The American West has tugged at people’s heartstrings for centuries. The wild, open spaces are filled with wonder and energy, pulling visitors from around the world. There’s something about vibrant wildflowers, cacti, bright blue skies, 250-plus day of sunshine, and twinkling stars that simultaneously breaks and wakes the heart. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a relaxing family vacation, or an action-packed adventure, you’ll find what you’re looking for and make great memories in any of these destinations:
Known mainly as the home of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Moab is a place of obscure, undeniable beauty. With fire-hued geological features, towering cliffs, and indigo mountains beckoning in the distance, the vast and seemingly infinite landscape of this desert destination is truly awe-inspiring. Moab’s winding pathways, narrow canyons, milky stars, and beastly rocks make it a top outdoor escape. Offering supreme camping, mountain biking, hiking, trail running, rock climbing, and whitewater paddling, it’s impossible to get bored. There’s honestly nothing else like it!
The “Must Do/See”: One of Utah’s most iconic features is Delicate Arch, a massive sandstone rainbow located in Arches National Park. Here, you’ll find another 2,000-plus arches in the park’s 120-mile radius. If you’re into roughin’ it, pitch a tent in Dead Horse State Park. Sleep beneath thousands of stars and wake to a brilliant tangerine sunrise over the mountains.
This college town offers bustling nightlife, endless outdoor adventure, and rich culture. With dramatic views of the Flatirons and snow-capped mountains beyond, Boulder is stunning in any direction. Dubbed “the city nestled between the mountains and reality,” this unique place juxtaposes historic streets, craft breweries, art, some of the country’s best restaurants, and well-rounded activities in the Rocky Mountains.
The “Must Do/See”: The top-notch hiking spot is Chautauqua Park. A gateway to endless miles of trails spiraling in every direction, Chautaqua allows you to easily find a hike befitting of your interest and skill level. For easier options, the Bluebell-Baird trail is a less strenuous, 1-4-mile loop. For a bit more of a rugged venture, try climbing up to Royal Arch or through Gregory Canyon. After a long day in the sun, grab a beer from the Southern Sun Pub and Brewery.
Sure, there are cowboy boots and big trucks—but Austin boasts a unique charm that ward off any negative Texas stereotype. Known for being one of the most foodie and artsy places in the country, you’ll never get tired of the delicious grub, booming nightlife, and wide-eyed culture. With plenty of top-notch dining options, hip shops, and scenic ranches, Austin is sure to impress.
The “Must Do/See”: Indulge in fancy beers and cocktails. Ranked No. 1 among Austin destinations on Ratebeer.com, Jester King is a fabulous brewery and beer garden that offers rare farmhouse drafts. Sample rare brews, before heading to Revolution Spirits—a distillery that mixes prime liqueurs with fresh fruit pulp left over from Jester King’s brews. Explore East Austin’s countless art galleries and studios, grab unbeatable BBQ from Micklethwait Craft Meats, and pluck guitar strings at South Austin Music. Oh, and don’t forget to stop by Valentina’s for the best tacos of your life—rated 5 stars from Texas Monthly. For a quaint bed and breakfast experience, check out the Brava House centrally located in Clarksville—and one of Austin’s first Victorian homes, built in 1889.
Like most of the leading Southwestern destinations, Sedona is equal parts rugged and chic. Among Native Americans, this Arizona-based land is regarded as sacred—a place of spiritual healing and restoration. This is mainly due to its 1.8 million acres of national forestry, offering gorgeous views of free, untouched land. From magenta-colored cliffs and domes, visitors witness phenomenal vistas and have access to countless recreational activities. In addition to the outdoor adventure aspect, Sedona has rich culture. 40-plus art galleries line the streets, spa facilities dot the map, and restaurants spread across town.
The “Must Do/See”: Regardless of your interest in art, you’ve got to check out Sedona’s “Gallery Row,” a mile-long stretch on Highway 179 that features 40-plus art galleries and studios. After you’ve gotten your artsy fartsy fix, head out for a hike. Bear Mountain Trail is a moderate, 4.6-mile point-to-point trek, with stunning sights of Arizona’s never-ending mountains and desert. Afterwards, treat yourself to fine dining at Elote Café—a farm-to-table restaurant where Southwestern flavors and Mexican cuisine collide. If you’re looking to treat yourself, be sure to check in for a night’s stay at the Alma de Sedona Inn, located in the heart of Red Rocks.
SANTA FE, NM:
Santa Fe—and New Mexico in general, really—is one of the most underrated places in America. At an elevation of 7,500 feet, Santa Fe is the highest capital city in the country; and it’s one of the oldest. With heartbreakingly beautiful wilderness, rich history and culture, a thriving arts scene, incredible dining, and outdoor activities fitted to all four seasons, it’s a top-pick, year-round destination. With museums, spas, art galleries, and innumerable trails, you’re sure to enjoy yourself, taking part in whatever your heart pleases.
The “Must Do/See”: If you’re around in the winter, ski at Ski Santa Fe, and warm up with a chocolate chile elixir at Kakawa. Pop in to La Choza for an authentic New Mexican feast (Pro tip: when they ask if you want red or green chiles, just say “Christmas.”), and wander around the plaza, guided by the always luminescent moon. At sunrise, hike up the Dale Ball trail to Picacho Peak, and midday, try mountain biking at La Tierra. At some point, make a visit to Ghost Ranch—one of the most beautiful places on Earth, where Georgia O’Keefe did most of her paintings. Check out the bizarre Meow Wolf venue and immersive art experience; soak in the hot springs at Ojo Caliente or Ten Thousand Waves; and chow down at Tune Up Café—a local favorite that serves up a well-rounded menu and the best carrot cake on the planet!