Population estimate: 2.3 million
What it’s known for: NASA Johnson Space Center
Home to the NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston is known for its important role in the country’s space exploration efforts.
Locals love: Whiskey River
This true Texan hangout is where you’re sure to find plenty of cowboy boots and even a mechanical bull.
Population estimate: 1.6 million
What it’s known for: Sunshine
Phoenix’s nickname “Valley of the Sun” comes from the fact that is has over 300 days of sunshine year round.
Locals love: South Mountain Park
Considered the largest municipal park and one of the largest city parks in the U.S., this is a great place to spend the day.
Population estimate: 1.5 million
What it’s known for: Tower of Americas
This 229-meter observation tower provides great city views from Downtown San Antonio.
Locals love: The River Walk
Along the San Antonio River, this community area has walkways full of shops and restaurants.
Population estimate: 644.000
What it’s known for: National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
Known for being proud of its Western roots, Oklahoma City is home to the famous National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
Locals love: Bricktown Entertainment District
If you’re looking for a fun and lively area, you’ll fit right in. With over 45 restaurants, shops, and bars, your plans are set for the weekend.
State: New Mexico
Population estimate: 559.000
What it’s known for: Desert royalty
Albuquerque is frequently called Duke City after the city was dedicated to a Spanish Duke.
Locals love: Nob Hill
This popular area has streets lined with unique, locally owned stores.
Road Trip Worthy
The Southwest is filled with incredible landforms, but Antelope Canyon in Arizona is a must-see. This canyon is considered a slot canyon because of its shape. Over the years water has rushed through the rocks causing it to erode and hollow out giving it the unique slot shape. The canyon has two parts (upper and lower), each providing different experiences. The upper part is more popular among tourists, mostly because it is easier to travel through. The lower part, on the other hand, takes a little more skill and coordination.
Because of the canyon’s popularity, both parts require reservations, and you must be led by an experienced tour guide. People have described Antelope Canyon as a “fantasy world of sandstone”. If you’re up for an adventure, good with a camera, and don’t mind tight spaces, then book your reservations—Antelope Canyon awaits.
Located in West Texas, Big Bend National Park got its name from the large arc of the Rio Grande that creates part of the border between Texas and Mexico. Once inside the park you’ll feel as though you have just walked onto the set of an old Western film. The park’s diverse landscape contains part of the Chihuahuan Desert, the Rio Grande, and mountainous terrain. Park rangers are dedicated to protecting the rich ecosystem within the park as well as its natural beauty.
Activities that are openly permitted in the Big Bend include day hikes, trips down the river, bird viewing, stargazing, and more. If you don’t want to get out and explore the Wild West, then take a nice scenic drive through the park instead.
There are many legends that still give the park its mysterious solitude and wonder. No matter how you choose to enjoy Big Bend National Park, you’ll always leave with a good story to tell.
When people think of the U.S. they have a hard time imagining ancient ruins because the country seems so young compared to other parts of the world. The Chaco Cultural site in Northwestern New Mexico, however, will make you rethink that idea. This site holds one of the best examples of pre-columbian history and ancient ruins in the U.S.; for that reason, it has been marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex and immense structures that were built by the Chacoan people between the 9th and 13th centuries are the best preserved in North America.
Despite the site’s isolated location, the canyon receives nearly 40,000 visitors each year. This isolation also offers a great benefit to Chaco Canyon, as it has allowed for the site’s Night Sky Program to thrive. Without the threat of light pollution from any major cities nearby, a night of stargazing in the canyon is an exclusive experience and will give you the chance to view the night sky as the Chacaon people had years ago.
You can’t come to the American Southwest without driving through the Iconic Route 66. Although the historic highway isn’t what it used to be, the portion in the Southwest (Oklahoma to Arizona) still attracts many free-spirited travelers. Many know the route as a representation of the Great American road trip. We encourage you to take your time along Route 66 to enjoy the roadside oddities, classic diners, ghost towns, and historical monuments.
The unique establishments aren’t the only sites worth stopping for. You’ll find remarkable geological formations, sunset views, and even pass by more notable canyons. It’s best to plan your journey in advance to make the most of your time. But if you really want to embrace the American free spirit, this route is perfect for spontaneous travelers with many lodging options scattered along the way.
On Route 66, it’s all about the journey, not the destination.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is as exciting as it sounds! This nine-day event is the largest hot air balloon event in the world. Taking place every year in early October, visitors come from all over to see the Albuquerque sky flooded with hundreds of colorful hot air balloons. During the nine-day event guests are able to view different shows featuring the balloons and their pilots.
Other activities you can enjoy include concerts, competitions, and carnival games and rides. So if the hot air balloons don’t impress you, the wood carving competition just might. With lots of art vendors, too, this event has something for everyone.
To get the most out of your experience and to avoid the crowds, it’s best to come early on a weekday. Balloon shows can start as early as 5:00 a.m., but if you’re not an early riser you can attend the popular Balloon Glow night show. The Balloon Fiesta is so celebrated, it may be considered one of the most photographed events on Earth.
Words & Expressions to Know
- Corn-fed: Describes someone who looks well-fed, big, healthy, or hearty.
- “She has grown so much! She’s a corn-fed Texas girl.”
- Howdy: Greeting, short for “How do you do?” But it’s not a question meant to be answered. It is just like saying hello to someone.
- “Howdy partner!”
- Tump: Describes something falling or tipping over, usually on accident.
- “The truck tumped over in a ditch.”
Southwestern cuisine is one of the most loved in the entire nation. The region is known for its rustic style cooking with a heavy Mexcian influence, but also has Spanish and Native American flavors. A few main ingredients include corn, beans, tomatoes, onions and peppers.
New Mexican cuisine, Arizona’s Sonoran cuisine, and Tex-Mex are the most notable from this region. Not only do the unique flavors of Southwestern dishes set it apart from others, but so do the cooking styles. Common ways to prepare Southwestern dishes are flame roasting, cast iron skillet roasting, adobo, barbecuing, and grilling. Each style gives that traditional smoky flavor Americans love.
A few popular dishes that you can’t miss are:
- Fajitas: This dish was first made using grilled skirt steak and served on a corn or flour tortilla. Although this still remains a popular option, fajitas can be made with a variety of grilled meat and/or vegetables making it a flexible dish that every Tex-Mex lover can enjoy!
- Chili con carne: This dish has a simple translation of “chili with meat”. But what is chili? Chili is considered a stew made with ground beef, tomatoes, beans and spices. Because of its warmth and its strong but tasty spices, many enjoy chili con carne during colder seasons. But there are many variations that can be enjoyed year round.
The Alamo – San Antonio, Texas
Many Southwesterners, especially Texans, take a lot of pride in the Alamo. The historical monument in San Antonio played an important role as the site of the 13-day battle that occurred during the Texas Revolution against Mexico. The battle involved around 180 Texan-American rebels fighting against 4,000 Mexican troops. Although the rebels were outnumbered and eventually lost, the rest of Texas was so inspired by their bravery at the Alamo that they came together to defeat the Mexican army.
The Texan battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!”, can be found even today on the Texas state seal. Entry is free and visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and church on the property. The monument is so historically remarkable you’ll want to say, “Remember the Alamo!”, by the time your visit is over.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona
“Grand” is an understatement when talking about the Grand Canyon. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the canyon stretches 446 kilometers long, 29 kilometers wide, and is 1.6 kilometers deep. With its infinite size, it’s hard to believe it is not its very own state. It is a symbol of the Southwest, and there are many ways to experience the canyon like a true Southwesterner. One of those ways includes riding a mule around the canyon. But hiking is always an option, too.
The canyon is split between the North and South rims, with the South Rim and desert view being open year round and the North Rim having different entry times throughout the year. For many Native American tribes the land is very special; after visiting the Grand Canyon, you’ll clearly see why.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
The White Sands National Monument is a desert area of New Mexico with an area of 710 square kilometers that is covered in gypsum crystals. Although the name of the park suggests these crystals are just ordinary sand, gypsum is actually a type of mineral. Once at the bottom of ancient seas, the crystals were exposed as sand after the area had dried up. The park is known as having the largest gypsum sand dunes on Earth.
You might think that in the desert heat the white sand would become extremely hot, but the great thing about gypsum crystals is that the chemical structure actually prevents this. However, you’ll still want to bring your sunglasses and sunscreen for this trip. Many sightseers who visit look forward to sledding down the hills, picnicking and camping. If you need a break from the sun and sand, the popular Alameda Park Zoo is only a short drive away and is a great place to end the day.
The Southwest region is the hottest in the United States with an extremely dry desert climate. Rainfall is not common; however, the late summer months of monsoon season can bring humidity, scattered rain storms, and high winds. Summers can be unbearably hot for some travelers with temperatures over 37 degrees Celsius in the desert areas.
It’s best to visit the Southwest in the winter or spring where average temperatures stay around 21 to 26 degrees Celsius during the day. However, at night temperatures can drastically change due to the lack of humidity. Temperatures can drop below freezing, so if camping in the desert under a starry sky is in your itinerary just bring a jacket—or maybe two. Part of the appeal of the Southwest is being in the great outdoors. Even though the temperatures can be extreme there are many activities to enjoy year round, such as, hiking, camping, horseback riding, and river rafting. Picture below was taken in random day during Spring time in Dallas, Texas.
Our Preferred Universities
We would like to present a list of our favorite universities located in the Southeast. We have taken into consideration factors such as the quality of the education, the ratio of students/teachers, % of international students on campus, work on campus opportunities, etc..
New Mexico State University
Most significant Rankings: #127 in Best Colleges for Criminal Justice, #174 in Colleges with Best Professors, and #221 in National Universities
Number of students: 11.713
Statistics after graduation: The median earnings 6 years after graduation is $34.600/ year. 84% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.
Insights and Advantages: New Mexico State University has a student body that is a great representation of the mix of ethnic and cultural communities in the American Southwest that will surely one day be the future demographic of the United States. The university prides itself on having a personalized small-college feel while providing students and faculty with the resources of a large research university.
West Texas A&M University
Most significant Rankings: #81 in Regional Universities West, #27 in Top Public Schools and #135 in Best Colleges for Public Policy in America
Number of students: 7.394
Statistics after graduation:The median earnings 6 years after graduation is $42.700/ year. 91% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.
Insights and Advantages: West Texas A&M University has been said to demonstrate charming southern hospitality while fostering a sense of community for students and alumni alike. The university is traditionally recognized for academic excellence in agriculture, business, teacher preparation, music and nursing just to name a few. It is also one of the most affordable and accessible universities in the region.
University of Tulsa
Most significant Rankings: #106 (tie) in National Universities and #146 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
Number of students: 4.412
Statistics after graduation: The median earnings 6 years after graduation is $48.500/ year. 91% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.
Insights and Advantages: The University of Tulsa is known to have great petroleum engineering programs. One of the reasons for these programs being so reputable is the hands-on experience students get from the facility that is complete with a drilling simulator. The university also provides many learning opportunities. Students in every major are encouraged to get involved in research projects as early as freshman year.
Texas A&M University
Most significant Rankings: #66 in National Universities, #37 in Most Innovative Schools, and #4 in Best Colleges for Agricultural Sciences in America
Number of students: 53.065
Statistics after graduation: The median earnings 6 years after graduation is $58.000/ year. 95% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.
Insights and Advantages: Texas A&M University originally opened its’ doors as an all-men’s school called the Agricultural and Mechanical College, but today it is a coed powerhouse for academics and athletics in central Texas. All students are proud to call themselves “Aggies,” the nickname at Texas A&M. The university offers a large range of majors and activities for students to choose from. Students can also choose from more than 1.000 organizations and clubs to join on campus.
University of Arizona
Most significant Rankings: #106 (tie) in National Universities, #50 in Best Biggest Colleges in America, #21 in Best Business Programs
Number of students: 35.123
Statistics after graduation: The median earnings 6 years after graduation is $47.300/ year. 92% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.
Insights and Advantages: The University of Arizona is one of the largest public institutions in the state. Since it is a research institution, both undergraduate and graduate students are welcomed to get involved in research projects. Freshmen are not required to live on campus, which is very uncommon at American universities. Despite this not being required, students seem to prefer it. About 80 percent of the residential campus community is made up of Freshmen students. Student satisfaction is so high in fact that in a recent poll 300+ students from the University of Arizona were asked “What one word or phrase best describes your school?” The most popular response was, “AMAZING.”