Had I not grown up Mormon, I’m not sure Utah would have made my list of places to visit. Rumors of polygamists, a bizarre attraction to green Jell-O and the “Zion Curtain” (more about that later) are enough to scare any gentile off the path to Utah. A brief stint at Brigham Young University in 1988 changed my mind. I discovered then, that it’s a lot more fun to play, not pray, in Utah.
I’ve been visiting Utah for nearly 30 years. I have a routine. Fly into Salt Lake City, grab a rental car and head up the canyon to heavenly, Park City. A quick stop at the State Liquor Store for provisions (yes, all the fire water is state controlled) and the fun can begin. So, the Zion Curtain thing… Utah has long had weird liquor laws. For one, in restaurants, you’re not allowed to see the booze bottles or your drink being made. Restaurants must build partitions blocking the view. These rules are crumbling and the cocktail culture in Utah is changing. Drinks with dinner or out on the town are no problem.
Park City is Utah’s cultural crossroads. The mountains are its main draw. Once a sleepy silver mining town it has become one of the world’s greatest ski destinations boasting over 7000 acres for every conceivable winter pursuit. Accommodation choices abound for all tastes and budgets, with the mountain surfer types heading to Park City Mountain. Families with active kids love The Canyons and the tony set heads straight for Deer Valley to soak in the luxuries of the St. Regis and Montage hotels.
When the snow melts, the mountains become a playground for nature and adventure lovers. Hiking, mountain biking and trout fishing are popular pastimes, but the less outdoorsy are just as enthralled with shopping and dining on historic Main Street. Like to enjoy it all? Take the chair lift up the mountain in the morning and hike your way down. Magically the trails all seem to end at an open air, terrace cafe where your afternoon becomes an alpine la dolce vita complete with a charcuterie of handmade cheeses, meats, clover honey and huckleberry jam. Wash it all down with a locally made “Polygamy Porter” and you’ll feel perfectly sinful.
Don’t linger too long though, Utah has a lot more to offer. A visit to Salt Lake City offers cosmopolitan comforts. A busy, bustling downtown, it sets itself apart from other metros with a concentrated area of shopping, dining and historic attractions. The world’s largest dinosaur bone exhibit? Salt Lake City. It’s easy to navigate and one of the prettiest downtowns I’ve visited. In the winter, Temple Square is home to a million Christmas lights and in the summer, it’s an urban garden with endless flowers in bloom.
Utah is a big state and it holds a lot of other big attractions. Down in southern Utah you can visit the “Mighty Five”, Arches, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Bryce and Zion National Parks. The National Park experience is enhanced by the rich cultures of the Navajo and Ute tribes. In Canyonlands, you can view 9000-year-old cave artwork.
Utah is known as the Beehive State. Everyone is as busy as bees. After the work week is done, seemingly every Utahan heads out for adventure. They take campers into the wild. They weekend in Park City. They raft, bike, hike, fish, zip-line, spelunk, shop, eat green Jell-O, hunt for more wives and sneak around the Zion Curtain. Whether you are a fan of the great outdoors or more of a café-culture aficionado, in a state with so much to see and experience, when you visit Utah you’ll be buzzing around too.
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