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When we imagine tourist destinations in the United States, we tend to think mostly of the major cities. Surely New York City is high on the bucket list for people all over the world, and other similar destinations from Miami to San Francisco sometimes aren’t far behind. But there are many interesting places in the U.S. that don’t just boil down to unique coastal cities. Entire regions of the country are known for their exquisite beauty and wonderful attractions.
The American Southwest in particular is an extraordinary region that’s unlike anything else in the U.S., or really most of the world. Towering mountains, stunning national parks, and a certain urban “playground” make this quite the area to visit. Here are five places in particular you’ll want to stop at if indeed you plan a trip to the American Southwest.
The Grand Canyon (Arizona)
It doesn’t take much to sell most travelers on the beauty and splendor of the Grand Canyon. Located in Arizona but stretching more than 270 miles, it’s considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and it’s easy to see why. Originally formed many thousands of years ago by the Colorado River, it’s now a deep canyon surrounded by magnificent rock formations. It’s wonderful to see, but there also are all kinds of things you can enjoy at the Grand Canyon. You can go hiking, camping, horseback riding, and even swimming or kayaking down in the river.
Great Salt Lake (Utah)
There are actually a few large and beautiful lakes situated among the national parks and canyons of the American Southwest, but there probably isn’t another one quite as unique as the Great Salt Lake in Utah.
It’s the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere, and when it reflects the big open skies above and the mountainous scenery that surrounds it, it’s gorgeous to behold. But, as with the Grand Canyon, this destination has more to it than visuals. Going for a swim in the lake when the weather is nice can be a lovely experience, and you can also rent a kayak or sailboat and check out some of the lake’s islands. You can even book a dinner cruise out on the water if you just want to relax and take in the sunset scenery.
Las Vegas (Nevada)
The world’s most famous casino resort town probably sounds like a destination that was left behind in the previous century. That’s because the casino industry has, for the most part, migrated online. A site providing rules and information about casino games even seems to taunt the old-fashioned version of the business, stating that the days are long gone when the only way to enjoy this rush was to visit a physical casino. That’s technically true, but it doesn’t make a trip to Vegas any less spectacular.
This city’s innumerable luxury resorts, buzzing casino floors, award-winning restaurants, and sold out performances truly make it “America’s playground.” Whether you’re into the casino games or not, you’re sure to be entertained if you spend a few days and nights in Las Vegas.
There are actually a lot of different ski resort towns to choose from if you happen to travel to the American Southwest during the winter. But Vail, counted among the country’s top 20 resorts, is certainly among the best.
It’s filled with wonderful resorts, and the actual trail terrain is about as diverse and impressive as any you’ll find in the U.S. Vail can be a little crowded, but for some that adds to its charms. It can be one of the more festive places in the country during the winter. That said, if you’d prefer a slightly quieter ski town, places like Steamboat (Colorado), Beaver Creek (Colorado), and Deer Valley (Utah) are also worth looking into.
Zion National Park (Utah)
As with ski resorts, there are plenty of incredible national parks to choose from in this part of the country. But for a nice alternative to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park feels like a totally different sort of park. There’s more greenery here, and the hiking trails almost make you feel more like you’re in a mountain range than near some of the world’s biggest canyons. In particular, Angel’s Landing makes for a challenging but manageable hike that’s absolutely magnificent once you reach the summit.