10 amazing outdoor adventures near Los Angeles
While the city of Los Angeles is a tourist destination in and of itself, it is sometimes necessary to leave the city and venture somewhere new. Especially when every part of you is itching to travel right now. Fortunately, L.A. is centrally-located to many cities that offer socially-distanced activities to suit any preference. <ost restaurants offer only outdoor dining or takeout service. Many of these cities are accessible by train within a couple of hours, as Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route runs up and down the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego.
Take a ferry to Catalina Island
Board the Catalina Express and in about an hour you will be transported to the town of Avalon, what was once a playground for Hollywood’s glitterati. Fancy parasailing? Here you can enjoy the ultimate social distancing activity as you glide through the air, admiring the views below. Catalina is the home to about 150 wild buffalo, which are the descendants of a small herd that was left there by a film crew in the 1920s. During the two-hour Bison Expedition with Catalina Tours, you’ll hop into an off-road vehicle and venture into the precipitous Cape Canyon, where bison and other wildlife are often spotted. For a special treat, dine on the waterfront patio at Bluewater Grill, which offers a variety of sustainable seafood options.
Hike the trails at Joshua Tree
Located at the intersection of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, Joshua Tree National Park is a mystical place. Many say that these twisted trees with pointed spines belong in a Dr. Seuss book and they wouldn’t be wrong, although that is part of the appeal. Options to explore the park are endless, and depending on your skill level you can embark on nature treks or more challenging backcountry hikes. For more adventurous types, you can traverse over different rock formations by climbing or bouldering. If you plan to stay after dark, don’t miss the myriad of stargazing opportunities-- because of its remote location, you’ll be treated to an astronomical display of stars, planets, and the Milky Way.
Ride the zip line in Santa Margarita
Imagine tasting wine on an outdoor patio and then, aided by liquid courage, traveling by zip line over acres of Pinot Noir vines with not a care in the world. Riding tandem is your partner-in-crime, laughing giddily at the incomparable feeling of soaring through the pines. At Ancient Peaks Winery, which is located in the tiny town of Santa Margarita, you can do just that. Sample wine at their tasting room and then venture out to their 14,000 acre ranch, where guests can choose among six different zip line tours of the vineyard. On a recent tour by Margarita Adventures, participants spotted a variety of wildlife; including deer, turkeys, hawks, and even a bear.
Indulge your inner beachcomber in Laguna Beach
The small enclave of Laguna Beach is well-known for its summer art festivals, which were an annual occurrence until COVID hit. For those dedicated to ocean exploits, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel, paddleboard, or surf at one of the many beaches and coves that dot the coastline. Be sure to visit Victoria Beach at low tide, which is a beloved spot for skimboarders and also home of the Instagrammable “Pirate Tower,” a 60-foot stone turret. Another popular area along the coast is Crystal Cove, where tidepools abound. While you’re there, have lunch at The Beachcomber, which is located right on the sand. (Or, sidle up to the adjacent Bootlegger Bar at sunset.)
Walk through a unique art installation in Paso Robles
If you haven’t yet been to international artist Bruce Munro’s acclaimed art installation Field of Light at Sensorio, you are in for a treat as it has recently been extended through January 2021. Follow the pathway through an open field filled with thousands of tiny “flowers”-- solar-powered lights mounted on stems that are lit by fiber optics, their colors everchanging. Be sure to reserve tickets early, as they do sell out, and they are taking extra efforts to follow protocols related to COVID-19. While in Paso Robles visit Tin City, a small warehouse district that houses a variety of wine tasting rooms, breweries, a cidery, and even a distillery. Satisfy your appetite with one of the many food trucks lined up nearby.
Explore Balboa Park in San Diego
Balboa Park is a cultural treasure-- located in the center of the city, it has seventeen museums, several types of gardens, and is also the home of the San Diego Zoo. At over 1,200 acres, there is plenty of room to roam. Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden, the lily pond at the Botanical Building, or the artist studios at the Spanish Village, then find a spot in the sun and dive into a good book. Currently the San Diego Museum of Art has reopened with limited capacity and new safety measures, while other museums there remain closed. Dine next door at Panama 66, or venture a short distance outside of the park and ignite your palate with Mexican soul food at Barrio Star.
Spend a day on Santa Barbara’s coastline
Often referred to as the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara’s stunning coastline and dedication to fine wine certainly lives up to its moniker. Stroll through the Funk Zone, the city’s arts district, and admire the colorful murals before stopping at one of the many tasting rooms in the area that make up the Urban Wine Trail. Enjoy al fresco dining at Hotel Californian’s Goat Tree, a gourmet cafe that serves creative Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The ocean also offers its pick of activities, such as fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. You can find your zen with “Soundwave Sessions”-- yoga on the beach with provided headphones, which allows you to listen to music and instruction simultaneously. (They also offer bilingual sessions en español.)
Go fishing at Big Bear Lake
Rent a pontoon boat and fish to your heart’s content on Big Bear Lake, or lounge and listen to your favorite tunes as the boat’s massive deck allows for plenty of room to relax. Or, you can opt to kayak or swim in the lake. Inhale the crisp alpine air and become one with nature as you hike Castle Rock Trail, a steep tree-lined path that winds around huge granite boulders and rewards you with sweeping panoramic views of the lake. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a bald eagle. Venture out to Big Bear Village and take your pick of restaurants, depending on your appetite. Highly recommended is The Himalayan, which serves a variety of dishes from India and Nepal.
Take the Highway 1 Discovery Route
The Highway 1 Discovery Route extends for a hundred miles along California’s Central Coast, which stretches from Monterey Bay all the way down to Ventura. Between the months of October and February, monarch butterflies migrate to groves along the coast from Pismo Beach to Morro Bay. There are a variety of ways to visit these groves, and many can be viewed from golf courses that line the coast, such as Sea Pines, a resort and nine-hole executive golf course in Los Osos. The Highway 1 Discovery Route also encompasses the Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo region, a sweet spot for wine tasting. Spend some time sampling wine in the charming town of Los Olivos, which is surrounded by vineyards, lavender farms, ranches, and orchards.
Visit California’s oldest neighborhood in San Juan Capistrano
Well-known as the former home of migrating swallows every March, San Juan Capistrano is also where the state’s oldest neighborhood, the Los Rios Historic District, is located. Wander across the dusty tracks of the Capistrano train depot, where you’ll encounter a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as a petting zoo. Stop for coffee under the trees at Hidden House, or if you’re hungry, dine on the outdoor patio at Trevor’s at the Tracks or Rancho Capistrano Winery-- both offer delectable dishes that are often accompanied by live music. Then, walk a short distance to Mission San Juan Capistrano, which has a museum and chapel on the property. The close proximity to the Amtrak station makes this a convenient day trip from L.A.
The 6 most haunted places in Tennessee
Tennessee is full of history, country music, BBQ and some haunted tales. For the history buffs, ghost hunters, and those seeking adventure this list is for you. These are five haunted places in Tennessee, full of historical stories and eerie events that may knock your socks off. 1. The Drummond Bridge/Trestle, Briceville Legend has it that Richard Drummond was hung in 1893 by a band of mercenaries. Drummond was hanged from the bridge after killing a young soldier in a rivalry brawl during the Coal Creek War. In 2009, a study was conducted by paranormal experts naming this bridge one of the most haunted places in Tennessee. The bridge is haunted by Drummond after he took his last breath on the train trestle. Some say you can still hear Drummond gasping for his last breath, some see his ghost pacing from one end of the bridge to another at the stroke of midnight, while other residents just see strange behaviors. Including cattle who avoid grazing the field below the bridge and dogs that will never go near or across the bridge. For those courageous enough to explore this bridge the advice given is to be cautious. The land around the bridge is grown which may have hazards, there are no walls around the bridge and there is spacing between the trestle tracks, so it is possible to fall through, 30 feet to the ground when it is dark. The Drummond Bridge is a piece of Tennessee’s haunted history that many may not know of but will pique the interest of those looking for a historically ghostly experience. 2. Shiloh National Military Park, Shiloh This national park was home to the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. This battle was during the American Civil War resulting in over 23,000 casualties. Among the many men that died in what is now a national park is also their spirits still lingering. These soldiers who haunted the battlefield let their past come alive. Visitors may hear drumming, voices, footsteps and gunshots. On many accounts’ visitors have seen the pond at Shiloh National Park turn blood red on different occasions throughout the year. Rumors have it that wounded soldiers and horses once cleaned their wounds in the pond, even though there is not solid evidence that this pond did exist in 1862. Shiloh National Park is open year-round from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are special programs held on Memorial Day weekend and the rangers led programs on the battlefield sites from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The park also has a visitor center including artifacts from the battlefield. The visitors center also shows an award-winning interpretive film, “Shiloh: Fiery Trail” every hour from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Visitors will see a lot of history that intertwines in this beautiful park but only the lucky will encounter the souls from the past. 3. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg The 5.5-mile drive through the Great Smoky Mountains is full of historic cabins and mills and maybe even a hitch-hiking ghost. Lucy is a young enchanting woman who died in the early 1900’s when her family cabin burned down. Legend says after Lucy died a man named Foster saw her walking barefoot on a cold winter’s night through the dark overgrown forest. Foster offered Lucy a ride home on his horse, which she accepted, but he was enamored by her beauty and couldn’t stop thinking about her. Foster went back to the cabin and asked her parents if Lucy and him could be married. Her parents informed Foster that Lucy had died quite a while ago, causing him to realize that he had encountered a ghost. The fortunate catch sight of Lucy wandering the trail hitch hiking for a ride home. Although, there are places to pull off and explore the forest surrounding the trail. To visit the trail, use the Cherokee Orchard Entrance into the Smoky Mountains National Park, off main street in Gatlinburg, traffic light number eight or take Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard Entrance. After passing the Rainbow Falls trailhead, will the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail be found. 4. Sensabaugh Tunnel, Kingsport The Sensabaugh Tunnel has a few different legends on how this tunnel became a haunted place. The tunnel was built in the 1920’s and was named after the man who owned the land, Edward Sensabaugh. One rumor is that a homeless man entered the Sensaubaugh’s home to steal money and jewels. Ed Sensabaugh went after the thief who used their baby as a shield to escape from the house. Sensabaugh was unable to catch the thief and the thief drowned the baby in water next to the tunnel, now called Crybaby Pool. Another story goes that Ed Sensabaugh became a mad man one evening and murdered his wife and children while they were in bed. He took the bodies into the tunnel where he took his own life with a gun inside the tunnel’s walls. The third story says a young woman’s car broke down inside the tunnel. She left her car in the tunnel looking for help but it is unclear if she disappeared inside the tunnel itself or was murdered inside the Sensabaugh House. Either way no one ever saw her again. Legend has it if you turn off your car in the middle of the tunnel it won’t turn back on. Some say your car will turn back on when Ed Sensabaugh is seen heading to your car. Others say you will have to manually push the vehicle out of the tunnel before your car starts up again. There are warnings that a woman will be sitting in the backseat, a crying baby can be heard, Ed Sensabaugh will appear in the rear-view mirror, children’s handprints will be found on the car and the sound of footsteps can be heard as Ed is approaching your car. To those daring enough to test this tunnel and the hauntings that may occur it can be found off Big Elm Road in Kingsport filled with graffiti and a creek nearby. 5. Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park and Pigman Bridge, Millington Legend has it that an unknown man, now known as Pigman, haunts the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park and the Pigman Bridge in Millington. This unknown man used to work at an underground powder and explosives production plant also known as Chickasaw Ordnance Works during WWII. There was an accident in the plant leaving him disfigured, including burning off the tip of his nose, which is how he received the name “Pigman.” He was shunned by coworkers and local residents and took off to haunt the park and the bridge looking for his next victim. The story goes when he finds his next victim, he lets out a blood curling pig scream. Go to the Pigman Bridge on a full moon, park in the middle of the bridge, turn off your engine and lights, roll down your windows and shout “Pigman!” three times while simultaneously flashing the car lights and he will appear. The Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is open Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7p.m. with a variety of camping opportunities. The park sits on almost 13,000 acres bordering the Mississippi River and includes 49 campsites with a table, grill electrical and water hookups for RVs, a bathhouse with hot showers and six two-bedroom cabins to rent. The Pigman Bridge is located on Shake Rag Road over Jakes Creek. The coordinates to this location are 35.339742, -89.954757 this will bring you straight to the Pigman’s Bridge where the brave can call him and wait for him to arrive. 6. The Bell Witch Cave, Robertson County The Bell Witch is, perhaps, Tennessee's most famous ghost. The Bell Witch is rumored to be the spirit of a woman named Kate Batts. When the Bell family cheated her in a land purchase, she swore on her deathbed that she would haunt them. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. The first evidence of the Bell Witch haunting was in 1817, when she possessed several ghost dogs to chase people off the farm. The animals then turned into a nightmare house of spooky sounds and chains being drug through the house. Rumor has it that President Andrew Jackson spent the night at the Bell Farm, and was quoted as saying "I'd rather face the entire British Army than spend another night with the Bell Witch." Over time, the story of the Bell Witch prompted many visitors, which led to the farmhouse being torn down for safety. Today, you can tour the property, for a small fee, of course.
10 Macabre Cities to Visit for Halloween
New Orleans, Louisiana From above ground mausoleums and tombs to haunted hotels to voodoo culture, New Orleans has a distinct culture that involves elements of the macabre. Founded in 1718 before the United States was officially founded, it has a history full of urban legends, including werewolves prowling the bayou or vampires in the French Quarter. Popular landmarks include the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau in the St. Louis Cemetery, walking past the gruesome past of LaLaurie Mansion, or Blacksmith’s Shop Bar where the ghost of pirate Jean Lafitte resides. Walk the cobblestone streets past brightly colored houses with iron balconies on a ghost tour on a foggy night to experience the unusual. Savannah, Georgia Savannah may ooze more than southern charm. With more than 300 years of gruesome history, the entire historic district is reportedly haunted. There’s been rumors and sightings of paranormal activity at Hamilton-Turner Inn as well as Marshall House, a haunted hotel that was a hospital three times in the past. Madison Square was the site of a bloody Civil War battle and has many haunted mansions that line the streets. Wander through Bonaventure Cemetery or Colonial Park Cemetery if you dare. Sleepy Hollow, New York This village thrives in its folklore history due to the Headless Horsemen in the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. You may experience a ghostly encounter when walking through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery or exploring the town by lantern and shining jack-o-lanterns. Wander through popular colonial era manors include Philipsburg Manor, Van Cortlandt Manor, or Lyndhurst Mansion to learn more about local Sleepy Hollow history and haunts. Salem, Massachusetts Founded in 1626 as a Puritan fishing community, Salem is the location of the famous 1692 Salem witch trials in which Colonial America’s mass hysteria led to 19 people being hanged with more dying from other causes. Much of the town’s cultural identity revolves around this event, and many of the sites from the witch trials over 300 years ago still stand. Many historic sites are reportedly haunted, including one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, Old Burying Point Cemetery, and home of a Witch Trial Judge, The Witch House. Explore the muted colors of the town and brick-paved streets yourself to learn more about the sinister history rooted here. Tombstone, Arizona Riddled with a violent past, this historic mining ghost town is said to be home to lingering spirits of cowboys, grieving mothers, and citizens killed in large fires. OK Corral, the site of the famous Old West gunfight, is reportedly haunted by the cowboys. Boot Hill Graveyard and Bird Cage Theatre are popular destinations where unexplainable phenomena occur in Tombstone. St. Augustine, Florida Presumably the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and is home to centuries of history, beautiful houses, and supposedly, spirits. The masonry fortress Castillo de San Marcos is the location of many battles and invasions. Dangerous criminals in grotesque conditions were held at The Old Jail and apparitions with tragic deaths have been described at St. Augustine Lighthouse. Stroll the cobblestone streets among the Spanish colonial architecture to immerse yourself in this ancient city. San Francisco, California Among the vibrant scenery and sloping hills, some locations around San Francisco may send you chills even amidst the warm weather. Alcatraz, or “The Rock,” is a famous maximum-security military prison and haunted landmark that housed inmates including Al Capone. See if you hear voices or footsteps behind you if you visit. Take your pick of the macabre from friendly ghosts at The Queen Anne Hotel, dead army men performing their daily routine at the National Park The Presidio, or ethereal beings at the Sutro Baths. Charleston, South Carolina Known as a port city with cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages, Charleston also has some dark history from the first shots of the Civil War fired at Fort Sumter to slave labor on plantations. Learn about the macabre with locations like the White Point Garden where 50 pirates were hanged in the 1700s, the Old City Jail which housed the state’s first female serial killer, or The Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon which held Revolutionary War soldiers. San Antonio, Texas Bursting with rich culture and modern attractions, San Antonio also has a creepy past. The Menger Hotel is reputed to have strange occurrences but is decidedly the location of The Battle of the Alamo, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders recruitment, and a devastating fire. The Southern Texas region also gives way to the Spanish urban legend of La Llorona, the weeping woman. Walk along the river or visit the Alamo Williamsburg, Virginia Existing as early as the 18th-century, Williamsburg has diverse Colonial America history, including part in the U.S. Civil War. Not all of its history is for the faint of heart though. Said to be cursed by the slave of the wife, the Peyton Randolph House was built in 1715 and the location of at least 30 deaths. The Public Hospital was the country’s first insane asylum Other haunted locations are the Wythe House, colonial prison Public Gaol, and Fort Magruder Hotel which was the site of the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862.
The 10 best day trips in the US Midwest
In the Midwest, you’ll find friendly small towns as well as urban sprawls. Roll call for the region's cities starts with Chicago, which unfurls what is arguably the country's mightiest skyline. In Cleveland, the best action is in its walkable neighborhoods. Detroit rocks, plain and simple. Day trips in this region have everything from parks and museums to architectural delights to breweries. Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice. Best day trips from Chicago Indiana Dunes National LakeshoreAt the southern tip of Lake Michigan, 15 miles of white-sand dunes and more than 50 miles of trails await outdoor adventurers. At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, you can swim, bike, fish, ski or hike, depending on the season – or camp overnight from April to October. Beaches fill up fast in the summer, so arrive early to pick the best spot. 1hr 10min by car. Lakefront walking path in Lake Geneva ©Sandy Swanson/Shutterstock Lake Geneva Shore Path, Wisconsin You’ll find something fascinating along just about any stretch of this nearly 26-mile path, which was originally forged to link Native American villages. It winds past excellent lake views, wooded stretches and beautiful estates. Strike out in either direction from Lake Geneva Library for the easiest route. 2hr by car. Windmill Island Gardens, Holland, MichiganGet a taste of Dutch life in delightfully kitschy Windmill Island Gardens. The top attraction in the aptly named town of Holland, this 36-acre park contains gardens, dykes, canals, picnic areas and, of course, a giant windmill imported from the Netherlands in 1964. In the spring, more than 100,000 blooming tulips draw admiring crowds to town. 2hr 20min by car. Illinois is a great base to explore Frank Lloyd Wright's designs ©Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock Racine, WisconsinArchitecture aficionados shouldn’t miss Racine, which is home to several notable Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Manufacturer SC Johnson is based here, and its third-generation CEO commissioned Wright to build not only his home, Wingspread, but also the administration building and research tower for SC Johnson itself. 2hr 20min by car. See more day trips from Chicago. Best day trips from Detroit Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, DearbornPlunge into American history. The indoor Henry Ford Museum contains a wealth of American culture, such as the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, the limo in which Kennedy was killed and the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. The adjacent outdoor Greenfield Village features Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Wright Brothers’ airplane workshop. 30min by car. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand RapidsThe 158-acre gardens feature impressive blooms and hulking works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore and others. The sculpture park offers paths and lawns bejeweled with works by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Claes Oldenburg and Anish Kapoor. The five-story glass conservatory bursts with tropical plants. The children’s garden provides lots to smell, touch and dig into. The tranquil Japanese Garden is another highlight. 2hr 30min by car. Sample the craft beer at the breweries in Kalamazoo ©blizzard_77/Getty Images Breweries, KalamazooKalamazoo has an offbeat charm that will surprise first-time visitors. But it’s the local beer that has got people talking; over a dozen breweries produce a huge range of them. The leader is Bell’s Brewery, one of the top craft breweries in the country. 2hr 40min by train. See more day trips from Detroit. Best day trips from Cleveland Cuyahoga Valley National Park has several waterfalls and hiking trails ©fdastudillo/Getty Images Cuyahoga Valley National ParkLike a great, cold snake, the Cuyahoga River worms over a forested valley, earning its Native American name of "crooked river" (or possibly "place of the jawbone"). Either name is evocative, and hints at the mystical beauty that Cuhayoga Valley National Park engenders on a cool morning, when the mists thread the woods and all you hear is the honk of Canadian geese and the fwup-fwup-whoosh of a great blue heron flapping over its hunting grounds. 30min by car. Fast action thrills of a roller coaster ride at Cedar Point ©AWelshLad/Getty Images Cedar Point, SanduskyCedar Point on Lake Erie is one of the world’s top amusement parks, known for its 17 adrenaline-pumping roller coasters. Stomach-droppers include the Top Thrill Dragster, among the globe’s tallest and fastest rides. It climbs 420ft into the air before plunging and whipping around at 120mph. The Valravn is the world’s longest ‘dive’ coaster, dropping riders at a 90-degree angle for 214ft. Check the park’s opening times before planning a visit. 1hr by car. Topiary Park, ColumbusIf you’ve ever thought, "I wonder what Georges Seurat’s post-impressionist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte would look like made out of yew trees," this park is for you. A local sculptor and his green-thumb wife created the Topiary Park some 30 years ago to brighten a neglected patch of downtown. Today you can wander around seven acres and admire the 54 people, eight boats, three dogs, monkey and cat carved from shrubs to resemble Seurat’s famous painting. 2hr by car.
The 12 best day trips in the US Southwest
Rugged. Beautiful. And fun. The Southwest is the ultimate playground, luring adventurers with red-rock canyons, Wild West legends and the kicky delights of green chile stew. Day trips in this region conjure up visions of vast desert landscapes, rodeos, and lake adventures. Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice. Best day trips from Austin FredericksburgWith a wealth of events, wineries and in-town attractions, it’s often hard to decide how to best spend a day in Fredericksburg. It was settled by some of Texas’ first German immigrant families, and the European frontier ethos shines through in the architecture and history of the town itself. Further afield, vineyard tours are a hit with groups on weekend trips from Austin. 1hr 30min by car. Fall foliage on the river at Guadalupe State Park ©Richard A McMillin/ShutterstockGuadalupe RiverThere’s no better respite from the Central Texas summer than jumping in the water, and few places could beat the Guadalupe River; specifically, drifting down its course on an inner tube. Head to Guadalupe River State Park for a family friendly float (plus campsites and hiking), or look for local private operators that offer a more party-focused experience on the river. 1hr 30min by car. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, FredericksburgThe 425ft high pink granite dome of Enchanted Rock towers over the surrounding Central Texas hills. The popular Summit Hike tracks past vernal pools and rock fissures to panoramic views from the top. Queues form at the State Park gate as early as 8am on busy weekends, but campers with confirmed reservations cruise straight on through and into the park. 1hr 40min by car. Best day trips from Dallas The daily Texas longhorn cattledrive through the Stockyard streets ©typhoonski/Getty ImagesFort WorthFamous as being "Where the West Begins," Fort Worth still has the cowboy feel. It first rose to prominence during the great open-range cattle drives of the late 19th century. These days, the legendary Stockyards are the prime visitor destination, hosting twice-daily mini-cattle drives and rodeos every weekend. Downtown is bursting with restaurants and bars, while the Cultural District boasts three amazing art museums. 40min by car. Waco, TexasIn this college town, Magnolia Market at the Silos draws more visitors than the Alamo. Once you’ve shopped, played and eaten at ‘Fixer-Upper’ duo Chip and Joanna Gaines’ biggest renovation project, stroll Baylor’s 1000-acre campus or stand-up paddle straight through town on the Brazos River. 1hr 30min by car. Caddo Lake State ParkCaddo Lake State Park is a good place to start your lake adventure. Take an interpretive hike through the cypress forest on the lake’s western edge. Or, in summer, rent a canoe. The park has some great little cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the riverside tent sites are pretty sweet. 2hr 30min by car. Best day trips from Phoenix Saguaro National ParkSaguaros are icons of the American Southwest, and an entire cactus army of these majestic, ribbed sentinels is protected in this desert playground. Saguaro National Park is divided into east and west units, separated by 30 miles and Tucson itself. Both sections – the Rincon Mountain District in the east and Tucson Mountain District in the west – are filled with trails and desert flora; if you only visit one, make it the spectacular western half. 1hr 40min by car. Watch the desert sunset in Sedona ©aaronj9/ShutterstockSedonaNestled amid striking red sandstone formations, Sedona's truly spectacular landscape has long attracted spiritual seekers, artists and healers. Outdoorsy adventurers have begun to see the light as well: there are some inimitable thrills to be had hiking, mountain biking and climbing amid these desert spires. Red Rock State Park has 5 miles of well-marked, interconnecting trails in gorgeous red-rock country. 2hr by car. Historic train station in Flagstaff at sunset ©Nick Fox/ShutterstockFlagstaffThe laid-back charms of Flagstaff, the home of Northern Arizona University, are many; from a pedestrian-friendly historic downtown, bedecked with vintage neon, to hiking and skiing in the country’s largest ponderosa pine forest. 2hr 30min by car. Best day trips from Las Vegas Desert landscape at sunset at the Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area ©Dean Pennalad/500pxRed Rock CanyonRed Rock's dramatic vistas are revered by Las Vegas locals and adored by visitors from around the world. Formed by extreme tectonic forces, it's thought the canyon, whose 3000ft red rock escarpment rises sharply from the valley floor, was formed around 65 million years ago. A 13-mile, one-way scenic loop drive offers mesmerizing vistas of the canyon's most striking features. Hiking trails and rock-climbing routes radiate from roadside parking areas. 30min by car. Valley of Fire State ParkA masterpiece of Southwest desert scenery, the Valley of Fire State Park contains 40,000 acres of red Aztec sandstone, petrified trees and ancient Native American petroglyphs (at Atlatl Rock). Dedicated in 1935, this was Nevada's first designated state park. Its psychedelic landscape has been carved by wind and water over thousands of years. 50min by car. Lost City MuseumWander away from the big city to unearth some of the best art, culture and history on the continent in the most unexpected places. At the Lost City Museum, learn about the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans through reconstructed homes and the artifacts that were saved as this desert land developed. 1hr by car.