mesa boasts a large selection of free events. These are predominantly located outside, meaning you can catch a tan while enjoying your winter getaway. RVing around Mesa is always such an experience, and we couldn’t recommend it enough.

4. Phoenix

If you’re a fan of baseball, this is a must for you. Surprise is the spring training home to the Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers. The town also holds Second Sunday in the Park from September onward until spring. This is a free event that provides you with an exciting thing to do.

If you’re trying to find some sun, where better to look than Sun City West? This town is great for catching rays, munching down on some food, and go for a game of golf. We highly recommend Little Sicily - if you’re into Italian, and want a great pizza. Many RVers choose to come here every year, and with great reason too.

5. Coyote Buttes

The Wave, a sandstone rock formation in Arizona is a work of art in itself. Located in the Coyote Buttes, the Wave is perfect for hiking (you can access four different trail heads leading there) and photography. It is a visual wavelike formation on sandstone. It is located on the border of Utah. Your eyes would be able to see patches of colors like orange, pink, yellow, green and red. The intensity of sun decides the appearance of colors.

Let us know where you decide to visit.
Kalyan Panja