A year and a half ago (has it really been that long??), my sister and I embarked upon a Great American roadtrip. A 6,600-mile journey from Ohio to Las Vegas and back, traversing the heart and soul of the United States — from the flat farmland of the Midwest to the desert landscapes of the Southwest to big cities like Vegas and Chicago.
The adventure was epic, and allowed us to discover parts of America for ourselves that we'd previously only ever read about in books or seen in movies.
It also allowed us to discover alternatives to some of the places we originally considered to be “must-sees.”
If you're considering your own road trip through the U.S. (and especially the American Southwest, which is by far my favorite part of this country), here are some alternative stops to consider:
Instead of Vegas…
…go to the Hoover Dam and Boulder City.
Even though Sin City is a ton of fun, it can be slightly overwhelming. If gambling and drunken shenanigans aren't your thing, consider a few nearby alternatives. Visit the Hoover Dam, built on the Colorado River on the border between Arizona and Nevada, to gape in awe at this modern wonder of engineering. The massive dam was built during the Great Depression and contains enough concrete to pave a two-lane highway between New York and San Francisco. Also check out nearby Lake Mead and its national recreation area, as well as the growing town of Boulder City, Nevada.
Instead of the Grand Canyon…
…go to Page and Antelope Canyon.
Yes, the Grand Canyon is stunning. But if you want to skip the crowds and visit something just as impressive but slightly more off-the-beaten-track, head north to the little town of Page, Arizona. Here, you can not only spend some time hanging out on Lake Powell within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, but you can also visit Antelope Canyon. This amazing slot canyon is divided into two sections, with the Upper part being the ideal spot to catch brilliant rays of light slicing down into the canyon near midday.
Instead of Utah's national parks…
…go to Monument Valley.
Yes, Bryce, Arches, Zion and all of Utah's other national and state parks are fantastic. In fact, they are part of the reason that I think Utah may be the most beautiful state in America. However, if you want to be wowed by a less-touristed part of Utah, you absolutely must get yourself to Monument Valley. The only thing keeping this place from attaining national park status is the fact that it's located on Navajo-owned land. Everything else about the place — its interesting rock formations, its rich colors, its popularity with movie directors — puts it more than on-par with other destinations in the state. In fact, it may even be better since many people have never even heard of it before.
Instead of Albuquerque…
…go to Santa Fe.
Chances are, if you're roadtripping through the Southwest, you'll probably be driving on Interstate 40 through New Mexico. Which means your route should take you through the city of Albuquerque. Instead of visiting New Mexico's largest city, however, it's worth making a detour north to the state's quirky capital, Santa Fe. This small city is funky, colorful, and at least a few decades behind the rest of the country. It is also very easy on the eyes, and allows you easy access to the gorgeous scenery of northern New Mexico, as well as interesting Pueblo sites like Pecos National Historical Park.
Instead of driving through Arizona…
…go to Sedona.
For most road trippers, the Grand Canyon is likely to be the main point of interest in Arizona. But, instead of skipping through the state or staying somewhere like Flagstaff either before or after your Grand Canyon visit, head to Sedona. This little town, characterized by its rust-red rock formations, oozes relaxation and luxury. And fun. Explore Sedona on foot or on a trolley tour, visit a mystical “vortex,” and spend some time enjoying nearby Slide Rock State Park — guaranteed fun for kids and big kids of all ages.
Instead of Denver…
…go to a Rocky Mountain ski resort.
Don't get me wrong — Denver is a cool city. But, if cities aren't what you're looking for on your Southwest road trip, head up into the mountains for some scenery and outdoor fun instead. Contrary to popular belief, Colorado ski resorts don't completely shut down in the summer. In fact, many of them offer really cool summer activities like downhill mountain biking, zip lining, horseback riding, and more. Book a stay at a resort like Breckenridge or Keystone to enjoy the Rocky Mountains without all the snow (and without the ski season prices!).
Roadtripping, in my opinion, is one of the very best ways to experience all that America has to offer. And, hopefully after reading this post, you'll realize that the U.S. has a whole lot more to offer than just the well-known, “must-see” sights and attractions.
What else would you add to this list of alternative sights in the Southwest?