Although it’s often characterized as such in traveling brochures, the American West isn’t all cacti, rock formations and tumbleweeds. States west of the Mississippi River feature several exciting attractions beyond the most popular tourist traps. To explore the less-advertised part of the U.S., take a look at some of the best vacation spots in four U.S. western states.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center in Oklahoma allows visitors to explore the inspiring culture of the Chickasaw Native American tribe through interactive museum exhibits, informative classes and even fun-filled festivals for the whole family. At the center, you can explore the richness of the Chickasaw culture, while learning more about the history of the country itself. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a relaxing escape with the family, the Quartz Mountain Resort in Oklahoma is also a great place for stress-free solitude surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature.
Arizona has some of the most surreal, breathtaking natural scenery in the entire country, which spans far beyond the Grand Canyon alone. Be sure to visit Petrified Forest National Park for a gorgeous view during a driving, biking or hiking trip around the park. The picturesque Blue Mesa Trail takes you into the heart of the Painted Desert badlands for an out-of-this-world scene filled with kaleidoscopic petrified wood. You can even enjoy your own little piece of England during your trip by walking across Arizona’s piece of the London Bridge, which likely stood beneath the feet of famous British figures like Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria.
Get in touch with your bolder side on a white water rafting trip down New Mexico’s postcard-perfect Animas River. This impossibly blue-green body of water is a favorite spot among natives and tourists alike for both rafting and fishing. Even if you’re not the adventurous type, the area acts as a visually striking resting place during a nature-filled tour of the state. The American International Rattlesnake Museum is perhaps the most unorthodox stop you can make on your trip to New Mexico, but you can’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime display of the largest collection of different species of live rattlesnakes in the world.
Add a creepy and surreal spin to your next vacation at Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge, which is home to the world’s largest urban colony of bats. Approximately 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats inhabit the area under the bridge during the summer and fall seasons, and come out at sunset every evening in a large black cloud to feed on insects in the city. After a look at these fascinating creatures, head over to Barton Springs Pool for a dip in this spring-fed oasis that stays between 67 and 70 degrees all year round.
Western states have a great mix of rural and urban entertainment that can make your trip exciting and relaxing at the same time. By exploring both sides of the region and digging deeper than the obvious, your next vacation can be a fulfilling and entirely unique experience. If you’re headed to any of the four states above, be sure to check out some of the more unusual destinations for a truly memorable experience.