By Jaime Ditaranto
Hot springs bubble throughout this region of the Mexican Plateau, and with a name that means “hot water,” Aguascalientes was appropriately named by its colonial founders in 1575. Today the city of one million is best known for its deep ties to Spanish culture, apparent everywhere from the Monumental Bullring in the city center to Hacienda las Letras, a vineyard 30 miles north of the city. The San Marcos Fair in April is the city’s largest event, with three weeks of festivities, bullfights, cultural performances, and street food.
While Aguascaliente’s colonial architecture, like the towering Catedral Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, can be appreciated throughout the city, the local hot spring spas are more neoclassical in style. A case in point is the popular Baños Termales de Ojocaliente, just a short drive down the road from Plaza de las Tres Centurias, a tourism complex that pays tribute to the city’s railroading heyday. The National Museum of Death stands out among the city’s major attractions. Amassed by the University of Aguascalientes, its collection explores the Mexican relationship to death from the pre-Hispanic to the modern era.
One nonstop flight runs daily from Chicago Midway International Airport to Lic. Jesús Terán Peredo International Airport on Volaris Airlines and takes about 4 hours.
The city of Morelia, about 200 miles west of Mexico City, can credit much of its beauty to the pink stone with which many of its buildings are constructed. In the historic city center, more than 200 historic blushing buildings earned it UNESCO World Heritage status in 1991. Tough to miss are the Baroque 18th century Morelia Cathedral and the stone arched Aqueduct; however, also seek out less-obvious landmarks, like the poetry-decorated walls of the Alley of Romance, and The House of Conspiracy, where the philosophical seeds of Mexico’s independence movement were sown.
In Morelia, witness one of the world’s most mesmerizing natural phenomena — the Monarch butterfly migration. Every year, millions of orange and black butterflies travel thousands of miles from the United States to winter in Mexico. See for yourself at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, ideally during January and February, when the butterfly populations hit their peak and fill the forests like a fairy tale.
One nonstop flight runs daily from Chicago Midway International Airport to General Francisco Mujica International Airport on Volaris Airlines and takes about 3.5 hours.
East of Los Angeles, north of San Diego — and nowhere near Canada — Ontario, California is the secret gateway to Southern California. Within reach of Disneyland and Palm Springs, the city is a good starting point for any SoCal road trip. Aviation enthusiasts love the Planes of Fame Museum and the Yanks Air Museum, both stocked with historical aircraft and artifacts.
Just 30 minutes north of Ontario International Airport begins the Rim of the World Scenic Byway, at Cajon Pass. For 110 miles, the byway passes through the stunning mountain and lake vistas of San Bernardino National Forest. Feel free to stop along the way and hike one of the many trails, including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, near Big Bear Lake. If uphill climbs aren’t quite your thing, but upward swings of Chardonnay are, head an hour south by car to the Temecula Valley for wine tastings, farm-to-table restaurants, fashion boutiques, and antique shops — all contained within the rustic buildings of Old Town Temecula.
and a cidery.
One nonstop flight runs daily from Chicago Midway International Airport to Ontario International Airport on Southwest Airlines and takes about 4 hours.