When you need a break from screens and meetings and the overall hustle and bustle that is modern life, where do you go? How about somewhere quiet, calm and lovingly preserved? We have just the ticket — historic Gardner Village in Utah.
Once upon a time, flour mills were the focal point of village life. When Archibald Gardner built a gristmill in the Salt Lake Valley in 1877, anybody who wanted their wheat ground to flour would travel great distances to Gardner Mill. The bustling city of West Jordan, Utah, has since sprung up around it, but the impressive mill and silo were preserved and turned into a hub of village activity once again. The mill is listed on the National Historic Register and is a Utah historic site.
With locally owned shops, restaurants serving the finest in comfort foods, an animal rescue and brick-lined paths, Gardner Village is like stepping into the golden days of yesteryear, but with contemporary sensibilities.
When’s the last time you stepped into a pioneer cabin to buy home goods? Odds are, this isn’t a regular occurrence. Gardner Village has captured that yesteryear charm (but with all the conveniences of today!). Rather than see Utah’s historic buildings demolished, the Gardner Village owners went to great lengths to have numerous structures relocated from towns throughout the state, including an old train depot and a miner’s cabin. The buildings were given some TLC and transformed into unique storefronts. They’ve even added plaques to the buildings to share the stories behind each unique location, turning this fun shopping destination into a memorable Utah history lesson. Step inside the ax-hewn log cabin, for example, and you’ll find an impressive assortment of yarn and knitting/crochet supplies, needle art classes and more. Each of the retail shops has something special to offer and discover!
You’ll be happy to know that bread is still baked at Gardner Village. Buy a fresh loaf or grab a sandwich at Happy Camper Deli and Bakery. If you want to sit down for lunch, try the famous fried green tomatoes and fish and chips from Archibald’s Restaurant, where you can dine in a historic flour mill and silo, which have been lovingly turned into an unforgettable restaurant. Have a date? Make a reservation at Mystique Dining or The Prestige: Parlour of Magic for a sumptuous meal and Vegas-quality magician headliners. Of course, you can’t leave without a treat from Chocolate Covered Wagon. They specialize in saltwater taffy made with salt from Utah’s Great Salt Lake and pulled using an antique machine dating back to the 1870s. Watching the sweet stuff stretch across this tried and true device is its own form of entertainment, proving some things never get old.
Besides being home to some of Utah’s top design and furniture shops, you also have access to interior design experts at Gardner Village. The friendly team at Layers Bedding has mastered the art of bed making and can turn your bedroom (and other areas of the home!) into a refreshing retreat. For home furnishings, the pros at Down to Earth and CF Home Furniture & Design can help you find the latest in décor trends. Truth be told, it can feel like an unexpected surprise to walk in these stores and find such modern amenities. After all, Down to Earth is in a building that looks like a large red barn, and CF Home Furniture & Design is actually part of the historic Gardner Mill. You can even check out some of the original mill gears and fixtures as you shop, which certainly adds to the memorable experience!
Gardner Village’s events are beloved by people all across Utah and beyond. The many unique seasonal celebrations have become anticipated annual traditions for families. Mark your calendar for woodland fairies in the spring, wacky witches in the fall and Santa’s hard-working elves in the winter.
The Woodland Fairy Festival at Gardner Village is a flight of fancy you don’t want to miss. Wing-adorned guests land in the springtime to enjoy the handcrafted fairy gardens, fairy parades and enchanting fairy sightings. The fairies are shy, but the odds of spotting one are good thanks to the free fairy quest. Visitors are encouraged to dress in their finest fairy fashions and really get into the wing of things.
Unlike the woodland fairies, the Gardner Village witches are far from shy. They can be found wreaking havoc throughout Gardner Village during the award-winning WitchFest. Displays of whimsical witches flying into windows, making potions and casting spells haunt every corner. The Halloween shenanigans begin in September and go throughout October, before the witches fly south for the winter.
The year ends with one more set of whimsical occupants — Santa’s elves. These busy visitors set up shop each holiday season to make toys, bake cookies and tend to the other North Pole necessities. Enjoy the free elf displays and get into the spirit of the season.
What is a historic village without farm animals? The Farm at Gardner Village is a non-profit animal rescue, located just west of Archibald’s Restaurant and the historic mill. Rescued horses, goats, sheep, chickens, alpacas and other animals happily live out their days, being cared for by loving farmhands and adored by visitors. Employees and volunteers are glad to share their knowledge of these animals and are even known to let guests help feed the animals. A modest entry fee goes toward supporting this non-profit outreach program. For a few extra dollars, kids can ride a darling Shetland pony on-lead throughout The Village for an even more adorable experience.
The Farm is open year round, but you’re more likely to encounter baby animals in the spring.
Who needs screens to have fun? Gardner Village is an unplugged place to spend quality time with family. Beyond the festivals and seasonal excitement, there is much for children of all ages to enjoy. For entertainment, test your problem-solving skills in one of the various escape rooms at A Great Escape, including a family-friendly option for younger guests, or hop on one of the many amusement ride options at The Train Shoppe, including a train that tours The Village. For shopping, such gems as Storybook Nook, the well-known locally owned children’s book and toy store, and Spoiled Rotten Children’s Boutique are local favorites.
Even though Gardner Village is ideal for families, it's okay to leave your kids at home. Trust us. Giving yourself the afternoon to wander the peaceful grounds of Gardner Village will do wonders for your spirit. Relax at Soulstice Day Spa & Salon for a mani/pedi, a massage or a facial. Feed your creative side with a class at The Art Cottage or a stop at Pine Needles quilt shop. Learn the craft of floral arranging with the pros at Simply Flowers. As if that isn’t sweet enough, Chocolate Covered Wagon offers chocolate dipping classes. There really is something for every interest.
Why escape on your own when Gardner Village is even better with a friend. Make it a girls’ night out or enjoy an afternoon together. Either way, the shopping, dining, entertainment or overall relaxed pace makes this an ideal place to connect.
Yes, Gardner Village really does offer something for everybody. Come as a family, make it a date night, spend some time on your own or meet up with friends. However you choose to plan your visit, you’ll be glad you did. Life seems to be a bit more relaxed at this scenic getaway that feels like it’s miles from the rush of everyday life. In reality, it’s conveniently located just minutes from I-15. Stop by and enjoy the slower pace and this refreshing reminder of what life used to be like.