Utah with Kids: An Insider’s Guide
Great kid-friendly things to do in Utah By Jay Kinghorn
Zion National Park (Flickr: Cyril Fluck)
Five must-see attractions for families in Utah:
Natural History Museum of Utah. The "trailhead" to Utah, it is a lively place for children to roam the elevated catwalk amongst the dinosaur skeletons, romp through a mock archeology dig or play in the dedicated kid's room complete with snakes, spider and other creepy-crawlies.
The Treehouse Children's museum in Ogden. The centerpiece of the museum is a giant tree with a spiral staircase inside that transports kids to the many rooms and interactive exhibits. Kids can take turns weighing baby dolls in a mini-maternity ward, flip burgers in a diner, make music in the percussion room or relax in a replica of a Mongolian Yurt.
Christmas Lights at Temple Square (Courtesy of Visit Utah)
Temple Square Christmas Lights. The grounds of Temple Square are illuminated with tens of thousands of Christmas lights, transforming the area into a colorful wonderland for children and adults.
Goblin Valley State Park. A shallow desert basin filled with orange hoodoos, sandstone sculptures rising off the valley floor, that are perfect for a game of hide and seek or an imaginary world for kids to explore. A great way to get kids out of the car and active without the structure of a full hike.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park (Flickr: Chris Dickey )
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Another outdoor playground for children and adults, a wheelchair-accessible overlook provides a great vantage to watch the sun set across the undulating dunes set amongst scattered small pines at the base of a high plateau. The dunes themselves are great for leaping, sliding, rolling and tumbling down. Great for photography and even better at creating memories, the park is a "must see" if you're in the area.
Lesser known attractions in Utah:
Din and Dang Slot Canyons. Not far from Goblin Valley State Park are found these two little slot canyons that make the perfect adventure for rambunctious children. The hike is rugged but does not require technical equipment, with lots of scrambling over obstacles between the narrow canyon walls.
Klondike Bluffs Mountain Bike Ride. Bring your mountain bikes or rent in Moab to tackle this magnificent introduction to Moab's legendary trails. The trail meanders through a wide wash before modestly climbing to a gate at the boundary of Arches National Park. Park your bike in the bike rack and take a short hike through the gate for a stunning view of Arches National Park with the La Sal mountains behind. Along the way, the trail traverses easy slickrock slabs housing dinosaur footprints. A fun, family outing for adventurous kids with solid bike skills.
Utah Olympic Park (Utah Athletic Foundation )
Utah Olympic Park. Rub shoulders with winter Olympians training for the upcoming games in South Korea and channel your own Olympic spirit to try the Comet Bobsled, Zipline, Alpine Slide or adventure course. In the summer months, a climbing wall is installed over the ski jumping pool allowing adults and older children to scale the 35-foot wall before plunging into the pool below. It is quite possibly the most unique way to stay cool in the summertime.
Karting Miller Motorsports Track. Bring out the competitive spirit in siblings as they challenge themselves and each other on the Miller Motorsports Park's Karting track. The course twists and turns with karts reaching 40 mph to provide a thrill for children at least eight years old and 51" tall.
The Narrows, Zion National Park. The Narrows hike is one of the signature hikes in Zion National Park and can be extended or shortened based on the needs of the group and children's energy levels. The hike begins at the head of the mighty Zion canyon and follows a paved footpath before heading upstream through the Virgin rivers. At times, the canyon narrows to 20-30 feet wide with 2,000 foot cliffs looming above. This unforgettable adventure requires all participants to have sturdy footwear that can get wet. The Virgin river is the trail and getting wet is a part of the process.
Best way to celebrate Christmas in Utah with kids:
Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort (Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort)
The lights on Temple Square, shopping at Gateway mall and quick access to the ski areas of Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude are an ideal combination for those wanting urban amenities and outdoor recreation. For more of a mountain-town experience, look to Park City, Heber or the Sundance resort to cozy up in a comfortable lodge or cabin while the snow falls outside.
Of course, one shouldn't forget southern Utah. Christmas provides an ideal time to experience Utah's Mighty Five national parks in solitude and winter splendor. In the sunshine, daytime hikes are delightful, though shaded areas can feel chilly and the gateway communities adjacent to the parks are quiet, often with mostly locals in the restaurants and cafes. The city of St. George is the warmest spot in the state and for someone looking to escape the snow, December temperatures are often in the mid-50s and drenched with sunshine. Golf courses stay open year-round and the city is very kid-friendly.