Best Bets for Snowbirds in 2015
By Burt Carey
Now that the first snowflakes of fall have landed in North America, the annual migration of Canadian snowbirds to the United States and other more-southern reaches has begun.
Americans are accustomed to huge influxes of Canadians in places such as Florida, Arizona and Southern California, and these days our neighbors from the north are spending winters in some off-the-beaten-path places.
Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Virginia are gaining traction among snowbirds, as are some foreign locales. Costa Rica, Panama, Hawaii, Mexico, Cuba, Thailand and Nicaragua are increasingly being targeted by travelers looking to exercise their active lifestyles in warmer climes.
If you’re looking for a place to go this winter, try some of these ideas.
Florida, of course, remains the top getaway, especially for those hailing from Ontario, Quebec and other northeastern provinces. There’s just something to say for having leaves on the trees in January and February, long after Canadian roads started their heavy diet of rock salt for the winter. There are trees in full plumage and sunshine to spare in towns such as Lake City, Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
Locals in those cities love and hate snowbirds, as traffic and favored restaurants become crowded, but they are good for business. If you’re looking for cities with less crowding, you might look toward Fort Walton Beach on the Panhandle, Pensacola Beach, Siesta Key or Seaside. All have plenty of beach space to go around.
One of the best deals for winter is St. Petersburg, just south of Tampa Bay, where a two-bedroom apartment can be rented for about $1,155 (U.S.) per month.
Leaving the cold of Saskatchewan behind, a majority of heartland Canadians head straight for Arizona. And why not? There’s plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures, and some 300 golf courses.
Arizona is blessed with mild, sunny winters and plenty of space to accommodate northern snowbirds. Baby Boomers and retirees flock to lifestyle communities such as Scottsdale, Quartzite, Sun Cities and Yuma. These inland locales have one other big advantage over beach cities: affordable housing.
For example, in Scottsdale, where the sun shines 85 percent of the time, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is just $1,165 per month. If that’s too pricey, nearby Glendale has rentals in the $730 range, with flexible leasing options. Venture closer to the Mexico border and you’ll find a treasure in Tucson, where the average rent runs $778 for an apartment that allows access to the Sonoran desert and more outdoor activities than you could do in a lifetime.
British Columbia residents typically head to California, Arizona and Mexico. Southern California’s Coachella Valley, which includes Palm Springs and Indian Wells, has long been a favored snowbird hangout. And places closer to the coast, such as Escondido, San Diego and other communities along the coast also get their share of winter visitors.
Purchasing or renting can be pricey in Southern Cal. There’s just no way to get around it. Look just a bit north, and good deals can still be had in places like the state capital, Sacramento. True, it’s not as warm in the Sacramento Valley as it is the South Coast, but the average two-bedroom apartment rents for $910 per month, and you’ll be on the doorstep to San Francisco, the Napa Valley, the Redwoods, Yosemite National Park and other world-acclaimed tourist destinations.
Popular locations in Mexico include Puerto Vallarta, which has a large expat population. The Yucatan Peninsula has several small towns and fishing villages, where bargains can be made. Quality lifestyle has attracted Baby Boomers and younger snowbirds to Playa del Carmen, while Manzanillo and Mazatlan offer fishing and beachfront condos on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.