There are destinations that belong at the top of travel bucket lists and Utah’s National Parks certainly fit into that category. When those places have moved from bucket list to vacation itinerary, it is important to know how to make a stay in the area affordable and extend the exploration opportunities in the area. St. George, Utah, near Zions National Park, offers families an abundance of possibilities to keep the kids entertained while also going easy on the family vacation budget.
There is Ancient History…
- Warner Valley Dinosaur Tracks An easy ¼-mile hike over vibrant red rock. Nearly 400 dinosaur tracks have been recorded here, some quite distinct and others requiring a little bit of imagination.
- Little Black Mountain Petroglyphs 10 miles southeast of St. George, and in Arizona, but worth the extra drive to see 500 rock art designs etched into the rocks. A ½ mile trail takes you to overlook viewing areas.
- Anasazi Ridge Petroglyphs Follow directions to the Anasazi Trailhead and then begin a gradual ascent through the red sand desert. It is 1.2 miles to the petroglyphs and remains of a pioneer homestead. Explore further down the trail or turn around and enjoy the downhill walk back to the car.
…And Pioneer History.
- Brigham Young Winter Home Mormon Pioneers started settling the St. George valley in the mid-1860’s and the territorial governor called it home during the last years of his life. This home is restored and open for tours to get a taste of what pioneer life in the desert might have been like.
- St. George Tabernacle This building resembles the finest of New England chapels inside and out. Tours tell the history of its construction. Music recitals are scheduled regularly. Be sure to check out the clocktower and twin wooden spiral staircases.
- St. George Temple Grounds & Visitor Center The gleaming white St. George Temple was hand-quarried in the mid-1800’s from the red stone surrounding the city. While the temple is not open to the public, the gardens and visitor center offer a beautiful and quiet setting for wandering.
- McQuarrie Memorial Museum This pioneer museum celebrates the settlers who came to a barren land and “wouldn’t give up.” Many relics are available to view and museum volunteers have countless stories to retell.
- Historic Downtown Walking Tour Pick up a printed map at the chamber of commerce and then stroll through downtown observing the mix of 1800’s-era buildings with today’s modern homes and businesses.
- Ghost Towns Traveling outside of St. George, two ghost towns still hold the secrets of pioneer and mining days. In Silver Reef view the old Wells Fargo Bank Building and other stone foundation remains. Grafton, near Zions National Park, still boasts a schoolhouse and cemetery. Watch for scenes you may remember from your favorite old western movies.
There is Outdoor Recreation…
- Pioneer Park This city park is unlike any you have ever seen. 52 acres provide the opportunity for families to do anything they can dream. Areas for picnics and playing, hiking and rock climbing, exploring slot canyons and caves, or having a bbq.
- Hiking and Mountain Biking With sunshine year-round, St. George is a city for outdoor enthusiasts. The city recommends nearly 50 trails in town and the surrounding areas for getting outdoors in whatever way your family likes. Choose maintained and paved paths or natural trails that wind through red rock canyons and over breathtaking terrain. There is a route for every skill level and passion.
…And Desert Scenery.
- Tonaquint Nature Center A cool retreat especially in the hot summer months. Follow the paved trail into a grove of trees and spend time watching for birds and other small wildlife near the pond. Educational Programs available throughout the month.
- Red Cliffs Desert Reserve & Visitor Center St. George is surrounded by the native habitat of the Mojave Desert Tortoise and this wildlife preserve is one of the areas which have been set aside as protected for their survival. Take time at the visitor center to view the live animal exhibits as well and learn about the natural history of this area. Then venture out into the desert to explore.
- Red Hills Desert Garden The focus of this garden is to education residents and visitors alike in the newest ways to plant water-wise landscaping. Follow a paved path over tunnels and through bridges from one display to the next. Kids love climbing around the rocks and watching for fossils while their parents get an idea or two for helping with water conservation.
Last But Not Least, Just For the Kids…
- Town Square Park & Carousel Located in the middle of the downtown historic district, this park includes grassy areas to run around, picnic areas, a splash park, and a disc golf course. Throughout the year watch for community events that might include movie nights and festivals. While the carousel is not free, at $1 for two rides, the rental car surely is hiding enough change for the family to go ‘round.
- Children’s Museum A fun place to get out of the summer heat and let the kids run around doing things that kids love to do. The museum is not-for-profit so suggests a $3 donation/person.
- Splash Pads In a city whose summer temperatures soar over 100 degrees, it is not hard to find a neighborhood water feature for the kids to play in. Bring the swimwear and let them splash around.
Whether using St. George as homebase for your Zion National Park vacation, or just traveling through, these free activities will make the family trip memories even better!