SNOWBIRD ESCAPE DESTINATIONS
Words by Dynasty Dyer
We've uncovered a number of places that the snow weary inhabitant may want to escape to this winter relinquishing jackets, mittens and snow boots for much lighter wearing shorts, sandals, and the occasional sweater. While some of the places aren't balmy mediterranean escapes, they sure do beat the temperatures of freezing snow.
The tiniest town on this list, Ajo possesses a population of just under 4000 people. The small area is known as the heart of the Sonoran Desert. For the snowbird looking for that small-town feel, it is the perfect destination. The Tohono O’odham once depended upon the area for water and helped give the town its name. In 1847, the town emerged from obscurity as a copper and ore mining destination. By utilizing a scenic lookout route, the curious tourist can still view an active mining pit from above. Tourism and retirement communities now form the backbone of this town’s current culture. For the lonely snowbird looking for company, the city offers a large amount of social and cultural organizations. The pulse of this city remains strong.
Sixty thousand residents call the largest city of East Alabama home. Rediscovered by a Methodist man, after the city was removed from the Creek, it was a town built on religion, railroads, and education. It was the first city in the United States to create a high school for African Americans in the period of segregation. Auburn University, while it existed under a multitude of other names beforehand, grew right beside the city through the Great Depression, World War II, and its large population boom. Nature lovers will find a few parks, plenty of walking trails, an ecology preserve, and a raptor center to explore. If sports are more your calling, you can take in a game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Bluffton, South Carolina
Settlement of Bluffton began more than 250 years ago when settlers began to carve their mark in this area just north of the Savannah River. Growing from the Devil’s Elbow Barony, named after its shape, Bluffton emerged into its own in the early 1800s. Those who typically spent their time in the harsh plantations inland began to migrate to Bluffton to escape malaria and yellow fever during the deadly summer months. The haven from these diseases blossomed into a commercial center for the isolated farms and plantations just outside the city limits. Hilton Head attracted plenty of full-time residents and the town itself continued to call for those looking to escape to somewhere pleasant and safe for the summer months. It is now one of the fastest growing towns in South Carolina. The tourists and the snowbirds can spend their time at the May River Theater, touring the area’s old districts, taking boat tours, watching whales and dolphins, or spend their money at the Tangier Outlets.
Los Cruces, New Mexico
The town of Las Cruces, “The City of Crosses, began as nothing more than an army lieutenant’s orders, rawhide ropes, and a series of stakes planted in an area roughly the size of 84 city blocks. The city was once the haunt of Billy the Kid, Geronimo, and Clyde Tombaugh. Some historical landmarks remain around these famous individuals and can be visited by anyone out for a history lesson. The city has recently reached a permanent population of over 100,000 and this number swells when the hounds of winter begin to bite at the north’s ankles. Those looking for a dryer place to nest, without the humidity of Carolina or Florida, could find fewer places better than Las Cruces. Some common tourist sites include the Old Mesilla Village, Dripping Springs Natural Park, an active missile range, and New Mexico State University.
Cape Coral, Florida
Before its planned communities were cultivated by the Rosen brothers, Cape Coral was the home of the fierce Calusa. It is a town that’s part wild west and part Hollywood. The original Cape Coral was home to the homesteaders, cattlemen, rustlers, and hardy fisherman. In fact, due to how difficult it was to live in the area, it was referred to as “Hungryland”. Transformed by Leonard Rosen and his sibling, the community has exploded from under 300 residents in 1960 to nearly 200,000 today. Common activities include crabbing, swimming, fishing, joining yacht clubs, viewing the area’s natural beauty and exploring its history at the Southwest Florida Military Museum. With an average of only ten rainy days a year, the enterprising snowbird can explore to their heart’s content.
San Diego, California
By far the largest city on our list, over 1.3 million people call San Diego home; this is a far cry from its population of 600 in 1830. It also exhibits the deepest historical roots. Some areas of the coast have evidence of habitation going back over 12,000 years. The city was founded in its modern name by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. Current day San Diego is known as the “Plymouth of the West” and “America’s Finest City”. It holds boasting rights to hosting multiple super bowls, an amazing amount of coastline, and a world-famous zoo. During the escape from winter, one can visit the USS Midway Museum, take a dip in the sea, take a tour around Torrey Pines State Reserve.