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Want year-round outdoor life? Embrace a snowbird lifestyle!

Reading Time: 15 minutes
"by " Elizabeth Lande

For many people, taking care of themselves means enjoying time outside in the fresh air every day. Going for a hike, fishing at a nearby lake, biking in the park or birdwatching are among a few of the ways that people can enjoy the great outdoors. Although in certain parts of the world people enjoy these activities no matter what the weather (hello, Scandinavia), many people prefer to go for a hike or ride their bikes in Goldilocks temperatures: not too hot (or humid) and not too cold. That’s one of the many benefits of embracing a snowbird lifestyle.

A snowbird lifestyle lets you take advantage of a temperate climate year-round, so you can spend time every day experiencing your favorite outdoor activities. More than one million people from Canada and northern parts of the United States flock to Florida1 annually to embrace a warmer climate. But heading from the Adirondacks to the Everglades is hardly the only model. If you think about it, there are countless ways to have it all.

Beyond giving up shoveling and avoiding seasonal affective disorder, snowbirds may migrate between the north and south for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Chance to enjoy outdoor activities year-round – If you love the great outdoors but prefer a temperate climate, being a snowbird means spending more time outside.

  • Seeing loved ones more – Multiple residences may mean the ability to live near family and friends who are located across the country.

  • Tax advantages – By picking a primary residence in a state with no (or lower) income taxes, being a snowbird may have tax advantages. Make sure you speak with an accountant to get the full picture.

  • Change of pace, scenery and lifestyle – By spending part of the year in a maritime climate and some of the time in the desert or in a mountainous region, you can experience different kinds of activities and natural environments.

  • Seeing the country in an RV – People who enjoy traveling by recreational vehicle, and live the RV lifestyle, can spend some (or all) of the year seeing the United States in the comfort and convenience of bringing their kitchen, bed and sofa with them. Want to visit every national park? The sky's the limit!

With a country the size of the United States, you can have it all. Want some ideas? Here are five geographic pairings to consider if you are looking into being a snowbird full-time.

It seems a natural fit for Mainers to love North Carolina winter living. By spending cooler summers near Acadia National Park and the winters in the not-exactly-warm Cape Hatteras or near the Smoky Mountains, snowbirds can enjoy mostly mild, but not necessarily extreme temperatures throughout the year. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy near-endless options for hiking, fishing and camping year-round, while avoiding the bigger crowds found in states further south. Bird lovers can check out the Maine Audubon Society’s events to find a host of activities to explore. Looking for a catch in North Carolina? There’s plenty of fish in the ocean and game in the woods. Both states offer beautiful beaches, proximity to cities and endless opportunities to find a quiet place, far from light pollution, for stargazing. 

Do you love wine? Trendsetting dining? Sailboats? Gorgeous sunsets? Sounds like you? Splitting your time between Central New York’s Finger Lakes region and California’s wine country gives you plenty to explore. Of course, both regions are known for much more than just wine. Spending summers in Central New York offers many options to enjoy Mother Nature’s beauty. Hike the gorges near Ithaca, kayak around Keuka Lake and catch NASCAR fever at Watkins Glen International Speedway, when wine country completely changes its vibe. Don’t forget your earplugs – those engines really can roar – and it's important protect your ears to prevent hearing loss. Don't head west until late fall. You won’t want to miss October, when the leaves turn to brilliant shades of oranges and reds. Then escape the too-early snow for sunny and much warmer California.

By Halloween, you will hear the waves of the Pacific calling to you. From the Sonoma and Napa valleys to Santa Barbara, there is near-endless opportunity to explore almost any outdoor activity: running, cycling, roaming beaches looking for unique shells, sailing. Hiking up hills, you’ll take in panoramic views so beautiful you will think you’re on a movie set (and, since it’s California, maybe you are).

Hear that? Maybe it's just a few birds' chirping? Otherwise, you can embrace the sound of silence. No traffic. No television and no cell phones. When you traverse deeply enough the mountain trails of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, you can truly escape from the trappings of 21st century life. If the retirement of your dreams means spending time off the grid in the fresh air, the right choice for you may mean splitting your time between the Northern Rocky Mountains and finding a remote village on the Gulf Coast. 

Summertime in the mountains offers so much for the outdoor enthusiast. If you enjoy living off the land – hunting, gathering, fishing and foraging – or you want to hike, paddle and climb, you can literally do all of these in the mountains. Spending summers on an RV adventure, crisscrossing through mountains and valleys, will give you endless food for your soul. But be ready to vacate soon after the fall equinox as winters come early and last for a long time.

To balance your summers in the Rockies, why not spend winters seaside along the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico? You can lose yourself in the bayou, or if you crave city life after long periods off the grid, you can enjoy live jazz, great Cajun restaurants and the cultural activities of Greater New Orleans, including Mardi Gras, of course. Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg in Florida also offer coastal lifestyle options with the opportunity to go to museums, theaters and cafes with golfing, swimming, sailing and snorkeling.

Thanks to reality shows that highlight alligator hunters and swamp living, off-the-beaten-path Gulf Coast hideaways aren’t quite as secluded as they used to be, but still offer plenty of action for adventure-seeking snowbirds during winter months.

If you are an urbanite who also likes to mix the city with outdoor life, a Seattle-San Antonio combo might be right for you. A snowbird can take advantage of the best of Puget Sound during the summer and escape Seattle’s famously unceasing rain (it really isn’t that bad) to take on the slower pace of Texas during the winter months.

Seattle is more than just a market where fishmongers throw salmon to the delight of tourists. Being located in the heart of Puget Sound, Seattleites can take ferries to small villages, experience whales in their natural habitat and try a vast array of water activities mixed with the comforts of city life. Seattle has countless cultural opportunities, many with senior discounts. Plus, as the home of several universities and colleges, residents can enrich themselves through lifelong learning or attend concerts with visiting musicians. Explore the Cascade Mountains, including the highest peak in Mount Rainier National Park. For a more maritime feel, try listening for whales in the San Juan Islands. Just a ferry ride and short drive from Seattle, you can get lost among old-growth forests in Olympic National Park.

What complements summers in the Pacific Northwest? Winters in Texas. Spending the colder months in San Antonio will be a nice balance to the green mountainscapes. San Antonio’s Riverwalk district has plenty of museums, the Alamo and entertainment to keep city lovers’ cultural cravings satisfied. The greater region offers plenty of opportunity to embrace a cowboy’s lifestyle at local rodeos. Plus, Big Bend National Park and Gulf resorts like Galveston are not far (by Texas standards, at least) and offer countless recreational activities. Whether you enjoy camping, beach walking or hiking, Texas offers plenty of areas to explore.

What do people who live in Alaska and Hawaii have in common? Perhaps they love being off the beaten geographical path. Or they attract people looking for a sense of adventure and who enjoy the simplicity of natural beauty. If you spend your summers basking in the midnight sun north of Juneau, it is no wonder you may be tempted to flock to the remote island of Molokai to escape December’s darkness.

People who enjoy a sense of adventure, respect nature’s beauty (and danger – both places are known for volcanoes, major storms and earthquakes) and prefer life away from large population centers, may be ready to pair these destinations. You can spend the summers bird-watching and living in the vast natural expanses of Alaska in the more temperate months. Then, as the birds migrate south, you can spend a portion of the year listening to the Pacific waves, and enjoying the sweetness of shaved ice on a hot January day. If you think about it, you can almost hear the ukulele music.

Not sure that you are ready to take on a snowbird’s lifestyle full-time? Thanks to the ease of online vacation rentals offering options that cater to people’s varied needs, families and individuals can test the waters of snowbirding without committing to buying a second home.

You can also try multiple destinations for a month to see if you would enjoy repeating it next year or try international destinations. Consider comparing the Galapagos with Greenland, Siberia and Singapore. India and Indiana. No matter what you desire for adventure – whether you are looking for a place with flat trails or your bucket list includes visiting every national park – today’s snowbirds have countless takes that go far beyond Manhattan to Miami.

What’s your goal?