7 reasons to visit the West this winter

Whether your style is rough and tumble or refined and discriminating, the western United States is brimming with adventures and attractions sure to satisfy every itch, from theme parks and cowboy culture to train rides and world-class art. Here are seven destinations for a fun winter getaway.


Do you want to travel to the West Coast, but you're not sure which destination you want to visit? Why not go to all of them? Amtrak's Coast Starlight line travels from Seattle to Los Angeles and vice versa every day, offering stunning views of the Western landscape along the way. Travel in a double-decker Superliner, with sleeper cars, a dining car and a Sightseer Lounge car, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows for viewing the scenery. Traveling south from Seattle, the train follows an inland route through the Oregon cities of Portland, Eugene and Klamath Falls, into Sacramento, Calif., and San Francisco, before hugging the coast through Southern California until it arrives in L.A. Sights along the way include Mount Ranier, Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountains and San Francisco Bay.

The ride takes 35 hours start to finish, and it makes 28 stops along the way, but not for long. If you want to stop en route to spend some time in one place, you’ll have to buy separate tickets. And be sure to travel light so you don’t have to check your bag. Coach service includes meal service, and business-class tickets include wireless internet, access to the Metropolitan Lounge in Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., and credit toward food and beverage service or the afternoon wine tasting. There are also a variety of sleeping berths available at various price points.

Amtrak Coast Starlight. $122 and up, one way. 1-800-872-7245, www.amtrak.com/coast-starlight-train


After closing for six months so it could undergo a $2.3 million upgrade to its facility, Houston's revered The Menil Collection reopened in September to the relief of local art patrons and tourists alike. Designed by Renzo Piano, architect of the 2002 addition to the High Museum of Art, the building opened in 1987 but needed sprucing up with reconfigured galleries, new walls, lighting and fire-detection systems and restored pine floors.

Established in 1987 by John and Dominique de Menil to house and protect their personal art collection, the museum is now home to 17,000 works of art and rare books. Among the collection are works by Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly Jr. There are also collections of antiquities and works of Byzantine, medieval and tribal art.

Along with the improvements have come an expanded gallery of surreal art and a new gallery featuring the museum’s Art of Americas collection, including masks and instruments from the Pacific Islands. And the best part is, admission is still free.

While you’re there, visit the Rothko Chapel, commissioned by the de Menils but overseen by a separate nonprofit entity. It is an interfaith chapel containing holy books from various religions and includes 14 paintings by Rothko.

The Menil Collection. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. 1533 Sul Ross St., Houston. Free. 713-525-9400, www.menil.org


Join the Parr family on a wild chase to catch the elusive baby Jack-Jack on the thrilling new Incredicoaster, the fastest ride and longest steel coaster at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif. Based on "The Incredibles" animated movies, the ride is enhanced by special effects, lighting and music, and it is one of 29 attractions at Pixar Pier, a new themed land that opened in June at California Adventure Park. The park joins the original Disneyland to comprise Disneyland Resort, which also features three hotels and the Downtown Disney District, chock full of restaurants, shops and attractions.

Designed to resemble a Victorian boardwalk, Pixar Pier beckons visitors to play games at Toy Story Mania Midway, ride the Pixar Pal-a-Round Ferris wheel and dine at Lamplight Lounge and Adorable Snowman Frozen Treats.

Through Nov. 4, the park presents Plaza de la Familia, a Day of the Dead celebration featuring special festivities and Mexican fare themed around the movie “Coco.” Storytellers, folk dancers and mariachi musicians provide roaming entertainment, and Miguel appears in “A Musical Celebration of Coco,” a show performed several times a day.

In summer 2019, Disneyland opens Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, a 14-acre themed extension where visitors can fly the Millennium Falcon, journey to Batuu and undergo Jedi training.

Disneyland Resort. Open daily year-round. Hours vary. $97-$135, one-day pass. $64 a day and up, multi-day pass. 1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim. 714-781-4636, disneyland.disney.go.com


Recognized as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West" by Congress in 1971, mustangs are free-roaming horses descended from horses brought to the U.S. by Spanish colonists, and protected and managed by the Bureau of Land Management. To witness the feral beasts in the wild, Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary invites visitors to take a tour of its operation at the Double D Ranch, a 900-acre cattle ranch owned and operated by the Oldham family. Located on the Wind River Indian Reservation, it is the only wild-horse sanctuary on a reservation. Visitors ride in a horse-drawn wagon to tour the ranch and watch the herd of 130 horses in their natural environment. There's also a visitors center with interpretive exhibits illustrating the history of the horses in North America and their significance to Native American culture. Special events are presented throughout the year, including mustang adoptions and auctions. The sanctuary is east of Yellowstone National Park next to the rocky spine of the Wind River Mountains. While you're in the vicinity, an area called Wind River Country, take in some of the other activities it offers, such as hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, dog sledding and mountain biking.

Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary. Call to schedule a tour. $18-$35. Free for children 12 and younger. 8616 U.S. 287, Lander, Wyo. 307-438-3838, www.windriverwildhorses.com


Arapahoe Basin, in the White River National Forest in the Rocky Mountains, is a popular alpine ski and snowboard area renowned for its long season, which typically opens around Oct. 20 and has been known to stretch into early June and even July sometimes. The 2018-19 season is a big year because it marks the opening of new terrain. The Beavers and The Steep Gullies are Arapahoe Basin's newest terrain, and feature 34 runs over 468 acres for levels ranging from intermediate to expert.

The largest area is The Beavers at 339 acres. Among its runs are two intermediate groomed runs, open bowls and glade skiing. It’s served by a four-person chairlift. The Steep Gullies is for experts only and requires a 30-minute hike back to the lift.

Because Arapahoe Basin is dedicated to introducing children to the love of skiing, children ages 6-12 can ski for free any two days during the season. And children 5 and younger can ski free any time. If you or your kids need a refresher, there are plenty of options to receive ski and snowboard instruction, from private lessons to group classes.

Arapahoe Basin. $119-$339, season pass. 28194 U.S. 6, Keystone, Colo. 970-468-0718, www.arapahoebasin.com


Cowboy Corridor is the name the Nevada Division of Tourism and Cultural Affairs has given the stretch of I-80 that bisects the state from West Wendover in the east to Reno in the west. It wants visitors to slow down and explore Nevada's cowboy culture along the route. Sights on the way include Unionville ghost town, where Mark Twain once prospected for silver, and the Roller Coaster Fireworks Outlet and Cookhouse Museum in Battle Mountain.

Whatever you do, stop in Elko, the epicenter of Nevada's cattle industry. The town is home to the newly opened Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum as well as the Western Folklife Center. And from Jan. 29-Feb. 3, it is the site of the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Cowboy Corridor. I-80 from Reno to West Wendover. www.travelnevada.com.


Everybody knows the food in San Francisco is amazing, but it's easy to get overwhelmed by the choices if you don't know what you're doing. Why not make it easy on yourself and let someone else do the choosing? Edible Excursions has been giving food tours in the San Francisco area since 2004. Not only do the tour guides know their food, they know the ins and outs of the neighborhoods and enjoy sharing tidbits of knowledge while you fill your belly.

Tours can be tailored to your taste by focusing on neighborhoods in San Francisco, Oakland or Berkeley. One minute you’re eating traditional El Salvadoran pupusas and the next you’re stuffing your face with a scoop of bourbon ice cream studded with Corn Flakes. The best part is, you’ll go places you might not have ventured had you not been led by a well-informed guide. If you don’t want to go with a group, customized personal tours are available, too.

Edible Excursions. $77-$148. 415-806-5970, www.edibleexcursions.net