Arizona has the kind of winter climate everyone in the family will like: sunny and warm or snowy and crisp. Or plan some time in both for one magical wintery trip.
With normal daytime desert temperatures ranging from 60 to 75 degrees in winter, you can play like it’s summer in the middle of winter. Phoenix and Central Arizona, Tucson and Southern Arizona, Arizona’s West Coast and some parts of North-Central Arizona are prime places for fun in the sun.
Explore Lakes and Rivers
Calm water and gentle breezes entice you to spend time on Arizona’s lakes and rivers. Rent or bring your own sail boats, paddling craft, motorized craft or waterskiing gear for some of the best outdoor recreation of the year. Explore the many coves and hideaways at Lake Pleasant northwest of Phoenix. Try popular stand-up paddleboarding on manmade Tempe Town Lake. Use Lake Havasu City as your headquarters for water sports on Lake Havasu and along the Colorado River.
Soak in Natural Hot Springs
Relax after an active day around Safford, including Roper Lake State Park, where natural hot springs warm your body and calm your spirit. Along the state’s western border, dip into a scenic hot spring as a reward for paddling in or hiking along the Colorado River south of Hoover Dam.
Swing like a Pro
You likely won’t need a sweater on the more than 200 golf courses nestled in breathtaking desert, mountain or grassland surroundings. Play where the pros do: TPC Scottsdale, home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and Marana’s The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, which hosts the February WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.
Take to the Air
The sky’s the limit in an Arizona winter vacation. From expansive deserts to snowy mountains, you can take a hot air balloon ride anywhere in the state. Join other ballooning enthusiasts and take a tethered or untethered adventure at the Arizona Balloon Classic in Gilbert and Lake Havasu City’s Balloon Festival and Fair. If birdwatching trips are more your style, spy on migrating birds, especially thousands of wintering sandhill cranes, during Wings over Willcox.
Twirl on the Ice
You can partake in that iconic winter activity – outdoor ice skating – with nary a nip on your nose. Ice rinks open in the middle of Phoenix’s Central Avenue at the popular shopping plaza CityScape Phoenix, on the roof at W Scottsdale hotel and in the middle of a Christmas Village at the Z Fun Factory in Yuma.
Enjoy the Outdoors at Area Resorts
Other fun warm-winter activities await guests at uniquely Arizona lodging. Take a cowboy vacation at White Stallion Ranch, where cowboys sing next to a warming bonfire under Tucson’s starry night sky. Snowboarders will feel at home trying out flowboarding – a cross between snowboarding, boogie boarding and surfing – at Kierland Westin’s wave pool in Scottsdale. Members of the Gila River Indian Community share their culture at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler, which presents its popular Native American Storytelling & Song program at the resort’s outdoor firepit.
Northern Arizona and soaring mountain ranges all over the Grand Canyon State are snowy recreation paradises. National forests provide many trails and facilities, but don’t stop there.
Test the Powder
More than 100 ski runs of all levels, plus snowboarding and snow play areas, add up to days of fun at Sunrise Park Resort in Greer, Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff and Elk Ridge Ski and Outdoor Recreation Area in Williams. Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley above Tucson is the southern-most ski facility in the United States. The Flagstaff Nordic Center grooms 40 kilometers of cross-country skiing trails.
Play in the Mountains
Ice fishing for winter trout is popular in lakes in the White Mountains. For something less strenuous, take a bracing horse-drawn sleigh ride through snow-blanketed forests with Hitchin’ Post Stables in Flagstaff or Snowy Mountain Stables in Greer.
Meet Kris Kringle
Santa Claus visits Arizona in the winter, too. Grand Canyon Railway’s nighttime Polar Express provides a Christmas train ride from Williams to the “North Pole.” Take a magical four-hour train ride with Santa and Mrs. Claus through snow-covered Verde Canyon aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad’s Santa Claus Express. Elves in Flagstaff pick up guests for an evening trip aboard one of Santa’s magical trolleys to the big guy’s workshop in the North Pole Experience.