The 10 Warmest Small Towns in the U.S. for Escaping the Winter
It's time to flock to warmer places. Here's where travel experts recommend.
Snowbird season is the time of year when northerners flock to warmer climates down south to spend weeks or even months temporarily residing in a sunny locale. But this annual migration isn't just about finding a small town warm enough to swim all year round. There are other factors to consider, including the overall cost of living, access to airports and major highways, convenient healthcare options, and proximity to attractions. Whatever your interests, you'll find sunshine inspiration right here. Read on to discover the 12 best places in the U.S. for snowbirds.
Best Places in the U.S. for Snowbirds
1. Delray Beach, Florida
With just over 65,000 residents, Delray Beach is a snowbird hotspot, especially for those from the Tri-state area and New England looking for a taste of the warmer weather without the hustle and bustle of Florida's bigger cities.
"Dip your toes in the sand at Delray Beach and enjoy perfect surfing or paddle boarding weather," says Taylor Beal, owner and author of the travel blog Traverse With Taylor. "The town is packed with all manner of outdoor activities such as pickle-ball and tennis courts, renowned golf courses, and numerous outdoor festivals like the Beatles on the Beach festival in December."
For a less outdoorsy vibe, Atlantic Avenue has a walkable downtown area filled with restaurants, boutiques, and events.
And if you're looking for holiday excitement in the warm weather, this town has you covered. "Delray Beach hosts a Holiday parade, a Hanukkah festival, holiday craft shows, and even a 100-foot Christmas tree," says Beal.
2. Cambria, California
Cambria is a hidden gem located on the central coast of California, and it's a perfect small town for snowbirds.
First and foremost is the weather: Cambria has a temperate climate year-round and its coastal setting offers great sunsets, ocean breezes, and peak relaxation vibes. You can stay right on the water and head into the East and West villages for historic architecture as well as that can't-miss small-town charm.
For people who want more than just beach life, Ashley Cary, independent PR consultant at Highway 1 Road Trip, points out that you can explore nearby state parks as well as scenic walking trails, including Fiscalini Ranch Preserve's 17 miles of hiking trails and the infamous one-mile Moonstone Beach Boardwalk.
Both Cambria's art and culinary scene are thriving as well. "The town is home to numerous art galleries and studios, showcasing the work of local artists," says Cary.
As far as food goes, there's an array of dining delights to indulge in. Cary notes that most meals can be enjoyed with a view: "From farm-to-table restaurants to quaint cafes, the town showcases the best of Central Coast cuisine."
RELATED: The 10 Cutest Small Towns in the South.
3. Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach is known for its laidback shoreline on Alabama's Gulf Coast. Visitors from around the country flock to the sugar sand beaches of Orange Beach and neighboring town Gulf Shores for spring vacations, yet the area also boasts some incredibly relaxing neighborhoods for snowbirds.
Short- and long-term vacation rentals abound, along with a variety of upscale RV parks. Those seeking a permanent abode here will find the cost of living falls within the national average, though savings are found in lower gas and grocery prices.
With a population of just over 8,300, Orange Beach has a small-town beach vibe with big-city amenities. The area is home to backcountry trails, watersports, live music venues, family attractions, and an abundance of eateries highlighting regional seafood.
4. Bonita Springs, Florida
Neighborhood data and relocation service site Niche claims Bonita Springs is "one of the best places to live in Florida." Set along the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida, it has a year-round population of around 58,000 with immediate access to every service imaginable from health care to banking to shopping.
Thanks to a warm climate year-round and proximity to Southwest Florida International Airport, Bonita Springs attracts visitors aplenty, so peak tourist season can make it seem like a boom town. Even so, the Florida Guidebook claims "Bonita Springs is usually quieter than many of Florida's other beach towns, even in the height of snowbird season."
On its own, Bonita Springs has immediate access to outdoor recreation, nightlife, and a boardwalk along the beach. Yet it's close to Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral, which broadens what the area has to offer.
5. Brunswick, Georgia
Brunswick, Georgia has a population of just under 15,000 and is full of both indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy.
"Between breweries, parks, and nature walks, there's plenty to do that involves staying outside and making the most of the weather, and ultimately that's why it's always a firm favorite," says Ryan Walker, CEO at Beyond Academy.
According to Brunswick's website, the town has a variety of annual festivals that celebrate local art, music, and food, as well as many walking paths, historic landmarks, and exciting wildlife.
6. Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
With just over 2,000 people, it's no wonder Sullivan's Island is such a dreamy South Carolina destination for those seeking a serene winter hideaway. This sleepy town can feel bustling overnight once high-season vacationers come to town, but for most of the year, its residents have a gorgeous beach playground all to themselves.
For those keen on socializing, Sullivan's Island has a close-knit community thanks to its footprint of just two-and-a-half miles of shoreline. There's a lively restaurant district and activities include crabbing, birding, surfing, and gallery hopping.
Vacation homes are available for those who want to test the waters, so to speak, to see if this small town has long-term snowbird potential. Contemporary design is available but vintage reigns here, which is no wonder since Sullivan's Island is just minutes from Charleston, one of the country's most historic cities.
7. Gulfport, Mississippi
Though Gulfport is the second-largest city in Mississippi, this town has a modest population of just over 72,000 people. Its geographic footprint sprawls from the Gulf of Mexico coastline inland toward a national forest and state wildlife area. Golfing, nature trails, and water sports are all easily within reach.
Thanks to a wide assortment of recreational areas, coupled with a moderate climate and affordability, Gulfport has become particularly desirable for retirees and snowbirds.
New Home Source, a resource for those on the move, also points to Mississippi's friendly tax laws. "Mississippi exempts all forms of retirement income from taxation," from Social Security to 401Ks and pension income, they explain.
Compared to other Gulf Coast cities like nearby Biloxi, Gulfport's cost of living is on the lower side. Plus, with Interstate 10 and Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport within city limits, Gulfport offers easy access for snowbirds on the go throughout winter.
8. Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Not to be confused with Kailua, (found on Oahu) Hawaii Island's Kailua Kona will give you endless beach days. The average temperature falls in the low 70s during the winter.
Beal points out that just over 20,000 residents live in Kailua-Kona, but there's still plenty to do in this town.
"Snorkel along King Kam Beach or Kahalu'u Beach Park. Stroll down the Kailua pier and Ali'i Drive where you can visit seaside restaurants and shops as you take in the local scene," she suggests. Trying the famous Kona coffee is also a must, as is touring the local coffee plantations.
And if you want to jump-start your escape, Christmas in Kailua-Kona is extra special. The annual Kailua Kalikimaka Christmas celebration brings festivities like tree lightings, Christmas carols, and even parades to this small town.
9. Surfside Beach, Texas
Surfside Beach, Texas has fewer than 700 permanent residents, but it also has 730 beach house rentals that are largely unoccupied in the winter.
"This low occupancy rate means that prices are low and owners are eager to find snowbirds to stay for one to four months from mid-October through mid-March," explains Kourtney Shepard, vacation rental Host at Lone Star Casitas.
This small town also offers lots of activities. "Surfside has over four miles of beach, and provides residents with beautiful sunrises and sunsets all year long," says Shepard. And unlike other beach towns, the local restaurants stay open all year. You can also attend live music events, watch for unique species of birds, or explore the historic Fort Velasco.
10. Gilbert, Arizona
Gilbert has long been a snowbird favorite thanks to its favorable cost of living, abundance of shops and services, proximity to gorgeous state and national parks, dozens of active lifestyle retirement communities, and 20-minute distance from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Even with its continual growth, though, Gilbert retains its small-town charm.
Those interested in hiking or birdwatching will find this suburb, just 30 minutes outside of Phoenix, to be a promising escape from winter weather. You can enjoy a thriving arts scene (as well as an in-season art walk), a bustling downtown with over 30 restaurants, and five golf courses.
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