Summer may be the biggest vacation season, but each January flocks of snowbirds take to the road and sky, heading to warmer climates for extended winter getaways.
Florida is the top destination in the U.S.
This year the state of Florida expects the number of snowbirds to be in the very high hundreds of thousands. They’re retirees who come in January, stay a couple of months, and then head home when spring arrives up north.
In February and March Florida also gets spring breakers! Last year 570,000 spring breakers came to the sunshine state. Even more are expected this year.
Most of Florida’s snowbirds come from the Northeast. License plates from Canada, New England and Mid Atlantic states abound. They book vacation homes at the beaches or come in RV’s and stay at one of Florida’s more than 800 RV parks. They bring bikes, canoes and kayaks to enjoy the outdoors at Florida’s 175 state parks.
Many bring boats and fishing gear to enjoy being on the water. Florida has no closed season for fishing at the approximately 12,000 miles of fishable rivers and more than 7,500 lakes and reservoirs. There is also 825 miles of coastline where you can fish in either the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, or one of the many bays.
Florida is big on festivals too. Especially in winter when the snowbirds are here. As I write this my community is getting ready for the Oyster Cook Off festival and the Butts & Clucks Cook Off on the Bay celebrating the best in BBQ, sanctioned by the Florida BBQ Association. February ends with our very own Mardi Gras featuring the Barkus Parade sponsored by the Mystic Krew of Salty Barkers. This year’s theme is “Grateful Dogs”.
From mid to late March internationally acclaimed artists come to participate in our Forgotten Coast Plein Air event which is now in it’s 18th year. But Florida isn’t the only snowbird destination in the south. Snowbirds also flock to Savannah and the Georgia coast, Charleston and SC beach towns like Myrtle Beach, Sullivan’s Island and Hilton Head.
Many of Florida’s snowbirds like it so much that each year about 2% of them buy a house to have a permanent Florida residence. Which is one reason why Florida is the fastest growing state in the U.S.
Summer in Florida, however, is not for the faint of heart. Literally! Hot humid weather can make it nearly unbearable to be outdoors.
Which is why the reverse happens each summer and Florida residents head to northern locales. Many have summer homes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Others go further north to the Mid Atlantic and New England for summers.
My husband and I started out as itinerant snowbirds coming to Florida in January and February. We stayed in different parts of the state each year until we found a place that suited us. Then, like so many others, we decided to call Florida home. We bought land, built a house, and moved into it in 2016. We thoroughly enjoy our Florida lifestyle. But every summer we head north to my husband’s place in southwestern PA.
Other parts of the U.S. have their snowbird patterns too. From the north central states a straight drop south makes Texas a popular winter destination where places like South Padre Island, Galveston, Rockport, and Santa Rosa Beach see their populations increase.
Snowbirds from Rocky Mountain and northwest states head to Arizona. Sun City, Arizona was the original warm weather destination for retirees and set the standard for retirement communities throughout the south. Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson are all popular for snowbirds enjoying days basking in sunshine.
The Canadian Snowbird Association estimates that more than a million Canadians will head into the southern parts of the U.S. this year. 23% of Americans are set to head south this winter.
Some things you might not know about Snowbirds. Many look for temporary jobs while they stay for a few months. The money they earn helps offset the expense of extended travel and the jobs help them feel part of the community they are staying in.
There are special magazines and travel guides that cater to snowbirds giving tips on how to prepare for their winter travel … being sure they bring sunglasses, insect repellents, and sunscreens plus clothing to layer for the fluxuations in temperatures.
Many bring a few personal possessions to make their winter homes feel more like being at home. Many have pets so they look for destinations that are pet friendly, Where I live the town is especially pet friendly and sometimes the sidewalks are jammed not only with people but with dogs. We are a “dog” town! Especially on our Mardi Gras weekend!
And although the term snowbirds is the one most used, the new politically correct term is “winter visitors”. Apparently the term snowbirds has joined the ever-growing list of words that have a negative connotation that some (I have no idea who) find offensive.
I’m happy to be spending my winter in sunshine, warm temps, and getting up each morning to a spectacular view of brilliant sun shining on the Gulf of Mexico. This is the life!
“My favorite part of winter is watching it on TV from Florida.”Florida Funny
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