Celebrate the Golden Spike in Utah, sports in Vegas, art on the Oregon Coast, and a big birthday at the Grand Canyon.
The good news: Americans are taking more vacations. According to Project Time Off, the average U.S. worker took 17.2 vacation days in 2017—the highest rate in seven years. But there’s a flip side to that. Given the wealth of choices, it’s tougher than ever to decide where to go. To help you plan your next adventure, here are four epic destinations where the spirit of the West will be especially strong in 2019.
Landmark Anniversary: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The jaw-dropping views are the big draw for many of the 6 million–plus annual visitors to Grand Canyon National Park. But throughout 2019, as the park celebrates its 100th birthday, the spotlight will shine on the fascinating world surrounding those famous vistas.
“We’re planning a year’s worth of public events focused on the astoundingly diverse historical, cultural, and natural resources here,” says Vanessa Ceja-Cervantes, the park’s public outreach coordinator.
Wildlife programs let you meet live raptors, rattlesnakes, and other critters. You can take in performances by members of the American Indian tribes that live in and around the canyon. Experience the wonders of the night skies during a summertime star party, or time travel with a reenactor’s portrayal of President Teddy Roosevelt, who declared the Grand Canyon a national monument back in 1908, setting the stage for its elevation to a national park 11 years later.
A Golden Sesquicentennial: Promontory Summit, Utah
Another big anniversary is being celebrated this year: The transcontinental railroad was completed 150 years ago—on May 10, 1869, to be precise—at Promontory Summit, Utah, about 90 miles northwest of Salt Lake City.
As always, history buffs, rail fans, and vacationing families who visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site from May through October can thrill to the sight of replica vintage locomotives belching steam. There are also reenactments of the moment when Leland Stanford drove in the ceremonial golden spike that officially joined the eastern and western reaches of the tracks.
And from March 23 to June 15, the Brigham City Museum of Art & History (about 30 miles from Promontory Summit) will present The Spike at 150: Myths and Realities, an exhibit encompassing historic photos, old spikes and ties, and everyday artifacts. The goal, says Kaia Landon, the museum’s director, is to explore the reality of the construction as well as the legends surrounding this key event in the development of the West.
The New Sports Capital: Las Vegas
Vegas has always been a sporting town, but now it’s getting downright athletic. Exhibit A is T-Mobile Arena, home to the National Hockey League’s Golden Knights, whose Cinderella appearance in the Stanley Cup finals last year unleashed a city-wide frenzy.
The success of the new team has given a jolt of energy to the surrounding neighborhood. A plaza between the arena and the Strip, the Park offers five acres of trees, fountains, and sculptures, plus casual eateries and free musical performances on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
And there are plenty of other sports of the athletic variety around town. In April 2019, baseball’s minor-league Las Vegas 51s start playing at a new home stadium in Summerlin. (Named after the mysterious Area 51 nearby, the team features an alien’s head in its logo.) The United Soccer League’s Las Vegas Lights FC play at Cashman Field. Hoops fans can catch the 2019 WNBA All-Star game on July 27 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
If you’re really planning ahead, look for pro football’s Raiders to move from Oakland, CA, to Vegas in 2020. Says Bill Bradley, sports editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “I don’t know of any other city with such a burst of new teams, stadiums, and fan fever.”
Natural Splendor and Public Art: Oregon Coast
In 2019, a surprising assortment of public art—much of it hidden in plain sight for years—will join that mix. The Oregon Coast Public Art Trail, a self-guided tour of roughly 160 artworks in 27communities, is slated to launch early in the year, with the release of a website and map.
“Most of the works are older sculptures and murals that visitors don’t know about,” says Cannon Beach’s Kevan Ridgway, who assembled the list. “But there are new things, too, like a puffin in Bandon made of marine debris.”
Other highlights include a bronze rendering of three sea lions, overlooking the country’s largest sea cave, in Florence; and colorful murals—some newly restored—of whales, anglers, and other coastal scenes on the historic waterfront in Newport.
Read More: The Ultimate Oregon Coast Road Trip
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This article was first published in Winter 2019. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.