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The Snowbird Destinations series features six U.S. cities that Canadian retirees might enjoy as a winter retreat, whether travelling for a week or an entire season. Here's a preview of the series. Stories on each destination will follow in the coming weeks.

Cold weather is inevitable every Canadian winter. But it's not inescapable.

Residents of the northern half of North America have long found respite from winter's chill by fleeing to the southern half. Some pay a short visit for a vacation; the more fortunate linger longer, putting down roots in communities and staying until the first signs of spring emerge back home.

Canadians have a bounty of options for destinations. Florida remains a top spot for Easterners, while Arizona and California are at the top of mind for many Westerners. But these states aren't alone in luring Canuck tourists and retirees, and even within each of them there's a bevy of choices to suit every traveler's taste, interests and budget.

Here's a look at six places that snowbirds might call home – at least for a while. The Globe and Mail will have more detailed coverage of each place in the coming weeks.


Key West, Fla.

The southernmost tip of the United States has been the end of the line for eccentrics, free spirits and creative types for a century or more. Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams are among its former residents. But the island city has become equally known as a haven for gay travellers over the years. Key West’s gay-friendly accommodations and amenities, not to mention its air of tolerance, make it a major magnet in the North American LGBTQ tourism niche, competitive with such larger centres as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Palm Springs, Calif. – and even in the game with New York and San Francisco.

(Carolyn Scott Photography)

Raleigh, N.C.

In the winter, North Carolina usually doesn’t provide the tropical temperatures of sunbelt favourites such as Florida, Arizona, southern California or Mexico. But it has everything else in abundance. It’s within striking distance of both beaches and mountains, and its major hubs such as Raleigh offer everything from NHL hockey tickets and delicious southern barbecue to safe, friendly streets and cheap golf.

(Mike Blake/Reuters)

San Diego

San Diego is the last major city in southern California before the Mexican border, but it’s hardly the boonies. Cosmopolitan, upscale, clean and safe (by U.S. standards), the city is blessed with a Goldilocks climate that’s never too hot nor too cold, a natural beauty on the roaring Pacific Ocean and a deep restaurant and entertainment scene centred around the central and walkable Gaslamp Quarter.

(Matt York/The Associated Press)

Scottsdale, Ariz.

Growing grass in the desert is audacious (and environmentally suspect for some), but there’s no denying golf’s role in luring snowbirds to this upscale Phoenix suburb. The game fuels the local economy and gives the city an identity. Arizona boasts 300 golf courses, about 200 of which are either in Scottsdale or within an hour’s drive. Courses in Scottsdale and area range from the exquisite private sanctuaries of Whisper Rock and Desert Forest to the popular TPC Scottsdale, a public course that each year stages the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the rowdy and most heavily attended event (by far) on the PGA Tour. It’s being played this week.


Taos, N.M.

Native Americans have called Taos and area home for a millennium, making it the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. Their village is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hippies found their way there, too – albeit much later. But Taos, about an hour from Santa Fe, is more than a historical relic. It also boasts a rich cultural scene (put on the map by such artists as Georgia O’Keeffe and novelist D.H. Lawrence) and a robust ski industry in the mountains.

(Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism)

Palm Springs, Calif.

High-end resorts and dining, luxe shopping, well-preserved mid-century modern architecture and golf can dazzle any visitor to this California desert oasis. But perhaps its simple, natural attractions are the most hypnotizing. In the Coachella Valley, surrounded by mountain ranges, Palm Springs and its public spaces (such as Joshua Tree National Park, an hour away) are a hiker’s paradise. There’s barely even a need to check the weather forecast before heading out, with walking stick in hand. The average temperatures in the winter months range from 21 to 27 and the sky is seemingly always azure. It’s like being in a bubble.

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