It was of course by design and not by chance that Sun City, the nation's first active adult community opened in 1960, was built in Arizona. Though it has many full-time residents, it remains today one of the best communities in Arizona for snowbirds. Arizona also remains one of the most popular destinations for snowbirds in the country, thanks to its mild winter climate, low cost of living, and its provisions for the needs of snowbirds.
Many snowbirds, faced with the cost of maintaining two homes, prefer a more modest winter residence to keep costs down. With a smaller home it’s also much easier to close it up after the winter, and there are house-watching services in place to provide someone to check on your home once a week or so. Utility companies are also accustomed to stopping and starting services for people, and many offer a reduced vacation rate for snowbirds when they’re away.
Some communities in Arizona are better for snowbirds than others, and these are some of the top choices.
1. Sun City - Sun City, AZ
Below $100k - High $800s
Because it was the first 55+ active adult community in the country and remains the largest in Arizona with 27,492 homes, Sun City is easily the best community in Arizona for snowbirds. Among those homes are large numbers of condos and studio apartments, which make for affordable and low-maintenance winter homes that can easily be locked up for the summer.
Sun City was built between the cities of Peoria and Surprise at the north-western edge of the Phoenix urban area. Downtown Phoenix is only a 25-minute drive from Sun City, while the outdoor activities of the 29,271-acre White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a 30-minute drive due west.
Sun City was built with all the amenities a snowbird or full-time resident could want, and with homes available for under $100k, it puts that Arizona winter sunshine within reach of most people’s budgets. Golfing snowbirds have access to Sun City’s eleven golf courses and the weather that allows full use of them. Other popular sporting options available year-round include tennis, softball, lawn bowling, racquetball, pickleball, and bocce.
Sun City also offers residents 19 shopping areas, a choice of eating places, 31 places of worship, the Sun Bowl Amphitheatre which has hosted major artists, a separate performing arts theater, two libraries, and numerous arts and crafts studios. Other amenities include seven recreation centers, each with its own fitness center and indoor or outdoor swimming pools.
There are many home models in Sun City, the smallest and most affordable being studios and one-bedroom apartments of under 700 square feet. With prices starting below $100k, these make good entry-level homes so that snowbirds can see whether the Arizona lifestyle—and Sun City in particular—is right for them. Many snowbirds do eventually become permanent residents.
Below $100k - High $200s
Fountain of the Sun is also one of the best communities in Arizona for snowbirds. It’s a gated community, which offers an extra sense of security for snowbirds who have to leave their homes empty for several months over the summer. This 55+ active adult community has 2,296 homes, which are a mix of attached, manufactured, and single-family homes, with prices starting below $100k.
Fountain of the Sun is in Mesa, which is Arizona’s third-largest city after Phoenix and Tucson, but also a part of the Greater Phoenix urban area. The attractions of downtown Mesa are a 20-minute drive away, and downtown Phoenix is only a 30-minute drive away. If you like to enjoy the great outdoors, it’s only a 15-minute drive out of the city to places like the Usery Mountain Regional Park, which covers 3,648 acres and has 29 miles of multiuse trails and other outdoor options.
One of this community’s main amenities is the Fountain of the Sun Country Club, a private golf and country club with an 18-hole course, a clubhouse, a pro shop, and a restaurant and bar. Other amenities available to residents include a ballroom, a fitness center, a billiards room, a library, an arts and crafts studio, a post office, scenic lakes and ponds, a heated outdoor pool and spa, and courts for shuffleboard and pickleball.
Residents here also enjoy a varied lifestyle with numerous clubs, groups, classes, and social activities. These include Bible studies, bingo, yoga, square dancing, genealogy, water aerobics, stained glass, casino trips, and a theater group.
The smallest homes, which tend to appeal more to snowbirds, are the manufactured and attached homes. Some models offer 1,000 to 1,100 square feet with one or two bedrooms, one or two bathrooms, and an attached garage or carport.
3. Sun Village - Surprise, AZ
Below $100k - High $200s
Sun Village is a gated community and has 1,382 attached and single-family homes for the 55+ active adult. The most affordable homes are under $100k, which also attracts snowbirds to this Arizona community.
Sun Village is located in the city of Surprise, which has a population of about 140,000 and is at the north-western edge of the Phoenix urban spread. The community is only a 5-minute drive from the center of Surprise, putting many attractions and facilities within easy reach. Downtown Phoenix is a 40-minute drive away, while the White Tank Mountain Regional Park with almost 30,000 acres of desert and mountains is a 30-minute drive from Sun Village.
Sun Village’s own amenities include the 18-hole Sun Village Golf Course, which is a public course with a pro shop. Other amenities include a 47,000-square-foot community center, a ballroom, a library, a fitness center, several arts and crafts studios, a church, an outdoor pool and spa, and courts for tennis, pickleball, and shuffleboard. There are also numerous activities, clubs, and classes, including yoga, Zumba, tai chi, a singles group, dancing, movie nights, and groups for arts and crafts.
The smallest models are the townhomes, which start below $100k and offer 634 square feet with one bedroom, one bathroom, and a designated parking spot or covered carport. Patio homes are larger and prices of these start in the low $100s.
4. Sunbird - Chandler, AZ
Low $100s - Low $300s
Sunbird is another popular snowbird community in Arizona. It’s a gated community for the 55+ active adult and has 1,631 single-family homes starting in the low $100s.
Sunbird is in the city of Chandler, which has a population of about 260,000. Chandler is on the southern edge of the urban area, and Sunbird stands on Chandler’s southern boundary with empty desert on the other side of the highway. Downtown Chandler is a 15-minute drive north, while downtown Phoenix can be reached in about 35 minutes.
One of Sunbird’s most notable amenities is the 18-hole Sunbird Golf Club with a 43,000-square-foot clubhouse overlooking the outdoor pool. There’s also a restaurant, a fitness center, a library, a ballroom, arts and crafts studios, and courts for tennis and shuffleboard. Residents keep themselves busy with numerous groups, clubs, classes, and activities, such as aerobics, yoga, tai chi, dancing groups, card games, quilting, groups for various sports, and a book club.
There are three styles of home, the smallest models being the Villa Series which range from 745 to 920 square feet. These are the type of low-maintenance homes which appeal to snowbirds and have one or two bedrooms, one or two bathrooms, and a carport.
High $100s - Low $400s
Scottsdale Shadows is unusual for an Arizona community in that it has no age restriction and therefore appeals to younger snowbirds who don’t meet the more typical 55+ active adult requirement. It's a gated community of 838 condos spread over several buildings, which means low maintenance, more security, and an easy lock-up-and-go experience when you leave.
Scottsdale is one of the more affluent cities in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, and its vibrant downtown with upscale shops, restaurants, galleries, and other attractions is only a 5-minute drive from Scottsdale Shadows. Across the street from the condos is the 32-acre Camelback Park, a city park with a lake and a multiuse trail. Downtown Phoenix is a 30-minute drive away.
Amenities include a clubhouse, a ceramics studio, a woodworking shop, a library, a billiards room, a sauna, and separate fitness centers for men and women. Outside, there are three pools, a nine-hole golf course, two tennis courts, and walking and biking trails. The community also offers many clubs, groups, activities, and classes as part of its sociable lifestyle. These also make it easy for new snowbirds to meet people and make friends. There’s a walking group, water aerobics, holiday parties, shopping trips, day trips to Arizona’s many attractions, casino trips, dances, exercise classes, and Friday evening movies.
The condos offer 15 floor plans and range from 850 to 2,352 square feet. The smallest models have one bedroom, one bathroom, and a designated underground parking space. Prices for these start in the high $100s, so these aren't the cheapest options for winter visitors but Scottsdale Shadows is still one of the best communities in Arizona for snowbirds.