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ARIZONA Tour hidden gems in Copper State NEW MEXICO Explore amazing Land of Enchantment TEXAS Lone Star State’s unexpected charm

A Grand View Mather Point scenic viewpoint at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona


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SOUTHWEST

CONTENTS

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SAN ANTONIO Experience Mission City’s blend of rich culture and cuisine.

River Walk JOHN CABUENA/FLIPINTEX FOTOS; GETTY IMAGES

ARIZONA

NEW MEXICO

ARIZONA

TEXAS

TEXAS

ON THE COVER

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SOUTHWEST REGION

NEW MEXICO

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THE REGIONS TEXAS

NEW MEXICO

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NATIONAL PARKS Big end’s raw, rugged beauty

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

EDITORS

Tracy Scott Forson Patricia Kime Sara Schwartz Barbranda Lumpkins Walls Debbie Williams

NATIONAL PARKS Vast expanse of buttes, badlands

ISSUE DESIGNER

AUSTIN Cool beats of music festivals

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MUSEUMS Cultural lenses display past, present, future

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DALLAS Talk-of-the-town sights abound

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EXPLORE Santa Fe’s eclectic mix of character, cultu culture

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COASTAL CITIES S White-sand beaches ches and quaint towns

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Lisa M. Zilka DESIGNERS

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Biosphere 2 THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

The Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda on the Plaza

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ARIZONA

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NATIONAL PARKS KS Hike, bike and explore amazing wilderness

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SCIENCE SITES Entertaining and educating landmarks rks

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EXPLORE Old West towns, mountains and trails ils

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NATIONAL PARKS Jagged peaks and scenic vistas in Big Bend

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TEXAS

AUSTIN Sights and sounds of capital city’s hot music festivals

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DALLAS Southern charm, uptown class and cowboy spirit

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SAN ANTONIO One of Texas’ oldest and largest cities

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GULF COAST CITIES Miles of warm beaches hug the coastline

LONE STAR STATE Most Texans believe everything is bigger and better in the Lone Star State (nicknamed because of the solo star on its flag), but it’s really just a state of mind. Trying to decide which sights to see while on vacation is a task almost as big as the state itself. Breaking the state down by big-city attractions is one way to make your decisions easier.

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TEXAS | BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

Big Bend National Park

MAJESTIC WORLD

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Big Bend National Park is a living postcard By Brian Barth

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ERLINGUA IS ONE OF Texas’ most famous ghost towns — or perhaps I should say it used to be. The southwest town perched on a hillside a few miles west of Big Bend National Park (nps.gov/bibe) is home to crumbling adobe homes that once housed workers who mined cinnabar ore for mercury. In its mining heyday of 1918,

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more than 2,500 called Terlingua home, but when the mines petered out in the 1940s, residents dwindled. By 1970, the population was 25. Today, the eccentric town boasts Saturday farmers markets, a coffee shop, rustic art galleries, craft shops and boutique lodging options. But the community’s beating heart, as I learned, is the Starlight Theatre Restaurant and Saloon (thestarlighttheatre.com) when, during happy hour, everybody who’s anybody

gets together to, well, party. I’m talking banjos, fiddles, singing, clapping, hootin’, hollerin’, foot stompin’ good fun. The tourists far outnumber the locals (population 58 at last count) at Starlight, probably the only watering hole in a hundred miles. The menu offers a good selection of craft beers and gourmet fare like pork medallions in a chipotle reduction sauce or tequila-marinated quail. CO N T I N U E D

Terlingua ghost town ruins

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TEXAS | BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

FIND AN OUTFITTER Visit Big Bend, from the Brewster County Tourism Council, has a comprehensive list of outfitters organized by activity. visitbigbend.com The Far Flung Outdoor Center offers river trips and ATV or Jeep tours. bigbendfarflung.com U.S. National Park Service also maintains a list of approved outfitters. nps.gov/bibe/ planyourvisit/outfitters.htm

The Starlight was a welcomed bookend to a three-day venture that my dad, brother and I took down the Rio Grande in a sparsely populated expanse of the state, 300 miles from the nearest urban center and where there are vastly more coyotes and antelope than humans. There are a handful of popular float trips on the river, which cuts a serpentine line through the desert canyons along the Mexican border. Based on your preference and experience, choose from a couple of lazy hours of inner-tubing, a week of wilderness canoeing or Class IV (advanced skill level) whitewater rafting. Numerous outfitters are clustered along Lone Star Ranch Road between Terlingua and the park entrance, where you can either book a guided trip (it’s a good idea to book at least two months in advance) or, for those comfortable boating and camping in the wilderness, rent a canoe or kayak and any camping gear that you don’t want to lug from your corner of the world. Jeep tours, horseback riding, guided hikes and mountain biking excursions are also available. For those whose idea of the great outdoors is an afternoon spent on a putting green, the upscale Lajitas Golf Resort (lajitasgolfresort.com) is just a half hour outside Big Bend National Park. If you just want to take a driving tour through the jagged peaks and canyonlands of the park, stop off for a few scenic vistas and a short hike to explore the ruins of early 20th century outposts and otherworldly desert flora that characterize

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Mariscal Canyon JENNETTE JURADO/U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

the region. For a map and some rangerly advice, start at one of the three visitor centers within the park; this is also where you can pick up camping, fishing and boating permits, which in most cases you must do in person. The privately run Chisos Mountains Lodge (chisosmountainslodge.com), located in the park’s high-elevation interior where summer temperatures are a bit more manageable (highs in the 80s, on average), is the only lodging within Big Bend. Weather-wise, spring and fall are the best times to visit; winter temperatures in the lowlands range between the low 30s and high 60s. Our group opted to canoe the postcardperfect Santa Elena Canyon, where cliffs plunge 1,500 feet into churning blue-green water. This stretch is known for serious whitewater when water levels are high, but much of the time it’s a leisurely float, with CO N T I N U E D

Black Jack’s Crossing at Lajitas Golf Resort LAJITAS GOLF RESORT

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TEXAS | BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

Iconic water tower

Old West flavor at Hotel Paisano

Popular food truck eats from Food Shark

Ernst Tinaja MARFA VISITOR CENTER; HOTEL PAISANO; MARFA VISITOR CENTER; MATTHEW YARBROUGH/U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

South Rim Vista and claret cup cactus REINE WONITE/U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

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one Class III (intermediate skill level) rapid that we chose to skirt in the calm water close to shore. The river, despite its location in extremely rugged and remote terrain, can get crowded with boaters during certain months of the year. But its undulating turns of the canyon and sculpted, breathtaking art is worth every minute of your time. If you’re coming to Big Bend from El Paso, it’s about a five-hour drive down some very lonely, tumbleweed-strewn highway (six hours from San Antonio), but there are a few cultural oases along the way, including what appears to be a small, isolated Prada store on Highway 90 in the middle of nowhere. In reality, this is an art installation, and a sign that you are nearing the town of Marfa — a global arts outpost made famous by the late minimalist Donald Judd and now frequented by Hollywood types and throngs of tourists.

As a friend said before I left for Texas, “Marfa is the only place I know of where you might see a cowboy riding horseback down the street one minute, and spot Johnny Depp seated in a cafe the next.” Marfa is roughly midway between Big Bend and El Paso, so it’s a natural place to break up the trek. Consider a room at the ultra-chic Hotel Saint George (marfasaintgeorge.com) if you feel like rubbing elbows with the artsy crowd; the Hotel Paisano (hotelpaisano.com) is the spot if you’re in the mood for Old West flavor. Beyoncé opted for rustic on her trip to Marfa, holing up in one of the Airstream trailers at the El Cosmico campground (elcosmico.com) on the edge of town, where one can also rent a Mongolian yurt or a Sioux-style teepee. Whether you spot any celebrities or not, southwest Texas has an uncanny knack for making you feel as though you are traveling from one movie set to another.

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TEXAS | AUSTIN

Pecan Street Festival

MANNY PANDYA PHOTOGRAPHY

KEEPING THE BEAT Medley of music fests always on tap in Austin

By Amy Lynch

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NOWN AS MUCH FOR its warm, weird hippie ethos as for its recent popularity among tech start-ups looking for a place to launch, Austin is a melting pot of sights, sounds and creative inspiration. Nicknamed the “Live Music Capital of the World,” its bars, clubs and outdoor venues pulse to the beat of live bands nearly every day

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of the week. Just a stone’s throw from the laid-back campus of the University of Texas at Austin sits the bustling downtown music district along Red River Street, where music-makers test their tunes in front of appreciative crowds. Zilker Park and Auditorium Shores, just a few blocks south of City Center, host large lakeside music festivals throughout the year, covering every genre on the sonic spectrum and keeping the heart of Texas humming along to every melody.

PECAN STREET FESTIVAL

SEPT. 23-24 So beloved that it’s held twice a year, the free Pecan Street Festival closes off a quadrant of downtown roadways and lets locals and visitors roam the center of the Sixth Street Historic District — originally known as Pecan Street — for music, food, arts, crafts and family-friendly fun. Live sets from local musical acts provide the soundtrack for the 40-yearsrunning event every May and September, giving festival-goers an opportunity to tap their feet all the way down the street. ▶ pecanstreetfestival.org

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TEXAS | AUSTIN

SWING BY

AUSTIN CITY LIMITS

OCT. 6-8 AND 13-15 Named after the long-running PBS music series taped a few miles away, the annual Austin City Limits (ACL) Fest grew so popular during its first decade, it expanded into a two-weekend event in 2013. Revelers slather on sunscreen and enjoy rock, rap, country, blues, pop and EDM across seven stages erected in idyllic Zilker Park. Extensive local eats are on hand to keep attendees well-fed, and a laid-back beer tent keeps things cool under the warm October sun. This year’s headliners include Jay-Z, Solange, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers and hometown favorite, Spoon. ▶ aclfestival.com

Get in line early for award-winning barbecue and world-class Southern sides at Franklin BBQ. 900 E. 11th St.; 512-653-1187; franklinbbq.com

JULIAN BAJSEL THE PICNIC

 The Picnic offers a cluster of

SOUND ON SOUND FEST

NOV. 10-12 An informal successor to the now-defunct Fun Fun Fun Fest, this late-autumn event is seen as something of a slightly edgier kid sibling to ACL Fest’s more mainstream vibe. Held 35 miles east of Austin in the Sherwood Forest, this threeday experience draws weekend campers and night-by-night visitors to its hip cornucopia of acts that include rockers, rappers and stand-up comedians. This year, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear, Iggy Pop, The Shins and Blood Orange lead the pack of performers. ▶ soundonsoundfest.com

AUSTIN’S NEW YEAR

DEC. 31 While there’s no shortage of New Year’s Eve parties taking place in the heart of the Lone Star State, crowds bundle up and flock to Auditorium Shores for an afternoon and evening of live music on several stages. The evening culminates at 10 p.m. in an extravagant display of fireworks against the downtown skyline towering above Lady Bird Lake. To keep things family-friendly (and in keeping with local sound ordinances), the big show ends at 10:30 p.m., allowing celebrants to ring in the actual new year wherever they choose. ▶ austinsnewyear.com

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FREE WEEK

JAN. 1-14 The name “Free Week” is a misnomer because the local celebration of all things musical often spans a full two weeks. As each new year unfolds, raucous bands rock the mic at an array of live music venues around town, giving revelers access to scores of bands at no charge. Spaces like Barracuda, Mohawk Austin, Cheer Up Charlie’s and Empire Control Room melt away the winter blues with the sounds of cult favorites and up-and-comers alike. ▶ freeweek.do512.com

CARNAVAL BRASILEIRO

FEB. 10 Called the “best public bash” in the state by Texas Monthly, one of the largest Carnaval celebrations outside Brazil takes place in Austin each winter. Bringing the spirit and samba of Brazil to the massive Palmer Events Center on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, Carnaval Brasileiro keeps the beat going with renowned Brazilian and Brazilianinspired performers. Perennial favorite Austin Samba, a local ensemble with more than 100 drummers performing in the style of traditional escolas de samba, helps guests pack the dance floor late into the night. Tickets go on sale in December. ▶ sambaparty.com

food trucks serving Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern and Tex-Mex specialties alfresco. 1720 Barton Springs Rd.; thepicnicaustin.com

You’ll find hip accommodations and an even hipper pool at South Congress Hotel located amid south Austin’s most iconic strip of shops and eateries. 1603 S. Congress Ave.; 512-920-6405; southcongresshotel.com

Young M.A

DRISKILL HOTEL

 The opulent Driskill Hotel, built

in 1886, offers a heaping helping of traditional Texan style. 604 Brazos St.; 512-439-1234; driskillhotel.com BRYCE WILLIAMS

SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST

MARCH 12-18 What began as a simple music festival has since ballooned into an international event of epic proportions, celebrating music, film, interactive technology and more. South By Southwest (SXSW) takes over Austin each March, with its music portion attracting thousands of acts from all points of the globe looking to make their mark. Spilling out of the convention center and into a variety of venues throughout the city, all official SXSW events require a badge for entry; registration opened in August. ▶ sxsw.com

Uncommon Objects bills itself as a “one-of-a-kind emporium of transcendent junk” store, selling cultural relics and funky stuff. 1512 S. Congress Ave.; 512-442-4000; uncommonobjects.com Austin’s answer to Saturday Night Live, Esther’s Follies features talented players staging street-front satire. 525 E. Sixth St.; 512-320-0553; esthersfollies.com

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TEXAS | DALLAS

THE BIG D

Dallas sparkles in the Texas sunshine By Ilene Jacobs

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ESTLED IN THE HEART of north Texas, the city of Dallas offers more than big hair, iconic sports teams, theme parks, and cowboy hats and boots. The Big D, as it is affectionately referred to by locals, is a masterful blend of Southern charm and modern metro. Boasting some of the biggest and best attractions in the country, the city offers visitors and residents plenty of things to do, no matter your taste or budget. Here are just a few:

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ART, CULTURE & HISTORY

THE DALLAS ARTS DISTRICT The Dallas Arts District — spanning 68 acres and 19 contiguous blocks – is considered the largest urban entertainment district in the nation. Along with superb performance venues such as the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and three worldclass museums (the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Crow Collection of Asian Art), the easily walkable Arts District houses one of the world’s largest collections of Pritzker Prize-winning buildings in one contiguous location. And you don’t want to miss touring the historic Sixth Floor Museum located in the former Texas School Book Depository building. ▶ 750 N. St. Paul St.; 214-744-6643; dallasartsdistrict.org

DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART The Dallas Museum of Art, a sprawling 370,000-square-foot building designed by New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, has more than 23,000 paintings, sculptures, jewels and artifacts from around the world. You’ll find masterpieces from heavy hitters such as Pollock, Rothko, Monet, Rodin and Picasso, to name a few. It also hosts regular exhibitions and a diverse array of programming. Beyond the galleries, the museum houses a children’s creative zone, a sculpture garden and a cafe featuring a window of Dale Chihuly’s glass flowers. ▶ 1717 N. Harwood St.; 214-922-1200; dma.org DALLAS MUSEUM OF ART

CROW COLLECTION OF ASIAN ART

CROW COLLECTION OF ASIAN ART The Crow Collection of Asian Art hosts more than 600 master works hailing from Japan, China, India and Southeast Asia. Most of the carefully curated pieces come from the private collection of local real estate developer Trammel Crow and his wife, Margaret. Here, visitors can explore a series of galleries showcasing art objects, paintings, scrolls and large architectural pieces, some of which date to the 10th century. The museum also boasts special exhibitions featuring art from renowned collectors, other museums and private institutions throughout the world. Highlights include one of the most exquisite jade collections in the U.S. and a suit of Samurai armor from the Edo period, one of the museum’s most valued acquisitions to date. ▶ 2010 Flora St.; 214-979-6430; crowcollection.org

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THE SIXTH FLOOR MUSEUM AT DEALEY PLAZA

THE SIXTH FLOOR MUSEUM AT DEALEY PLAZA Whether you’re a history buff or a conspiracy theorist, you’ll find the Sixth Floor Museum an interesting source of information examining the life, times, death and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. The impressive collection at the museum, in the former Texas School Book Depository building, includes nearly 400 photographs, interviews, artifacts, interpretive displays and award-winning videos that chronicle the historic chain of events preceding the president’s assassination in 1963. One of the highlights of the tour is the Plexiglas-enclosed area where Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have fired the fateful shot. ▶ 411 Elm St.; 214-747-6660; jfk.org

NASHER SCULPTURE CENTER The Nasher Sculpture Center was designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano and showcases the private sculpture collection of real estate developer Raymond Nasher and wife Nancy. The collection is considered one of the most extraordinary assemblages of modern and contemporary sculptures in the world, with more than 300 significant works of art from masters such as Rodin, Brancusi, Matisse, Picasso, Koons, Calder and Miró. Visitors will find roughly 25 more sculptures are scattered around a lush 1.4-acre garden that surrounds the complex. ▶ 2001 Flora St.; 214-242-5100; nashersculpture center.org

CAROLYN BROWN FOR THE NASHER SCULPTURE CENTER

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TEXAS | DALLAS

SWING BY Black and white ruffled lemur Delve into a little bit of everything, including bananas Foster pancakes and chicken fried steak at the Company Cafe. 2104 Greenville Ave.; 214-8272233; companycafe.com

START RESTAURANT

 Start Restaurant, a fast food spot

that bills itself as a place to get healthy food from a drive-through window, offers handmade organic fare at walletfriendly prices. 4814 Greenville Ave.; 214-265-1411; startrestaurant.net

CATHY BURKEY/DALLAS ZOO

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

WHITE ROCK LAKE PARK Set on the shores of a reservoir constructed in 1911, White Rock Lake Park offers some of the best outdoor recreation around. White Rock Lake encompasses more than 1,000 acres, and the wooded parkland surrounding it features 9 miles of jogging and biking trails, perfect for spending the day outdoors. Bird sanctuaries are located on the premises, along with wetland sites endorsed by the Natural Audubon Society. In addition, the park provides scenic views of the Dallas skyline and some fantastic fishing spots. ▶ Dallas Park & Recreation, 1500 Marilla St.; 214-670-4100; dallasparks.org/235/WhiteRock-Lake

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DALLAS ZOO Three miles south of downtown, the Dallas Zoo is home to more than 2,000 animals (of roughly 400 species), including chimps, lions, elephants, zebras, hippos and giraffes. The 106-acre zoological park is the oldest and largest in Texas (established in 1888), and its award-winning Giants of the Savanna is the only habitat in the U.S. to integrate elephants with giraffes, ostrich and other hoofstock species. The zoo’s commitment to conservation and breeding programs for numerous endangered species means many of the enclosures replicate the animals’ natural habitats. ▶ 50 S. R.L. Thornton Freeway; 469-554-7500; dallaszoo.com

Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden

DALLAS ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL GARDEN

DALLAS ARBORETUM AND BOTANICAL GARDEN The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is an oasis of horticultural magnificence and arguably one of the most enchanting. One of the most visited botanical gardens in the country, it welcomes nearly 1 million visitors to its grounds each year. Families with younger children will want to explore the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, an 8-acre garden of delights boasting everything from cascading waterfalls and a treetop canopy walk to a twostory tree house and more than 150 interactive exhibits. ▶ 8525 Garland Rd.; 214-515-6615; dallasarboretum.org

ZERO GRAVITY THRILL PARK If things like a zero-to-70 launch, a 100-foot-plus free-fall drop and soaring through the air at 60 mph get your family’s blood pumping, then Zero Gravity is the place to go. The one-of-a-kind amusement park is an adrenaline-infused rush for thrill seekers. Nail-biting rides include a seven-story solo bungee jump, a three-person swing that pulls you 110 feet up before sending you flying around at 60 mph (Skycoaster) and one that shoots you 150 feet in the air (Texas Blastoff). True to its name, this park offers extreme thrills for extreme fun. ▶ 11131 Malibu Dr.; 972-4848359; gojump.com

Thirsty? Don your flip-flops and head over to the Truck Yard and sip local suds by Texas Ale Project, Deep Ellum Brewery and the Bishop Cider Company. 5624 Sears St.; 469-500-0139; texastruckyard.com

The Playground Bar keeps it simple with six draft beers and two cocktails and “gas station” tacos. Games and play equipment offer adult fun. 2908 McKinney Ave.; 214-924-6046; playgrounduptown.com

Located in the Central Business District is the Joule, an uber-chic, boutique hotel set in a revitalized 1920s neoGothic landmark building. The interior is stunning, plus there’s a top-notch restaurant and sexy subterranean cocktail den. But it’s the rooftop infinity pool that is truly the cool spot. 1530 Main St.; 214-748-1300; thejouledallas.com Got your family in tow? The Hilton Anatole not only offers luxurious rooms and a phenomenal rooftop steakhouse, but it’s also the only hotel in the city to boast a 4-acre resort-style pool complex, complete with 180-foot waterslides and a lazy river. 2201 N. Stemmons Freeway; 214-748-1200; hiltonanatolehotel.com

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TEXAS | DALLAS

THE BIG ATTRACTIONS

SOUTHFORK RANCH No visit to the area is complete without making a pilgrimage to Southfork Ranch, the location site of hit TV soap opera drama series Dallas (1978-1991). Sure, J.R. is gone and the series is no longer being filmed, but Southfork Ranch, home to Big D’s fictional first family, the Ewings, is nonetheless still a major tourist attraction. Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe tour J.R.’s old stomping grounds. Daily tours depart from a welcome center that also contains a museum filled with everything from the gun that shot J.R. to Lucy’s wedding dress. ▶ 3700 Hogge Dr., Parker, Texas; 972-442-7800; southfork.com SOUTHFORK RANCH

Big Tex

STATE FAIR OF TEXAS

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FAIR PARK The 277-acre Fair Park hosts 1,200 events annually, including the State Fair of Texas, which has been going strong since 1886 and takes place for three weeks every fall (drawing in more than 3 million attendees each year). It is one of the largest and longest-running fairs in the nation and is home to the largest Ferris wheel in North America. The Fair Park grounds also house a variety of year-round venues, including the Children’s Aquarium, the African American Museum and the Texas Discovery Gardens, a 7.5-acre botanical garden with a two-story butterfly house and insectarium. ▶ 1300 Robert B Cullum Blvd.; 214-670-8400; fairpark.org

GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL CENTER

GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL CENTER Whether you are a history buff or political junkie, the George W. Bush Presidential Center should be on your bucket list. Located on the campus of Southern Methodist University, the facility features a full-scale replica of Bush’s Oval Office, steel from the World Trade Center and the infamous Florida voting chads from the 2000 election. The museum’s interactive exhibits invite visitors to scrutinize some of his most controversial decisions, such as the Iraq War, the Hurricane Katrina response and the 2008 financial bailout. The center also includes 80 terabytes of digital information and more than 200 million emails, making it the largest collection of electronic records of any presidential library. ▶ 2943 SMU Blvd.; 214-200-4300; bushcenter.org

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TEXAS | SAN ANTONIO

MEGAN JOHN

RIVER WALK Calling it “America’s most well-known river walk,” Travel + Leisure magazine ranked the San Antonio River Walk as No. 1 in America in 2010. Also known as Paseo del Rio, this major tourist attraction brings in more than 11 million visitors a year. Delight yourself with a delicious dinner at one of the numerous restaurants or cafes that line the river. Spice it up by visiting some of the night spots or relaxing to the sounds of mariachis and other live music. Adults and children enjoy floating on river boats piloted by humorous tour guides. The River Walk is the perfect place to hang out with family or sit quietly while you enjoy the sounds of a bubbling waterfall. ▶ 849 E. Commerce St.; 210-227-4262; thesanantonioriverwalk.com STATE OF TEXAS GENERAL LAND OFFICE

MISSION CITY

San Antonio reflects history, culture as one of Texas’ oldest and largest cities By Kimberly Suta

S

AN ANTONIO IS MORE than just a city — it’s a community of some of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. Because of the number of military bases and businesses in town, there’s an eclectic mix of people and no shortage of fabulous restaurants and attractions. From the well-known urban waterway River Walk to the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, you’ll have plenty to keep you hopping. Here are places to explore:

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THE BIG ATTRACTIONS

ALAMO One of five missions established in the early 1700s, the Alamo is nearly 300 years old. Perhaps the most cherished landmark in San Antonio, it attracts thousands of visitors who stroll inside to view artifacts preserved in the on-site museum. Visitors often get emotional imagining the defenders waking to Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna’s Mexican army that fatal morning during the Battle of the Alamo (Feb. 23 to March 6, 1836) which became the turning point in the Texas Revolution. More than a month later, the Mexican army met defeat at the Battle of San Jacinto. Go back in time, take a few photos and remember the Alamo. ▶ 300 Alamo Plaza; 210-2251391; thealamo.org

HEMISFAIR PARK For the city’s best views, head downtown to Hemisfair Park’s 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas, which was built for the World’s Fair in 1968. In addition to the spectacular views from the observation deck, it also offers the Skies over Texas 4D Theater ride and Chart House, a fine-dining revolving restaurant. Take time to also enjoy the park, with its beautiful grounds, waterfalls and fountains, a children’s playground and historic buildings. The park is also home to the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Magik Theater for children. ▶ 434 S. Alamo St.; 210-709-4750; hemisfair.org

MARK MENJIVAR

TOBIN CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS The state-of-the-art, multipurpose Tobin Center for the Performing Arts is a 1,759-seat performance hall, a 250-seat studio theater and an outdoor performance plaza connected to the River Walk. Located within walking distance of some of the city’s finest hotels and restaurants, the former historic Municipal Auditorium, with its original facade preserved, has been transformed into a world-class venue that attracts acts of all kinds — from opera and rockers to A-list comedians and films. ▶ 100 Auditorium Circle; 210-223-8624; tobincenter.org

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TEXAS | SAN ANTONIO

SWING BY ART, CULTURE & HISTORY

Acenar, along the River Walk, serves up modern Tex-Mex with a twist. Bring your appetite and try the Buttermilk Fried Oysters, Young Texas Goat with Ancho Salsa Ranchera and Duck Crepes. 146 E. Houston St.; 210-222-2362; acenar.com Satisfy your Texas-style barbecue cravings at Smoke. Choose from brisket, pulled pork, Dr Pepper pork ribs, beer can chicken, Shiner Bock Beer brined turkey and more. 1170 E. Commerce St.; 210-253-9919; smoketherestaurant.com

MAJESTIC THEATRE The Majestic Theatre is San Antonio’s oldest and largest atmospheric theater. The 2,311-seat theater was designed by architect John Eberson for Karl Hoblitzelle’s Interstate Theatres in 1929. Beautiful and elegant, the Majestic is host to top performers, including musician Willie Nelson and comedian Aziz Ansari and Broadway shows such as Wicked. The theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and also designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993. ▶ 224 E. Houston St.; 210-226-5700; majesticempire.com

You’ll find an old-school, cantina-style cocktail bar at The Squeezebox. Its relaxed sexy vibe, affordable craft-made drinks, outdoor patio and live jazz music are difficult to beat. 2806 N. St. Mary’s St.; 210-460-7635; facebook.com/ The Squeezebox

JOHN DYER

SAN ANTONIO MUSEUM OF ART

SAN ANTONIO MUSEUM OF ART The San Antonio Museum of Art boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Near Eastern art in the southern United States. The size and variety of the exhibitions is astonishing. Located on the River Walk, the museum welcomes many children during the school year. The vast array of educational information makes it a very attractive place for field trips. The museum hosts more than 500 guided tours each year and appeals to adults seeking scholarly immersion, as well as families with young children. ▶ 200 W. Jones Ave.; 210-978-8100; samuseum.org

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BLUE STAR ARTS COMPLEX The expansive Blue Star Arts Complex, a hub of San Antonio’s Southtown arts district, is home to art galleries, studios, a playhouse, and commercial and residential space. Go on the first Thursday of every month to avoid the crazy crowds on First Friday and get a first look at new art exhibits. With a beautiful view of the River Walk, this is a mustvisit destination. ▶ 125 Blue Star 6; 210-354-3775; bluestararts complex.com

Paramour is a cool and classy rooftop bar to go grab a few drinks and take in the city’s nightlife. Try the “You Can’t Handle the Proof”cocktail made with bonded bourbon, apple, mint and pecan orgeat. 102 Ninth St., Suite 400; 210-340-9880; paramourbar.com

Situated on a quiet stretch of the North River Walk, the elegant, 27-room Hotel Havana features antique furniture, Turkish rugs and vintage Cuban artwork. 1015 Navarro St.; 210-222-2008; havanasanantonio.com

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JAPANESE TEA GARDEN The Japanese Tea Garden feel like a set straight out of the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The restored, verdant garden, which used to be a rock quarry, is a beautiful destination all year long, featuring a floral display with shaded walkways, stone bridges, a 60-foot waterfall and ponds filled with Koi. A whimsically winding walkway encompasses the garden and is a wonderful spot for an after-dinner stroll. ▶ 3853 N. St. Mary’s St., 210-2124814; japaneseteagarden.org

HOTEL EMMA

 The 146-room Hotel Emma has

truly done an outstanding job of preserving and utilizing the original space, a 19th-century brewhouse. It showcases its culinary prowess at its restaurant Supper; the bar and clubroom Sternewirth; and Larder, the curated market. 136 E. Grayson St.; 210-448-8300; thehotelemma.com

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TEXAS | SAN ANTONIO

WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

ENCHANTED ROCK STATE NATURAL AREA Ninety miles from San Antonio lies the second-largest batholith (large bodies of intrusive igneous rock) in the U.S. Enchanted Rock, which was named such by the local Tonkawa Indian tribe because of the sounds they claimed they heard coming from the rocks at night, is one of the most beautiful natural areas in Texas. You’ll enjoy backpacking, camping, hiking, rappelling, rock climbing and bird-watching. At night, the star-filled sky becomes its own natural attraction. Don’t miss the cave toward the top of the rock formation — but beware if you are claustrophobic; it is very cramped and at times you find yourself crawling. ▶ 16710 Ranch Rd. 965, Fredericksburg, Texas; 830-685-3636; tpwd.texas.gov/ state-parks/enchanted-rock STATE OF TEXAS GENERAL LAND OFFICE

NATURAL BRIDGE WILDLIFE RANCH

NATURAL BRIDGE WILDLIFE RANCH Located between San Antonio and New Braunfels, Texas, this wonderland of wild animals is like having a mini Africa in the middle of Texas. From the safety of your vehicle, you’ll meander through 450 acres of magnificent live oak trees, rolling green hills and creek beds where 500 animals from 40 exotic, native and endangered species roam free. Visitors get a free bag of food to feed the animals so that they’ll come up to their vehicles. In actuality, the animals are so used to getting fed they come up to your car regardless. ▶ 26515 Natural Bridge Caverns Rd.; 830-438-7400; wildliferanchtexas.com

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THE CAVE WITHOUT A NAME About an hour’s drive outside of San Antonio is a designated Natural National Landmark with more than 3 miles of interconnecting cave systems that are filled with awe-inspiring stalactites and stalagmites. In 1939, people were asked to name the cave, and a boy suggested it was “too beautiful to have a name.” Visitors can tour the six main rooms — all of which are 66 degrees year-round — and elaborate walkways. The cave has been accessible to thousands of years as evidenced by some of the prehistoric finds inside. It was used as a moonshine distillery during Prohibition, which is one of the first documented exposures to humans. Later rediscovered by three siblings in 1935, the cave is a world of wonders right beneath your feet. ▶ 325 Kreutzberg Rd., Boerne,Texas; 830-537-4212; cavewithoutaname.com

COMANCHE LOOKOUT PARK This 96-acre public park with an almost 5-mile nature hiking trail includes the fourth-highest point in Bexar County with an elevation of 1,340 feet. Vegetation includes native ash juniper, Texas and Mexican buckeye, chinaberry, Lindheimer hackberry trees and honey mesquite. The historic park got its name because Native Americans used the hill as a vantage point during war or for hunting. The Apache were the first to control the area, followed by the Comanche Indians, who hunted along the waterways. Ruins of a medieval-style stone tower, built by a retired Army colonel in the 1920s, still remain. ▶ 15551 Nacogdoches Rd.; 210-207-7275; sanantonio.gov

TOM SUMMERS

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TEXAS | COASTAL CITIES

SWING BY

WILLIE G’S

 Willie G’s is an institution in and unto itself and is recognized not only in Galveston but also across the U.S. as a top destination for seafood. Choose spicy blackened snapper for a real treat or go with an expertly prepared favorite like grilled flounder, Gulf shrimp or a grilled tuna sandwich. 2100 Harborside; 409-762-3030; williegs.com

The Pleasure Pier GALVESTON ISLAND CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU

COASTAL CALM

Serenity of beach life beckons

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NE WEEK AFTER HURRICANE Harvey set its sights on Texas’ 600 miles of sparkling coastline, much of the area’s postcard-perfect beaches and quaint Southern towns just south of Houston were welcoming visitors. Just days after the Category 4 hurricane made landfall on Aug. 25, Galveston started posting updates on which

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restaurants, hotels and bars were open. “Their staffs look forward to serving you!” proclaimed Galveston.com, the island’s official tourism website. By Labor Day weekend, most of the island’s beaches and tourist attractions were open for business. Visiting the region now would help the tourism industry, as well as support local businesses along the shore.

GALVESTON With 32 miles of smooth-sand shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston’s beaches range from bustling summertime hotspots to secluded stretches off the beaten path, featuring picnic areas, campsites and hiking trails. About an hour’s drive from Houston, Galveston is a quick escape for city dwellers, who are lured not only by the island’s beaches, but also by its assortment of restaurants and classic fish houses, resort hotels, antique stores and museums. Take a stroll through the quiet neighborhoods dotted with Victorian homes.

THE SAN LUIS RESORT

 Explore the beauty and historic charm of The San Luis Resort.

5222 Seawall Blvd.; 409-744-1500; sanluisresort.com

The Pleasure Pier has 16 amusement

rides for all ages, concessions, shops and lots of shady places to rest. A wristband gets you in and out of the park for the entire day. Make sure to experience the double-decker carousel and the Texas Star Flyer, a 200-foot swingset over the ocean. At night, the pier is transformed with lights, and oftentimes live music. The view of the island from the carousel is a perfect end to a day of fun. 2501 Seawall Blvd.; 409-766-4920; pleasurepier.com

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TEXAS | COASTAL CITIES CORPUS CHRISTI

Bob Hall Pier

A haven for nature lovers and birdwatchers, Corpus Christi serves as both a gateway to Padre Island and a beach-filled destination in its own right. When you combine warm Gulf waters and sunny skies throughout most of the year, you get a perfect fall or winter getaway. The city is the largest Texas beach town and offers plenty of attractions for all ages. A portion of Corpus is located on the mainland (the main metro area), while the remaining part is located across Corpus Christi Bay on Padre Island. Those staying on the island have easy access to Padre Island National Seashore and myriad outdoor recreational activities. Fishing, surfing, swimming, beachcombing and windsurfing are among the most popular activities.

SWING BY The best restaurant to watch the sun set while you’re munching on the catch of the day is Snoopy’s Pier, a family-owned island mainstay. 3313 S. Padre Island Dr.; 361949-8815; snoopyspier.com

Omni Corpus Christi Hotel is in the center of the city’s beachfront area and has all the amenities required for vacation respite. 900 N. Shoreline Blvd.; 361-8871600; omnihotels.com/hotels/ corpus-christi

Pack your rods and reels and spend lazy days fishing on shore or waters of semitropical Corpus Christi Bay. visitcorpuschristitx.com

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SWING BY It’s seafood all day, cooked every way, at the Palm Street Pier. Its relaxed vibe and seaside views are a welcome end to a busy beach day. 204 W. Palm St.; 956-772-7256; palmstreetpier.com

Splurge on fun and lodging at the Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark and Resort. 100 Padre Blvd.; 877-5745280; schlitterbahn.com/ south-padre-island/resort

South Padre Island Birding Center Pay a small admission fee to take the kids up to the top of the Port Isabel Lighthouse for an incredible island view and a history lesson. 421 E. Queen Isabel Blvd.; 956-943-2262; portisabellighthouse.com

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SOUTH PADRE ISLAND

This barrier island is particularly well known for its spring break crowds peaking in March, but the emerald- and aquamarine-hued waters also lure families and RVers year-round, including retirees in winter. Thirty-four miles long and a half-mile wide along the Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island is a key destination for birders who flock to see herons, egrets and yellow-billed loons, to name a few of the area’s more than 300 bird species. And nature lovers hit parks like the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, with its 1,500-foot boardwalk across 4 acres of marsh. San Padre’s largely undeveloped 110 miles of beaches also attract water sport enthusiasts eager for jet skiing, kite-surfing, windsurfing, parasailing and dolphin watching.

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ARIZONA

NATIONAL PARKS Majestic desert scenery, hiking, biking and stargazing

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STELLAR SITES Science and history on grand display in Copper State

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EXPLORE Old West towns and engineering marvels

NATURAL WONDERS BECKON Arizona is home to a wealth of public land managed by the U.S. National Park Service. The state’s 22 national parks and monuments preserve landscapes and ecosystems, ancient Indian villages, a spent volcano, a historic fort, a Spanish mission, Coronado’s ghost and the nation’s grandest canyon. The parks allow us to experience Mother Nature’s masterpieces while hiking, biking and kayaking. And we get to see the stars — really see them. What are you waiting for?

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TEXAS | COASTAL ARIZONA | NATIONAL BEACHES PARKS

Grand Canyon view from Powell Point

VERDANT VISTAS ROB SCHUMACHER/THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

Arizona’s national parks offer extreme landscapes of beauty By Scott Craven

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RUCE AIKEN IS NEVER far from the Grand Canyon. It peers over his shoulder as he works. It whispers to him when he travels. It calls to him whenever he’s had enough of crowds, cars and noise. The soaring buttes, towers and cliffs crowd his mind — and his studio. The Flagstaff, Ariz., artist has captured the canyon from every imaginable angle. He’s dipped his toes in the Colorado River and dangled them off a thousand-foot cliff.

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And yet Aiken, a man who raised a family at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, laments that he’s seen only a fraction of it. “The canyon is so vast,” Aiken says. “You can’t get to some of the most remote places. There is no way anybody can say they’ve been everywhere.” The statistics back him up. The canyon is 277 miles long and varies from 4 to 18 miles wide. The Colorado River cuts more than a mile deep at points. Myriad side canyons form other worlds, some filled with lush vegetation, others relentlessly arid landscapes. Grand Canyon National Park drew nearly

6 million visitors in 2016 and is the secondmost-visited national park in the system, behind the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (which had more than 11 million visitors last year). In the early 1970s, with sketchbook in hand, Aiken got a job at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where he would spend the next 33 years exploring a place that resisted exploration. By the time he retired in 2006, his muse was the subject of hundreds of paintings. Today, his studio is home to more than 200

Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center S. Entrance Rd., Grand Canyon Village; 928638-7888; nps. gov/grca

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TEXAS | COASTAL ARIZONA | NATIONAL BEACHES PARKS pounds of rocks he’s collected over the years. “There’s nothing like the Grand Canyon,” he says. “You can have a photo of a mountain or a beach but not know where it was taken. But you show a photo of the Grand Canyon to someone in China, they know exactly what it is.” Kristen Luetkemeier remembers her first trip to the Grand Canyon, arriving in the middle of a stormy night when high winds had knocked out all lights. Peering over the rim into the canyon, she saw a featureless abyss. Come morning, she returned to the rim to find that a thick fog had filled the canyon, buttes rising above it like rocky islands.

Saguaro National Park, Red Hills Visitor Center (Saguaro West) 2700 N. Kinney Rd., Tucson; 520-733-5158; nps.gov/sagu

STEP BACK INTO TIME

At first she was disappointed, feeling cheated by the weather. But she quickly learned just how rare this sight was, and how coveted it was by longtime visitors. Such “inversions” are few and fleeting, adding an ethereal beauty to the natural wonder. Later that day, the canyon came into view, stunning Luetkemeier with its sheer size. Now a ranger at the park’s visitor center, she remembers that moment each time she sees people staring along the South Rim. “You can tell by their expressions who is seeing the canyon for the first time,” Luetkemeier says. “Their mouths are open, they rarely blink. They’re amazed at the sight and try to take in the vastness.” That amazement extends to Saguaro National Park, which, from afar, looks like desert land with hundreds of needles piercing an earthen tapestry. But upon closer inspection, it reveals an almost unreal landscape of stately saguaro cacti stretching toward the sky, growing in numbers found only in this place. Photographs and drawings often depict the saguaro as a loner, a single inhabitant on a barren plain that instills a sense of utter loneliness. But the truth emerges here where the cactus thrives, clustered in a forest lacking only a leafy canopy.

BREATHTAKING

Nearly 90 percent of Saguaro National Park is designated as wilderness. Hikers can disappear into the backcountry, just miles from civilization. It’s easy to imagine you’ve stepped back in time, especially when encountering one of the mule trains that supply rangers at remote stations.

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THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

The park is split into two districts, Tucson Mountain to the west and Rincon Mountain to the east. The two parts of the park offer a varied experience. The Tucson Mountain District is more accessible for day-trippers from Phoenix, with several easy hikes and a loop drive that provides the perfect introduction for those with little time to explore. The Rincon Mountain District is vast, with trails that take days to fully explore. There are plenty of easy day hikes and bike rides, and ambitious backpackers can trek above 8,000 feet at Mica Mountain.

MESMERIZING VISTAS

Once blanketed by thickets of coniferous trees, the Petrified Forest National Park is about 200 miles north of Saguaro. The stony trees, felled millions of years ago, are scattered across the park, a geological reminder of eons past when the high desert was a verdant landscape. Their rough bark fools the touch. Rather than the warm, yielding feel of wood, fingertips sense a sharp-edged, impenetrable surface — much like the history. Nowhere else on Earth can you find such a collection of wood turned to stone. The mineral-infused trees burst

Giant Logs Trail

Petrified Forest National Park 1 Park Rd., Petrified Forest; 928-5246228; nps.gov/ pefo

MARK HENLE/THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

with color, the felled giants revealing themselves slowly as paths roll over uneven desert. A common mistake is taking the paths most traveled, a trio of trails near the Rainbow Forest Museum. Each is lovely, but the diversity of the park and its formations can’t truly be appreciated without exploring trails far from visitor centers. The Onyx Bridge and Jasper Forest hikes are awash in petrified wood. The main park road runs through a stunning accumulation of petrified wood, and offers panoramic views of the Painted Desert. Visitors can stop anywhere

along the road and hike into the park, exploring washes where the fossils are embedded in the earth. A memorable national park experience includes opportunities to see “landscapes that have been unchanged largely forever,” says Kurt Repanshek, founder and editor of National Parks Traveler magazine. Lace up your hiking boots, oil your bicycle spokes or just roll down your car window and take in nature’s amazing beauty. Larry Bleiberg contributed to this story.

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ARIZONA | SCIENCE SITES

TITAN MISSILE MUSEUM

Near Tucson is a former top-secret location, now a National Historic Landmark, known as Complex 571-7, the only remaining Titan II missile site of 54 that stood ready across the U.S. during the Cold War. On a one-hour guided tour, you’ll start with a movie and then descend 35 feet below ground to marvel at the intercontinental ballistic missile that could have delivered a 9-megaton nuclear warhead to a location more than 6,000 miles away in about 30 minutes. Stops along the way include the launch-control center and the silo where the missile still rests in its duct. Specialty tours, including a Moonlight Madness Tour and Beyond the Blastdoor, which takes visitors behind the scenes, are available by reservation. ▶ 1580 Duval Mine Rd., Sahuarita; 520625-7736; titanmissilemuseum.org

SUN & SCIENCE

STEM sights entertain, educate in Arizona’s celestial sphere

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RIZONA’S FORMIDABLE DESERTS, REMOTE locales and endless sunshine have made it a prime spot for scientific experiments, dangerous endeavors and secret history — think NASA moon landing prep, nuclear missile silos and flying at three times the speed of sound. USA TODAY NETWORK reporters and 10Best.com contributors have scoured the state, searching for the top spots where STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) breakthroughs occurred or are preserved. Here are a handful, best enjoyed on one of Arizona’s many cloudless days:

LOWELL OBSERVATORY

Although it’s been stripped of its planetary status, Pluto reigned as one of the nine in our solar system for more than 70 years. And Pluto was discovered at Lowell, high on a northern Arizona mountaintop. Percival Lowell founded Lowell Observatory in 1894, and today more than 70,000 people visit each year. See the original 24-inch telescope he used to study Mars and search for Planet X — identified in 1930 as Pluto. View the sun through a specially equipped solar telescope at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily, or take a guided tour of the Pluto Discovery Telescope or the Clark Telescope Dome, used by scientists and artists in the 1960s to map the moon. ▶ 1400 W. Mars Hill Rd., Flagstaff; 928-774-3358; lowell.edu

PIMA AIR & SPACE MUSEUM

More than 300 aircraft are displayed on 80 acres indoors and outside at the Pima Air & Space Museum, including a supersonic SR-71 that can fly from New York to Los Angeles in less than an hour; the world’s smallest bi-plane; an aircraft with a wingspan the length of a football field; and scrap planes blanketed in contemporary artwork. Docents — many of whom are retired pilots and crew members — are on hand to share stories throughout the facility. Kids love operating cockpit controls, sitting in a “control tower,” digging through “Martian” soil and jumping in a simulator for a moon landing. If you visit on a weekday, reserve a spot in advance for a guided bus tour of 4,000 grounded planes at the nearby “Boneyard” on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. ▶ 6000 E. Valencia Rd., Tucson; 520574-0462; pimaair.org

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ARCOSANTI

PHOTOS BY THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

BIOSPHERE 2

Biosphere 2 is a self-contained, man-made habitat that comprises all of the elements from Earth. It is a sealed glass and space frame construction with seven wilderness ecosystems. Today, Biosphere 2 is operated as a research station by the University of Arizona, which also maintains a branch of the university on the grounds. Guided tours take visitors through several of the biomes, as well as the biospherian’s former living quarters and the technical rooms that control the various interior climates. Once named one of the 50 must-see “Wonders of the World” by Time Magazine, Biosphere 2 offers an insightful glimpse into the future of our planet. ▶ 32540 S. Biosphere Rd., Oracle; 520-621-4800; biosphere2.org

This experimental city in the scrubby high desert is the brainchild of the late Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, who originally found his way to Arizona to study with Frank Lloyd Wright. Soleri started constructing his urban prototype city in 1970 based on his concept of “arcology,” or the blending of architecture and ecology. About 7,000 volunteers have helped in the construction, and about 60 residents live in the “city” intended to house 5,000 when complete. Tours are offered daily and workshops periodically. Arcosanti hosts music and theatrical events under the stars. A cafe is on-site, and guest rooms are available (without air conditioning) for $30 to $100 per night. ▶ 13555 S. Cross L Rd., Mayer; 928632-7135; arcosanti.org

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ARIZONA | EXPLORE DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN A must-see in Phoenix, the Desert Botanical Garden includes 55 cultivated acres showcasing more than 50,000 plant specimens — one of the world’s most important collections of arid flora. Five themed trails facilitate exploration of the world’s desert climates and the adaptations animals and humans have made to survive in these often harsh environments. ▶ dbg.org DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN

ARIZONA’S HOT SPOTS When visiting the Copper State, make sure to hit these sites

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HE COPPER STATE HAS plenty to offer beyond its red rocks and deep gorges. Old West towns, ancient ruins and engineering marvels rank among its top attractions. Here are a few must-visit spots chosen by USA TODAY 10BEST readers:

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TOMBSTONE The Wild West is on full display in the town of Tombstone, situated 70 miles southeast of Tucson. Legends like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday walked these very streets where the storied O.K. Corral still stands. This former silver mining boomtown is one of Arizona’s most popular day trip destinations, with the feel of a Hollywood movie set. ▶ tombstonechamber.com

APACHETRAILAZ.COM

APACHE TRAIL One of Arizona’s most scenic drives, the Apache Trail winds for 120 miles through what Theodore Roosevelt once described as “the most aweinspiring and most sublimely beautiful panorama nature ever created.” Sights along the way include the jagged Superstition Mountains, Goldfield Ghost Town and Lost Dutchman State Park. ▶ visitmesa.com

CHRISTINE KEITH/AP PHOTO/THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

KARTCHNER CAVERNS Two local explorers stumbled upon Kartchner Caverns in 1974 and revealed the existence of the caves to the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner, in 1978. Now a state park, this impressive cavern system continues to “grow” as dripping water deposits minerals on the existing formations. Features include Kubla Khan, the tallest column in Arizona, as well as one of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites. ▶ azstateparks.com/kartchner

FLAGSTAFF Flagstaff is a fun combination of charming mountain burg, funky college town and outdoorsman’s home base. It’s also a railroad whistle-stop, and the 1900s-era historic downtown area has a haunted hotel, cool bars and great, affordable shopping. ▶ flagstaffarizona.org

THINKSTOCK

SEDONA Situated in the heart of Arizona’s red rock country, spiritually charged and intensely stunning Sedona holds its own against the national parks as one of Arizona’s most beautiful destinations. The town is home to numerous smaller attractions worthy in their own right, including the Chapel of the Holy Cross, Devil’s Bridge Trail, Bell Rock and the stunning greenery and water features of Oak Creek Canyon. ▶ visitsedona.com

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NEW MEXICO 48

NATIONAL PARKS Endless vistas and formations in every direction

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MUSEUMS Galleries, exhibits rich in culture and history

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EXPLORE Santa Fe is one of the state’s hidden gems

WELCOMING GETAWAYS New Mexico’s buttes and badlands summon mountain bikers and hikers, as well as outdoor sporting enthusiasts. Buckle up and brace yourself for an amazing experience in this land of enchantment.

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NEW MEXICO | NATIONAL PARKS By Amy Lynch

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LAND OF ENCHANTMENT

New Mexico’s endless beauty abounds

T’S BY NO MISTAKE that New Mexico’s state bird is the roadrunner. The desert creature is a fitting symbol for the place it represents: With the ability to run up to 20 mph, the bird roams through large swaths of its homeland, enjoying groundlevel views of the endless vistas in every direction. Likewise, humans who grow up amid the same expanse of plains, plateaus, mountains and grasslands fondly recall family road trips across the state, traveling from one staggering sight to the next. “I get chills down my spine thinking about the almost otherworldly beauty of New Mexico’s national parks,” says Trevor Wolfe, who grew up in Corrales, N.M. “My childhood memories are dotted with the lunar landscape of White Sands, the remote beauty and bigness of Valles Caldera and the anxious excitement of venturing into Carlsbad Caverns.” As the numbers tell it, the experience is by no means limited to locals. More than 1.7 million people visited the state’s 15 U.S. National Park Service White Sands sites last year, accordNational ing to Sue Masica, the Monument intermountain regional Glistening dunes director. of gypsum “Each park I’ve sand cover 275 square miles of visited in my nearly 30 desert. It is the years of federal service largest gypsum offers something dunefield in the special, (but) I think world. what makes our sites nps.gov/whsa in New Mexico stand out is a variety of park experiences and abundance of culturally significant sites that tell the story of our American history, she says. It’s also a relaxing experience without the throngs of people commonly associated with the country’s most visited public spaces. “A lot of the parks in New Mexico receive fewer visitors than some of the more popular destinations in places like Utah and Wyoming,” Masica says. “As a result, they offer a great alternative for those wanting to avoid entrance lines and large crowds.” Less-crowded outdoor spaces, she notes, can allow more opportunities for wonder.

UNDERGROUND AWE

One exception to that rule can be found near the Texas-New Mexico border in the nothern Chihuahuan Desert. There, Carlsbad Caverns National Park attracts the masses — more than 300,000 visitors a year, including President Obama in 2016 — to its famed caves, trails and springs. With more than 100 caves on-site, the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s main attraction is its Big Room route, leading through majestic

White Sands National Monument REBECCA WILES BURGHART/U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

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NEW MEXICO | NATIONAL PARKS

Bandelier National Monument, Tyuonyi Village

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Chandelier Ballroom GAVIN NEWMAN/U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

U.S. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

“I get chills down my spine thinking about the almost otherworldly beauty of New Mexico’s national parks.’’ — Trevor Wolfe

caverns of stalactites, stalagmites, totem pole formations and cave pools. Carlsbad “draws crowds for a reason,’’ says Kelly Eidson, who has traveled the state with her family throughout her childhood in Albuquerque. “There’s nothing quite like the experience of being underground, taking in the awe-inspiring structures in the Hall of Giants and exploring all the rooms. It’s been a long time since I’ve visited, but I’ll never forget it.”

ANOTHER WORLD

It’s possible to nearly experience another planet while in New Mexico. To do so, head to White Sands National Monument, where a tremendous patch of bright white gypsum sand creates a breathtaking landscape as far as the eye can see, the sand rippled into hypnotic patterns by the wind. So popular are the dunes among sunseeking picnickers and day-trippers that the park’s visitor

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center rents discs on which to sit and slide down them. While White Sands carries great visual impact at ground level, the same is true from afar. “The snow-white gypsum dune field covers 275 square miles,” says Becky Burghart, the monument’s chief of interpretation. “It is so big that astronauts can see it from space.’’

SEEKING CONNECTION

With 15 sites under the National Park Service’s care, New Mexico offers many ways to engage with its natural wonders and culture. Curious souls can explore the volcanic shadow of Valles Caldera National Preserve, learn about the ceremonies and civilizations of lava country in El Malpais National Monument and pay respect to Pueblo Indian ancestors through a quiet visit to Bandelier National Monument. Further horizon-broadening experiences can be found in 27 state parks, at dozens of museums and through countless captivating opportunities — from turquoise mines and wildlife refuges to rock formations and cultural celebrations. This enchanted land enriches all who visit.

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NEW MEXICO | MUSEUMS

Jesus Muñoz Flamenco dancers perform at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

IRENE FERTIK

CULTURAL STUDIES

A host of museums offer a closer look at New Mexico and its wonders. Here are a few you will want to visit: NATIONAL HISPANIC CULTURAL CENTER Spanning 20 acres, this vibrant hub hosts more than 700 performances, workshops and events each year. In its gallery, visitors encounter thousands of works by artists of Hispanic, Latino and Chicano heritage. Dance classes, film screenings and storytelling events round out a roster of date-night and family-friendly outings. ▶ 1701 4th St. S.W., Albuquerque; 505-246-2261; nhccnm.org NEW MEXICO STATE UNIVERSITY MUSEUMS The NMSU campus offers public museums and collections, including a gallery with more sacred Mexican tin art than anywhere else in the U.S., two

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regional history centers exhibiting artifacts from the American Southwest and northern Mexico, and an arthropod museum housing a century’s worth of the state’s smallest inhabitants. ▶ 1280 E. University Ave., Las Cruces; 575-6465161; nmsu.edu/museums GEORGIA O’KEEFFE MUSEUM One of New Mexico’s most renowned artists, O’Keeffe is celebrated throughout the state, but the most comprehensive collection of her work rests in the Santa Fe museum that bears her name. Run by the same organization that maintains the doyenne’s home and studio (tours by appointment only) about 50 miles away, the museum welcomes guests to

experience more than 3,000 of O’Keeffe’s works. ▶ 217 Johnson St., Santa Fe; 505-946-1000; okeeffemuseum.org ROSWELL MUSEUM AND ART CENTER Long associated with extraterrestrial folklore, Roswell is home to the Robert H. Goddard Planetarium, where celestial shows and star parties keep visitors looking skyward. The museum and art center also houses 12 galleries and more than 11,000 relics and works of art. ▶ 100 W. 11th St., Roswell; 575-624-6744; roswellnm.gov — Amy Lynch

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NEW MEXICO | SANTA FE GET YOUR BEARINGS The historic downtown plaza is a good place to meet up with people or get the lay of the land. Many of Santa Fe’s top attractions are within easy walking distance of the square. ▶ santafe.org

BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE SUNSET The Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda on the Plaza hotel offers spectacular city and mountain views. At five stories, it’s one of the highest points in town. ▶ lafonda santafe.com

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BEST PLACE TO EXPLORE ANCIENT RUINS Bandelier National Monument is near Los Alamos, about 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe. Take the short hike from the visitor center to Frijoles Canyon, where you can view reconstructions or remnants of ancient buildings and cliff dwellings. ▶ nps.gov/band

BEST OF THE WEST Experience Santa Fe by hitting all the hot spots

By Weldon B. Johnson

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ANTA FE PRIDES ITSELF on celebrating all its rich history. The city recognizes its roots in Pueblo Indian culture, the Spanish colonial period, and its position today as New Mexico’s state capital and a haven for artists, writers and other creative types. Santa Fe,

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which means “holy faith” in Spanish, also celebrates its spiritual heritage as home to some of the country’s oldest churches. With its intriguing mix of galleries, restaurants, museums and outdoor recreation opportunities, Santa Fe and the surrounding area have experiences for everyone. Here’s a snapshot of things to do when visiting:

LA FONDA ON THE PLAZA

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HIDDEN GEMS Secret gardens are sprinkled throughout the downtown area if you are patient enough to seek them out. They offer quiet places to contemplate the sights you’ve taken in or plan your next adventure. Hint: A secret garden can be found adjacent to the St. Francis Cathedral. ▶ cbsfa.org

BEST GROWN-UP ACTIVITY If you enjoy a good margarita, pick up a Santa Fe Margarita Trail passport and check out the 31 stops around the city. Collect stamps from each stop and earn prizes, but don’t try to hit them all in one day. The passport also contains recipes and tips for getting around town without getting behind the wheel. ▶ santafe.org/margaritatrail

BEST IN-TOWN HIKE If you want to challenge yourself a bit, make the trek up to see the Cross of the Martyrs. It’s a fairly easy hike, but it is uphill and can seem more difficult if you aren’t used to the altitude (7,198 feet). Signs along the way reveal local history. The hilltop is another good place to check out the sunset. ▶ santafenm.gov/district_1_parks

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