If you like arid climates, steep terrain, cacti, and outdoor adventures, you can find it all in the Southwest might. Although the states that make up the U.S. region may are hard to define, the beauty of the natural landscape and the rich culture that exists there are not up for debate. 

If you’re considering an AMO clinical experience in the Southwest, here is some information on what to expect in the region.

Geography and Climate

The states included in the Southwest is a subject hotly debated. For the sake of this post, we’re including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming to be southwestern states.

Because this region spans a great distance, there is variability when it comes to geography. The Southwest contains a mix of natural landforms, including mountains, deserts, lakes, and rivers. The most notable of these include the Mojave Desert, Jemez Mountains, San Juan Mountains, Wasatch Mountains, Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, Rio Grande River, Colorado River, and the Great Salt Lake. Many of these landforms can be seen by visiting one of the 63 state parks located within the Southwest.

Despite the geographic diversity found in the Southwest, the climate is generally described as arid and semi-arid. Some of the Southwest experiences warm weather year-round with northern and mountainous regions of the area not included. Portions of Utah and Colorado, which areas higher altitudes, experience heavy snow, and cold temperatures. The Desert Southwest (Arizona and New Mexico) undergo some of the hottest weather on Earth. However, the temperature drops drastically at night. Weather in parts of Arizona and New Mexico can also get extreme in the winter, bringing snow, ice, and often road closures. Portions of Utah and Colorado, which have higher altitudes, experience heavy snow and cold temperatures during winter.

Local Culture

To celebrate the cultures that call this region home, many cultural centers and associated art galleries have been established, the most popular of which include the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Heard Museum.

When it comes to food, Southwesterners have a soft spot for all things tangy and spicy. Chiles and citrus fruits are featured in many dishes, which are often inspired by New Mexican Cuisine. Popular dishes in this area include cactus fries, pozole, sopapillas, stuffed peppers, and king ranch chicken. Many of these dishes feature corn-based components. Don’t worry if they appear blue! Blue corn was historically grown by the Hopi and Pueblo tribes up until the 1980s in Arizona and New Mexico. It is still grown in smaller amounts and gives character to New Mexican Cuisine.

Tex-Mex and Native American dishes, like stew and cornbread, may not. be enough to satisfy your hunger for local cultures. If this is the case, you may consider visiting the Hopi reservation or another one entirely. There are also more than 19 New Mexican pueblos you can explore. Visiting either one of these sites will help you understand the oldest and most profound cultures in the Southwest.

Tourist Spots

National Parks

Because there are so many mountains and canyons in the Southwest, many locals and tourists enjoy spending their free time hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. The perfect to participate in these outdoor adventures is at a state park. While deciding which one to visit can be difficult as there are many in the region, selecting one of the most visited parks could be a good idea. Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park make the cut for the most visited national parks in the area each year.

Live Music

There is something magical about listening to live music. It might be the raw sound or the energy that a room full of people give off. Live music outdoors, though, that is otherworldly. The best place to listen to live music outdoors in the Southwest is the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. The 738-acre area is full of wildlife, and at the center of it all sits a naturally formed amphitheater and rock stage, which has hosted a number of musical greats for decades. If you travel to Colorado, be sure to check the concert schedule and snag one of the 9,525 seats available.

Vineyards and Breweries

Those who want to lift their spirits a little higher may be interested in visiting a brewery or vineyard in this region. There are so many artisanal producers in this area that a wine trail on the Verde Valley has become a popular path for tourists who moonlight as wine connoisseurs. The valley’s plentiful rainfall and nearby water source make for rich soil, producing both quality and quantity when it comes to grapes. Vineyards included along the Verde Valley Wine Trail include Alcantara Vineyards, Cellar 433, Page Springs Cellars, and Javelina Leap Vineyard, among others.

Quirky Museums

Are the terms weird and wonderful interchangeable? After a trip to the Southwest and its number of offbeat museums, the answer will be yes. The region is home to the International UFO Museum and Research Center, Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures, American International Rattlesnake Museum, and the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Visiting just one of these museums has the potential to provide you with a noggin full of useless but interesting information.

Southwest Clinical Experiences

We currently offer a few clinical experiences in the states of Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas. Click on each state name to view and apply for programs located there.