What It's Like to Live in a City Without a Winter

Locals give their insight on life, work and play where winters aren’t cold.
Tee Off: Kiawah Island

Tee Off: Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is home to five award-winning golf courses, the most famous being The Ocean Course.

Some people spend winter counting down the days until the weather gets warmer and shorts and flip-flops can once again be worn. But for others, warm weather doesn’t end just because fall has. Living in a city where winters aren’t cold comes with plenty of perks, but also some drawbacks. Homeowners share the ups and downs of living in a city without a real winter. 

Getting Around

During the winter, ice scrapers, snow shovels and automatic car starters are all part of the daily routine for many people. But residents of warm-winter cities get to enjoy a far more low-maintenance commute to work and school.

“As I like to tell people, we don’t have to shovel sunshine,” says Douglas MacKenzie, a Phoenix resident for 16 years and director of communications for the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. The city’s scant precipitation makes for very few challenges when traveling by car or bus, and the mild winter temperatures create perfect conditions for biking or walking.

When getting dressed for a winter day, MacKenzie says Phoenix residents typically choose between two wardrobes: shorts and longer shorts. A sweater or light jacket can come in handy on cooler days, but there’s no need for anything heavier in the Southwestern city, he says.

In other cities, “cold” becomes a relative concept: What some would consider perfect weather, others find a bit chilly, says Dee Hamilton, who grew up in the Northeast but moved to Florida after high school.

“The first year living in Orlando, I can remember going into the pool on Christmas Day. It was in the mid to upper 70s,” she says. “After a couple of years, you begin to get acclimated to your surroundings, and 75 degrees starts to feel cool.”

On the rare occasions when it does snow, many cities with warm winters are notorious for shutting down: schools close, businesses send their employees home early, and everyone waits out the weather at home to avoid the treacherous driving conditions. MacKenzie says Phoenix gets a light dusting of snow every few years, but it’s normally not a disruption.

“It usually melts pretty fast, and people are just excited to see a little bit of a white Christmas and have some hot chocolate,” he says. “There’s never enough that it affects traffic or transportation.”

Owning a Home

While shoveling snow and salting driveways may be a foreign concept for these homeowners, they still have to maintain their homes during the winter. Southwest Florida resident Karen Glaub says yard work is a year-round task, but she prefers mowing to dealing with snow and ice.

In Phoenix, a well-insulated home is crucial for surviving the city’s hot summers, so keeping insulation maintained throughout the year is a must. People do use their heaters during the winter in Phoenix, when temperatures often drop to the 40s at night. Occasionally, temperatures dip below freezing, so Phoenix residents cover their plants to protect them from frost.

Finding Fun

While winter in some cities is best spent holed up inside avoiding the cold weather, in these cities, it’s the ideal season to explore the great outdoors. In Phoenix, where the average high in winter is 67 degrees, residents can partake in hiking, biking, rock climbing, golfing and horseback riding.

“I think we’re pretty lucky because you’re able to be outside and be healthier and physically fit, rather than having to stay inside all during the winter,” MacKenzie says.

Still, a lack of wintry weather can leave some longing for a traditional, picturesque “white Christmas.”

“I always envied those that had snow at Christmas and were able to be outside having fun in it,” says Cathy Davis, who lived in West Palm Beach, Fla. for 40 years. While living in Illinois for nine years, Davis enjoyed having a real winter during the holidays.

“I love the snow and the changes of the seasons -- something I never had in Florida,” she says.

Some cities find unique ways to bring a wintry atmosphere into a warm region. In Phoenix, MacKenzie says shopping centers bring in snow from Northern Arizona and have snow fight days. Plus, Flagstaff, home of the Arizona Snowbowl, is only two hours away, making it easy for Phoenix residents to don their coats and gloves and take a day trip for skiing and other winter sports.

Tallying the Cost of Living

The mild winter temperatures give residents of these cities a much-needed break from high energy costs.

“The winter electric and utility bills are easily one-third of what they are the rest of the year,” MacKenzie says. “You don’t have the air conditioning running, and the pools pretty much maintain themselves.” While cold weather can cause the cost of living to skyrocket in some cities, warm weather keeps heating and home maintenance costs down in cities without winters.

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