Trip Ideas

50 States of Awesome: Southwest

There’s a reason the Great American Road Trip calls to most minds the deep desert canyons of Arizona and the sun-drenched two-lane coastal highways of California: No region does summer quite like the Southwest. Start. Packing.

See recent posts by Siobhan Reid

Read more: the Northwest, Southeast, Midwest and Northeast.

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Nevada Get High in Vegas

There’s no need to hit the Grand Canyon for vertigo-inducing views. On the 25th floor of Vegas’s Stratosphere Hotel, nearly 300 feet above the ground, the recently reopened Radius Rooftop Pool & Wet Lounge promises sights sure to deliver amusement park–style thrills. Offset your height fright with a swim in the sun-warmed pool, or self-medicate with a strong drink on one of the lounge’s large candystripe daybeds. The scenery within the glass walls is guaranteed to be just as eye-catching, with celebs, bikini-clad bachelorettes and Playboy models (who perform in the hotel’s pinup show) sipping cocktails from coconut shells. Trust us, this is no desert mirage.

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California Learn Beauty Secrets from Kim Kardashian in Pasadena

Contouring got you looking like a human version of paint-by-numbers? Leave it to one of the world’s most photographed women and her longstanding makeup artist to guide your hand as you experiment with the season’s hottest beauty techniques. On Saturday, July 25, Kimmy-K and Mario Dedivanovic will put on a four-hour makeup Master Class at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. You’ll learn to recreate Kim’s iconic look and gain insight into what makes a happy artist-celebrity partnership. (Sadly, fitness tips on achieving Kim’s enviable curves are not a part of the program.) Bonus: Splurge on a platinum ticket and you’ll leave the event with a goody bag of products worth more than $1,000 and a photo with Kim and Mario.

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New Mexico Explore Space in Truth or Consequences

The next great travel destination? Outer space, of course. You can shell out $250,000 and hop a Virgin Galactic flight to the great unknown, or, for a more down-to-earth experience, check out the Jetsonesque Spaceport America center in Truth or Consequences (yup, that’s the name of the town). The new $219 million building has more than a dozen interactive exhibits and tours, including one of its 12,000-foot horizon launch and recovery spaceway. Walk through the custom-built mission control room or take a wild ride on the facility’s GShock simulator (sensitive stomachs, beware.) Welcome to the new frontier.

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Arizona Quaff Craft Beer in Scottsdale

We can’t think of a better way to cool off from the desert heat than with a foamy ice cold beer, and Scottsdale’s legendary ale trail serves some of the best around. First stop: Two Brothers Taphouse & Brewery, which turns out craft-focused brews and Southwestern small bites, including pickled jalapeños stuffed with homemade cashew butter, and fish tacos topped with soy-marinated cabbage. Party people double-fist draft beer and artisanal espresso at Sip Coffee & Beer House, an adorable neighborhood spot with a cozy coffee shop–style interior. End the night with a pint of Bad Water and the charcuterie board at Bad Water Brewing Tap Room.

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Oklahoma Sleep with Country Music Stars in Tishomingo

Forget about the big city, ya’ll. This summer big things are going down in small towns. Road-trip with the girls to Tishomingo, Oklahoma (Google it — we had to), for a stay at country superstar Miranda Lambert’s Ladysmith Hotel. (If you’re lucky you’ll meet her and hubby Blake Shelton.) The eight-room B&B epitomizes Southern hospitality with bold rock-and-roll style (cowskin rugs, exposed brick walls, velveteen armchairs). Swing by Lambert’s Pink Pistol gift store, across the street, which is filled with rhinestone-heel cowboy boots, American flag–emblazoned Daisy Dukes and bedazzled sunglasses. Don't miss the sugar-rimmed cocktails and live music at Ponderosa bar at the back of the store.

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Colorado Celebrate Mountain Culture in Colorado

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No — it’s live acrobats swaying on 15-foot-tall flexible poles. To see the surreal aerial troupe the Fruits and more mind-bending acts, head to Breckenridge in August for the inaugural Breckenridge International Festival of Arts. The 10-day event celebrates the best of mountain culture, with public art installations, multimedia concerts and free musical performances. Among our favorite highlights: “Reinventing Radio: An Evening with Ira Glass,” which will revisit highlights of Glass’s “This American Life,” and “Blue Trees,” an art installation by Greek-born Konstantin Dimopoulos, who has traveled from London to Sacramento painting tree trunks bright blue to raise awareness about deforestation.

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Hawaii Get on Island Time in Molokai

What Molokai, HI lacks in traffic lights, shopping malls and multi-million dollar resorts, it more than makes up for in raw scenery and off-the-beaten-path experiences (there's a reason it’s known as the most “Hawaiian” of all of the state’s islands). Lose yourself in the beauty of the tiny isle with a hike down its rugged coastline, which is home to some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world, or a swim in the crystalline pools of Hipuapua Falls. With Mokulele Airlines offering new routes from Oahu and Maui via a nine-passenger turboprop aircraft, it’s never been easier to unplug.

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Utah Channel Your Inner Geek in Salt Lake City

We love nerdy gamers, and this summer they’ll all be hitting the Salt Lake Gaming Convention. On the docket: 600 different video and tabletop games, with roughly $100,000 of tournament money on the line. If your game knowledge falls somewhere in between Super Mario Bros and the Oregon Trail, not to worry. There’s plenty to keep non-players entertained, from live concerts to nightly dance parties.

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Texas Drink Your Way Across the Lone Star State

The Lone Star Beer Texas Heritage Festival is coming to a Texas city near you this summer, bringing with it the best of the state in booze, music and eats. Kicking off in San Antonio on August 8, the free traveling blowout, which will feature performances by killer bands like the Old 97’s and the Black Angels, will make stops in Houston, Dallas and Austin. Crack open a cold one and grab a bite from the local food trucks, then pile into one of the pop-up photo booths with your friends. As if Texans needed another excuse to party.



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