Top Destinations in the Southwest—and What to Consider When Planning

The American southwest is a land of dreams and romance. The call of the west has pulled people from far and wide for at least as long as history records. It’s a place of contradictions and surprises: endless open plains and rolling hills, towering craggy mountains and deep empty canyons, lush vegetation and deep desolation. The southwest is an unbeatable vacation spot.

American Southwest, Rainbow Bridge, Lake Powell, Arizona usa
Rainbow Bridge, Lake Powell, Arizona

Here’s a quick glimpse at just a few of the many things the American southwest has to offer you, the intrepid traveller.   

First: Things to Consider

The American southwest is a lot different from the rest of the United States, and to the unprepared, things can even take a turn for the dangerous. Before you pack your bags and strike out for the open road, take a few days to consider the following potential deal-breakers:

  • Heat. The southwest can get hot. Take the time of year into account when planning your trip.
  • Wildlife. Hot places have unique creatures, such as reptiles and interesting bugs. Not everyone likes reptiles or interesting bugs.
  • Safety. Safety is always a concern when on vacation. If you’re planning on consuming alcohol on your trip, you may want to fly and get around via taxi. A drunk driving charge is not on your itinerary.

American Southwest Top Destinations

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is a classic vacation spot. One look across that titanic dry gulf will send shivers down your spine and remind you why so many people make this trek at least once in their lives. There’s really nothing like it. When else will you be able to see the direct physical remains of giant rivers from a time before human beings walked the earth? When planning your trip to the southwest, you can’t miss the Grand Canyon.

Colorado River, Grand Canyon, Arizona USA
Colorado River, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Flickr: Bert Kaufmann / CC BY-SA 2.0

Prescott, AZ

After hitting a greatest hit like the Grand Canyon, why not check out a deep cut like Prescott? Prescott is one of those little out-the-way places—like Ely, MN or Jackson Hole, WY—that are one third resort town, one third hipster getaway, and one third small town Americana. Cozy yet adventurous, Prescott offers coffee, arts and crafts, and nature you might not expect from AZ. The Desert atmosphere remains, but things are green and growing nearly everywhere you look. They even get some snow in the winter!

granite outcrop, Watson Lake in Prescott, AZ
Granite Otcrop in Watson Lake in Prescott, AZ. Flickr: Michael Wilson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Monument Valley

Travelling to the American southwest with a western movie buff? For the cinephile, it’s tough to beat a vacation spot like Monument Valley. Countless western movie classics, from John Ford’s Stagecoach to Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in West, have used the valley’s majestic scenery as key elements for providing the atmosphere of awe, hope, and uncertainty so essential to the western myth.

horseman, Monument Valley, arizona usa
Horseman in Monument Valley, AZ. Flickr: Diana Robinson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Architecture heads, historians, and art lovers will marvel at this centuries old Catholic mission, one of the shining examples of 18th century Spanish architecture. It’s truly a relic of an older time, a time when the old and new worlds remained alien to one another, when much of the territory was still not colonized. Thousands of people visit every year. The mission is active as a church, but everyone is welcome to visit. And it’s free!

Mission San Xavier del Bac
Mission San Xavier del Bac. Flickr: JR P / CC BY-NC 2.0

About Landon B

I enjoy traveling to destinations across the US in my free time. I enjoy places that have lots of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and ziplining.

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