While the warm desert climate, lack of snow and picturesque attractions, Arizona is one of nature’s enticing secrets in winter.
The state welcomes as many as five million visitors every year; but the numbers are down by at least 50 percent, according to the Arizona Office of Tourism. It’s only half as crowded in winter than it is in summer.
Arizona’s Winter Beauty Stands Out
In the distance, the view of the mountains is appealing. The fewer number of tourists in the winter is a bonus. A visitor can enjoy the scenery without the thronges of other people. Another benefit of winter travel is the faster service in restaurants.
I enjoyed the fast service of food being served after it has been offered. One can just walk in and be seated immediately, or within a few short minutes.
Restaurants serve Southwestern and Tex-Mex food that range from mild to spicy. I tasted a very spicy broccoli-and-cheese soup along with the rest of my meal.
There’s a wide array of wildlife to be seen in Arizona, even in the cooler climate. Looking overhead, I saw bald eagles and peregrine falcons soaring across the azure blue sky. The sight was awe-inspiring. I also saw other examples of the state’s wildlife to include field mice ad jackrabbits, mountain lions and elk.
As for plant life, a variety of cactus thrive in the desert: the saguaro, pincushion, cholla and prickly pear. I must admit, it was a strange sight to see various kinds of cacti, standing like soldiers, growing in the medians of the highways. You will see palm trees growing along the highway.
In addition to palm trees, there are Quaking Aspen ad Pinon Pine. Among the decidious trees-those that lose their leaves in winter-there are common varities like maple, oak and elm. Visitors will see also White Mimosa and Utah Agave, which are only found in the western region of the United States.
Arizona’s landscape is colored by a variety of flowers, many of which grow primarily in the Western states. There’s lupine, a yellow, blue, white or rose-coloired flower, and the bright orange Indian paintbrush flower. Lupines typically grow along garden borders or as background plants. Indian paintbrush typically grows in garden borders, or in meadow areas, especially in groups along the roadside or in other rustic areas.
Highways and freeway exits are decorated with a touch of humor. Driving along, a visitor can see gravel and sand creatively arranged in the shapes of Aztec snakes and lizards, and geometric shapes. The colors run from various shades of brown and tan to purples and pinks.
Almost anywhere you go mountain ranges, with their snow-capped peaks, are visible on the horizon. The mixture of brown, beige and black on the mountains tipped with whie is excellent for panoramic camera shots.
Arizona’s winter climate varies greatly. You can find yourself in snow in the morning and desert sunshine in the afternoon. A tourist learns the elevations to prevent altitude sickness for the drive, and will check the weather reports before setting out for the day. Remember extreme elevations can bring on altitude sickness.
History is Alive in Arizona
Among Indian trides, the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai and Hualapai in the Grand Canyon area, make Arizona their home. Spanish settlers were the first non-Native Americans in the area; and Hispanic culture plays a vital part in Arizona life.
My family and I enjoyed the outdoors, exploring the scenery, taking photos and visiting nearby towns. But we also found plenty of things to do for those who prefer to stay indoors. There is an abundance of theaters, art and historical museums, such as the indoor/outdoor museum on Havasu Indian artefacts in Tusayuan.
I recommend visitors, bring at least twice as much film as you think necessary. Everywhere I looked I found another photo that I just had to have. The dozens of pictures I took will be a real part of my memory forever. Witnessing the beauty of nature even during winter’s harsh weather left me in awe. My mind’s eye replays visions of snow-capped mountains, giant trees tipped in white and winter cactus; and I take out my pictures and relive my days in Arizona.
It was hard to head back to gray and wintry Ohio, when our trip ended in sunny, warm Arizona weather. I longed to stay, but life back in Ohio was calling. I’ll keep my memories alive with the experience I had to keep me warm.
Arizona Office of Tourism
1110 W. Washington,#155
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone numbers: 1-866-275-8516 for visitor information or 1-602-364-3700 for administrative questions
Local visitor centers: free 24/7
Local restaurants: Grand Restaurant, Tusayuan Diner
Overnight Lodging costs: Call Lodge
Local hoels near the area: Reservations. Check hotel for pets.
Average hotel prices: $80