I knew about snowbirds but it wasn’t until I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona that I realized how massive the Canadian migration south is each winter. In the week I’ve been here I’ve met, or learned about, literally dozens of Canadians I know who have homes here, rent properties here for the winter, or come to visit people who do. We have several extended family members who are Arizona winter residents. We golfed at a course where three holes had been sponsored by Alberta couples and sported Canadian flags on the tee box. One need only check out the number of Canadian license plates in parking lots to know there are plenty of our fellow citizens here.
So what’s the big attraction? The warm weather of course, which provides freedom from things like snow shoveling, getting into winter boots and the arthritic pains cold temperatures can exacerbate. An Arizona real estate campaign targeting Canadians advertises, “You don’t have to shovel sunshine” and brags about Arizona’s 300 sunny days a year.
The active lifestyle the warm weather encourages is invigorating for people who are intimidated by the limits put on outdoor activity by Manitoba’s cold winters. Here they can bike, hike, golf and swim everyday. Although there are some high-end golf courses with pricey green fees many offer very reasonable rates and twilight rounds that are a true bargain. There are special lanes on major roads for bicycles and many housing and trailer communities include amenities like swimming pools, well-groomed hiking trails and schedules of planned group activities.
The glut of houses on the market at reasonable prices is another drawing card. On my bike rides in the Gold Canyon area where we are staying, there are multiple properties on every street for sale. My husband Dave has checked out the listing particulars and there are any number of large, fairly luxurious homes listed for sale at prices well below what we paid for our downtown Winnipeg condominium or what we sold our Steinbach home for a few years ago. The American economic and housing crisis has made living in a nice home in Arizona for the winter months affordable for many people. A real estate website trying to lure Canadians south brags that homes which would sell for $750,000 north of the border are only $250,000 in Arizona.
The desert scenery is definitely another factor that makes Arizona alluring. It is so different than the Manitoba landscape that it gives the state an exotic feel for prairie visitors. The many kinds of cacti, the mountains, the bluest skies, the multitude of stars at night and the spectacular sunsets make the Arizona setting unique and lovely. Not only the natural landscape but also the architectural landscape is such a contrast from what one would see in Manitoba. Tiled roof, adobe style houses reflect both the Spanish and Pueblo Indian influence. Front lawns are landscaped with stone and local trees and cacti. They are intriguing for those of us accustomed to green lawns and wood and brick houses with shingled roofs.
Although we have only been here in Phoenix a week we already have a list of places within easy driving distance that we’d like to visit. The Grand Canyon, Sedona, the ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings at Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley are all destinations that can be experienced on reasonable two-day jaunts. These world- class tourist spots are another Arizona enticement for snowbirds.
I am sure by the time our two months in Arizona are over I will find even more reasons why people from Manitoba choose to winter here. But I’m already happy we did.
Other posts about Arizona…..