Together with its nearby neighbor Odessa, Midland is at the very heart of west Texas oil country, the Permian Basin (315 mi/505 km southwest of Dallas). Oil wealth paid for a number of the finer attractions in both cities. In Midland, see the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, a highly successful interpretation of the geology and history of oil and oil exploration (http://petroleummuseum.org). There you can take a walk back 230 million years, when Midland was under water, in the Marine Diorama. A stately mansion from the 1930s houses the Museum of the Southwest, featuring southwestern art and archaeological artifacts. http://www.museumsw.org.

The most complete collection of flyable World War II combat aircraft is on display at Midland International Airport. The vintage aircraft belong to the Texas-based Confederate Air Force, which was started by a group of World War II pilots who have been collecting and restoring vintage aircraft since 1957. The attached American Airpower Heritage Museum focuses on various aspects of aerial combat during the war, including an interesting exhibit of the artwork that decorated the nose cones of the planes. http://www.airpowermuseum.org.

While you're in Odessa (named by Ukrainian immigrants for the Black Sea city), be sure to see the Globe of the Great Southwest at Odessa College, an exact replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and catch a performance if you can (http://www.globesw.org). The Presidential Museum documents the history of the tenants at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. http://www.presidentialmuseum.org.

If you want to go for a hike, visit Odessa's Meteor Crater, the second largest in the U.S., which is about 500 ft/150 m in diameter. It was created about 20,000 years ago by a falling meteorite. Since then, it has been filled almost to the top by wind-deposited dirt. There's a nature trail around the site. Another interesting geological sight is Monahans Sandhills State Park, about 35 mi/50 km southwest of Odessa, an eerily beautiful 4,000-acre/1,620-hectare area of sand dunes. The park also contains part of a vast miniature-oak forest.

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