Winter in Arizona is pretty spectacular, which is why it seems half of the country seems to move in for 6 months out of the year to share our roads, favorite restaurants, and of course, shop. With sunshine skies, unbeatable temperatures, and a whole lot to do in the desert, we definitely get why the snowbirds come to town. This year, we decided to find some neat, out-of-the-box ways to spend the cooler months, by getting outside and enjoying some of Arizona’s best local attractions. We wanted to spotlight our beautiful state’s best to-do’s, rounding together seven of our favorite things to enjoy during the wintertime in Arizona.
1. Take a Hike:
Walking in a winter wonderland is nice but hiking is way more fun. Camelback Mountain is a local favorite and popular site for visitors, with its convenient location and accessible trailheads, Echo and Cholla. Other local hiking staples in the Phoenix/Scottsdale areas include Papago Park, Dreamy Draw, and South Mountain Park. However, if you’re looking to get out of town for a bit, or bring holiday visitors on a little Arizona adventure, a beautiful hike (and possibly the prospect of gold) awaits you at Reavis Ranch in the Superstition wilderness.
The Valley of the Sun is nationally renown for having great golf. From recreational outlets like the numerous public courses and driving ranges around town, to a number of professional courses throughout the state, Arizona attracts droves of golfers annually. Warm weather and mild conditions make our state a national golfing destination. The most widely recognized course to most visitors would likely be TPC Scottsdale, famously the home of the Waste Management Open, and of course, the indelible Birds Nest. The Birds Nest has already announced EDM heavyweights Kaskade and Steve Aoki, country factotums Toby Keith and The Band Perry, 90’s-rock figureheads Blink-182 and many more are scheduled to perform at the Open. From Troon to Whisper Rock with tons in between, grab a threesome and your clubs and hit the links while the weather is at its best.
3. Float On:
Visitors to Arizona may picture saguaros and tumbleweeds before they get here, but a closer look around will reveal much more to this desert than what typically meets the imagination. Among our state’s beautiful natural attractions is Canyon Lake, home of the Dolly Steamboat. Take your family for a trip around the lake’s placid waters and explore some of the state’s finest scenery. The steamboat has been cruising since 1925, and now, it navigates the calm inner-waters of Canyon Lake, nestled in the Superstition Mountains. Visitors can enjoy snacks and beverages on the lake while they search for bald eagles, big horn sheep, and a host of other unique wildlife that inhabits Arizona’s gorgeous landscapes.
4. Head off to the races:
If you’re looking for a little exhilaration, an afternoon at the races might be exactly what you need. Turf Paradise has long been a local staple in the Valley, bringing visitors of all ages to Deer Valley to enjoy heart-pounding horse races and cool, crisp weather. The Phoenix mainstay sporting attraction is gearing up to host its 61st anniversary party in January! Over the years, Turf Paradise has been updated and renovated a number of times, and now, the track features tiki bars, a kids fun park, and more. Between a birthday party in the works, horse races, wiener dog races, and Fiesta Sundays, Turf Paradise is one of the best ways to have fun outdoors with the whole family.
5. Stroll the Desert Botanical Gardens:
Few things incorporate all the best elements of Arizona in the winter time quite like the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. If you’re looking for a spot to bring the whole family, or even a quaint place to bring a date, consider a trip to the Gardens. Stunning wildlife, gorgeous landscapes, and wonderous lighting displays bring the desert to life in a whole new way, and the cool winter air is always tempered by a steaming tall cup of hot cocoa. Events like Corks & Cactus, Dog’s Day and Music in the Garden attract droves of Arizonans and visitors alike. An Arizona mainstay attraction that’s fun, informative, and outdoors, the Desert Botanical Gardens are one of our favorite holiday traditions here in town.
6. Road Trip:
The road trip destinations in Arizona are seemingly endless. Pack a picnic basket, pack the car up, and put it in drive! you’ll be out of town and on the open road in no time. Head up to Jerome to traverse ghostly grounds, or enjoy a glass of wine at one of Cottonwood’s famous local vineyards. Sedona’s vortexes and Devil’s Bridge trail are a must-see for any outdoor enthusiast. Those looking to go the distance may want to see the intersection of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona at the Four Corners. Monument Valley and the Keet Seel ruins are exciting local spots to explore as well. For some of the state’s most awe-inspiring sites though, keep the city in your rear view mirror and visit Antelope Canyon or our very own world wonder, the Grand Canyon. They’re easily accessible day trips from the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, and they are some of the most beautiful natural sites in the world. All you have to do is hop in the car with some company and you’re on your way!
7. Snow sports:
Keep your heart rate high into the new year! Beyond Arizona’s desert terrain, pine tree forests canvas the northern portion of the state. The ultimate cool weather destination for Arizonans has to be the sun-drenched ski and snowboard resorts in Flagstaff and Pinetop. Hit the slopes at one of Arizona’s local resorts! Sunrise and Snowbowl draw the largest crowds of the season, but Tucson’s Mt. Lemmon and Elk Ridge offer equally-enticing alternatives for Arizona’s winter sports crowd. Our state’s crisp sunshine and fluffy powder make it one of the country’s most unlikely, yet altogether enjoyable skiing and snowboarding spots. Whether you’re a bunny-hill conqueror or a black diamond daredevil, there’s a slope out here waiting for you.