As Waterman Ormsby wrote, traveling by stagecoach across the Great Southwest was a grand adventure:
“To many Americans who travel for pleasure this route will be a favorite.
…they can travel by comfortable stages, stopping at such interesting points as they may choose for rest, and enjoying many opportunities for viewing the beautiful, the wonderful, and the sublime products of nature, which are well disposed along the entire distance.”
His words are even more true today. We can travel across this amazing land in the comfort and convenience of climate-controlled vehicles that are digitally connected to GPS and information networks.
Discover Your Pioneer Spirit…
1) St. Louis – I-70 and I-44. Many Butterfield Overland Stage customers would come St. Louis by riverboat to take a stage to Tipton and begin their Western adventures. Today’s visitors can learn all about the Gateway to the West at the Gateway Arch National Park.
2) Jefferson City – US 54, US 63 and US 50. An imposing statue of Thomas Jefferson is outside the Missouri State Capitol. Nearby at Trailhead Plaza are the statues of Lewis and Clark. Inside the capital is the Missouri State Museum and a Thomas Hart Benton mural.
3) Tipton – US 50. The northern launch point for the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach. Today’s visitors can step back in time at the Maclay House which served as Union Army headquarters for General John C. Fremont during the Civil War.
4) Springfield – US 65 and I-44. The History Museum on the Square features six main galleries in the historic downtown area.
5) Silver Dollar City – US 76/265. Silver Dollar City is the world-famous 1880s-style Ozark Mountain Family Theme Park. Visitors can see an authentic Concord Stagecoach that once traversed the Butterfield Trail. For train buffs, nothing beats a ride on the Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train…complete with fun-loving outlaws. Silver Dollar City features over 40 memorable, thrilling rides for kids of all ages including record-holding roller coasters that will take your breath away. The park sits atop Marvel Cave, one of Missouri’s deepest caverns and is filled with spellbinding adventure. Silver Dollar City is also home to 100 resident craftsmen who bring to life America’s heritage crafts. Visitors can shop for unique mementos at 60 specialty boutiques and also experience 8 award-winning festivals throughout the season. Dining includes 18 family-style restaurants. Silver Dollar City’s White Water park features 13 acres for cool, splash fun. Visitors can stay close to all the action at the Silver Dollar City Campground that includes campsites, RV sites, trailer rentals and hand-crafted log cabins.
6) Branson – US 65 and 76. The “Live Music Show Capital of the World” as named by 60 Minutes TV show. 76 Country Boulevard is lined with theaters offering live performances with a fun mix of county, gospel, rock ‘n’ roll, magic, and even jaw-dropping spectaculars. Dolly Parton’s Stampede is a fun-filled family dinner theater with a cast of 32 horses, trick riders, music and country-style food. Visitors to the Titanic Museum Attraction feel as if they are passengers on the ill-fated voyage with interactive displays and artifacts that even include a real iceberg. Shepherd of the Hills features inspiring live performances, dining, ziplines, a ropes course and a bird’s eye view of the area from Inspiration Tower. Track Family Fun Parks has three high-rise tracks, bumper boats, mini golf, laser tag, a laser maze and the iconic Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. Bigfoot Fun Park has breathtaking thrill rides and the Ozarks Expedition Tours. Other great attractions include the Branson’s Hollywood Wax Museum, Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum, Branson’s Promised Land Zoo and the Showboat Branson Belle paddlewheel riverboat.
7) Rogers – I-49. On the Butterfield Overland Trail route. Rogers offers today’s trail travelers memorable museums and trendy shopping surrounded by breath-taking Ozark scenery and historic sites. Favorite local museums in the area include the Daisy Airgun Museum, the Rogers Historical Museum and the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. The inspiring Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art combines art and architecture with the natural beauty of nature trails. The nearby Pea Ridge National Military Park is the nation’s largest intact Civil War Battlefield. War Eagle Cavern on the shores of Beaver Lake offers wondrous sights including an underground waterfall. Families will enjoy the splash fun at the Rogers Aquatics Center. Shoppers can choose from the brick-lined streets of Historic Downtown Rogers with its gourmet restaurants and charming boutiques, or Pinnacle Hills Promenade, the area’s top shopping center destination.
8) Siloam Springs – US 412 and US 59. Visit historic downtown Siloam Springs, a quaint area lined with shops, restaurants, parks, and bordered by beautiful Sager Creek. The Siloam Springs Farmers Market is open April-October in Memorial Park and features fresh fruits and vegetables, health and beauty products, home goods, local meats, nuts, and fresh baked goods. You can catch live music, Shakespeare in the Park, live cooking demonstrations, and more at the Chautauqua Amphitheater in Memorial Park. The nearby Siloam Springs Museum presents rotating exhibits celebrating the area’s Native American, pioneer, and Civil War history. Venture a couple miles north to City Lake Park to practice your mountain biking skills on the skills course and pump track before hitting the trails or enjoy the quiet nature observatory of the bird blind overlooking the lake. Need more mountain biking? Seek out Sager Creek Mountain Bike Trail on the John Brown University campus, with an additional 5 miles of trail. Don’t miss the Siloam Springs Kayak Park – be sure to bring your kayak, canoe, or tube and a life jacket for hours of free fun along the Illinois River. And soon Siloam Springs will be home to a best-in-class whitewater park featuring a 1,200-foot long, 100-foot-wide side channel with eight drop features currently under construction.
9) Fayetteville – I-49. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains and surrounded by state parks, national forests and pristine waters for fishing and floating, Fayetteville is a nature-lover’s dream. It’s rich in arts, history and entertainment, and offers guests a multitude of experiences. Fayetteville’s downtown has always been known as the region’s entertainment capital, thanks to live-music venues, restaurants, bars and theaters throughout Dickson Street and the Historic Downtown Square. While you’re visiting the square stop by the World Peace Fountain, a 10 ft. diameter bronze sphere fountain that has “May Peace Prevail on Earth” sculpted in over 100 different languages. With a new 50,000 sq. ft. home, TheatreSquared features locally produced and nationally acclaimed national productions. Just down the block, the newly renovated Walton Arts Center features Broadway shows and visual arts exhibitions. Nearby Devil’s Den State Park has been an Arkansas staple for those wanting to experience the outdoors. Devil’s Den has plenty of hiking trails and scenic overlooks, not to mention the scenic drive makes for a pretty quick trip to town. The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks features 12 backyard gardens, the Totemeier Horticulture Center and the only Butterfly House in Arkansas. For family fun, visit the Arkansas Air & Military Museum, where you can see historic aircraft up close and personal.
10) Fort Smith – I-540, I-40, and I-49. The Fort Smith National Historic Site features the parade grounds and restored buildings of this famed fort during the War with Mexico and the Civil War and along the historic Trail of Tears.
11) Oklahoma City – I-40, I-35 and I-44. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum brings to life the histories and cultures of the American West with an outstanding collection of fine art, artifacts and programs.
12) Durant – US 69 & 75. Conveniently located 90 miles north of Dallas on Highway 75 and 150 miles southeast and south from both Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Durant, the Magnolia Capital of Oklahoma, offers small-town charm with a main street that offers a variety of restaurants, pubs & breweries, murals, Magnolia Mile Art Alley, and a unique shopping experience. While shopping on Main Street, take a walk back in history at one of our best-kept secrets, The Three Valley Museum. Once your downtown tour is complete, head out to Fort Washita Historic Site and Museum, which was first opened to protect the Chickasaw and Choctaw Tribes, then later served as a supply depot for confederate troops. Durant is alive with Native American heritage and is proud to be the headquarters of the Choctaw Nation and the Choctaw Casino and Resort, a world-class resort with first-class entertainment. Their new and improved water resort and an additional 1,000 room hotel is scheduled to open in 2021. The Magnolia Festival in Durant is one of the largest events in south-central Oklahoma and will celebrate its 24th year in 2021. Festivities begin the weekend after Memorial Day at the Choctaw Event Center. Durant is also just a few minutes from beautiful Lake Texoma where visitors can enjoy camping, fishing, exploring, nature and hunting.
13) Denton – I-35 and US 380. Denton is where the today’s “hip” culture mixes with historic Texas. A great place to start is at Downtown Square where art, music and history come alive at every corner. The Historic Courthouse is the centerpiece and Courthouse-on-the-Squarelawn is where people have a picnic or treats from the ice cream shop and listen to performers. Courthouse-on-the-Square-Museum features exhibits, lectures and community events.
Around the Downtown Square visitors can discover antique treasures, eclectic specialty boutique, galleries and choose from dining options from fun and casual to fine and elegant. The beautiful Little Chapel in the Woods built in 1939 is one of Texas’ 20 most outstanding architectural achievements. The Bayless-Selby House Museum is a Victorian treasure offering a fascinating glimpse of Denton County before to 1908. The Campus Theatre is a classic movie house that today offers musical and theatrical performances. The Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center is a gateway to more than 2,900-acres of hardwood forest, upland prairie and diverse aquatic habitats that include more than 10 miles of trails for up close nature viewing, hiking, jogging and biking. The Texas Motor Speedway is nearby on I-35 and hosts year-round racing experiences and entertainment.
14) Fort Worth – At the crossroads of I-35W and I-20. Just off the Butterfield Overland Trail route. The American West comes alive with the twice-daily longhorn cattle drive down the streets of Fort Worth’s National Historic Stockyards District.
15) San Antonio – At the crossroads of I-35 and I-10. The Alamo Mission founded in 1718 was the site of the 1836 Texas Revolution. Currently undergoing a multi-year, multi-phase restoration, today, the 4.2-acre complex features interactive tours and exhibits, reenactments and the scenic Alamo Gardens. A short walk leads to the world-famous San Antonio River Walk, a 15-mile urban waterway surrounded by great restaurants, historic districts and great shopping. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, which along with the Alamo is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas, includes Spanish Mission compounds built in the 18th Century. Market Square is a three-block outdoor plaza offering visitors the sights, sounds and flavor of Old Mexico. The San Antonio Museum of Art displays ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art, while the McNay Art Museum specializes in 19th and 20th Century art. The Briscoe Museum of Western Art houses art and artifacts reflecting the history of the American West. The Witte Museum is dedicated to telling the stories of Texas from prehistory to the present. SeaWorld San Antonio provides unforgettable marine life encounters, a water park and thrill rides. Six Flags Fiesta Texas has coasters, a water park and nightly entertainment that includes fireworks.
16) Monahans – I-20. Monahans celebrates its western heritage and has a lot of fun during the annual Butterfield Overland Stagecoach and Wagon Festival in July. Other fun events include the Sandhills Ranch Rodeo, the Wickett Bluegrass Festival, the Christmas and Chili Market, the Freedom Fair, livestock shows and rodeos, and four Farmer’s Markets in the summer months.
The Million Barrel Museum features a giant concrete “tank” covering eight acres that once held one-million gallons of oil. Today, one area of the tank is a unique amphitheater for concerts and special events. The museum grounds also include the town’s first jail, a pioneer-era schoolhouse, an old-time train car, a collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia, and historic oil field equipment and farm tools. The Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum honors the legacy of the Pyote Army Airfield where B-17 “Flying Fortress” and B-29 crews trained during World War II. Monahans Sandhills State Park is five miles east and features 4,000 acres of sand dunes resembling the Sahara Desert where visitors can “surf” the sands, camp, hike and picnic. The park’s Dunagan Visitors Center includes hands-on interactive exhibits. The park also features a miniature Harvard Oak forest occupying 40,000 acres, making it one of the largest oak forests in the country.
17) El Paso – I-10, US 62/180, Mexico Highway 45. El Paso has always served as the crossroads for many cultures. El Paso was established as an important stop on the old Spanish Trail and was an important stop on the Butterfield Trail. Today’s El Paso Museum of History is a great place to discover this rich history with five galleries representing 400 years of history. The El Paso Mission Trail includes two timeless adobe churches and one presidio established in the 17h and 18th centuries as a testimony to the faith of Spanish and Native ancestors. The Billy the Kid Jail is the only time the famous outlaw broke into jail. The Magoffin Home State Historic Site explores the legacy of a famous local family involved in U.S. expansion, settlement and trade. The El Paso Museum of Art features a world-class art experience featuring American, European, and Mexican art celebrating the region’s diverse cultures. For kids, the El Paso Zoo features exotic animals in natural settings and family-friendly attractions. El Paso Spray Parks is a fun place for families to keep cool with ten locations around town. Dining in El Paso is always a treat with a great variety of International, Mexican, and American cuisine. Visitors can also enjoy excellent micro-wineries along the Highway 28 wine trail. For the adventuresome, there are breathtaking scenic drives and hiking trails to one of the highest peaks in Texas in the nearby Franklin Mountains.
18) Las Cruces – I-10. The Mesilla Village Plaza is a well-preserved historic square surrounded by adobe buildings, galleries, shops and restaurants.
19) Willcox – I-10. The Chiricahua National Monument features 17-miles of day-use trails to awe-inspiring rock pinnacles and diverse wildlife. The Butterfield Overland Trail passes through Fort Bowie National Historic Site. Visitors can learn about the conflict in the late 1800s between the U.S. Army and the Chiricahua Apaches at the visitor center and even hike to Cochise’s stronghold at Apache Pass. The Chiricahua Regional Museum and Research Center also features the history of the Chiricahua Apaches from Cochise to Geronimo. Cochise County is one of the nation’s top places for bird watching. Cochise Lake and the Willcox Playa are on the migratory path of shorebirds, waterfowl, Sandhill Cranes, and raptors. The Rex Allen Museum in Willcox celebrates the career of the last singing cowboy of Western Movie Fame. On the same block, the Willcox Historic Theater is a restored Art Deco movie palace from the 1930s that today features special programs and events. There are also many fine wineries, on the Willcox Wine Trail, that offer tastings of their choice vintages. Visitors can also sample the selections during the Willcox Spring and Fall Wine Festival. Find locally grown fresh produce at Apple Annie’s Orchard, plus jams, special handcrafted gifts, pumpkins, and sunflowers.
20) Tucson – I-10. Explore a unique blend of Mexican, Spanish Colonial, Wild West, and even modern aerospace history in Arizona’s second-largest city. Visitors can follow the Anza Trail south along I-19 to discover Tubac Presidio State Historic Park and the beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac, built in the 1700s by Spanish missionaries.
If the Wild West is more your style, check out the attractions and stunt shows in the historic town of Tombstone or Trail Dust Town. Aviation enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Pima Air and Space Museum—along with the nearby 390th Memorial Museum and the largest aircraft boneyard in the world—and the Titan Missile Museum in Sahuarita. The arts are on display in downtown Tucson at the Tucson Museum of Art, and around town with large, stunning murals. Those seeking outdoor recreation will enjoy the picturesque Tucson Mountains and great hiking trails and camping at the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum offers a wonderful variety of fun experiences with a zoo, aquarium, botanical garden, natural history and art gallery.
21) Phoenix – I-10 and I-17. Arizona’s capital city is a showcase of modern art, ancient culture, and vibrant nightlife. The world-renowned Heard Museum showcases Native American culture and art and has live performances. Half a mile south, explore an extensive collection of classic and contemporary art at the Phoenix Art Museum, or go north to see over 8000 instruments from around the world at the Musical Instrument Museum. The Phoenix Zoo/Arizona Center for Nature Conservation is nestled on 125 acres within beautiful Papago Park and features over 3,000 animals, lush gardens, water landscapes, outdoor cafes, and exciting up-close animal encounters. South Mountain Park and Preserve is the largest municipal park in the nation where visitors can hike, bike and ride over 58 miles of trails, or follow the road to the top of the mountain for spectacular views. Cactus League Spring Training occurs in February and March and features 15 major league baseball teams playing over 200 games in the Greater Phoenix area.
In nearby Scottsdale, Old West history is displayed at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art features the latest modern art alongside nearby boutiques and restaurants.
22) Yuma – I-10. According to Guinness World Records, Yuma is the Sunniest City on Earth. And the wide-open spaces around Yuma are great destinations for those seeking sunny, outdoor adventures. The Imperial Sand Dunes are popular with Instagram influencers and ATV off-roaders. Water adventures also abound in the area with kayaking, canoeing, tubing, and boating on the Colorado River and area lakes. Yuma’s unique Western heritage is on display at the Colorado River State Historic Site that once served as the U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot from 1864 to 1884 for all southwestern military posts. The beautiful 10-acre park includes five buildings from the depot’s earliest days. The Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is a fun stop for both western history buffs and ghost hunters. The prison’s two-foot-thick adobe walls have been featured in Western movies. The Imperial National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 25,000 acres of desert upland and Colorado river shoreline that includes a visitor center, observation tower, river lookouts, and boat launch. Visitors can also see the well preserved 1878 ghost town and mine with a day tour to Castle Dome Mine Museum. The Field to Feast and Ag to Art Markets are uniquely suited for those looking for farm to table experiences.
23) San Bernardino County – Calico Ghost Town Regional Park – Located east of Barstow just east of the junction of I-15 and I-40. At Calico Ghost Town visitors can feel like they are in the days of the Old West. This silver mining town has been restored to its 1880s Boomtown heyday with historical buildings, artifacts, shops, restaurants, hiking, off-roading and camping. In San Bernardino County, visitors can also take the Rim of the World Scenic Byway to “the Alps of Southern California” and San Bernardino National Forest. The Byway encompasses parts of Highways 138, 18 and 38, connecting popular forest attractions including Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Gregory Regional Park, and Cajon Pass. The California Theatre of the Performing Arts is a restored 1920s vaudeville and movie palace that today presents plays, musicals, and concerts by the San Bernardino Symphony. The San Bernardino History and Railroad Museum is housed in the 1918 Santa Fe Depot and includes a 1910 recreated railroad station with many historic artifacts. The Original McDonald’s Site and Museum displays one of the world’s largest collections of McDonald’s memorabilia, merchandise and souvenirs. Joshua Tree National Park is just a one-and-a-half-hour drive east from San Bernardino. Nearby, Black Rock Canyon offers reservable campsites and scenic hiking trails. The San Bernardino County Museum, in Redlands, is a regional museum with exhibits and collections in cultural and natural history for all ages including the Exploration Station live animal discovery center. Tour the Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley and discover exhibits about the cultural and natural heritage of the High Desert. Visit sbcounty.gov/museum for more information. Visit parks.sbcounty.gov for more information about all of San Bernardino County’s Regional Parks, its fishing activities and camping amenities.
24) Visalia – At the Crossroads of California Highways 99 and 198. Visalia is the family-friendly gateway to Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park and Sequoia National Forest. At Kings Canyon National Park visitors will see the deepest canyon in North America. At Sequoia National Park visitors can see the world’s largest tree, view the Great Western Divide from atop Moro Rock, or go deep underground at Crystal Cave. Sequoia & Kings Canyon, and adjacent Sequoia National Forest feature over 30 groves of the world’s largest tree surrounded by soaring granite monoliths, glacier-carved canyons, roaring whitewater rivers and scenic lakes. Downtown Visalia has a historic marker commemorating the arrival of the first Butterfield Stage to town at midnight, October 8, 1858. Kids of all ages will enjoy the activities at the Imagine U Children’s Museum. Families can also find seven acres of fun and games at Adventure Park and Sequoia Springs Water Slides. The sounds of summer include baseball at Rawhide Ballpark, home of the California League Affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The science of farming comes alive at the AgVentures! Learning Center. Visitors can have fun while picking their own oranges while touring Farmer Bob’s World at McKellar Family Farms citrus ranch. On Saturday mornings visitors can sample farm-fresh goods and handmade crafts at the Visalia Farmers Market.
25) Gilroy – On US 101. Gilroy is the Gateway to Monterey Bay, Pinnacles National Park, San Jose and San Francisco. The world-famous Gilroy Garlic Festival is held the last full week in July. Visitors can find unique gourmet garlic creations in a number of shops and restaurants in the area throughout the year. Nestled in one of California’s oldest wine growing regions, the Gilroy area is home to more than 34 family-owned wineries and tasting rooms. Downtown Gilroy has an eclectic mix of shops, specialty boutiques and antique stores. Gilroy Premium Outlets has over 120 factory outlet stores offering 25-65% off top brands. Gilroy Gardens is a classic family theme park. The family-owned orchard Casa de Fruta began as a cherry stand and soon blossomed into one of the state’s top attractions. Visitors to Mt. Madonna County Park can see towering redwoods, rare white fallow deer and enjoy scenic views of the ocean. Visitors can also tour the San Juan Bautista Mission established in 1797 and featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo. Visitors can see historic airplanes up close at the Wings of History Air Museum and see the town’s history in colorful murals on the Gilroy Historic Paseo.