Family Vacations in Utah
Utah will surprise even the most skeptical vacationer with its variety of fun activities, scenic landscapes and unique attractions. Long considered a paradise for adventure seekers, offering everything from whitewater rafting to skiing and snowboarding on some of the greatest snow on Earth, Utah also appeals to serious animal lovers and history buffs alike.
Utah’s historic national parks, tranquil lakes, and friendly cities are just a few of the things that keep families coming back year after year.
In the following article, you’ll find profiles of some of the state’s most popular parks and activities. Included is contact information to help you plan your trip as well as photos of each destination. Here’s a preview:
Visitors to this Park City attraction can test their mettle in some of the sports from the 2002 Olympics, including luge, bobsled and ski jumping. They can also watch Olympic hopefuls train for the next winter games.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the United States, houses about 1,500 dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, rabbits, birds, goats and other animals. Visitors are welcome year-round, and free, guided tours are offered daily.
Mormons constructed the imposing Salt Lake Temple at the center of Temple Square by carving granite blocks from the walls of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
The remnant of a prehistoric land-bound sea, this lake is so salty that no fish live in it. Still, the Great Salt Lake attracts visitors from around the country for swimming, boating and sunbathing on the beach.
A popular destination for people renting houseboats, Lake Powell is nestled among red rocks and spans both Arizona and Utah.
Monument Valley in Utah and Arizona is a Navajo Nation Tribal Park offering some of the most enduring images in the West. The valley’s striking formations have been photographed countless times for Hollywood Westerns, postcards and advertisements of all kinds.
In the next article, explore Utah’s Olympic Park.
Visitors to this Park City attraction can test their mettle in some of the Olympic sports the venue hosted in 2002, including luge, bobsled, and ski jumping. They can also watch Olympic hopefuls train for the next winter games. The park is also a favorite with freestyle aerialist skiers, who train in the summer by landing from their flips, twists, and jumps in a 750,000-gallon splash pool. The 389-acre facility includes Nordic jumps of six different lengths; a 1,335-meter track with five start areas for bobsled, luge and skeleton; freestyle aerials training areas; and a lodge, a ski museum, and an Olympic Winter Games Museum.
During the summer, kids ages 6 through 12 can participate in a day camp to learn ski jumping. Other camps are available for kids ages 8 through 14 who want to test their skills at ice hockey, speed skating, luge, bobsled, ski jumping, freestyle skiing, biathlon, curling, and skeleton. Every Saturday during the summer, the Flying Ace All-Stars skiers and snowboarders present a 25-minute show, soaring up to 60 feet in the air and performing acrobatic feats before landing in the splash pool.
In winter, intermediate skiers can take a half-day Nordic ski-jumping lesson. By the end of the session, visitors will be soaring off the ten-kilometer jump — quick learners can attempt an even longer one. Half-day slopeside ski-jumping lessons are also available for kids. There are luge and skeleton lessons for those 13 and older. Tours of the facility and the two museums are offered in summer and winter.
If you’re just visiting for the day, there’s still plenty to do. Try out the Quicksilver Alpine Slide, a state-of-the-art metal track that duplicates the narrow, twisting, downhill plummet of a bobsled run. Or you can ride on two different zip lines: The steel cables are set at the top of the 90- and 120-meter ski jumps, and a pulley system whisks riders down the steepest zip line track in the world. The lines run parallel to the ski jumping tracks — and your trip may even take you alongside a ski jumper soaring through the air.
Utah’s commitment to honoring the best is matched by its desire to do good. In the next article, you’ll find out about the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a unique place where animals are treated like gold.
Address: 3419 Olympic Pkwy
Park City, UT
Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., daily
Admission: $8 adults; $6 kids
The largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the United States, Best Friends is located in Kanab, Utah, at the heart of the famous Golden Circle of national parks: Zion, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Lake Powell. It houses about 1,500 dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, rabbits, birds, goats, and other animals. Each animal is named, fed, and housed in clean and comfortable surroundings, and a lucky 75 percent of them are adopted into happy homes.
Visitors are welcome year-round, and free, guided tours are offered daily. After the tour, visitors can volunteer to help out with the canine residents of Dogtown or play with the felines in Cat World. There are pigs aplenty and an abundance of bunnies just waiting to be petted.
Guests who want to spend the night can reserve a cottage overlooking the horse pastures, and they are encouraged to take a dog home for a sleepover in their cabins. It’s a good way for the sanctuary to determine the dog’s socialization skills, and many visitors fall in love with their animal guests and make arrangements to adopt them.
The next article explores a different kind of sanctuary — Utah’s Temple Square is a beacon of peace and beauty. Continue to the next page to find out more.
Address: 5001 Angel Canyon Rd
Work on the Salt Lake Temple began in 1853, six years after Brigham Young led thousands of Mormons to the Great Salt Lake to escape persecution in Nauvoo, Illinois. During the next four decades, workers painstakingly carved granite blocks from the walls of Little Cottonwood Canyon — now the home of two renowned ski resorts — about 20 miles southeast of Temple Square.
Weighing in excess of a ton and sometimes as much as 5,600 pounds, each block was transported by ox-drawn wagon or railroad to the construction site. Master stonecutters then fit the blocks perfectly into place, without the aid of mortar.
Brigham Young did not live to see the Temple’s completion in 1893. But he certainly would have approved of the majestic building, capped with six towering spires, which he directed to be built to last an eternity.
Temple Square’s beauty is matched by the serenity of the Great Salt Lake. Continue to the next page to learn how to plan a visit.
Address: 50 W. North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT
Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., daily
Continue to the next page to read about the Great Salt Lake.
Utah’s Great Salt Lake is the largest lake in the United States west of the Mississippi. It covers about 1,700 square miles in the shadows of the grand Wasatch Range. The lake is a remnant of a prehistoric inland sea called Lake Bonneville that was at one time ten times as big as it is now. The water of the Great Salt Lake is much saltier than the ocean. Because of the high salinity, the lake supports no fish, but provides habitat for brine shrimp, brine flies, and flocks of migratory birds.
Early European explorers believed that the lake was the tip of a Pacific fjord or fed by a river from the ocean. Today people boat and swim in its waters and sunbathe on white sand beaches. If you’re planning to boat, nonmotorized crafts such as kayaks or sailboats are a better choice — the salty water is corrosive to metal.
There are also trails for hiking and mountain biking on Antelope Island, a Utah State Park, as well as other stretches of shoreline. A luminescent sunset over the Great Salt Lake, clouds and sky streaked with vivid hues of orange and red, is unforgettable.
Visitors to the Great Salt Lake will also want to see Utah’s Lake Powell. Continue to the next article to find out how to plan a trip to Lake Powell.
Address: Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau
90 S. West Temple
Salt Lake City, UT
Continue to the next page to read about Utah’s Lake Powell.
Beyond the Glen Canyon Dam, the Colorado River widens into Lake Powell. The lake stretches from Lee’s Ferry in Arizona to Utah’s Orange Cliffs. There are two sides to the story of the reservoir — it has been beloved by some and reviled by others.
Lake Powell is a mecca for outdoors buffs of every stripe, from anglers and boaters to hikers and mountain bikers. The spectacular 187-mile body of water is vast and nestled in the blissful surroundings of red rock. Many vacationers spend their entire trip on the water itself in a rented houseboat.
Lake Powell’s shoreline stretches nearly 2,000 miles, which is longer than that of the entire Pacific Coast of the United States. The construction of Glen Canyon Dam in the 1950s and 1960s remains controversial to this day. Many people opposed building the dam and the submersion of Glen Canyon. After it was built, the dam became a rallying point for environmentalists, who in recent years have called for draining Lake Powell and restoring Glen Canyon.
Utah’s wilderness is awe-inspiring at times, and visitors shouldn’t miss an opportunity to visit Monument Valley. Continue to the next page to make a plan to visit Monument Valley.
Lake Powell Information
Address: Bullfrog Visitor Center
off UT-Hwy. 276
Hours of Operation: Dawn – Dusk
Admission: $15 per vehicle or $7 per person
Mythic-looking monoliths of red sandstone loom over the sandy desert floor of Monument Valley in Utah and Arizona. Monument Valley is a Navajo Nation Tribal Park. It offers some of the most enduring images in the West. The valley’s striking formations have been photographed countless times for Hollywood Westerns, postcards, and advertisements of all kinds — for good reason. Little has changed since John Ford directed John Wayne here in Stagecoach in 1939.
Many of the formations in Monument Valley (known as Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii in Navajo, or “Valley of the Rocks”) straddle the Utah-Arizona border. They were pushed through Earth’s surface by geological upheaval, then carved by wind and rivers. The rock is stratified in three principal layers, with siltstone atop sandstone atop shale. Among the most recognizable formations in Monument Valley are the 300-foot-tall, precariously narrow Totem Pole; the arch known as Ear of the Wind; and the East Mitten and West Mitten buttes.
Address: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Visitor Center at Arizona-Utah border
E. off Hwy. 163, Monument Valley, UT
Admission: $5 adults; kids free
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Family Vacations in Utah
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