Content Produced in Partnership with Go Lake Havasu
They say, “The best summer you’ll spend is a winter in Havasu.” While the city certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the craziest spring break destinations in the U.S., in the offseason, the city is a quiet reprieve while the rest of the country is blanketed by snow. Indeed, the hottest city in America (literally and figuratively) is primed for snowbirds in search of a winter getaway that won’t break the bank, require a passport, or take days to get to. Holidays in Havasu typically mean temperatures in the 60s and 70s, warm enough for any northern to forget they wished for a White Christmas. In fact, sunning yourself before lunchtime doesn’t sound too bad.
Lake Havasu City was the first master-planned city designed by the same architect as Disneyland to be the ultimate adult playground. A meticulously and pristinely manufactured oasis, not a palm tree is out of place. A colorful mock English village bathed in holiday cheer is there to greet you along with the actual London Bridge (not a replica), purchased and transported brick by brick across the pond as a way to get people to visit the desert. The stunt worked like a charm, and it’s now the second biggest tourist attraction in Arizona after the Grand Canyon and in the Guinness Book of World Records for largest antique ever sold.
Here’s how to explore Lake Havasu City by land, air, and water in the wintertime.
Lake Havasu is the boating capital of the Southwest, so a cruise is the best way to get a lay of the land. It’s a touch too cold to swim in winter, but plenty of people still partake in water sports, renting jet skis, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards. Replicas of 27 famous lighthouses from around the U.S. line the channel, lake, and river that are as photogenic as they are functional. Sunset Charter & Tour Co. can take you down the Colorado River, Bridgewater Channel, and into Thompson Bay on a custom-built pontoon boat they call a “limo on water” as you navigate hidden canyons and coves to spot wildlife, migratory birds, and oddly shaped rock formations (keep an eye out for the Sleeping Indian). The boat is aptly named Serenity Now, and with Zach Brown singing, “I found me my own kind of paradise” in the background, he isn’t wrong.
With 1,800 miles of off-road trails, Lake Havasu City’s diverse terrain is some of the best in America for four-wheeling. The whole city is primed for adventure with trails running parallel to the highway and it’s not uncommon to see open-air vehicles traversing the downtown streets. It’s an active community with regular meet-ups and events like Desert Bash, a 60-mile Poker Run held in the backcountry.
Local companies like Wet Monkey Powersports offer 2-4 seater ATV (all-terrain) and UTV (utility vehicle) rentals and guided tours. If it’s your first-time off-roading, go with someone who knows how to drive and navigate and prepare for a bumpy, dusty ride. Bring warm clothes you don’t mind trashing, gloves, a bandana, and cheap sunglasses that will seemingly never be clean again. But a little dirt never hurt, right?
Seen from the Sky
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s a weight shift control trike amphibian. If you’re wondering what the heck, Hangin’ over Havasu offers scenic flight instruction in an ultralight flying machine that goes slow and low for the best view over the mountains and water (you can even skim the surface if you want). Essentially a motorized hang glider, you steer with your fingertips and learn the basics of maneuvering one of these open-air, three-wheeled toys. It takes just one ride to become a student pilot, where you’ll earn one hour of the 15 required to fly one of these babies solo.
Explore the Surroundings
Lake Havasu City is two and a half hours from Vegas and a little over three hours from Phoenix, which means there are plenty of places to venture off-the-beaten path from Route 66 stops to the Grand Canyon. Oatman, a Wild West boomtown-turned-ghost town on the Mother Road is a quirky day trip. The city was named after Olive Oatman, a young girl kidnapped by Indians, tattooed on the face, and eventually rescued in a trade deal if that gives any indication to the vibe.
The town has reenactments and gunfights a few times a day along with honky-tonk music, but the star of the show is inevitably the wild burros that roam the streets. You can feed and photograph them as long as they don’t have a sticker on their head, which indicates babies or special diets. Local souvenir shops sell bags of alfalfa cubes for $1 and you’ll make a lot of friends with the locals with that in-hand.
Holiday Happenings at the London Bridge Resort
Managed by the Lake Havasu City Mayor Cal Sheehy, service enthusiasts take their titles very seriously and go above and beyond to make guests stay memorable. Known for being one of Havasu’s spring break headquarters, the London Bridge Resort is also the town’s holiday center with nightly events like story time and cookies with Mrs. Claus, ice-skating, and a prime view of the boat parade. There are daily crafts and family activities from DIY ornament making to a hot chocolate bar, although you do have to sign an acknowledgment that their nightclubs (one which even has life-sized beer pong) are still the town hotspots and may be raucous until 2.30 a.m.
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