Check off every category as you discover the best of the Beehive state.
By Kathleen Clove
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, theater buff, sports fan, music aficionado or history hound, there’s something for you to do in Utah. In fact, you may as well embrace a little of everything while you’re here. We call it the Utah Bucket List Challenge. We tell you about a dozen of the best things to do and see, you become the envy of all your friends when you fill your social media with Utah adventures. Ready, set, go!
We’d suggest just one Utah national park, but that’s like naming your favorite child. Sure you could, but then you’d be leaving someone just as spectacular out — not to mention a few hurt feelings. So we’ll just say, there are plenty of parks to place your hiking boots around here. And they all deserve your utmost attention.
Then there are the national monuments, as far as you want to drive — or walk, or bike, or climb.
Grand Staircase-Escalante: Long name, never short on scenery
Bears Ears: Just a cub in monument years
Cedar Breaks: A mini Bryce, just as nice
Rainbow Bridge: Pure gold, it’s the tallest natural bridge in the world
Jurassic: Fossils, fossils, fossils
Hovenweep: It takes an ancient village
Timpanogos Cave: Stalagmites and stalactites, but no satellites
Dinosaur: Give me a home, where the dinos did roam
Utah doesn’t fool around when it comes to ancient landscapes. Take in a couple per year and it’ll still take you a few to see it all. Better get a head start on your #UtahBucketListChallenge.
Of course, we can’t forget the state parks. In fact, we have more Utah state parks than anywhere in the world, wink wink. And while they may be local, they are anything but ordinary. If you don’t have enough vacation weeks to explore them all — we have more than 40 — there are a few musts for your Utah Bucket List Challenge.
Antelope Island: Bison, antelope and wild horses
Bear Lake: An oasis of turquoise blue water in the desert
Snow Canyon: Go biking, hiking, rock climbing or spelunking
Goblin Valley: Looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. Oh wait, it is.
Kodachrome Basin: Utah was able to keep one of its red rock wonders all to itself
Goosenecks: See the San Juan River twist and turn from a bird’s eye view
Escalante Petrified Forest: Hike through a petrified forest, then swim or kayak the clear waters of Wide Hollow Reservoir
Sure, you’ve heard of the Bonneville Salt Flats, but have you actually been there? Countless music video producers and wedding engagement photographers make their way out to the pristine field of white for the ultimate blank slate of a background. Speed daredevils head out each fall to see who can drive their homemade vehicles the absolute fastest. It’s definitely a place you need to add to your Utah adventures.
While you’re there, film your own short. Or run really fast. Or just take a walk around the most satisfyingly crunchy ground you’ve ever experienced.
Explore Utah’s cultural side with some top notch entertainment. Just two years after the pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young organized a drama association, hoping the arts would flourish in this desert. Two years after that, he opened the first theater here. Yeah, the arts are a pretty big deal in these parts.
Today the Eccles Theater, in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, hosts touring Broadway shows, theatrical concerts, dance productions and comedy shows. Every seat is a good one.
Utah also has a thing with outdoor theater. Try Tuacahn Center for the Arts, just outside of St. George, where the stage is set in the mouth of a canyon. Hard to beat those kinds of acoustics.
The Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival, in Cedar City, goes old school — really old school — with performances in a replica of London’s Globe Theatre. Visit the hall of actors past and take a pic (with a pic) of Phil Dunphy, aka Ty Burrell. Who would be more thrilled to be part of your #UtahBucketListChallenge?
Want something a little less highbrow? Take in a rollicking, family-friendly show at Bear Lake’s Pickleville Playhouse. Melodramas and musicals and mayhem, oh my!
Salt Lake also loves visual art — large visual art. Take a stroll through downtown to see several murals dotting wall canvases. They’re big, they’re bold and they’re pretty amazing.
Where else can you listen to a world-class, Grammy and Emmy Award winning choir for free? Seriously, Utah knows how to do the arts. On Sundays, attend a live broadcast of The Tabernacle Choir at the Conference Center or nearby Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. No tickets required, but you must be seated by 9:15 a.m.
If you can’t make it then, attend a rehearsal, held Thursday nights from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Tabernacle. Certainly less formal, but no less dulcet. Bonus Utah adventure points for taking a tour of Temple Square while you’re there.
Want to look at a hole in the ground? No, really! The Kennecott Copper Mine is so wide and deep, you can literally see it from space. But you can also see it just by heading out to the mine and taking the visitor’s experience. You’ll learn how it got so darn big, and why. Bring along a brand new penny to co-star in your Insta pic.
You know when something comes together, seemingly wrapped up with a tidy bow? That’s Four Corners. Four states perfectly align in a neat meet, worthy of your most obsessive compulsive pal. A medallion marks THE spot where you can literally be in two places at once (maybe four if you’re good at Twister). Pick up a souvenir from the visitor center or a local vendor to prove your mad traveling skills. Utah Bucket List Challenge accepted.
Utahns know how to make some noise. For ear-splitting fun, take in an NBA basketball game at the Delta Center, starring the Utah Jazz. Slide on over to the Maverick Center to watch the ECHL Utah Grizzlies slap the ice … and their opponents. Bring it home with the Salt Lake Bees, the minor league baseball team.
Our most recent addition, Real Salt Lake, brought Major League Soccer to a state that loves it some fancy footwork. Just ask the 1 million (or so) kids who play it in the suburbs every year. See a game at America First Field, log it with #UtahBucketListChallenge. Running pose is optional.
Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway. Highway 12 Scenic Byway, that is. Named an All American Road and a National Scenic Byway, it’s certainly worthy of the Utah Bucket List Challenge.
Highway 12 is 122 miles of remarkable terrain you’ll only find here, between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Stop and take pictures at an arch/tunnel along Red Canyon, of spires at Kodachrome Basin and with colorful cliffs at Grand Staircase.
While it’s remote, it’s anything but barbaric. Eat at Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm in Boulder for Utah’s highest Zagat-rated cuisine, open Thursday through Monday.
Who needs an ocean when you can scuba dive in a crater? Maybe you won’t see any sharks or clownfish, but the Utah Crater is still an impressive, 65-foot deep wonder. If you’re not into diving, go for a swim. Honestly, you can just float in the 95-degrees Fahrenheit mineral springs if you want. It’s open year-round, but reservations are required.
Where will your next Utah adventures take you? Load your backpack with hiking boots, opera glasses and a giant foam finger. It’s time to explore Utah and discover its finest treasures. Post your completed challenges on social media using #UtahBucketListChallenge and tag @Utahdotcom for a chance to be featured on our Instagram. We’ll see you there!