So near and yet so far: the unique Southwest culture and architecture in New Mexico and Arizona make visitors feel like they've traveled a world away, yet flight time is just a few hours. The natural wonders are many, too: Arizona's Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly, Utah's Moab... Utah is also a terrific destination for ski vacations. Texas, meanwhile, is sometimes viewed as part of the Southeast, with its extensive Gulf Coast.
Start with iconic scenery at awesome Monument Valley, where you can also learn about the Navajo way of life. Million-acre Lake Powell is stunning too, in a flooded canyon: go houseboating! Try an easy raft ride down the Colorado River in a red-rock canyon; or a whitewater raft adventure in the Grand Canyon, which you can also explore by helicopter flightseeing. Take the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams Arizona, where Route 66 still lives (and so does the Wild West.) Not to mention dude ranches and family resorts...
Low-key authentic "ranch resort" in Wickenburg Arizona has 60 years of history, kids' program, golf, spa, and of course, horses; guests can ride twice a day. Great chance to learn about Sonoran desert ecology.
Only fifteen minutes from the Phoenix airport, the Pointe South Mountain Resort has made itself a magnet for families by building The Oasis, its own private 6-acre waterpark. Great golf and hiking, too.
An hour and a quarter north of Santa Fe, Taos New Mexico has been marching to its own drummer for decades, with a unique mix of anglo-hispanic-and native cultures, and art galleries on every lane. For families, in summer, there's tubing and white-water rafting; skiing, in winter; an amazing Native American Pueblo to visit; the Kit Carson Museum (left); and --for a splurge --hot-air ballooning. With the right wind, your balloon will swoop right down into a deep river gorge.
This resort-- on 500 acres of the Santa Ana Pueblo's reservation, 30 minutes from Albuquerque, 40 minutes from Santa Fe-- highlights native culture in special family activities and at the Camp Hyatt kids' club. Learn about native customs, go horse-riding, and still get resort-style perks (--golf, spa, yoga, etc.)
New Mexico is a wonderful place to show kids Native American culture, hispanic Old Towns, and plain ol' fun times by going rafting, horse-riding, hot-air-ballooning.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Take an easy, inexpensive flight to Las Vegas, rent a car and head off into the completely different world of awesome red rock scenery in southwest Utah, just a few hours away. This area has fantastical rock formations and famed National Parks to explore. And if you're visiting in summer, you can add a Shakespeare festival in Cedar City to your rustic adventuring.
Family-friendly resorts and guest ranches in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada.
Mesa Verde - Photo courtesy of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.
The Four Corners area -- where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet-- has red rock canyons and mesas, and centuries of history visible in the rock art and spectacular cliff dwellings of the "Anasazi" ancestral Pueblo Indians. Crow Canyon Archaelogical Center, in SW Colorado, has programs that let visitors actually participate in research: "Family Archaeology Weeks" during summer offers a hands-on introduction to archaeology, and to the history and culture of the Pueblo Indians.
Guest article about this popular type of family holiday: relax on a fully-equipped houseboat, with all the mod-cons, plus a waterslide off the back. No experience required!