Few can blame Canadians for their love affair with the Southwest. Afterall, visitation is on the rise with more than 550,000 Canadians traveling here each year. It's not just our unbeatable weather, desert beauty and countless activities and attractions either. There are so many other Canadian connections that help make the desert a welcome respite for our cousins up north. Canadian restaurants like The Keg and Earls are just as popular south of the border and for years, we proudly called Wayne Gretzky our Coyotes coach. Arizona is host to the annual Great Canadian Picnic complete with Mounties and we are home to numerous ex-patriot groups and even curling clubs if you can believe it! And, many of Arizona's top cities have sister cities in Canada - for Mesa it's Burnaby, BC; for Scottsdale it's Kingston, ON; and Phoenix calls Calgary their sister in the north. Because there are so many reasons to visit Mesa in the winter, we thought we would narrow down some of the most loved attributes as to why Mesa is tops for Canadian travelers:
Accessibility: Getting to Mesa has never been easier with the launch of seasonal service from WestJet to Phoenix from Vancouver, Kelowna and Victoria, BC. WestJet continues to offer daily non-stop service from Calgary, AB. Mix in US Airways' non-stop service to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto - and Air Canada's non-stop service to Toronto and you have incredible access anytime. For folks seeking value - a hop offer the border to Bellingham, WA (50 miles from Vancouver) will get you on Allegiant - who say that up to 70% of their customer base comes from the Vancouver region for this flight. With non-stop service also offered in Great Falls, MT and Grand Forks & Fargo, ND - Allegiant is pulling incredible numbers out of Alberta and Manitoba, too.
Affordability: We have a saying in Mesa: Same Sun, Less Burn. Mesa offers our seasonal visitors value, value, and yes, more value. For winter guests staying a month or longer, our active living RV parks are a popular alternative for a trek down south. And, these days more and more Canadians are picking up a vacation home which makes a winter pilgrimage that more possible. Staying in Mesa during Arizona's high season will save you enough budget to spend on premier golf, more attractions and day trips to explore our stunning landscapes and hidden desert gems.
Attractions: From the 1,600 shaded booths at the Mesa Marketplace & Swap Meet (truly, a Canadian favourite!) and the stunning byways of the Apache Trail, Mesa is on the radar of most Western Canadians. Mesa is known for a laid back and low key lifestyle, that frankly is what you want when on a vacation, eh?
Whether you're a pro or just learning how to perfect your swing, hitting the links in Mesa has long been a tradition for our winter residents and visitors. As the nation's largest suburb, Mesa alone boasts close to 40 golf courses and clubs and the city's location offers easy access to the other 200+ in the Phoenix-metropolitan area. The sports' top course designers can all be played in Mesa - Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones Sr. & Jr. to name a few. But getting the most attention is the close bonds our golf communities have to Canada including these two clubs below:
At the north end of the city lies Las Sendas Golf Club featuring breathtaking views of the Red Mountain and the Superstition mountain range - an unsurpassed backdrop to the storied Sonoran Desert. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the course has matured into one of the most beautiful courses in Mesa and ranks as the 12th most challenging and one of the top 50 courses in the nation according to two ZAGAT surveys. Few realize that the facilities are primarily Canadian owned. Two years ago, former NHL player Wayne McBean along with his brother Lloyd purchased the golf club and immediately injected $4 million in improvements to the clubhouse and course. Another plus, the club is entirely debt free which provides a unique stability in the current marketplace. At Las Sendas, the Canadian flag is on display year-round for Mesa residents and the part-time Canadian players that return south each winter.
As the sun rises on a morning in February, most of Canada is nestled under a cold blanket of snow. But in Mesa, part-time Canadian residents are donning their red and white attire, preparing for golf and camaraderie at Red Mountain Ranch Country Club's Annual Canadian Open Tournament (Feb. 28, 2013). Players begin and end the day with the singing of "Oh Canada" with lots of golf, food, friends and laughter sandwiched in between. In addition to the annual Canadian Open, the Club sponsors a US-Canadian Ryder Cup event as well as informal social gatherings on a weekly basis.
For 59 years now, Canadians residing in Arizona have come together on an annual basis to celebrate their roots. Started in 1953, the Great Canadian Picnic is an all-day affair featuring live entertainment, a business showcase and tons of family-oriented games. From hitting a golf club in the snow to curling and the winter weather dress-up relay race, visitors can compete against each other for a prize - a coveted Canadian candy bar (Coffee Crisp anyone?).
Great Canadian Picnic
South Mountain Park Preserve - Phoenix
Located in Mesa at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Fighter Combat International is an aerial adventure company that provides a wide spectrum of aviation thrill-seeker services. The owners hail from Ontario and have taken Mesa guests on aerial adventures for almost a decade now. This real-as-it-gets air to air combat and aerobatic adventure flights are available for individuals and groups or can be implemented as reward and incentive programs for corporations seeking to reward valued key clients or to motivate high-performing executives. http://www.fightercombat.com/