Flocking south for the dry heat and a hint of outlet shopping in the dead of winter seems to be an unmistakable habit of many Canadians. Snowbirds make an annual tradition of their southbound migration while others simply can’t resist the “flight over fight” instinct after the first snowfall of the season.
Where to this winter? The Grand Canyon State! Here we show you that Arizona is not all desert and golf courses — though there is plenty of that to spare if you please. A long desert drive starting at sunrise and ending with a gorgeous sunset over Saguaros or a day spent exploring museums are the start to your Arizona travel plans this winter.
Phoenix Winter Getaway
Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix brings you right into the centre of Arizona with direct flights to all major Canadian airports as well as Kelowna, Saskatoon and Winnipeg. At just a short two-hour drive in any direction, the temperatures and scenery fully change and you’re able to discover a plethora of Arizona travel treasures known only to those of us who have lived here our entire lives — or are lucky enough to hide out here for half of the year. Catch a Cardinals game, visit a museum or feed giraffes at the Zoo then take a drive through the Sonoran desert for fantastic views of Saguaros you’ve only seen in epic Western movies.
Where to eat in Phoenix
If you’re looking for that iconic Western experience, Rustler’s Rooste is where you’ll find “beef and brew” with a view. The family-owned restaurant opened in 1971 and has boasted the true cowboy dining experience ever since. The sawdust-covered floors, open-air seating with a beautiful view of the city from South Mountain is an experience not to be missed. Be sure to order the rattlesnake appetizer and bring home a t-shirt saying you did.
What to do in Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix nightlife is quiet without an event, but Heritage Square during the day is an excellent place to explore. It’s the oldest residential block in the city and includes the Rosson House Museum. The museum tour gives an insight into Old Victorian history in Arizona and all the residents living in the fully restored 1895 Queen Anne Victorian house. Heritage Square also is home to the original Pizzeria Bianco known for “America’s best pizza” and the Arizona Science Center.
Where to stay in Phoenix: Hyatt Regency Phoenix
Arizona is riddled with gorgeous resorts and spas, but if you’re planning to stay in the downtown Phoenix area, the Hyatt Regency Phoenix gives you walking access to the many attractions and views of the city. The very top of the hotel is the Compass Room, a rotating room with a full-service restaurant and panoramic views of the city. Many proposals happen here and dining reservations are highly encouraged.
Grand Canyon Winter Getaway
A fall or spring getaway to the Grand Canyon is a no-brainer. There’s a reason it’s celebrated as one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders with around 4.5 million visitors making a stop every year. Go during the fall or spring to avoid some of the more oppressive heat you’d otherwise get during a summer vacation.
Where to eat near the Grand Canyon
Food services are limited at the Grand Canyon depending on where you are. The Grand Depot Cafe near the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is a great stop if you’re visiting the wonder by train.
What to do in the Grand Canyon
The north and south rim of the Grand Canyon offer very different experiences. Grand Canyon West is a five-hour drive from the South Rim and boasts the stunning Skywalk. Tours can be arranged through the Hualapai Tribe.
Where to stay near the Grand Canyon: Best Western Premier Grand Canyon
Hotels are scarce in and walking distance to the Grand Canyon. An affordable, comfortable option would be the Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn at just eight kilometres from the south rim.
Thinking about a Parks Canada visit without the hassle of camping?
Globe Winter Getaway
Just a two-hour drive from Phoenix, Globe is situated along the Historic Old West Highway. The drive itself is an Arizona wonder through mining towns with a fabulous view of the operating copper mine nestled in the canyon. Rich in copper history, Globe was founded in the 1880s and currently has a population just over 7,000. Globe is home to many antique stores and the best hometown Mexican food. I happily make the two-hour drive from the city to my old hometown just for the enchilada-style burro with a side of rice from Chalos.
Where to eat in Globe
The best Globe-Miami restaurant is a highly debated topic amongst former and current residents. The style of each Mexican restaurant is similar yet each has their own treasured family recipes making them stand out.
A day in Globe wouldn’t be complete without a stop by Chalos for lunch but my mom will you tell you a gollo burro from La Casita downtown is her favourite. Guayo’s on the trail makes the most amazing cheese crisps but my husband can’t stop talking about Burger House’s regular burros wrapped in orange paper. Just make sure you don’t order a “burrito” and call it a “burro” or you’ll quickly be outed as a tourist.
What to do in Globe
Stroll the streets of downtown Globe and observe the captivating architecture. The Globe Downtown Historic District includes the Gila County Court House built in 1906 and the oldest church in the county. Drive to the Pinal mountains or Roosevelt Lake for a full change of scenery and different look at this iconic mining town.
Where to stay in Globe: Apache Gold
Stay at the Apache Gold resort where you will have access to the casino and buffet breakfast that will help fuel your exploration of this wonderful mining town.
Bisbee Winter Getaway
Another mining town treasure, Bisbee is also highly known for their haunted hotels. The late 1800s brought many miners to the area and over the last century, the residential community in the mountains quickly transformed into an active travel hotspot. Seen on many ghost hunter television shows, Bisbee’s impressive architecture is well-preserved with hotels claiming to be haunted by friendly, and some not-so-friendly guests. The eclectic town has a vibrant nightlife and stellar creative community sharing their work in studios lining the narrow streets.
Where to eat in Bisbee
With live music every Friday night, Cafe Roka is a Bisbee nightlife favourite. The historic building, art deco ambiance and complex wine menu make this a restaurant not to be missed during your visit.
What to do in Bisbee
Bisbee really is a town where you could spend an entire weekend strolling from shop to shop admiring the collections of handcrafted arts. The Old Bisbee Ghost Tour gives you a great overview of the town’s history and how it became known as one of the most haunted cities in America. Riding a mine train underground is also a tour not to be missed during your Bisbee visit. The Queen Mine tour shares the history of one of America’s most productive 20th-century copper mines.
Where to stay in Bisbee: Copper Queen
If spirited visitors don’t scare you, book a stay at the Copper Queen Hotel. You’ll feel like you’re stepping into the early 1900s and just might see or hear visitors from that time as well during your stay. The Copper Queen is known as one of the most haunted hotels in the town so bypass it if you’re easily spooked.
Tucson Winter Getaway
Home to the University of Arizona, Tucson has an airport to easily connect to major US airport hubs on your journey into Snowbird territory. The Spanish colonial history and Mexican culture are embraced and evident in the architecture, restaurants and art scene. With activities varying from hiking the Anza Trail, the same trail the Spanish took to colonize California, to a day spent at the Biosphere 2, the Earth’s first self-contained biome, you’ll leave Tucson with a great appreciation for Arizona.
Where to eat in Tucson
Maynard’s Market & Kitchen is a dining experience you’ll remember. The historic train depot was renovated and transformed into a fine dining restaurant with an unexpected menu. The ambiance is quite unique and your meal won’t be complete unless you order a side of the house-made bacon.
What to do in Tucson
The panoramic views of the Sonoran desert can’t be missed in Tucson. Visit the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum for walking paths to explore and learn about Arizona nature. Old Tucson is where you’ll be able to walk the same dirt roads where movies starring John Wayne and other Western classics were filmed.
Where to stay in Tucson: The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain
The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain is just far enough away from the city to feel like you’re truly alone in the Sonora Desert. If you’re travelling with children, go for the in-room tent experience. The resort offers guides for hiking trails, biking, and many outdoor activities along with excellent dining options and onsite amenities.
Sedona Winter Getaway
The red rock formations of Sedona are a natural wonder that you could easily spend an entire weekend exploring. The desert landscape has a bit of elevation to it and the crisp fall air feels refreshing. Jeep tours and hot air balloon rides are popular activities when visiting. From Sedona, you can also board a train that will take you on an Arizona adventure through the mountains.
Where to eat in Sedona
Many local restaurants boast fabulous menus, but breakfast can’t be beat at Wildflower Bread Company. Although there are other locations throughout the state, the family-owned chain’s views in Sedona are above the rest. Start your morning with “food you knead,” like the Wildflower Signature Pancakes in a variety of flavours including banana walnut and lemon ricotta. Buy some bread to take with you for the rest of your weekend exploration.
What to do in Sedona
The famous Pink Jeep Tours will take you on an adventure through the red rock country and you can get even more adventurous by booking a balloon ride with Northern Light Balloon Expeditions. The Verde Railroad is a great way to explore Northern Arizona by train.
Where to stay in Sedona: The Ridge on Sedona Golf Resort
The Ridge on Sedona Golf Resort is a desert oasis surrounded by natural splendour and gorgeous red rock formations. You can opt for a relaxing retreat or an adventurous getaway in the backcountry, perhaps even try taking on the challenging onsite golf course. Whatever you choose, you’ll have no shortage of sunshine to play in.
Camp Verde Winter Getaway
Camp Verde is less than an hour from Phoenix and Flagstaff situated along the free-flowing Verde River, making it the perfect destination for outdoor recreation. The Montezuma Castle National monument is a collection of preserved cliff dwellings occupied in 700 AD and definitely should be seen during your fall weekend getaway. An indoor shooting range, wildlife park, and state historic park are just some of the activities you might do while visiting this small Arizona town.
Where to eat in Camp Verde
The Cliff Castle casino has an award-winning storyteller’s gourmet steakhouse. Nearby you can also find a Johnny Rockets for a more casual dining experience.
What to do in Camp Verde
The Out of Africa Wildlife Park has grown continuously and is known for rescuing animals like Li:Bi, the orphaned mountain lion. The large collection of animals in their free-range enclosures provides a great look at conservation in the desert.
Where to stay in Camp Verde: Verde Valley RV & Camping Resort
In true Snowbird fashion, we are listing an RV park, folks. Verde Valley RV & Camping Resort is a great way to explore the outdoors with an overnight stay in a cabin. A variety of cabins sleep up to six with some accommodating pets.
Flagstaff Winter Getaway
Snow chains are generally recommended for safe travelling in Northern Arizona winters (not the Snowbird dream), but fall and spring are a wonderful time to drive north and experience vastly different landscapes from the Arizonan desert. Flagstaff is marked as the inspiration for art and music because of its location along the iconic Route 66. Since 1921, artists and musicians have stopped in this charming city on their way to California, including Jackson Browne who wrote the Eagles, “Take it Easy” from this Arizona destination. Flagstaff is also home to Northern Arizona University and Snowbowl, our ski resort popular during the winter months.
Where to eat in Flagstaff
The Old Town Creperie in historic Flagstaff might have the best handmade crepes you’ve ever tasted.
What to do in Flagstaff
Rock climbing is a popular sport in Flagstaff because of the many hiking trails and designated climb areas. Flagstaff Climbing has an indoor climbing gym as well as a guide service to safely take your adventures outdoors. Flagstaff Extreme is a “fun, physical and unique outdoor experience in the trees.” If you’d rather not get physical, visit the Lowell Observatory for an opportunity to learn about the stars and visit the instrument that helped Clyde Tombaugh discover Pluto.
Where to stay in Flagstaff: Weatherford Hotel
The Weatherford Hotel is rich in history and is located in the heart of Flagstaff. The historic restoration has created an incredible hotel deep in Arizona history.
Williams Winter Getaway
Close to Flagstaff but with enough activities to be a destination of its own, Williams is coined the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon®” and is the home to the Grand Canyon Railway and hotel where the Polar Express begins running in the fall. A day exploring the historic buildings, diverse shops and Arizona memorabilia are sure to send you home with souvenirs exclusive to this Northern Arizona town.
Where to eat in Williams
The Pine Country Restaurant looks more like a hometown bakery you would see in a Hallmark movie. Their homemade pies are delicious and you’ll love their “down home cookin’.”
What to do in Williams
Book a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway or make it a magical holiday season and ride the Polar Express. Visit the drive-thru Bearizona to see bears, wolves and more.
Where to stay in Williams: Grand Canyon Railway Hotel
The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is directly next to the train depot so it’s a perfect location if you’re planning to ride the train. It has an outdoor playground for children and excellent pet resort if you’re travelling with pets.
Lake Havasu City Winter Getaway
Although Arizona is known for the beautiful Desert, the state has some incredible lakes with water activities and sports as well. Lake Havasu City is a destination for the thrill seekers.
Where to eat in Lake Havasu City
The Javelina Cantina brings you back to that Arizona history with Mexican dishes and innovative margaritas. With outdoor music and a view of the water, this is where you’ll want to spend your weekend evenings.
What to do in Lake Havasu City
Visit the London Bridge with pieces actually dismantled and transported stone-by-stone from London to Arizona. Then plan a full weekend of water and outdoor activities on your own or with tours. A racing track, bike rentals, lighthouses, ultimate shopping and more make this city your ultimate Arizona fall weekend destination. While the water won’t be as warm, there are still plenty of fall activities to enjoy including boat rentals and water shows.
Where to stay in Lake Havasu City: Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch
Lake Havasu City has it all from overnight boat campsites to lakeside resorts. The Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch is a short drive away but gives you a real Old West experience. This dude ranch is set up like a real Western town and will be everything you imagined in a true Arizona Western travel experience.
Whether you’re looking for a drive through the desert to see the iconic Saguaro cacti or an adventure in the mountains, a Snowbird-style escape south to Arizona is a must this winter!