My fascination with Arizona began way back when I was around 7 years old or so, when watching Wile E. Coyote chase the Road Runner around on TV became my Saturday morning addiction.
Nothing in the world was better for this Michigan boy than waking up ungodly early on a Saturday morning, pouring half a box of Cocoa Puffs into the largest bowl I could find, and then running out into the living room to gorge myself on an unhealthy amount of sugar and hours of mind-numbing cartoons.
Of course Mom and Dad did not approve of this, but I quickly learned that the earlier I got up, the less chance there was of them stopping me (especially if I kept the volume on the TV very low). They loved to sleep in on Saturday mornings, that’s for damn sure.
As fascinating as the American Southwest was to me, I didn’t make my first visit until I was 22 years old and just out of college. I was living in Ohio at the time, and the company that I was working for sent me on a business trip to San Diego to meet with a client. That was the first time in my life I had ever been in that part of the country, and it was a mind-altering experience that changed my life forever.
Even though San Diego isn’t as rugged and baron as Arizona, there are deserts and cactus here – and seeing that kind of stuff for the first time completely blew my mind. Long story short, I moved to San Diego one year later, and made my first ever trip to Arizona exactly one year after that. San Diego is my true love, but I will admit that Arizona tugged on my heartstrings a bit on that first visit.
Basically, Arizona in February is awesome for three main reasons…
Choosing Arizona as a destination for this short trip was the obvious decision. It’s a nice and easy destination from San Diego, different than my day-to-day life at home, and I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of wandering that state from corner to corner just like the cowboys and frontiersman did way back in the day. There’s just so much open land!
Fortunately, advancements in technology have made it possible to see all of Arizona in air-conditioned comfort, as opposed to riding on the back of a smelly horse for months on end like they did way back when. Arizona is an awesome place for sightseeing and aimless wandering – especially in the winter months. Here’s why:
1. The temperature is actually tolerable
You will never experience heat like you would if you arrive in Arizona in the middle of August. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to reach 120°F, which is borderline deadly. Scratch that. It IS deadly!
It’s the kind of heat that will melt the paint off your car if you leave it out in the sun too long, so it goes without saying that you be crazy to consider coming here in the summertime looking for fun hiking trails. That’s pretty much a death sentence, and a fantastic way to win a Darwin award of your own.
Unlike how it is in Paris in November, February is simply amazing in Arizona. The average high is 72°F which, according to my snobbishly high standards, is absolutely perfect because it’s not too cold and not too hot.
By comparison, January has a chilly average temperature of 68°F. That’s cold – especially if you’re only wearing shorts and flip flops (because you thought only idiots bring warm clothes to Arizona).
2. It isn’t like Florida
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the winter months are considered high-season in Arizona, meaning that it’s the time when all the tourists and snowbirds descend from the north.
However, in my experience, I’ve found that Arizona doesn’t suffer from the kind of wintertime “snowbird gridlock” which cripples Florida during the same time of year.
It seems the entire East Coast drops in on Florida from December through March, and it can be miserable at times dealing with all of the traffic and congestion from the mass of people who have no idea where they are going.
Arizona seems to have avoided that mess – at least for now. It truly is a wintertime oasis for the Northerners to come and defrost themselves, and since it’s the tourist season, everything is open for business all across the state (even the parts of the state which are mountainous and snowy). And that leads me to point number three…
3. Deserts in the morning, and mountain snow in the afternoon
It wasn’t until my 7th grade geography class when I learned that there are mountains in Arizona, and that it actually snows quite a bit up there on those peaks every winter.
You have to understand how completely astounding it was for me to learn about it – after all, up until that point in my life, the only thing that I knew about the state of Arizona was that there were really cool looking cactuses everywhere with lots of coyotes chasing roadrunners around (while trying to blow them up with dynamite).
Who says Saturday morning cartoons aren’t educational? However, they failed to teach me that wintertime snow in the mountains of Arizona is something truly magical.
The best part about the snow is that it’s not far from the deserts – yeah, the ones filled with all of those cool green prickly cactuses and terrifying deadly insects. As a matter fact, in the month of February, it’s possible to go from rugged dry desert to deep mountain snow in less than two hours. Amazing!
This is the first time that I have ever made it a goal to see a desert and mountains snow in the same day while in Arizona, it was a very interesting experience.
Now, if you’re originally from this part of the country, it may not seem all that exciting to you – but keep in mind that I was raised in the Midwest far away from anything remotely similar to this kind of landscape.
Michigan is basically the opposite of Arizona in every way possible, and even though I’ve been living in San Diego for over 20 years now, it still blows my mind to see deserts and snow in the same day.
So there you have it. My top three reasons why you’d be a fool not to hop in the car and do a road trip through Arizona in the middle of February.
Yes, you could do the same thing in the middle of August, but I’d only recommend that for Red Bull guzzling adrenaline junkies who live life on the edge. If that’s you, have fun and fear not – boring people like me will find your smoldering remains and notify your family when we come through next winter.