hot air balloons over albuquerque

Take to the sky in Albuquerque. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Find Epic Nature, Adventure and More on a Weekend Getaway in the Southwestern U.S.

City block after city block devoted to live music and entertainment, abundant desert landscapes to hike within, and coastal barrier islands lined with sandy shores are among your options for getting back to nature (and back to what you love) when you plan a weekend getaway to the best destinations in the Southwest United States for a weekend getaway.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

best weekend getaways in the southwest
(Illustration: Yeji Kim)

Albuquerque, New Mexico

New Mexico’s largest city makes it easy to spend a weekend getaway being as urban or out there in nature as you prefer. Come to Albuquerque during the fall and winter months, and you might have the pleasure of rising up over the city in a hot air balloon — this is one of the most famous places in the world to do it, after all.

The Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque Balloon Museum is open year-round to dive into the history of the favorite local pastime through interesting exhibits and displays. And just outside of town, you can go wine tasting at Casa Rondeña winery or hike along trails with views of the lovely Sandia Mountains at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park.

Back in town, shop for Pueblo pottery, beaded jewelry and baskets at Cowboy & Indians Antiques or fill up on tacos, ramen and hot-chicken sandwiches at 505 Central Food Hall in a part of town that was formerly part of Route 66. Albuquerque is nothing if not surprising.

Phoenix, Arizona

sonoran desert cactus at sunrise
Catch the sunrise in the Sonoran Desert. (Photo: Getty Images)

Surrounded by the saguaro cacti of the Sonoran Desert and smaller Arizona towns like Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa, Phoenix can feel like many destinations wrapped into one.

Over the course of a weekend getaway to the city you can admire Frank Lloyd Wright wonders at Taliesin West, go gallery hopping in the Fifth Avenue Art District in nearby Scottsdale and do an epic sunrise hike to watch the pastel-hued daylight break at Camelback Mountain.

Woman-owned breweries have become a thing in the city, and Greenwood Brewing —owned by former engineer Megan Greenwood, who left the corporate world to dive deep into beer-making — is a favorite for its seasonal ales and rosemary-infused IPA. For a killer brunch or dinner and amazing oysters, Buck & Rider in the trendy Arcadia neighborhood is always a winner.

Corpus Christi, Texas

bob hall pier
Make your way to Bob Hall Pier. (Photo: Getty Images)

Perhaps best known for being a spring break party town when the college kids roll in, Corpus Christi, along Texas’ gorgeous Gulf Coast, brings more to the table than just gorgeous beaches.

Start your weekend getaway off right with breakfast at Bien Mérité Bakery, where you might feel like you’ve decamped to France for all the croissants, macarons and delicate pastries on offer.

Among several museums in town, the Selena Museum pays homage to the late music superstar, the Art Museum of South Texas puts the spotlight on works from Texas, and the USS Lexington is a retired aircraft carrier with a riveting onboard naval aviation museum.

When it’s time to escape into nature, Padre Island National Seashore beckons with the world’s longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island and 66 miles of spectacular coastline to explore.

Las Vegas, Nevada

couple hiking in red rock canyon
Wind your way through red rock canyons. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sin City needs no intro, but a Las Vegas weekend can really be as much about gambling, pool parties and shows, or fresh air and nature, as you want it to be.

Once you’ve ticked off the key sights along the Strip, break for the great outdoors with easy and accessible hiking trails at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just 30 minutes away.

And don’t miss the fun scene in Old Vegas when you get back to town. There’s no sensory overload like what awaits at the Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall with the largest canopy video screen in the world and unbelievable people-watching that can be enjoyed while soaring overhead by zip line.

Austin, Texas

austin nightlife
Austin after dark is a blast. (Photo: Getty Images)

Move over, Nashville. Austin, Texas, has staked its claim as the Live Music Capital of the World. And the Red River Cultural District is the place to go here when you want to hear everything from country to alternative bands.

For a neighborhood with a bit of everything, head to the SoCo District along South Congress Avenue for mellow cocktail bars, stylish boutiques like Parts & Labour for Austin-made goods, and the city’s most celebrated Omakase-style restaurant, Otoko, where multicourse menus mix Kyoto kaiseki with Tokyo-style sushi.

Central Austin’s hidden gem is the North Loop neighborhood, brimming with retro boutiques and where you can dine at foodie favorite Barley Swine, helmed by a James Beard Award finalist.