Summer vacations are an American tradition, but all roads don’t have to lead to Disneyland. Why not pack up the family and head to the wonders and wilds of Utah? From big city attractions in the state’s capitol to some of the most amazing national parks in the country, Utah has a little something for everyone. To make sure you don’t miss a thing, here are some top experiences to keep in mind when you’re booking a trip to Utah.
Whether your brood goes for biking, hiking, horseback riding or four-wheeling, Utah’s oldest national park will deliver. Take your pick of touring options and experience the spectacular beauty of Zion’s sandstone cliffs, red canyons and towering monoliths.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is known for its combination of forest and hoodoos – strangely shaped limestone formations that have been formed by years of frost-wedging, rain and wind. It’s well worth it to time your visit during a full moon and take advantage of the ranger-led moonlit hikes.
One of the longest slides in the world, the Alpine Slide at Park City Mountain Resort, is fun for the whole family – at least those who are over the age of two. There are four tracks to choose from, so you can glide down 3,000 feet of Rocky Mountain splendor again and again and have a new experience every time.
Heber Valley Railroad
Known by locals as the “Heber Creeper,” the Heber Valley Railroad gives your family a chance to see scenic Provo Canyon, Deer Creek Reservoir and the vast Heber Valley through the windows of a 1907 steam locomotive. The Railroad offers several different experiences including whimsical “Polar Express” rides during the winter holidays.
The brilliant turquoise water is just one reason to visit this northern Utah attraction. In addition to water and jet skiing, there are plenty of nearby places to hike and fish. And if you time it right, you can enjoy their Raspberry Days festival and no trip to Bear Lake is complete without one of their famous raspberry shakes.
Downtown Salt Lake City’s children’s museum is a great chance to get a break from the sun and let your kids go wild exploring the museum’s 60,000 square feet of educational, interactive, hands-on fun. Whether your little ones want to play in the grocery store or take a seat in the helicopter on the upstairs landing, they’ll definitely get tuckered out enough to make a bite out at one of SLC’s downtown restaurants a peaceful dining experience.
Why not rent a houseboat at gorgeous Lake Powell? You don’t need to be a pirate captain to feel like you own the waters along Lake Powell’s nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline. Try out wakeboarding during the bright days and then cozy up to a campfire with the makings for some gooey s’mores once the stars come out.
The planetarium boasts the first “pitless” digital dome planetarium in the U.S., which will take your family on a 3-D journey through the universe – and you don’t even need glasses. The planetarium also features an IMAX theater that plays a variety of educational and amazing films like Disney’s “Oceans.”
Lagoon Amusement Park
This amusement park, which has been in operation since 1896 is a family favorite not only in Utah, but surrounding states as well. Lagoon features one of the few wooden roller coasters still in operation in the U.S. as well as brand-new coasters offering tons of thrills and chills. The park has plenty of restaurants, picnic areas and even has a “Pioneer Village” where you can see a Wild West shootout and get an old timey pic of the family dressed in western garb.
Dinosaur National Monument
Forget Jurassic Park, Utah has its own dinosaurs to show off. With more than 1,600 exposed bones from 11 different dinosaur species, The Quarry is wonder that will amaze the whole family. Nearby is Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area where you can take advantage of river rafting, camping, nature hikes and explore preserved homesteads and cave petroglyphs.
Where are you most excited to visit on your trip to Utah?
When he isn’t creating travel content for US Dish, Andy is traveling the outdoors of Utah.