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Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

NEW MEXICO

New Mexico’s oldest Baptist church, Mount Olive Baptist Church in Albuquerque, serves as spiritual home to a Black congregation. The state’s largest city also is home to a multicultural list of attractions that includes the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

The capital city of Santa Fe showcases its Southwestern heritage at sites like the Palace of the Governors and the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art and in galleries featuring the works of the many artists who call the city home.

Taos is a popular skiing destination that also is the site of a 700-year-old Native American pueblo.  Two other points of interest are the historic Plaza and the Kit Carson Home & Museum.

Travelers willing to venture out beyond the major metro areas in the “Land of Enchantment” might consider a trip to White Sands National Monument or Carlsbad Caverns National Park, two of New Mexico’s most famous natural landmarks.

LAS CRUCES

New Mexico’s agricultural heritage is the focus of some notable tourist sites in the Las Cruces area nestled between the Organ Mountains and the Rio Grande. The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum is the nation’s largest agricultural museum, encompassing 47 acres and 25,000 sq. ft. of exhibits, plus indoor and outdoor theaters. Among the displays are ancient tools and living quarters of New Mexico’s first farming tribe, an assortment of farm animals and a dairy barn.

Stahmann Farms, located 10 minutes south of Las Cruces, is the world’s largest family-owned pecan orchard. After touring the grounds, you can purchase books, candy and other pecan products at the on-site store.  Each April, La Vina, the state’s oldest winery, hosts a popular cultural event called the La Vina Wine & Jazz Thing.

Historic Old Mesilla, located just minutes from the city, offers restaurants, art galleries, shops and occasional weekend festivals such as Cinco de Mayo, Diez y Seis de Septiembre, Dia de Los Muertos and others celebrating the town’s Hispanic Heritage.  Other points of interest in Mesilla — whose history dates back to the end of the Mexican American War — include San Albino Church, the Gadsen Museum and the new Mercado de Mesilla.

OKLAHOMA

In the historically Black town of Langston, Oklahoma, about 40 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, the Melvin B. Tolson Black Heritage Center is named for the real-life person portrayed by actor/director Denzel Washington in “The Great Debaters.” Tolson, who taught at the local Langston University, also once served as the town’s mayor and poet laureate of Liberia. 

Oklahoma City’s Deep Deuce Historic District was once a thriving center of African-American commerce and a favorite spot for live jazz and blues. Today, the city’s Bricktown Entertainment District is one of the hotspots for live music.

The nation’s first Black bank was founded in Boley, about 58 miles southwest of Tulsa. The Greenwood District in Tulsa is a historically Black neighborhood that is home to the Mabel B. Little Heritage Center, the Greenwood Cultural Center and the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, which showcases gospel, jazz and blues musicians with Oklahoma connections. 

OREGON

Oregon’s picturesque Willamette Valley has a thriving wine-producing industry, with more than 250 area wineries. Eugene is the largest city in this area, home to such visitor attractions as the Owen Rose Garden and Skinner Butte, where a replica of an 1846 cabin is perched.

A drive along the Mt. Hood National Scenic Byway — which circles Oregon’s most famous peak and is latest addition for a state with more such official road designations than any other — shows off vistas of waterfalls, rain forests and wild rivers. Two more great sightseeing routes are the Blue Mountains Scenic Byway, which runs across the state’s northeastern corner and is surrounded by wildlife and historic sites, and central Oregon’s Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, with Mt. Bachelor soaring in the backdrop.

Along with having the most scenic byways in America, Oregon also is home to Crater Lake — the deepest in the nation — and Hells Canyon, North American’s deepest river gorge.

PORTLAND

Portland’s Albina district — the main hub of the city’s African-American community — offers several shops, galleries and restaurants for visitors to explore.  Other local Black heritage attractions include the Captain William Clark Monument, which depicts a Native American, Clark and his slave York; the former Golden West Hotel, which until the early 1950s was the only city hotel open to African Americans; and the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument entitled “The Dream” at the Oregon Convention Center. 

Following a $116 million renovation and expansion, the convention center became the first in the nation to receive a LEED certification for existing buildings. The upgraded facility houses 255,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, the 34,400-sq.ft. Grand Portland Ballroom, the 25,200-sq. ft. Oregon Ballroom, and 52,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

The castle-like Armory Building in the Pearl District also made “green design” history when its renovation led to the first platinum LEED award ever given to a building on the National Register of Historic Places. The Armory Building is now the new home of Portland Center Stage.

The city’s list of visitor attractions also includes the Portland Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Craft, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, the Oregon Zoo and the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum. Many of theses are easily accessible from downtown via the Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) light rail system.

For a great sightseeing overview of Portland, you can take a ride on the Aerial Tram that takes in the Willamette River, Mount Hood and the downtown skyline. The tram’s two gondolas are named “Walt,” for Walt Reynolds, the first Black graduate of Oregon Health & Science University, and “Jean,” for Jean Richardson, the first female engineering graduate of Oregon State University.

TEXAS

Mardi Gras has been celebrated for nearly 100 years in the Texas Gulf Coast city of Galveston.  The coastal region is also home to Corpus Christi, where the Texas State Aquarium is a top attraction, and South Padre Island, where visitors can explore a wetlands area and nature trail right to the convention center.

Texas’ largest history museum is the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Amarillo, which each year hosts the world’s largest livestock auction. In El Paso, one of the top cultural attractions is the Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Centre, which features many popular Broadway productions.
The Bonner-Whitaker-McClendon House might be of interest to history buffs visiting Tyler, which is also known as a major U.S. center for growing roses.  The new Tehuacan Creek Vineyards in Waco offer a free tour and wine-tasting experience.

Two favorite tours in Irving are the Dallas Cowboys’ Texas stadium and the Movie Studios at Las Colinas.

ARLINGTON

Arlington’s Ameriquest Field is one of the city’s most popular and versatile attractions. It serves as home ballpark for Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers and the site of the nation’s largest sports art gallery, Sports Legacy, and the Legends of the Game Baseball Museum and Children’s Learning Center, which also is a venue for receptions and other group events.

Other local attractions for off-site events include the Arlington Museum of Art, which offers free admission; Theatre Arlington; the historic Fielder House Museum; and Six Flags Over Texas, a must for the itinerary of groups traveling with kids. The list of kid-friendly sites in Arlington also includes Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water park, the River Legacy Living Science Center in River Legacy Park, Louis Tussaud’s Palace of Wax and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum.  

Two more attractions to add to the list of possibilities are Knapp Heritage Park, home to three of Arlington’s oldest buildings, and the Frontier Gallery, which has an extensive collection of western art.

Shopping enthusiasts might head for Traders Village — a weekend flea market with more than 2,500 dealers — the Lincoln Square Shopping Center, The Parks at Arlington Mall, or the Festival Marketplace Mall. 

AUSTIN

Texas’ capital is home to the state’s first African-American neighborhood museum, the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center, which houses art galleries, a theater and conference space. 

The Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau now offers free walking tours through the month of November. Departing from the State Capitol, the tours explore Congress Avenue, the Capitol grounds and Bremond Block, which includes the Governor’s Mansion.

Austin has nearly 200 live music venues, with many of them located in the Sixth Street and Warehouse entertainment districts, which you can get to on a free trolley from downtown.  Music lovers can also attend tapings of the “Austin City Limits” public television show at the University of Texas.

A new downtown entertainment facility, the Long Center for the Performing Arts, is expected to open in March 2008 on the shores of Ten Lake. Other local cultural attractions include the Blanton Museum of Art, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, the Austin Children’s Museum and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 

Among the city’s favorite haunts are the Second Street Retail District, the Whole Foods Market headquarters store, the Round Rock Premium Outlets and the new IKEA store and upscale Domain Shopping Center.

DALLAS

To include some of Dallas’ Black heritage on your itinerary, consider a visit to the Juanita Craft Civil Rights Museum or the African Museum of Dallas, which also is home to the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame and sponsor of the Texas Black Invitational Rodeo.

The Dallas Arts District is the largest urban art district in the United States, encompassing 17 contiguous blocks.  The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts — which showcases opera, ballet and theater — is expected to open its new $275 million facility in the district in 2009.  The center’s neighbors include the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Fashion Industry Gallery, the Meyerson Symphony Center, the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and the Nasher Sculpture Center — where a notable exhibit called “Walking to the Sky” depicts a group of seven figures of different races, ages and genders walking up a stainless steel pole. During the annual CityArts Celebration in June — featuring live music, food demonstrations and other activities — many Arts District attractions offer free admission.

Dallas’ Main Street shopping district is home to the original Neiman-Marcus, while the Highland Park Village offers another shopping option.


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