From historical sites immortalizing the Wild West to a festival celebrating Native American culture, the American Southwest is a travel must for all who want to experience the true West.
Boynton Canyon’s Enchantment Resort
SEE: The Canyon de Chelly National Monument combines stunning cinema-ready overlook views and chances to take deeper tours led by authorized Navajo guides. Something to keep in mind on any visit: A community of Navajo people still lives and thrives in Canyon de Chelly.
DO: Get adventurous in Lake Havasu — a beautiful haven for all manner of activities from cycling and off-roading to fishing and watersports. The hikes and the golf courses are abundant for the more relaxed among us. golakehavasu.com.
EAT: Inspired by the cuisines of Spain, France, and Italy, the fine-dining options at Cress on Oak Creek are enjoyed against a natural woodsy creek backdrop. And the restaurant itself is part of a luxury wellness resort, L’Auberge de Sedona, at which one can reset for days in a comfortable lodge room or a creekside cabin. www.lauberge.com.
STAY: In addition to rest-and-relax options (L’Auberge, Boynton Canyon’s Enchantment Resort), one can get even closer to nature thanks to Grand Canyon lodging options that run the gamut. grandcanyonlodges.com/lodging/.
DAY TRIP: You don’t have to be obsessed with the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral to enjoy a day in Tombstone — but it certainly helps. The historic town’s Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park should be a good starting point for explorers. azstateparks.com/tombstone.
SEE: They don’t call Santa Fe the City Different for nothing. In this entrancing place, everything from the gracefully rounded adobes to the pinyon-scented air to the ristras hanging everywhere is utterly and delightfully different. The oldest capital in the country, it surrounds you with more than 400 years of history in a magical mashup of cultures and styles. Santa Fe is Spanish colonial, Native American, Mexican, Territorial, Romanesque, and modern, too. The historic plaza will enchant you with its Indigenous vendors selling silver and turquoise, Palace of the Governors, New Mexico Museum of Art, and shops.
DO: In Santa Fe, don’t miss the markets, including the iconic and longstanding Indian Market (August 19–20), International Folk Art Market (July 6–9), and Traditional Spanish Market (July 29–30). In any season, a walk along art-filled Canyon Road will charm and inspire. Whatever the day, grab a table on a rooftop patio somewhere and toast to the beauty of New Mexico as the sun sets behind the Sangre de Cristos.
EAT: Pace yourself on the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail. Order “Christmas” anywhere that serves good Mexican food if you want both red and green chile sauce (which you do). Get your Frito pie where it originated at Five & Dime General Store off the Plaza. And don’t forget bizcochitos — bakeries, cafes, and grocery stores can hook you up with the anise-flavored state cookie.
STAY: Get your vigas and kivas on at the many stylish boutique properties in Santa Fe. Some favorites: Inn of the Five Graces, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, La Fonda on the Plaza, Bishop’s Lodge, and Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado.
DAY TRIP 1: From Santa Fe, take the beautiful High Road to Taos. On the drive, you’ll wind through the Carson National Forest and see the Santuario de Chimayo and the Church of San Francisco de Assisi (the one made famous by Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe). Arriving in Taos, you’ll discover a quirky confluence of ancient Native American, Old West, and art colony called the “soul of the Southwest” — an apt description if for no other reason than the presence of the ancient Taos Pueblo. But other reasons abound. The Taos Society of Artists came, painted, and stayed, leaving their creative legacy everywhere, from the many art galleries to the terrific art museums and artist homes. But it’s not all art all the time. In and around Taos you’ll also find topnotch skiing, the Kit Carson Home & Museum, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and a jumping on point for the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway.
DAY TRIP 2: In the southern reaches of the state, more magical otherworldly experiences await. At White Sands National Park, the world’s largest gypsum dunefield fills 275 square miles of stunning white desert with massive wavelike dunes of gypsum sand. Nearby Las Cruces features desert, mountain, and river landscapes. In between hiking, golfing, and tennis, check out the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum (livestock and gardens), Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park (the Rio Grande, trails, birdlife), and the Railroad Museum (historic depot, model trains).
Santa Fe Indian Market
To explore the best of Western travel, head to our Step Into The West: Top 30 Destinations of the American West guide.