It's been a gloomy winter in Minnesota. Who could blame me if, in a sun-starved fit, I get myself to Yuma, Ariz.? The city tucked into the state's southwest corner is the sunniest place in the United States, according to "Current Results," a science and weather online publication. Average hours of sunshine in January are 268.4.

Minneapolis normally gets 157 hours during the same period, but anyone with a window knows that this fall and early winter have been clouded with abnormality.

In November, University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seely wrote in his weather blog, "data show emphatically the absence of sun has been quite pronounced." That's basically scientist-speak for "get me to Arizona."

Among the list of things to do at Yuma's visitors bureau website is rockhounding. I didn't even know what that was until I looked it up, but if hunting for rocks, gems and minerals on Bureau of Land Management ground is done in the sun, I'm there.

The area around Yuma is filled with another kind of federal land; there are 1,000 square miles of national wildlife refuges. Bighorn sheep, mule deer and more than 250 species of birds live in the refuges.

There is also the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, Arizona's first prison; the Castle Dome Mines Museum and Ghost Town, the remains of a town from the late 1800s; and the Yuma Proving Ground Heritage Center, where a museum showcases how the U.S. Army has tested bridge designs, combat vehicles and weapons systems there. Fueled by the climate, a date farm and a camel farm operate in Yuma and accept visitors. And, of course, there is the city's sunshine.

Yuma is a three-hour drive from the nearest major airport in San Diego. Phoenix, the second-closest city, is about the same distance. I won't mind the long drive from either. But maybe one of those cities could do in a pinch. I'm thinking direct flight to sunshine.

Contact Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at; follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.