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June 2008

An Old and New Migration

These snowbirds roll south for the winter.

Barbecue, horseshoes and friends in South Texas.  Photo: Markets and Tourism, Research Center UTPA.

by David A. Rivers

A great migration begins around November and December of each year as more than a million snowbirds flee the winter chill of their homes for the warmth of Texas. But these flocks aren’t the feathery kind; they mostly travel by RV. The snowbirds, or Winter Texans, come here to enjoy our mild winter weather, natural beauty and almost unlimited recreational possibilities.

Most Winter Texans still can be found in the Rio Grande Valley, basking in its subtropical climate or swimming and fishing on South Padre Island. But more than ever, they are exploring new digs all over the state.

Areas sometimes considered out-of-the-way, such as the Big Bend or the vast Panhandle/High Plains have now become popular destinations among motorists and RV enthusiasts. The more populated areas of the state – the Prairies and Lakes area, the Piney Woods and the spectacular Hill Country – beckon more new winter visitors every year. And, every year, more Texas towns and cities roll out the red carpets for their seasonal guests.

South for the Winter

Home States of Winter Texans

StatePercent Share

Source: Valley Markets and Tourism Research Center, UTPA

Texas Access

Texas is more accessible now than ever, and travelers to Texas are more aware than ever of the unique sights and wonderful experiences awaiting them. Helping keep the interest high are a number of Winter Texan newspapers, magazines, guides and maps. Most are available over the Internet.

Gov. Rick Perry’s award-winning tourism initiative “Texas, It’s Like A Whole Other Country” has gained wide recognition, both within and outside of the state. The Governor’s Office also publishes a top 10 tourist destination list that ranks favorite Texas tourist destinations.

As visitors expand their winter habitat beyond the Rio Grande Valley, so do the dollars they spend, an estimated $900 million annually in Texas.

Snowbird Watching

In 2006, the University of Texas - Pan American produced a statistical profile of snowbirds who overwinter in the Rio Grande Valley. According to UT-Pan Am, typical Winter Texans are white, married and hail from the Midwest. They have a high school diploma or some college, have a median income of $45,470 and are just shy of 69 years old.

Winter Texans have been making their annual treks to escape northern winters for decades. They come from many different states, but most commonly from Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. UT-Pan Am’s study also found that 8 percent of them migrate from Canada. FN

Top Resources

Texas is a hot winter destination with lots to do and see. Check out these online resources that will help you get the most of your winter getaway.

The Official Site of Texas Tourism –

Winter Texan Times –

Texas Campgrounds –

For a detailed list of events and resources for Winter Texans, visit Winter Texans Online at

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