180 miles SW of Phoenix; 240 miles W of Tucson; 180 miles E of San Diego, CA

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Yuma is the sunniest place on earth. Of the possible 4,456 hours of daylight each year, the sun shines in Yuma for roughly 4,050 hours, or about 90% of the time. Combine all that sunshine with the warmest winter weather in the country, and you've got a destination guaranteed to attract sun worshipers and other refugees from colder climes. In fact, each winter, tens of thousands of snowbirds (retired winter visitors) drive their RVs to Yuma from as far away as Canada. However, by late spring, all those RVers head north to escape the steadily rising temperatures, and by high summer, Yuma starts posting furnace-like high temperatures that make this one of the hottest cities in the country.

Way back in the middle of the 19th century, long before RVers discovered Yuma, this was one of the most important towns in the region and was known as the Rome of the Southwest because all roads led to Yuma Crossing -- the shallow spot along the Colorado River where this town was founded. Despite its location in the middle of the desert, Yuma became a busy port town during the 1850s as shallow-draft steamboats traveled up the Colorado River from the Gulf of California. Later, when the railroad pushed westward into California in the 1870s, it, too, passed through Yuma. Today, it is I-8, which connects San Diego with Tucson (and Phoenix via I-10), that brings travelers to Yuma and across the Colorado River.

However, despite having more than a dozen golf courses and two important historic sites, Yuma constantly struggles to attract visitors (blame it on the lure of San Diego, which is just a few hours away). In the hopes of luring more travelers off the interstate, Yuma has upgraded and restored some of its downtown historic buildings and restored its natural setting on the Colorado River. A visual arts center downtown rivals galleries in Scottsdale, and an adjacent historic movie theater has been restored to its former glory and now serves as a performing arts center. However, despite all these attempts at resuscitation, Yuma continues to be known primarily as a warm place to escape the cold and snows up north. For some people that is enough, but personally, I'd spend my time someplace with more charm and more to do.