Snowbirds Flock to Florida — and Beyond

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Daniel and Barbara Blumberg snowbird in Delray Beach, Fla. | Photo provided

From November until March or April — whenever Passover falls — you can find Daniel Blumberg and his wife Barbara taking courses at Florida Atlantic University’s lifelong learning institute, attending tribute band concerts and going to independent movie theaters.

They do all this and more in Delray Beach, Fla., where they have spent their winters for the past five years. Like many retirees who live in the Philadelphia area, they head to warmer weather during the winter months in a longstanding tradition. Many of their friends do the same, and other friends live in that area permanently. For them, southeast Florida offers opportunities for learning, socialization and a rich Jewish life, including a few good delicatessens.

“[Delray is] heavily Jewish, and it’s a comfort zone of being in that area,” Blumberg said. “We have friends who live down there all year round, so that’s another reason that we picked that particular area.”

For decades, Philadelphians have taken flight to the southeastern coast of Florida but, more recently, some have chosen to winter in other places instead, as far west as Arizona or California.

Retirees Barry and Tamie Kaufman are two such snowbirds. They have chosen to winter in Scottsdale, Ariz., a city just east of Phoenix. Tamie Kaufman has family there, so they had been going to and from Arizona for decades. As they approached retirement, the amount of time they spent there increased.

“It’s an opportunity to see our family more frequently but also a chance to spend more time in an area we’ve enjoyed,” Barry Kaufman said.

They recently moved to the Philadelphia area, where they also have family, but before that, they lived in Michigan, and many of their friends from the Midwest spend their winters in Arizona as well.

Now, they spend about nine months of the year in Philadelphia and three months in Scottsdale.

Scottsdale has a vibrant Jewish life, Kaufman said. The local JCC has learning opportunities and exercise classes. There’s a Jewish film festival in Phoenix, and the area offers lots of great restaurants. He is involved in a social men’s group there, where they play pickleball, golf and racquetball and participate in a book review club and movie review club.

“And the weather’s great during wintertime,” Kaufman added.

He hasn’t met too many any others from the Philadelphia area who choose to spend their winters in Scottsdale. Most of the snowbirds they’ve met there hail from the Midwest, especially from Michigan and the Chicago area, as well as Canada.

“We run into a lot of people who are snowbirding or even who have moved from the Midwest or New York or other parts of the country, Connecticut,” Kaufman said. “That whole geographic area [of Scottsdale] is just skyrocketed in the last 20 years in terms of the construction and the building and the development.”

There are several synagogues, including one Friday night Shabbat service specifically for expats of Minnesota, where the Kaufmans once lived.

For years now, some snowbirds have gone on to eventually settle in Florida. Kaufman said he is seeing a similar trend in Arizona. He’s heard of the same thing happening in California, too.

“When we started going [to Scottsdale], it was much smaller than what it is now,” Kaufman said. “A lot more people have moved there. It seemed like it was a great place to meet people because there were a lot of people entering that area, and they are looking for social development of relationships also, friendships and people to do things with and get involved in various activities with.”

Carol Kershbaum snowbirds in Florida but not in the traditional southeastern part. She chooses instead to go to Tampa on the western coast. Her daughter went to college there, and she never liked cold weather, so she figured it was a place she could run away to in the winter.

She had been to Tampa about 20 years before she started snowbirding, and she hated it then.

“If anyone had said, ‘You’re going to go to Tampa and love it,’ I would have said, ‘No way that’s going to happen,’” Kershbaum said. “As it turns out, Tampa was growing and developing at that point in time when I returned in a very different sort of way. They had terrific mayors, et cetera, and a great city council, who were basically no-nonsense people.”

Tampa, she said, feels like a real city you might encounter in the North, even as she gets the climate of the South.

Most people who snowbird from Philadelphia go to southeast Florida, and they take their friendships with them. In Tampa, Kershbaum does miss those Philadelphia friendships, which she cultivated for years.

But the west coast of Florida, which includes another snowbird destination in Sarasota, does have its benefits.

“The west coast is not as congested an area, and there are a lot of synagogues in Sarasota as well, as there are in Tampa,” Kershbaum said. “There are also a lot of cultural things for retirees to do there. Tampa is really a functioning city. It’s not what you’d call a retirement area. … It’s attracting a lot of younger families and a lot of young professionals because there’s a lot of growth there and opportunity.”

There are a good number of older adults, but the culture overall is not a transient one, Kershbaum said.

Snowbirding hasn’t changed too much over the years, she said. As people head into retirement, one trend she is noticing is that it’s becoming more common to spend time traveling, especially for those who haven’t had too many opportunities to do so before. Kershbaum has heard more stories of people choosing wintering locations outside of Florida, such as Arizona, California, the Carolinas and Georgia.

No matter where they head though, there’s one thing all snowbirds prioritize in their winter nest of choice.

“As we get older, we tend to go down where it’s warmer,” Blumberg said.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Barry Kaufman is not looking in the right places in Scottsdale. There are many transplanted Philadelphians in the Scottsdale, Phoenix, Chandler areas in Arizona. More people from the East Coast have chosen Arizona over Florida to retire fulltime or become snowbirds.

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