The traditional type of snowbird has longtime favored Florida, and for good reason. The Sunshine State certainly offers warmth and endless miles of gorgeous sandy beaches as well as countless golfing options. But as the mix of people who travel south during the colder season changes, there’s more diversity in where they might be headed this year. And Arizona has become one of the hottest destinations for snowbirds. The Grand Canyon State is home to eight of the 100 best cities for snowbirds, according to researchers.
More than 40,000 of consultancy giant PwC’s employees can now work remotely, joining millions of others already living the “working from anywhere” lifestyle, many at companies such as Facebook, Dropbox and Quora. Aside from the fun and the sun, these new snowbirds seek a good internet connection, a peaceful environment that lets them work, and some nature to relax in. These attributes have earned them the name ‘snowmads’ — or ‘zoombirds,’ as they still need to join their colleagues in online meetings.
What are the best destinations for snowbirds this year, when aside from the regular amenities, there are other boxes that locations need to check to appeal to both the old and the new snowbirds? To find the best cold-season hideaways, we looked at almost 1,000 places around the U.S. to determine the best cities for snowbirds and evaluated 11 factors, including:
• Temperatures from October to March (obtained from Weather Source)
• Housing for snowbirds: Availability for seasonal use, and median cost to rent and to purchase as a second home
• The incidence of crime per capita in each destination
• The length of beach found beginning no more than 10 miles from a destination
• The amount of park space per capita and the number of golf courses nearby
• Local internet speeds, as many snowbirds will be zoombirds or may simply want to blog a lot — the average over all the places we considered is 336 MBps
• The number of health care and social assistance establishments per 1,000 of the local population — the average over all the places we considered is 3.2
• The cost of renting a self storage unit — snowbirds visiting the same destination every year, and even second-home owners, can ease their luggage burden by keeping golf clubs, surfboards or seasonal clothes in a unit
State-wise, California and South Carolina join Florida, Arizona and Texas in providing the US’s top snowbird destinations, with some amazing places that appeal to a wide range of visitors from across the US. Moreover, after pausing travel plans for a year, Canadian snowbirds are keen on reaching their favorite winter spots, even flying down to the US if they cannot drive through the border for now.
Narrowing down the ranking to the city level, we found that while cities such as Phoenix and Tampa are still good for snowbirds, smaller communities nearby may offer better options this year, with good facilities and internet infrastructure, recreational opportunities, and plenty of fresh air. And the cost of living there may be reasonable.
When it comes to ranking the best cities for snowbirds, researchers found that Arizona is among the best places for snowbirds. Apache Junction (No. 5), Gilbert (No. 13), Mesa (No. 35), Peoria (No. 44), Chandler (No. 49), Surprise (No. 55), Scottsdale (No. 84), and Tucson (No. 92) all ranked in the Top 100.
Florida’s Gulf Coast, Metro Phoenix, AZ, & Southern TX have the best snowbird destinations
Beach towns will always score high for snowbirds, but what if you can get a location near lakes or state parks plus access to culture and lower prices? Staying inland can make sense, and internet speeds for zoombirds can be better in those areas. And then there are the more personal choices, for example between South Carolina’s Southern charm, the distinct culture of Texas, and California’s environmental consciousness.
All things considered, the Sunshine State still offers great snowbird locations — Venice, Naples and Dunedin on Florida’s Gulf Coast are the top three. But for some of the best destinations this year, Arizona and southern Texas also rank very high, with Metro Phoenix in particular accounting for most of the top AZ destinations. The sun rarely stops shining in these areas, there are plenty of recreational opportunities, and the prices are reasonable. In addition, they have good monthly rates for self storage, allowing returning snowbirds to experience less hassle hauling their seasonal gear every time they get back. Joining the party, South Carolina can provide fast internet and great recreational opportunities while California will look after your health.
As well as choosing a city to be anchored to during the cold season, the entire area around it can serve as your playground — and, indeed, as your workstation if you’re an RV-ing remote worker. Here are the 5 best states for snowbirds during 2021-2022 and highlights on what each one brings to the table to make them feel right at home.
Florida: Winter temperature averages up to 71 °F and golf galore
Florida has its legendary entertainment options and warm year-round climate plus resorts with above-average numbers of health care facilities. East and west coasts compete for the tourists — the latter tends to see less rain. The beaches and golf courses never fail to impress, but zoombirds may not find that internet speeds are the best. Accommodation costs vary, but the average street rate of a Tampa storage unit is a reasonable $115. The Sunshine State has six top-10 snowbird spots, most of them on the western Gulf Coast, and 43 top-100 destinations.
Venice, on Florida’s west coast between Tampa and Ft. Myers and with a population of around 23,000, is our #1 snowbird destination. It frequently ranks in lists of pleasant places to live and the average Oct. – March temperatures are a cozy 69 °F. As befits a top snowbird spot, a high proportion of the housing is for seasonal use, 28%, there are 5.7 health facilities per 1,000 people, and no fewer than 12 golf courses.
Further south, Naples’ population is around 22,000 but it packs a big punch for snowbirds. In addition to many miles of white-sand beaches there are average Oct. – March temperatures of 71 °F. Naples boasts almost twice as many golf courses as anywhere else on our list — an astonishing 70 — and also has the highest figures for both healthcare centers per 1,000 of the population (14) and seasonal use housing (38%).
Dunedin, close to the city of Tampa and boasting a distinctive Scottish heritage, has a population of around 36,000. It is the point of access for the romantic Honeymoon Island, which sometimes sees over a million visitors each year, more than any other Florida state park. There are almost 16 miles of beach nearby, plus plenty of park space. At $1,675, the average monthly rent for accommodation is par for the course for resorts in this area.
Texas: 67 °F winter temperatures, fast internet speeds and low costs
Texas, of course, is special! It has made a good impression on snowbirds for a while now, with its distinctive culture and cuisine plus the friendliness of its people. Active snowbirds will be interested in visiting the mountains to the west and the south coast’s many miles of beach. Prices in Texas tend to be reasonable. Most importantly, of course, the winters here are warm, especially in the south — the freezing storms of February 2021 were exceptional. Texas scores no fewer than 26 top-100 destinations and two in the top 10.
Mission, a city of around 83,000 people, is a South Texas tourist hub with an average October-March temperature of 67 °F and it ranks as our #4 snowbird destination. The house price figure is a tempting $165,388 while the monthly rent averages out at only $953. Zoombirds appreciate the very fast 539 MBps internet speed, and for windsurfers and others the sea is just a short drive away at South Padre Island.
Friendswood, a city of around 40,000 residents, is part of the Houston metropolitan area, and not too far from the coast. It has ranked as one of the US’s best small towns to live in — rather as its name suggests. The average October-March temperature here is a little cooler at 61 °F. The average rent is $1,279 per month and a self storage unit costs only $87. Importantly, Friendswood is considered to be a safe place to live.
McAllen, with a population of around 142,000 and a location next door to Mission, could be a great place to enjoy the region’s sunshine and Tex-Mex cuisine and also save some money. The house price figure for McAllen is $173,359 while the average rent is an even more reasonable $832. There are a couple of golf courses and a high number of health centers per 1,000 of the population, no less than 5.7.
Arizona: Winter sun, desert and mountains, plus a renter-friendly housing market
The Grand Canyon State has a drier heat than Florida that some people prefer, especially those who suffer from asthma and pulmonary diseases. And you get a different, perhaps less tourism-obsessed vibe here. The metropolitan area centered on the state’s capital, Phoenix — the Valley of the Sun — is a magnet for snowbirds. In addition, the geography in this part of the country is enjoyably varied — just escape to the mountains when the desert gets too hot. Prices are reasonable and Phoenix storage units rent for an average of $118. Arizona has eight destinations in our top 100.
Apache Junction, our #5 snowbird destination, has around 40,000 residents and the dramatic Superstition Mountains nearby. There are six golf courses, and its average October-March temperature of 62 °F is typical for the area. It ranks higher for safety than any other top-100 snowbird destination. The average rent here is reasonable at $1,158, while the current house price figure is $329,673.
Gilbert, with a population of around a quarter of a million, is another Metro Phoenix town. Visitors enjoy its proximity to the state capital and its attractions, and zoombirds appreciate its fast internet speed of 458 MBps. Snowbirds get access not only to great scenery but also to seven golf courses. For other entertainment, especially for families, there are the Gilbert Regional and Desert Sky parks.
Mesa is right next door to Gilbert and even closer to the center of Phoenix. The share of housing dedicated to seasonal use is 8% — that works out as a lot of snowbird accommodation in this city of around half a million residents. Internet speed is 414 MBps, making it a good place for zoombirds, and there are no fewer than 23 golf courses here. The average rent is $1,391 and a self storage unit costs $108 monthly.
South Carolina: Culture, fishing and good zoombird internet speeds
South Carolina’s average winter temperatures may be lower than Florida’s, in the 50s °F, but it’s a true snowbird state. Two of its top destinations are neighboring cities in an area boasting historic interest and charm, plus beaches and fishing and boating opportunities. The third is near one of the state’s famous offshore barrier islands, offering different types of seaside scenery and plenty of nature to enjoy. A golf course is never too far away, and internet speeds are often very good. South Carolina has three top-100 snowbird destinations.
Mount Pleasant, our #7 snowbird destination, is sometimes considered a suburb of Charleston but has its own enjoyable waterside ambiance. You can join a trend, as its population doubled from 1990 to 2000 and stood at around 87,000 in 2019. Beaches and entertainment options are within a few miles, plus there are five golf courses. The internet speed is an impressive 481 MBps, which is good for the zoombirds.
Bluffton is a community with a little more than 20,000 permanent residents situated a few miles from the renowned tourist resorts on Hilton Head Island and their beaches. The current house price figure is $352,861 — the equivalent figure for Mount Pleasant is more than one and half times as much. Along with the peaceful surroundings, snowbirds will be delighted to find no fewer than 14 golf courses here.
Charleston, the state’s largest city with around 135,000 inhabitants, is famous for its historical architecture and seafood cuisine. There are also museums, art galleries, four golf courses and many parks to enjoy. Typically for the area, the average October-March temperature here is 58 °F. The median rent and house price figure are currently $1,673 and $420,769, and the internet speed is a zoombird-friendly 476 MBps.
California: Safe, green, Metro Los Angeles destinations near legendary beaches
California certainly attracts snowbirds — particularly places within the Los Angeles metropolitan area, where the top three Golden State destinations are located. Millennials among them may want to sample LA nightlife and watersports at nearby beaches, while health-conscious folk will appreciate the greenery and environmentally aware ambiance. The top destinations also have a reputation for safety. Average October-March temperatures are in the 50s or low 60s °F, and prices here signify quality. California registers 11 top-100 snowbird destinations.
Irvine, situated southeast of LA, is our #19 ranked snowbird spot. Designed with bike lanes and parks to promote a green lifestyle, it has more than a quarter of a million residents. Active snowbirds love the sumptuous surfing opportunities at places like Huntington Beach and Newport Beach a few miles away. For more sedate snowbirds there are four golf courses, and for zoombirds the internet speed is 420 MBps.
Thousand Oaks, with a population of around 128,000, is in the west of the Greater Los Angeles area, a short drive from the legendary beach town of Malibu. There are three golf courses and plenty of park space here, plus an internet speed of 351 MBps. In addition, Thousand Oaks is also very well provided with health care centers, having 5.7 per every 1,000 of its population, a little higher than the figure for Irvine.
Yorba Linda, with a population of around 68,000, is further inland than Irvine but makes up for that with abundant parks and the nearby Chino Hills State Park. Typical for the area are both the average October-March temperature of 60 °F, and the accommodation costs, with the home price figure currently $1,077,524 and average rent being $2,617. The local internet speed is a rapid 438 MBps, making it a good zoombird spot.
Snowbirding is not just for mom and pop — millennials are hopping on the southbound bandwagon
The snowbirds’ image tends to be of retirees, baby boomer couples who paid off their mortgages, saw their children fly the nest, and are now enjoying their savings. However, the lifestyle offers more than games of golf and shuffleboard — windsurfing and other water sports are very popular at many snowbird destinations. The average median age across the top 100 destinations is about 38, similar to the national median, indicating there will be activities for younger people at many of these hotspots — though perhaps not at the #1 destination, Venice, FL, which has the oldest median age at 69.1!
Younger people may not have the savings their parents and grandparents accumulated. But if they want to go to the very best snowbird destinations, the good news is that the average of the rents for the top 10 spots ($1,549) is almost identical to the average across the entire set ($1,540). The corresponding figures for home prices are even better: The average of the top 10 places ($363,036) is considerably less than the average of all the locations ($430,468). And for self storage rents, the top 10 destinations average $104 compared to $130 across the entire range. Quality snowbird locations and affordable living are clearly not mutually exclusive.
Snowmads and workampers make snowbirding pay — the Tampa & Phoenix areas accommodate them
Many young people who had to work online from home during the pandemic now feel this lifestyle is in many ways preferable, as evidenced by the companies now promoting this option. And as travel restrictions ease, they may wish to become snowmads and join the digital nomad workers — still meeting with colleagues and associates, online, but all the while enjoying rather better weather. Tampa, near which several of our top snowbird destinations are located, was judged to be the best place for them in the US and Phoenix was in the top 10.
Even without working remotely online, some snowbirds, both youngsters and retirees, find employment at their winter destinations. Seasonal jobs often coincide with the period they are there, and this can help fund their lifestyle. Hospitality, security, cleaning and administrative jobs can be found in campgrounds, restaurants and theme parks. RVers — and other travelers who take their homes with them — are called “workampers,” and there are plenty of places where they can hook up their fifth wheelers. With the temptation to stay longer at the holiday destination, temporary jobs can sometimes turn into permanent ones — a non-climate-controlled 10×10 storage units could be useful for keeping extra stuff in, making a long-term stay more possible.
The snowbirds want to fly again, or perhaps get back into their RVs. The US’s southern states offer much in terms of great weather and entertainment, and not traveling abroad makes health concerns more manageable. Many locations with plenty of winter sun also offer good value and safe environments, and less populous places often win out over larger ones, offering more peace of mind in terms of health concerns. California and South Carolina suit many people wanting beach life, while Florida offers the same with added winter warmth. But Arizona’s sunny locations, with their reputation for safety and range of things to enjoy, offer particularly good deals right now, as does southern Texas. Snowbirding in the US looks to become even more popular than it ever was. Not only does it have many advantages over both foreign travel and spending winter back home in the cold, but it is very well suited to our newly enlarged digital economy.
This is the complete list of the best 100 snowbird destinations in 2021-22. Order whichever column represents your most important preference, for example access to the most miles of beach or the largest number of golf courses. In this way you can see which destination would be the best fit for you.