Arizona is an increasingly popular destination for snowbirds, with 22% of Canadians choosing this desert state as their winter destination (and making it the third most popular destination behind Florida and California). But that’s not to say that Arizona is new to the retirement party – in fact, the very first active adult community in the U.S., Sun City, was developed here over 50 years ago.
Offering everything from arts to hiking, seclusion to big-city living, Arizona features world-class scenery, golfing, shopping, and plenty of room to explore new landscapes, lose yourself in the stars, and expand your personal horizons.
There’s truly something for everyone in the greater Phoenix area – featuring a wide range of activities, budgets and communities within a beautiful, mountainous setting.
Arizona is hot and dry. And the greater Phoenix area, with a subtropical desert climate, is among the hottest regions in the state. It can be downright scorching in the summer, with highs reaching over 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Winters are mild and comfortable, but can get warm quickly if you hit a heat wave.
Known for some of the best desert golf in the world, the Phoenix area boasts nearly 200 public, private, resort, municipal, and executive golf courses with a range of difficulty and conditions. From open fairways and perfect greens to stark desert terrain, there’s a lot to chose from for golfers of every taste and caliber.
And if you’re looking for something really special, Phoenix is home to the TPC Scottsdale, where the PGA Tour’s Annual Waste Management Phoenix Open is played.
Wherever you are in greater Phoenix, you’re guaranteed to be a short drive from great hiking trails, whether you’re a casual walker or seasoned trekker.
National Geographic ranks Phoenix as one of the best U.S. cities for hiking, home to three major mountain preserves with nearly 200 miles of developed trails. If you’re up for a less rigorous adventure, there are also countless parks, greenbelts and preserves within the Phoenix city limits, available for pleasant day hikes and casual strolls.
Being a major U.S. city, there are a number of big league sports teams to follow in Phoenix. This is great news for Canadian hockey fans who can take in an Arizona Coyotes hockey game at the Gila River Arena in Glendale! If baseball is more your thing, you can catch one of the many spring training Cactus League baseball games that take place at state-of-the-art facilities around the city. If you’re staying past April, the Arizona Diamondbacks play at Chase Field right in downtown Phoenix. Or, see a Phoenix Suns basketball game at the Talking Stick Resort Arena – the Raptors tend to visit once a season.
It’s easy to satisfy your thirst for arts and culture in and around Phoenix. In Phoenix proper, you’ll find the opera, ballet and many fascinating museums covering a range of genres. Or explore downtown Scottsdale and its wonderful galleries, museums and artist studios in the thriving Arts District, a pedestrian-only zone that features approximately 70 galleries and museums. Every Thursday night of the year (except Thanksgiving), the Scottsdale ArtWalk invites patrons to stroll through galleries, enjoy refreshments and speak with artists, with live music playing in the background.
There are many fantastic restaurants in the greater Phoenix area – from steakhouses to seafood restaurants, authentic tex-mex to Native American fare… as well as international cuisine from virtually every corner of the globe.
In fact, some would argue that you’d find the best pizza in the country in Phoenix, at chef Chris Bianco’s Pizzeria Bianco, where pizza enthusiasts from around the world come to savour his James Beard Award-winning wood-fired pizzas. And if it’s Mexican you’re craving, Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva in the colourful Grand Avenue Arts District is an award-winning hot spot that takes Mexican cuisine to a whole new level. But this being the West, steakhouses still reign supreme, with locally-owned Durant’s as the go-to for in-the-know locals (but you’ll find most of major steakhouse chains, too, including Houston’s, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris).
Scottsdale, meanwhile, has a thriving culinary scene featuring everything from trendy gastropubs to rustic Western saloons. And with more than 300 days of sunshine every year, Scottsdale features some of the best al fresco dining in the country! Don’t miss sophisticated yet wholesome FnB, which features a frequently-changing menu based on seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms and vendors. Or EVO, a cozy Italian restaurant and bar serving timeless Italian classics and high quality drinks in a sleek, inviting setting.
Whatever you’re after, you’ll find food, scenery and atmosphere to suit your tastes in the Greater Phoenix Area!
If you’re a shopping buff, you’ll feel right at home in Phoenix. Featuring charming antique shops, unique boutiques and upscale shopping centres, the greater Phoenix area offers some of the best retail therapy in the southern U.S.
While there are many choices, the great news is that there are some easy-to-follow guidelines when it comes to shopping in Phoenix. The basic lowdown is this: hit Scottsdale for high fashion, central Phoenix for vintage goods, and downtown Glendale for antiques.
The Scottsdale Fashion Square, for instance, proffers top designer fashions such as Burberry, Jimmy Choo, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Tesla. Three stories tall and nearly two million square feet, you’re sure to find your favourite iconic designer.
The Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix isn’t quite so glam, but it features premier brands along with great local restaurants to provide an experience for the shop-o-holic and the foodie.
If you are looking to shop for unique goods from local artisans, Uptown Plaza in Central Phoenix is home to a handful of locally-owned boutiques and restaurants. And if outlet shopping is more your thing, the Phoenix Premium Outlets is an open-air shopping center home to 90 stores selling name brands for less.
Getting there and around
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is one of the top airports in the U.S., with daily and weekly flights from Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
Many Canadians (particularly those in the West) choose to get there by car, since getting around Phoenix and the surrounding area requires a set of wheels. Scottsdale is one of the few places that is reasonably walkable.
It’s a 33-hour drive from Toronto (break that up however you will – many choose to make it a three-day, four-night journey). From Calgary, it’s a 23-hour one-way trip, and 24 hours from Vancouver.
There is a range of housing – and levels of affordability – in and around Phoenix. You can find townhomes, detached homes, mobile homes and RV parks in the area, depending on where you want to be. Phoenix itself – and neighbouring Mesa and Tempe – offer more affordable housing options, while high-end Scottsdale features premium, resort-style living at a significantly higher price tag.
Median selling prices (Zillow):
If you’re looking for an active winter escape that offers rich cultural opportunities within a stunning landscape, the greater Phoenix area is an exceptional option. Offering the conveniences of home in an upscale environment with all the sunshine you can ask for, Phoenix is appealing for those seeking simplicity, adventure, fresh air and some new experiences. For more information about the greater Phoenix area, take a look at visitphoenix.com. Snowbird Advisor also provides a great high-level guide to retiring in Arizona.
Other potential destinations in Arizona
Many Arizona-bound snowbirds look at both Phoenix and Tucson as potential destinations. Take a look at our Destination: Tucson, Arizona article for information about that dynamic city. You can also take a look at 55places.com, for a comparison of the Phoenix and Tucson areas.
Keep in mind, Phoenix and Tucson aren’t the only cities in Arizona that appeal to Canadians. Tucked into the southwest corner of the state close to the Mexican border, Yuma is gaining popularity among snowbirds. As Arizona’s warmest winter city and the sunniest year round place in the USA, it’s the perfect climate for those looking to escape winter at a great price. Affordable and easily accessible, Yuma boasts more than 60 RV resorts and parks, plus many other housing options for the value-conscious.
Sedona, on the other hand, is one of the more expensive retirement destinations in the state. Best known for its striking red rocks and stunning scenery, Sedona is an increasingly popular snowbird destination. Cooler in the evenings than other Arizona cities due to its high elevation, Sedona nonetheless offers gorgeous weather, a thriving arts scene and exceptional hiking trails.
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