Utah has more flavors of soda than there are native Utahns who haven’t taken a weekend getaway to St. George (the birthplace of “dirty” sodas!). It’s just too good to miss. It’s warm when the rest of the state is cold, it’s the backdrop to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it’s the perfect basecamp for a dozen kinds of outdoor daytrips — most of them family-friendly.
It’s the kind of place that was built for a 2-day itinerary. If you’re local, you can pop down often and check a few things off each time. If you’re passing through on the way to somewhere else, carve out an extra day or two and prepare to be surprised. Either way, try out this agenda and take in as much as you can of Utah’s red rock oasis.
To whet your appetite, take the family about 20 minutes outside St. George to check out Glitter Mountain. Named — not inaccurately — by someone’s seven-year-old daughter probably, Glitter Mountain is an abandoned Gypsum mine where you and your family are free to explore caves, watch the sunlight dance across the rock face and dig for actual crystals. You can drive right up to it, so no hiking required, but make sure you leave hungry, because lunch is up next.
After your glittery getaway, stop at any grocery store on your way back or in St. George to get what you need for a picnic lunch and take off for Pioneer Park. Once there your eyes can feast on views of the city while your mouth feasts on coldcut samwidges and carrot sticks. It’s officially a natural playground — think sandstone scrambling rather than monkey bars — so the kids can climb, hike and play like a bunch of happy cave people. You’re all set with pavilions, picnic areas and restrooms all nearby.
After lunch, take the family to cool off inside at the Children’s Museum. If you take the proprietors at their word, your kids will be discovering, imagining and creating in no time. Get lost with them in any one of the museum’s 10 immersive experiences designed to engage the inner scientist of young and old alike. Admission by donation only.
You’ve got two options. Well, two that we’re listing here anyway.
Camp at Sand Hollow State Park. You can reserve a campsite in advance. Get there early to enjoy boating, biking and/or OHV riding right at the park. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.
Sand Hollow State Park
Grab dinner at Larsen’s Frostop Drive-In for burgers and ice cream, and then grab a hotel nearby. Red Mountain Resort if you want something luxe.
Time to play in the hot, beautiful Snow. The gorgeous Snow Canyon State Park would probably be considered a national park if it were in any other state. But we’re already up to our eyeballs in state parks, which works to your advantage as it keeps the crowds down. Take your pick between petroglyph hikes, mini slot canyons and petrified dunes. Here’s a guide to family-friendly hikes.
Snow Canyon State Park
Grab a quick lunch in town or have another picnic on the edge of a cliff at Snow Canyon or Ivins Reservoir. Depending on which afternoon activity you choose, which brings us to our next section.
For more outside fun and a chance to cool off, head out to Ivins Reservoir to do a little splashing. It’s a newly designated reservoir about 15 minutes outside of St. George where you can swim, paddle board or kayak. Or do all three. See if we care.
If you’re ready to head inside and/or need to throw a bone to the Jurassic Park fans in the family, the Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson’s Farm has a lot to offer. There’s a children’s area, dinosaur replicas, and restorations. Hold on to your butts, kids.
If you think everyone has it in them, take the gang up to Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and do the Red Cliffs Nature Trail. It’s short, easy (2 miles out and back) and is packed with beauty and charm —and a little waterfall — along the way. And that’s it. Then you go home. With a few ideas for next time…
Red Cliffs Nature Trail