If You Hate Cold Weather, Spend Your Holiday in Arizona
If you get tired of sun, we often have snow, too
Arizona is the place to go if you hate snow, or are tired of being cold. We get many, many winter visitors. In fact, we get so many from cold places, we call them "snowbirds". So be a snowbird, and come visit!
Temperatures are generally mild in the winter. Our exclusive, trademarked, patent pending, saguaro cactus wouldn't survive otherwise, and we have plenty of those! In southern Arizona, anyway. Daytime temperatures can climb to a balmy 65 degrees or so. In the desert, there is often a difference of 40 degrees between the daytime high and the nighttime low. We might have a light freeze around 30 degrees at night, but rarely below that.
We had one winter recently where the temperatures went down into the low 20's at night, for several weeks. That was certainly DIFFERENT!
On the other hand, if you miss the snow, and we are having winter rains (which doesn't always happen much), you can find snow in the mountains. That involves a drive of a half hour or an hour. We even have skiing! The best places to ski in Arizona are the San Francisco Peaks and the Santa Catalina Mountains.
In the daytime, plan on spending some time sunning outside.
We used to go to church on Christmas Day, and after church, we would get into the car, and my Dad would turn on the car's air conditioner, and he'd say, "It's not Christmas unless I have to run the car air conditioner." We always needed it. Of course, some people think Christmas REQUIRES us to have snow. But then, they rarely have snow where Jesus was born. In fact, their climate is very similar to ours!
All photos are mine.
Snow, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Before leaving the topic of snow, I just want to show you a couple of photos of a "snowstorm" that left a blanket (lightweight) of snow in the desert, would you believe, on EASTER SUNDAY! The snow was largely gone by noon.
It is rare for the snow to be enough of a problem to cause a road hazard, in the valley, at least. On the other hand, if you want to go up into the mountains, you might need chains.
In this photo, observe that the Ocotillo are in bloom, and there is snow on the ground (already melting), and a little on the blossoms themselves.
This was a different snowstorm, which was gone by 10 am:
That snow gave us a beautiful, soft sunrise:
Things to See
There are lots and lots of really interesting things to see and do in southern Arizona. We have lots of really nice museums, architecture, parks, and many other attractions.
I have had an opportunity to photograph a lot of interesting architecture in southern Arizona. I talk about this in my lens Colorful Architecture of Southern Arizona.
Here is a sample, a Spanish Renaissance-style church, of which there are several.
This is the Benedictine Sanctuary in Tucson.
This is a house in a neighborhood just south of downtown Tucson.
There are many other different kinds of architecture to see, just while driving around.
Do you like butterflies? Do you miss them at home? There is a continuing exhibit of COLORFUL tropical butterflies in Tucson, which lasts from October through April, at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Here are some samples:
This is the well loved Blue Morpho. They always have plenty, flying around actively.
This is a Tailed Jay.
This is an Indian Dead Leaf.
You can see more of these colorful butterflies in my lens, Tropical Butterflies.
But if you prefer to see our local wildlife, the place to go is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This is a LIVING museum that has many species of plants and animals native to the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran Desert covers much of southern Arizona, the state of Sonora in Mexico, and parts of California and Baja California.
On the upper right is the Ocelot, a small wild cat that lives mostly in Mexico. (A few people keep them as pets, but I wouldn't recommend it.)
They also have coyotes...
Arizona is noted for its cultural diversity. In fact, it is probably safe to say that the majority of people in Arizona are from cultures other than European.
We have the original natives, including Tohono O'odham (Papago) Indians, Akimel O'odham (Pima) Indians, Apaches, Dineh (Navajo), Yaquis, and others. One of the most famous landmarks of the southwest is the mission San Xavier (hav-EER) Mission south of Tucson, also known as the Dove of the Desert. I have a picture of it somewhere, and will add it when (or if) I find it.
We also have a lot of Spanish-speaking folks here. They have some very colorful festivals, and they like to decorate their homes with thousands upon thousands of Christmas lights. Oh, speaking of Christmas lights, we have a neighborhood called Winterhaven, and each year, they decorate all the homes with elaborate displays, and attract crowds. They even have to have police directing traffic at the entrance!
And there are a number of Asians, dark-skinned folks, about 60,000 Germans last I heard, and plenty of folks from elsewhere. In fact, every year we have a festival called Tucson Meet Yourself, and there are many different ethnic groups that present their music and dance as well as their cuisine.
Southern Arizona was a favorite choice for Vietnamese moving to the United States.
I never thought I would hear Russian spoken on the street here, but since the fall of the Soviet Union, I do. I even have one fellow student in my taekwondo school that speaks Russian.
What is your favorite weather?
Do you prefer snow or warm weather?
Music, art, museums, we have many.
Tucson has more orchestras per capita than any other city in the country, including New York! In order to have the same number of orchestras, New York would have to have 105.
Among the orchestras are the Tucson Symphony, Tucson Philharmonia Youth Orchestra, Southern Arizona Symphony, Catalina Chamber Orchestra, Tucson Junior Strings (six string orchestras for children), etc.
We have folk music and dancing of a wide variety, and mariachi bands in the Mexican restaurants. There are lots of other kinds of music, too.
We also have art museums. The Tucson Art Museum is downtown, and there are small art shops with exhibits all over the place.
We have other kinds of museums, including the famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, mentioned before. We have a children's museum, the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Tohono Chul Park, and we have the Reid Park Zoo. The only thing we DON'T have is an aquarium. :( Maybe someday.
If you arrive by early December, there is the Fourth Avenue Street Fair. Numerous artists display and sell their work. You can hear music on the street as well.
Ted deGrazia, the famous southwestern artist, has a gallery here, where his works are also sold. The photo is of his boyhood home, which is also on the property. The cast iron stove is still in the kitchen.
If you are still here in February, you can visit the largest gem and mineral show in the country. But motel prices jump drastically, so be prepared. In addition to mineral displays and gems and minerals for sale, there is often ethnic art available. It draws exhibitors and sellers from all over the world. The man in ethnic dress is probably an exhibitor, but he is doing a bit of shopping for himself.
Science and Technology
Southern Arizona has some unique opportunities to see technology, with the Pima Air Museum, which probably has the largest collection of planes from the very beginning to the present day, from the United States. It also has a few Russian MIGs!
This is an ideal location for such a museum, because in our weather, the planes last forever. Next door is a "graveyard" for obsolete Air Force planes, with hundreds or more stored.
We also have a Titan Missile museum, south of Tucson.
And Arizona is a premier location for astronomy because of our clear skies. We have the famous solar telescope on Kitt Peak, and a large telescope on Mt. Hopkins. There are many photos of the solar telescope out there, and I didn't happen to take any yet, so I will share a photo of a smaller telescope I saw when I was on the road to Mt. Hopkins.
If you are wondering what they are using this tiny telescope for, I don't know, either. They had two of them. If you look closely, you can see the mountains behind me reflecting off the mirror array. Upside down.
Boy do we have cuisine! We have the most varied kinds imaginable.
Of course, you always have your fast food places and pizza places. And the wonderful steak houses. We also have one chain that offers slushy drinks and subs which has its headquarters here: EeGees. But there are so many different ethnic groups here, as I said, and many of them have members who operate their own restaurants.
Most common are the Mexican restaurants. Some have seafood, some are Sonoran style (most of them), and then we have Mexico City cuisine at La Parilla Suiza (the Swiss mill). Mexico City cuisine uses a lot of Swiss cheese, unlike Sonoran cuisine, which uses cheddar. They also have the best salsa in town! They have three kinds of fresh salsa. Pico de Gallo (beak of the rooster) contains fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapeÃ±o peppers, and cilantro (coriander). The salsa verde is made of tomatillos, a kind of green tomato that grows in a paper shell, and the red salsa is mostly tomatoes and is the hottest. They have three restaurants in town, and have also opened at least one in Phoenix, along with the ones in Mexico City itself. My favorite dish is the alambre tacos with chicken. This is a mild dish with chicken, onions, green peppers, and bacon bits served with fresh lettuce and tomatoes, corn tortillas, and refried beans.
In addition, we have Southwestern cuisine, including TexMex, French and Continental restaurants, Italian restaurants, an Ethiopian restaurant, a Hawai'ian restaurant, several Greek restaurants, Arabic and Kurdish restaurants, and a slew of different Asian restaurants. They include Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Korean. There used to be a Malaysian restaurant, but the owners retired. :( They had some very hot and delicious satay. The Czech restaurant also went out of business, as did the Israeli restaurant. So did the Irish-Mexican restaurant. One of our Chinese restaurants is owned by the former chef to the Prime Minister of Vietnam. We have a few restaurants that specialize in natural foods. And there is a bit of "fusion" going on here, including Mexican sushi.
The fact that we have a large university here with students from all over the world helps a lot.
Arizona is one of the richest places to go birding, rivaling Texas. The United States has about 800 species of birds, I believe, and 600 of them, roughly, show up in Arizona from time to time, mostly in southeastern Arizona. We get a lot of tropical birds that just made it across the border into the United States. Several locations boast a list of around 300 species just at that one location. My favorite birding spots with lots of species include Sweetwater Wetlands, west of Tucson, and Gilbert Water Ranch, east of Phoenix.
In the winter, we have an unbelievable number of ducks. They can gather up into the thousands. We have four out of seven species of goose. We also have 15 species of ducks, out of a possible 22 for the nation. We get lots of different shorebirds, two kinds of cormorants, several species of gulls (usually just one individual or two, but sometimes more), two species of ibis (one common, one rare), several species of egrets and herons, and both species of pelican. The ocean birds always surprise me, because we have plenty of beach, but no ocean!
We also had a real rarity a couple of years ago, a Baikal Teal. This bird shows up here so rarely that most American birders thought it was extinct. A single male stayed at Gilbert Water Ranch for about two weeks in December. There are records in only two other states. Normally, they breed in Siberia, and winter in Vietnam and neighboring countries.
We also have had 16 species of hummingbirds out of a possible 22 for the nation, though one of them is exceedingly rare, and you won't find them in winter.
And then there is the very famous Elegant Trogon, a bird every birder wants to have on his life list. Originally, they only showed up in Madera Canyon, but they have now spread to a few other locations. This is a tropical bird that comes in from Mexico.
And then there are other rarities that show up only in extreme southern Arizona, coming from Mexico, that aren't even listed in Sibley's, like Fan-tailed Warbler and Aztec Thrush.
They say if you wear out a pair of shoes in Arizona, you will never leave.
But please don't wear out a pair of shoes before you visit me again!
An Interesting Book
A Guide to Tucson Architecture
Anne M. Nequette and R. Brooks Jeffery
Pretty much self-explanatory. I have a copy, and I am just starting to read it. It is extensive.