Situated in a land of immense natural beauty, the state of Utah is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Being home to no less than five national parks, four national monuments, and an assortment of mountain resorts that gets coated with some of finest snow in the Western United States.
Cultural travelers will have their hands full with this destination as well, as the center of the Mormon Church can be found here. Heading west in search of a place to practice their relatively new religion without persecution from the establishment, the descendents of many who now call this region home were so struck by the beauty of it that they decided to stop their migration in this spot.
No matter which aspect of Utah interests you more, one thing is certain – your time will be well spent irrespective of what you choose to focus on while you are here.
What To Do – Culture & History
Start your tour of Utah in the state of capital of Utah, Salt Lake City, where the heart of the Mormon religion can be found. Temple Square is the focal point for artifacts surrounding the Church of Latter Day Saints, with the Salt Lake Temple being the dominant centerpiece.
While non-Mormons and Mormons without an invite are forbidden to enter, the massive edifice of this structure draws photographers like moths flock to a flame. While you might be bummed that you won’t be able to stroll inside the Temple, the Church History Museum across the street does a great job of explaining the church’s history to those with an insatiable desire to learn more about the back history of the intriguing religion of Mormonism, so be sure to check it out.
Another Mormon-related attraction that you shouldn’t miss in the Temple Square area is the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Unlike the Temple, this highly valued meeting hall can be freely visited by Mormons and non-believers alike.
Those that are lucky enough to hear the pipe organ or a choir here should take the opportunity to do so, as the acoustics here ranks among the best in the world (a pin drop on the central altar here can be heard from the furthest reaches of this building.
Before any of the infrastructure related to the LDS church was built, this area was once a wild place, sprasely inhabited by Native Americans. This all began to change the second Brigham Young sighted this valley, a beautiful sight to behold after months of travel over windswept plains and arid scrubland.
While the natural beauty and potential of this valley sitting before the Wasatch Mountains played a role in the decision to stop the caravan that had be on the move after being expelled from Illinois, the fact Young had an alleged vision in a dream that advised him to stop in a place matching that description sealed it.
This Is the Place Heritage Park commemorates the spot from which he first saw the valley, where a monument pays tribute to the original settlers that first populated this area here, while a historical village allows visitors to see how life was for these people in the opening years of civilization in the Salt Lake valley.
While the history of the Church of Latter Day Saints makes up a significant portion of the cultural attractions found in this state, the naturally beautiful surroundings have brought in in many creative types over the years, many of whom were seeking relief from high prices in California. These folks had ties within the movie industry, leading to the establishment of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City.
Started by associates of Hollywood star Robert Redford, the intention was to stoke the development of the film industry here. It focuses on independent American film, so if you’re looking to indulge your love of movies along with your desire to explore the outdoors, plan your trip during January and get in some quality movies after some quality runs out on the slopes.
What To Do – Modern & Natural Attractions
If you love wandering around the wilderness during your holiday time, then hitting up any of Utah’s numerous national parks will supply you with non-stop excitement and inspiration.
Zion National Park has numerous desert canyons, from the sweeping beauty of Zion Canyon, to claustrophobic slot canyons that will thrill the adventurous, while Bryce Canyon National Park will stun cross-country skiers in the winter time, as the rusty rocks mix with the pure white bounty the falls during the colder months of the year, it will prove to be a memorable destination during your cross-country exploration of America.
Canyonlands National Park mixes mesa and butte formations like Island in the Sky with some of Utah’s best whitewater rafting on the Colorado and Green Rivers, and Arches National Park preserves some of the finest examples of natural sandstone arches and Native American petroglyphs anywhere in the United States.
Finally, Capitol Reef National Park is a long and narrow preserve that protects an 100 mile long series of canyons, buttes, and mesas that have long made this region difficult to traverse or access. This makes it a great place to go horseback riding, as you will find it hard to run into the crowds typically found at more popular destinations.
Those looking for some of the finest skiing and snowboarding in America will find it in Utah. While it doesn’t get the heavy snowfalls found in the Pacific Northwest, what’s left over from systems crossing the mountains of Western North America falls as fry dry snow often described as champagne powder.
Those looking for a glitzy, celebrity filled experience will enjoy a trip to Park City, while those tired of getting blindsided by snowboarders will love Alta, as only skiers are permitted here.Sundance is a great choice for families, while those looking to lose the crowds will have an easy time doing so at the aptly named Solitude Ski Resort.