Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Have You Ever Wanted to Pet a Zebra?

When I was younger, traveling with my family along I-15 between Provo and St. George, was torture.  Small towns were merely passing blurs on our way to St. George, Las Vegas, and Disneyland.  We might occasionally have stopped in Nephi to grab some lunch and top off the gas tank before heading back out on the road.  But after that, it was hours of boredom.

Yet, if you know where to go, there are some interesting stops to make along the way.  It's these stops along the way that make adventures about more than just the destination.  And more fun.

Whether you're traveling north or south on I-15, you should make a stop in Scipio (about an hour south of Provo and an hour north of Beaver), at the Flying J Travel Center where there is a unique petting zoo.

This free petting zoo has the typical petting zoo type animals- goats, sheep, chickens and rabbits.  The kids will have fun with these friendly farm animals who have mostly gotten used to being touched, hugged, and fed by excited children.

But, a petting zoo with just your normal farm animals wouldn't be enough to get most people to pull over at what has been for years a stop for semi-trucks.

There are also zebras, ostriches, alpacas, miniature horses, and more.  The more exotic animals are kept behind fences, unlike the smaller animals that are allowed to roam around the enclosures with the visitors.  Yet, they will come right over when tempted with some hay or food pellets (purchased for a quarter at machines around the corrals.

Watch your fingers and hands though.  The zebras are mostly friendly, but will occasionally take a nip at you.  And the ostrich can get a little aggressive, swinging its large head and pecking a at unsuspecting people.

When you're done at the zoo, walk across the street to the Flying J to the clean, but busy, Burger King and pick up a soft serve ice cream cone to enjoy while you continue on down the road to the next part of your adventures.

Going north or south on I-15, take Exit 188 at Scipio and go to the west side of the freeway to the Flying J Travel Center.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day- The Official, Unofficial Start of Summer

It's Memorial Day.

Swimming pools are opening.  Grills are sizzling.  The kids are nearly out of school.

And the call of summer can almost be heard already, "I'm sooooo bored!"

At Things To Do, Utah, we're here to help you find interesting places to go and fun activities throughout Utah that won't break the bank.

To kick off Summer 2014, here are 10 of our favorite places to go, in no particular order:

  1. Wild West Jordan Playground.  West Jordan, Utah- This playground, themed around an 1880's Utah main street, has climbing walls, a multi-story playhouse made to look like the old Saltair, and of course, plenty of playground equipment.  Part of the expansive West Jordan City Park, the playground is a great place to spend a warm summer afternoon.
  2. Hogle Zoo.  Salt Lake City, Utah- Hogle Zoo has been undergoing a major transformation over the last few years.  Asian Highlands, Rocky Shores, and Elephant Encounters are being joined this year by African Savanna, complete with 4 new lions.
  3. Hill Aerospace Museum.  Hill Air Force Base, (near Roy) Utah- The history of aviation and the U.S. Air Force unfolds in massive fashion at this high flying museum.  From World War I to the Cold War and today's military fighter jets, this museum is just plain cool.  Don't miss the SR-71 Blackbird, a huge and amazing looking plane that set speed flight records before being retired.
  4. Antelope Island.  Accessible by causeway, west of Layton, Utah- This, the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, has a museum about the wildlife on the island, the Garr-Fielding Ranch, a sandy beach, and plenty of hiking trails.
  5. Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum.  BYU, Provo Utah- Reopening on June 7, this life sciences museum was already a fascinating place to spend an afternoon.  New, improved and expanded, it should prove to be even more fun.  Head to their website for information on Family Nights and live animal shows.
  6. Springville Museum of Art.  Springville, Utah- This gem of an art museum is one that a lot of people who've lived in Utah all their lives either don't know about or have never visited.  Take a day and explore this museum, housed in a building in Spanish Moroccan style architecture.  Don't forget the sculpture gardens.
  7. USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum.  Price, Utah- This great museum splits its exhibits between paleontology and anthropology.  See a great collection of dinosaur bones, dinosaur eggs, and dinosaur footprints.  Take a picture with Utah's very own, Utahraptor.  Then, move over to the other side of the museum and learn about the people that first inhabited Utah.
  8. Bridal Veil Falls.  Provo Canyon, Utah- Bridal Veil Falls is a beautiful, double horsetail cascade that tumbles from 600 feet from the canyon bottom.  At the base of the falls is a small wading pool, shady picnic areas, and paved walking/biking trails that run down the canyon.
  9. Novell Children's Discovery Park.  Pleasant Grove, Utah- This is a playground that's been built around teaching kids science while playing.  Check out the different zones and explore music, dinosaurs, sound, and light.  When you're tired, sit down and play chess at one of the nearby tables.
  10. We're leaving this to YOU to tell us where in Utah is your favorite place to go.  Just leave a comment below and we'll share it with all our readers.
Don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, where we post fun weekly events and other things to do.  And be sure to watch for some special things coming this summer that will help you find even more things to do.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Trails, Rails and Rockets

There is a fantastic drive thats cut a loop through northern Utah, and in the process, takes you from the 19th century to the 21st, from high desert to wetlands, and give you a nice resting spot for lunch in between.
Head out in the morning, especially in the summertime for a cooler drive, and go to the Golden Spike National Historic Site (take I-15 to just north of Brigham City and get off on Promontory Road, or Highway 13 and head west).  This landmark is the spot where the transcontintental railroad linked the United States from east to west for the first time.  You can watch a movie about the building of the railroad, walk out to the spot where the Golden Spike was driven, see a replica of the spike in the museum, and watch rebuilt locomotives like the ones that met there run up and down the track.  You can even drive along the original railroad grades, listening to a program about the railroad on your radio.

When you've got your fill of railroads, head back to Highway 83, but instead of turning right and heading back to the interstate, hang a left and head north towards ATK Thiokol.  This is the company that built the booster rockets for the Space Shuttles and is working on rockets for the next generation of spaceflight.  In front of their main offices, right off the highway is the Thiokol Rocket Garden.  This outdoor museum is a collection of rockets used on missiles, right up to the Space Shuttles.  It is a self-guided tour with plaques at each rocket explaining what the rocket is for.  If you want to get a feel for how big the shuttle boosters were, there is a hollow segment of the rocket that makes a great photo op- especially with the kids standing inside.  Warning: bring mosquito repellant.

Next, follow Highway 83 north again, until it meets with Highway 102 (Faust Valley Road).  Highway 102 loops around to the east, heading you back towards I-15.  But, keep an eye out to the north side of the road for Marble Park, just to the east of the Valley View Cemetery.  This privately owned park, open to the public, is a fascinating use of old farm implements.  Swings, teeter-toters and other jungle gym type toys await.  A creek runs through the middle of the park and a bowery, made of old railroad ties from the Great Salk Lake railroad causeway, make a great place to sit down, relax and have lunch.  Be sure to see the timeline of history, from pioneer days to the space age, again made out of farm implements and scrap metal.

When you're ready to jump back in the car, head east again on Highway 102 until you reach I-15.  From here, head south until you get to the Forest Street exit.  Get of the interstate, turning west and drive about a half mile until you read the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  Here you will find a great education center that teaches you about the birds that pass through the refuge on their migratory flights or those that make the marshes their home.  You can follow a paved trail through the marshes looking for many of the bird species you learn about in the education center.  If you'd like a guided tour, they are given every Friday and Saturday at 9 am and 1 pm.

When you're done spotting birds, head east on Forest Road to go right into Brigham City for a refill on drinks or some food at some great old diners.  If you have time, you might even visit a museum or two in Brigham City, such as the Brigham City Museum or the Brigham City Depot.

All these stops, not including food or gas, will only cost you the entrance fee to the Golden Spike National Historic Site, which at this time (2012) is just $7.00 per vehicle ($5.00 per vehicle in the winter).  It's a day-long trip that will keep the kids occupied and won't break the bank.
View Northern Utah Loop in a larger map

Friday, June 1, 2012

In Utah, June Is A Month For Festivals

It's June.  School is out.  Kids are excited (parents, maybe not so much).  The heat of the summer has yet to set in.  And all around Utah, cities and towns are holding celebrations and festivals.  It's really amazing how many different events take place in Utah in June.  Below, I've created a list of festivals going on this month.  I'm sure these aren't all of them, but they are fun, and most have free admission, though some specific events might have small costs.  I've included links to festival websites where available.  I'll also be writing about some of these in the coming weeks..

June 2, 2012- Utah Lake Festival, Utah Lake Marina

  • Celebrate Utah Lake with free food (hot dogs and popcorn), crafts for kids, boat rides, sailboat regatta, and hay rides.  Since it is also free fishing day in the state (no licenses required on June 2), there will be instructions on fishing with local experts, as well a free use of fishing poles and bait to try your hand at fishing in Utah Lake.  The fun starts at 10 a.m. and goes until 2 p.m.

 June 2-9, 2012- Springville Art City Days, Springville
  •   This week long festival celebrating the place that art plays in Springville has a little something for everyone.  Most are free to the public.  Parades, fireworks, hot air balloon festival, talent shows, hot dog eating contests, and of course art festivals.  Check the website for a day by day, detailed schedule of events.  Don't miss this event voted two years in a row as "Best of Utah County."
 June 6-9, 2012- Saratoga Splash, Saratoga Springs
  •   Head down to Saratoga Springs to have enjoy this celebration that includes water fights (with the fire department using fire hoses), dances, monster truck rides (small fee), a pie eating contest, talent competition, and a free concert with Moosebutter.
June 8-9, 2012- Scottish Days & Highland Games, Lehi
  •   This festival is held at Thanksgiving Point, just off I-15 in Lehi.  Admission to this event is $15, but kids 11 years old and under is free.  There are all sorts of events based on Scottish culture including athletic events, piping and drumming, and things for the kids.
June 8-9, 2012- Orem Summerfest, Orem
  •   Held at Orem City Center Park, Summerfest includes an art festival, carnival rides, parades and fireworks.  And don't miss the car show and a chance to see the Air Med helicopter up close.  The Rotary Club will be serving breakfast on June 9th at 8 a.m. for $2/person or $10/family.
June 15-16, 2012- Chalk Art Festival, Gateway, SLC
  •   Come to The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake to see some amazing chalk art drawing by both children and adults.  There are some truly incredible artists and you will be blown away.
June 16-23, 2012- Cedar Hills Family Festival, Cedar Hills
  •   This is a family oriented festival in Cedar Hills that includes a movie in the park one evening and a concert in the park the next evening.  There is also a parade, children's games and buried treasure, and capping it all off, fireworks!  There are ticket purchases required for some events, such as for the Swim Night and Dinner at the Park.
June 17-23, 2012- Strawberry Days & Rodeo, Pleasant Grove
  •   In Pleasant Grove there will be concerts in the park, free family swim, a carnival (costs extra), tours of the Pioneer Museum, a "mammoth" parade, fireworks and more.  This is also the venue for the PRCA Strawberry Days Rodeo (tickets required).
June 21-24, 2012- Westfest, West Valley City
  •   Celebrating West Valley City's diversity, Westfest features a parade, multicultural entertainment,  a reptile show, the National Guard climbing wall, a West Valley Police K-9 demonstration, concerts and fireworks!  Held at Centennial Park, this a fun festival that grows each year.
 June 23-30, 2012- Lehi Round-up Celebration, Lehi
  •   Movies nights in the park, a real live cattle drive down Main Street with Longhorns, Cowboy Poetry ($5 tickets), 1/2 price swim day, arts in the park, parades (yes, two of them), and a dirt dance at the rodeo grounds.
June 28-30, 2012- Taylorsville Dayzz, Taylorsville
  •   I'll admit, since Taylorsville is my hometown, I'm a bit biased towards this festival, but I'm amazed at how it's grown and gotten bigger and better every year.  The Utah Symphony will be performing a patriotic concert on Thursday, June 28th and finish it off by playing the 1812 Overture, complete with cannons being fired by the Wasatch Cannoneers.  On Friday, June 29th, the Surf City Allstars will be performing with great summertime music.  On Saturday, June 30th, Jay White, a Neil Diamond impersonator will be making his third appearance at Taylorville Dayzz.  The last time he performed, nearly 30,000 people were in the park to listen.  Those people also came to see Saturday night's fireworks show.  It is synced to music and has become one of the best free firework shows in the state.  Don't forget the Saturday morning parade, the car show and burnout competition, the petting zoo, and the carnival (tickets cost extra for the rides and petting zoo).
There you have it.  Some GREAT festivals around the state, mostly free or with lost cost events as part of the festival.  Like I said, I know this isn't all of them.  If I haven't mentioned one that you really like or you think others should be aware of, let us know in the comment boards.  I'll do my best to get it added to the list.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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