When you’re considering where to spend your winter, Texas might not immediately come to mind, as Florida, Arizona and California have a stronghold on the top three hot spots for Canadian snowbirds. But Texas is an increasingly popular destination, and snowbirds — or “Winter Texans” as they are affectionately referred to by the locals — have been flocking to the Lone Star state for years, primarily to the warmth and sunshine of the Gulf of Mexico.
A popular RV destination featuring miles of beachfront, historic attractions, exceptional birding and top-rated fishing, Texas has a lot to offer as an extended getaway. Add warm weather, affordable housing and mouth-watering Tex-Mex cuisine into the mix and Texas might just jump to the top of your U.S. consideration list.
Head to the Gulf Coast and you’ll enjoy mild winters and hot, humid summers with temperatures rising the further south you get. While the region gets some rain, it’s not enough to put a damper on your outdoor plans, and the moisture leads to a lush environment ideal for birding and fishing.
Between January and April, daytime highs range from approximately 17 degrees Celsius to the mid-twenties. By May, mercury pushes 30 degrees and reaches the mid-thirties throughout the summer months.
The coast sees approximately 110 millimetres of rain per year, with 203 sunny days through most of the region. But if sunshine is your main priority, head to South Padre Island, which boasts 300 days of sunshine over the course of the year.
Texas’ Gulf Coast offers activities galore for the outdoor enthusiast. Golf lovers have lots to choose from — from exclusive resorts to cheap and cheerful courses, and everything in between. If you’re a bird-watcher, Texas is definitely the place to be, as it’s one of the top birding destinations in the country. And for those who love to fish, ponds, rivers and lakes offer many exceptional opportunities to drop in a line.
Golf opportunities are abundant in the coast, making the region a perfect retreat for golfers of every ability.
If you’re willing to travel north just a bit though, Bluejack National — the only golf course designed by Tiger Woods — is a private club about an hour north of Houston. It was rated Golf Digest’s Best New Course, and offers a range of family-friendly amenities from zip lines, swimming pools, a bowling alley and more.
If you want to stick to the coast, however, Galveston offers many great courses, including Moody Gardens — an 18-hole course that’s open to the public. Enjoy scenic views but be sure to take a surplus of balls, as the waterfront course can be challenging. The Galveston Country Club, meanwhile, is one of the oldest private country clubs in Texas, with an 18-hole championship course, 15 bunkers, and a strict dress code. Needless to say, it may be best suited to the serious golfer.
If you’re closer to Corpus Christi, the Lozano Golf Center is minutes from downtown and home to an 18-hole regulation golf course, a 9-hole executive course, a lighted driving range, and an extensive chipping and putting area. The 6,223 yard, tree-lined Oso Beach Golf Course is also close by.
For links-style golf, the Palmilla Beach Golf Club in Port Aransas is one of the top 10 courses in Texas, according to Golfweek. River Hills Country Club; meanwhile, is a semi-private facility open to the public and offers a challenging yet comfortable golf experience.
Texas is home to more than 540 bird species — according to the Texas Almanac, that’s two thirds of the species found in the entire U.S.
Galveston Island is one of the top locations in the country for birding, as its diverse ecosystem is a haven for both unique year-round species and rare migratory birds. In fact, many birds flying to and from Central and South America pass through for food and rest – others still spend their summers on the island to breed. Avid birders may care to know that Galveston straddles the 95th meridian, which is the middle of the trans-Gulf migration route and is the point of the route where many birds veer north.
South Padre Island is another excellent birding destination, and home to the Birding and Nature Center, which boasts a five-story viewing tower and over 3,000 feet of boardwalk for your observing pleasure. The unique habitat, which includes natural marshes and meadows, provides a great opportunity to see rare birds.
While Texas isn’t typically known for its beaches, the Lone Star state boasts 400 miles of picturesque coastline fronting warm Gulf Coast waters. Great for swimming, sailing, kayaking, fishing and boating — as well as more thrilling activities such as kiteboarding or parasailing — the beaches in Texas have a lot to offer.
The Bolivar Peninsula, just east of Galveston Island, is home to 27 miles of beautiful beaches, including the idyllic Crystal Beach, a quiet band of sand that stretches over seven miles. This eco-friendly beach is popular for its abundant fishing, swimming and other water activities. Best of all, it’s easy to get to: there’s a free ferry operating regularly from Galveston
South Padre Island is also known for its beautiful beach. Lined with 33 miles of unspoiled sandy waterfront, visitors can enjoy everything from swimming to surfing in the clear waters. If you’re in the Corpus Christi area, there is a range of beaches, each with a unique appeal – explore the piers, fishing spots, swimming holes and sand dunes. This site has a great overview of the best Corpus Christi beaches and what’s ripe for exploring.
Fishing is an integral part of Texas culture, and the state is home to 36 rivers, 6,736 lakes and 377 miles of coastline. Whether you take your fishing seriously or just like to enjoy a day out on the water, there are fishing opportunities for anglers of every interest and ability.
Some of the most renowned fishing spots include the man-made Rollover Pass on the Bolivar Peninsular, which draws people from all over the U.S. (and perhaps even the world) for its abundance of fish. Lake Livingston, located in the piney woods of East Texas, is one of the largest lakes in the state and offers great opportunities for catching white bass and catfish, while Toledo Bend, fed by the Sabine River and many small creeks, offers possibly the best bass fishing in Texas.
For a complete overview of fishing in Texas, visit the state parks site here.
Cultural and historic attractions
Texas is a treasure chest of history and culture. In Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts houses works by Impressionist and Renaissance painters, while the NASA Space Center offers fascinating and interactive displays for the space enthusiast. The city of San Antonio, meanwhile, is chock full of historical attractions and is a museum unto itself. Beyond the big cities, however, there are thriving arts scenes and a range of interesting museums that make Texas an ideal destination for any culture buff.
If you’re staying in Galveston, be sure to check out the Strand District – Galveston’s 70-block historic downtown. It’s a National Historic Landmark District of 19th century architecture housing many galleries, museums and theatres.
One of Galveston’s many events is ArtWalk, a citywide open house that happens on eight Saturday evenings each year. The event takes place at art galleries, cafes and shops, and visitors are encouraged to stroll from place to place, enjoying food, drink and live music from vendors lining the sidewalks.
Corpus Christi features historic homes, monuments, museums and festivals that celebrate the culture and history of the region. The Art Museum of South Texas features a permanent collection as well as special exhibits showcasing regional fine art, photography and crafts while the Art Center of Corpus Christi promotes regional artists and hosts a variety of art classes and seminars. For a less traditional museum experience, head over to the popular USS Lexington, which offers self-guided and guided tours of this 16-deck aircraft carrier, letting visitors get up close to modern and vintage aircraft.
But if you’re even mildly interested in American history, take a side trip to fascinating San Antonio. Stroll along the world-famous River Walk — also known as the Paseo del Rio — where you can shop, dine and explore the city’s historic attractions.
The most popular San Antonio sites include the Mission San Antonio de Valero — now known as the Alamo — where in 1836 Texans held off 4,000 Mexican troops during the Battle of the Alamo. Visitors can take a guided battlefield tour, rent a self-guided audio tour, walk through the historic Alamo Church, and much more.
The Alamo, as well as the four other Spanish colonial missions that line the riverbank, have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and make up the San Antonio Missions National Park. The River Walk’s new Mission Reach is a perfect way to access the missions, and also features an eight-mile stretch of recreational trails, picnic and seating areas, pedestrian bridges and pavilions.
Sports and leisure
South Texas is a haven for sports fans, with some of today’s most exciting teams calling it home.
The World Series champion Houston Astros play in Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston. The park is famous for its retractable roof, which brought open-air baseball to Houston for the first time in 35 years. Plus, the natural grass surface and classic architecture give Minute Maid Park a fun, vintage atmosphere.
If you’re a football fan, the Houston Texans play 8 times a year at NRG Stadium, and if basketball if your thing, between the Houston Rockets and five-time-champs San Antonio spurs, Texas is a great place to catch a game. The Raptors will play in Texas a few times each year — check out their schedule for this season’s match ups!
And if you’ve just got to get your fix of hockey while in Texas, you can head to Dallas to see the Stars play (about a 3.5 hour drive from Houston). Take a look at the NHL schedule to see when your favourite Canadian team is playing.
Shopping and dining
Texas cuisine is dominated by Tex-Mex and Barbecue — fajitas, burritos, day-long smoked brisket and chilli (the state dish) — are popular fare throughout the Lone Star state.But along the Gulf Coast, fresh seafood is also abundant, and new, innovative cuisine is making a mark.
As far as shopping goes, a wonderful variety awaits in the Gulf of Mexico – from upscale boutiques to wild flea markets that take a full day to explore.
Galveston is quickly becoming an attractive destination for foodies, and features a fun and diverse range of dining — from casual seafood shacks to upscale establishments. Both the historic harbour district and downtown area offer incredible places to eat and drink. Check out the best places to eat in Galveston to find your next great meal.
When it comes to shopping, Galveston’s 70-block historic downtown is a must-see for shoppers, featuring a variety of boutiques, antiques, collectibles and fine art — not to mention LaKing’s Confectionary — a can’t-miss old-fashioned candy store.
Corpus Christi, meanwhile, offers everything from fresh seafood, tasty Tex-Mex, fine dining to pizza parlors. What’s more, the city also features fantastic food festivals, including a new Taco Festival and the ever-popular Food Truck Festivals, including Food Truck Fridays. For a review of the top restaurants in Corpus Christi, check out The Culture Trip’s list.
South Padre Island offers up a mix of casual, take out and fine dining with beach and bay side views. Check out some of the best places here. It’s also a fun spot for shopping, as most of the island’s stores are set along the popular Padre Boulevard, where you can browse through boutiques showcasing local artisans, fun souvenirs and beach essentials.
If you’re a fan of flea markets and farmers’ markets, you’re in for a real treat in South Texas, as markets are a popular pastime in the area. Traders Village in Houston opened in 1989 and covers more than 105 acres with 2,000 dealers every weekend. As the largest market on the Texas Gulf coast, more than one million people browse, buy and trade in this open-air bargain hunters’ paradise each year, picking up anything from electronics, comic books, stamps, flowers, furniture, clothing, crafts and more.
In nearby Brownsville, 77 Flea Market is a fun place to spend the day. You can buy clothes, produce, furniture, CDs, and a million other things, including fabulous Mexican food and goods. And if you’re visiting South Padre Island, their Farmer’s Market is held every Sunday from 11am – 1pm.
Fan of the open road? Texas is a very popular destination for RV’ers, with a broad range of public and private parks and resorts to choose from. RV’ing lets you get up close to the best fishing spots, beaches and outdoor activities – in fact, many beaches in South Texas offer the benefit of being able to drive on the beach and park near the water. And given the expanse of the state, exploring it on wheels lets you discover the many regions of Texas and create a winter plan that caters to your diverse interests.
To help you plan your route and pick your destination, take a look at this listing of top RV parks throughout the state.
While RV’ing is very popular, Texas also offers affordable housing throughout the state (although there are a couple of island hot spots where home values are on the higher side). From beach houses to bungalows, condos to historic homes, if you’re interested in renting or purchasing real estate in Texas, you’ll find what’s right for you – often for less than other U.S. sun destinations.
Median house price in Texas overall: $184, 700 USD
Median home prices per city:
Galveston: $ 196,700
Houston: $ 177,200
South Padre Island: $ 325,000
Corpus Christi: $ 145,400
Brownsville: $ 86,700
San Antonio: $ 166,800
Getting there and around
There are regular, non-stop flights to both Houston and San Antonio from several Canadian cities, making getting to your Texas winter destination simple and straightforward.
If you’re looking to head a bit farther south, there are connecting flights to the Brownsville/South Padre Island airport and Corpus Christi International Airport. And of course, you can easily drive to Texas from many parts of Canada, whether you’re heading down by car or RV.
Winter Texans are more than welcome throughout Texas, and it’s a good thing. Texas has a great deal to offer the Canadian snowbird, from wide stretches of beautiful of sandy beaches, fun outdoor activities such as birding and fishing, a rich history to be explored and miles of open road for the RV enthusiast. With beautiful winter weather rivalling any southern U.S. destination, Texas adds affordability to the equation, offering a sunshine filled winter escape for less.
More from the Snowbird Winter Destinations Series:
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.