Saturday, May 3, 2008

Free Event of the Day- May 3, 2008

Jessica Day George, author of the popular children's fantasy books, Dragon Slippers and Dragon Flight, will read from and sign Dragon Flight this afternoon at the Barnes and Noble at Jordan Landing. The books are aimed at children from 9 to 12 years old, but even the older kids love this magical story. Take the opportunity to meet one of Utah's own great children's authors.

Place: Barnes & Noble at Jordan Landing
Location: 7157 Plaza Center Drive, West Jordan, UT
Phone: 801.282.1324
Event Time: 2:00 p.m.
Cost: FREE to listen

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Distance from:
Salt Lake City: 15.7 miles
Ogden: 49.2 miles
Provo: 37.5 miles
Logan: 93.9 miles

Friday, May 2, 2008

Free Event of the Day- May 2, 2008

The Salt Lake City library system offers Preschool Storytimes at all of its branches on a regular basis. Today, Storytime is at the Chapman Branch of the library system. Pack up those kids that aren't in school and head to the library to listen to entertaining stories read to the little ones. While you're there, pick up a few books for the kids and for yourself. As always, the public library system is free. If you don't live in Salt Lake City, ask about getting your library card from another Utah system registered with the Salt Lake City library system- then you can check books out at any Salt Lake City library too.

Place: Salt Lake City Library, Chapman Branch
Location: 577 South 900 West, Salt Lake City, Utah
Phone: 801.594.8623
Hours: Storytime begins at 11:00 a.m.
Cost: FREE

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Distance from:
Salt Lake City (downtown): 1.8 miles
Ogden: 36.8 miles
Provo: 43.2 miles
Logan: 81.5 miles

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Get Lost In Space at the Clark Planetarium

For years, Utah had a wonderful place to go to learn about the universe- Hansen Planetarium. I can't count the number of school field trips, star shows and laser shows I attended there. When the decision was made to close the Hansen Planetarium and move it to the Gateway shopping center, I was a little upset. It was like a good friend moved away. But, when the new Clark Planetarium opened, it was like a new, really cool friend had just moved in and made you forget the old one.

The Clark Planetarium has everything that made the Hansen Planetarium great and then they added even more great exhibits and an IMAX movie screen.

Walk on the moon in the Moonscape exhibit or go even further, take ten steps, and explore the Martian surface in the Marsscape exhibit. You can see the collection of different types of meteorites and even pick one up and feel how heavy it is. Watch Foucault's pendulum swing and knock down a marker every few minutes, proving that the earth in spinning in space (it's complicated to explain, but fun to watch). Check out the giant suspended display of the solar system or watch the balls rolling through Newton's Daydream, a two-story audio-kinetic sculpture. Want to try to be a weatherman on the evening news? Step on over into the KUTV Channel 2 weather station and forecast the weather. Don't worry, you don't have to be accurate- the weathermen aren't either.

All these exhibits and more are free to all visitors to the planetarium. You can spend a couple of hours having fun and never spend a dime. If you want to see a star show or laser rock music show or see a movie on the giant IMAX theater screen, try going before 5:00 p.m. when all shows are only $6.00.

Clark Planetarium will fascinate both kids and adults (I watched Newton's Daydream for an hour).

Place: Clark Planetarium
Location: 110 South 400 West (in The Gateway Mall), Salt Lake City, UT
Phone: 801.456.STAR (7827)
Hours: Opens 7 days a week at 10:30 a.m., Closes: Mon.-Wed. at 8:00 p.m., Thu. at 9:00 p.m., Fri. and Sat. at 11:00 p.m. and Sun. at 6:00 p.m.
Cost: Free, for exhibits. $6 to $8 for shows.

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Distance from:
Salt Lake City (downtown): 1.3 miles
Ogden: 36.4 miles
Provo: 43.8 miles
Logan: 81.1 miles

Free Event of the Day- May 1, 2008

Looking for something to do with the kids today?

Today and tomorrow (May 1-2, 2008), from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the My Gym Children's Fitness Center is offering activities for kids, including gymnastics, running, climbing, jumping on trampolines and more to celebrate National Fitness Month in May.

There is something for parents as well. Parents can learn about proper nutrition, avoiding junk food and keeping kids active at home.

Take the opportunity to learn about how to keep the kids active and fit, and let the kids play and tire themselves out for a nap or bedtime.

Place: My Gym Children's Fitness Center
Location: 656 East 11400 South, Draper, UT
Phone: 801.495.9480
Hours: May 1-2, 2008, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Cost: FREE

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Distance from:
Salt Lake City: 17.7 miles
Odgen: 53.1 miles
Provo: 28.8 miles
Logan: 97.8 miles

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hill Aerospace Museum- Get Close to Some Great Aircraft

I love to watch airplanes and helicopters take off and land. I think they are amazing pieces of engineering. I once even considered a career as an aerospace engineer, but all that math got in the way. I really enjoy getting the chance occasionally when I am up in Layton, UT to watch the military aircraft flying to and from Hill Air Force Base. Watching the F-16's take off, make quick banking turns or even a barrel roll is awesome.

My love of aircraft is what first took me to the Hill Aerospace Museum, located on the northwest corner of the Air Force Base. It's not hidden. You can see it from Interstate 15 as you drive north and south. What many people don't realize as they drive by is that all those planes, rockets, and helicopters you can see are part of the FREE museum exhibit. That's right. You can get up close and personal with some of the most amazing aircraft ever built, for free.

The Hill Aerospace Museum has some great planes, including a B-17 "Flying Fortress," a B-29 "Superfortress," a B1-B "Lancer," and my personal favorite, an SR-71 "Blackbird." The SR-71 set both speed (2, 193 mph, 3,529 kph) and altitude (85, 068.997 feet, 25,929 meters) records during it active lifetime. When the final SR-71 was retired, it flew from California to Virginia in 68 minutes, 17 seconds. This is a sleek looking plane and a marvel of modern engineering and you can get an up close look.

The museum is home not only to aircraft but to over 4,000 other artifacts relating to the Air Force and aviation history, including military uniforms, flight suits, vehicles, ordnance and artwork. You can also visit the Utah Aviation Hall of Fame, honoring some of Utah's greatest aviators. There you can learn about Colonel Gail Halvorsen, the original Candy Bomber during the Berlin airlift (1948-1949).

Be sure to visit the Memorial Park and Chapel to remember those who fought and died for their country. The Chapel has a beautiful stained glass window that memorializes the 384th Bomb Group. The Chapel is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Want to try your hand at flying an airplane? Keep your feet on the ground, my friends. They don't give rides, but you can try your hand at flying a plane in an aircraft simulator. Strap yourself into a chair and pretend to eject from the plane. If you have any questions ask one of the many volunteers who are former pilots themselves.

Make sure you set aside at least a couple of hours and quite possibly more. Around every corner and turn in the path lies another fascinating piece of aviation history.

Place: Hill Aerospace Museum
Location: 7961 Wardleigh Road, Building 1955, Hill Air Force Base, UT
Phone: 801.777.6868
Hours: Open seven days a week, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
Cost: Free (donations are accepted and appreciated)

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Distance from:
Salt Lake City: 32.3 miles
Ogden: 7.7 miles
Provo: 80.9 miles
Logan: 55.8 miles

Little Known Zoo In Northern Utah

Until just a few years ago, when I took my daughters on one of our "adventure days," I hadn't realized that Logan, Utah had a zoo. At 15 acres (including the surrounding park), it is quite a bit smaller than Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, but it doesn't make the Willow Park Zoo any less appealing. In fact, Willow Park Zoo, in the times that I have been there, has been far less crowded and far more serene than Hogle Zoo. It doesn't have the "big ticket" animals such as elephants, lions and giraffes, but my children found the zoo exciting in a whole different way- it seemed a much more personal, up close experience with the animals.

Located in Willow Park, adjacent to the Cache County Fairgrounds, the zoo was opened in 1971. It is both easy to find and get to. The selection of animals for a small zoo is impressive. They have 11 mammal species, over 100 bird species from around the world, and a good selection of reptiles and fish. One of my children's favorites was the turtle exhibit. I liked seeing both the bald eagle and the bull elk.

For what you get to experience in this relaxing environment, the entrance fee ($2.00 for adults and $1.00 for children 12 and under) is well worth it. If you have a membership to Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City, there is a reciprocal agreement that gets you into Willow Park Zoo for free.

Make a day of going to Willow Park Zoo, pack a lunch, wander a bit, and play in the beautiful park. Later on, you could even head up the street to the Utah State University Campus and buy some "Aggie" ice cream for everyone. The Willow Park Zoo was probably one of the more relaxing of all the "adventure days" we went on.

Place: Willow Park Zoo
Location: 419 West 700 South, Logan, UT
Phone: 435.716.9265
Hours: 9 a.m. to Sunset, Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day
Cost: $ (Adults- $2.00, Children 12 and under- $1.00)

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Distance From:
Salt Lake City: 81.7 miles
Ogden: 47 miles
Provo: 123 miles
Logan (downtown): 1.8 miles

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Book TalkTuesday- April 29, 2008

Fun with the Family Utah, 4th ed. by Michael Rutter

This book is another great offering from Globe Pequot, known for their great travel guides and outdoors books. Author Michael Rutter offers dozens upon dozens of places to go in Utah, organized by region; Northern Utah, Greater Salt Lake, Central Utah, Northeastern Utah, Southeastern Utah, and Southwestern Utah. This format, combined with an index of places and yearly events, makes finding things to do in your neck of the woods a snap.

Each place to go, event to attend or thing to do is accompanied by a lot of information including addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation and pricing. Various maps are placed throughout the book to help you get where you are going. Rutter gives his "Michael's Top Ten" for each region- the best events or places, in his opinion, to go to. This book will provide enough activities for a years worth or more of weekend activities.

I do find a few minor drawbacks to this book though. First, in this day and age where color printing has gotten fairly inexpensive, and more and more travel books are infused with color pictures, this book is very dull in black and white and few good, clear pictures of the places mentioned. Also, the 4th edition was printed in 2004, and this can create problems with changes in phone numbers, locations of events, and associated costs of activities. Best to read the book, then double check on the Internet before you head out. Lastly, Utah is growing rapidly, and many new things to do for families have been added to the state since the book was last printed.

Overall, 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. Recommended reading.

Monte L. Bean Museum- An Amazing, Free Museum

When I was in 3rd grade we went on a field trip one spring day to Timpanogos Cave. When we arrived we were told the trail wasn't open due to bad weather. What do you do with a hundred disappointed grade school kids when the field trip is canceled? Fortunately, one of our teachers (a student teacher from BYU as it so happened) suggested that we go to BYU and visit the Bean Museum.

I am as fascinated today by the Monte L. Bean Museum as I was thirty years ago. This is a life science museum which has vast collections from the natural world of plants and animals. The exhibits are open to the public and include: birds (whooping cranes and pheasants and waterfowl of the world), a rotating exhibit from their massive insect collection (over 2 million specimens), shells from around the world, a large selection of animals from Africa, an international wildlife collection, and much more. There are also temporary exhibits that rotate throughout the year. Currently the museum is showing an amazing collection of animals that were a gift from Ken Behring.

In addition to the exhibits, the museum hold live animal show to educate people about the natural world. Currently, the days and times of the shows are as follows:

Monday: Reptiles at 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm
Tuesday: Adaptations at 7:30 pm
Wednesday: Utah Plants and Animals at 7:30 pm
Thursday: Ecosystems at 7:30 pm
Friday: Invertebrates at 7:30 pm
Saturday: Reptiles at 1:00 pm

If you've never had a chance to see one of the shows, you are in for a treat. The kids will love it!
The best part, the entrance to the Bean Museum and the live animal shows are FREE. There are other activities, such as Saturday Safaris, that have a fee, but for the value you get, these fees are nominal.

Place: Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum
Location: 645 East 1430 North, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m, Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Closed Sunday
Cost: FREE

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Distance from:
Salt Lake City: 44.5 miles
Odgen: 79.9 miles
Provo (downtown): 2.3 miles
Logan: 125 miles

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Massive Hole in the Ground, but a Cheap Trip

To the west of the Salt Lake Valley stand the Oquirrh (pronounced oak' ur) Mountains. This range begins at the Great Salt Lake at the north end and runs approximately 30 miles to the south. It forms the western boundary of the Salt Lake Valley and separates it from the Tooele valley to the west.

The most striking feature of the Oquirrh Range, when viewed from the Salt Lake Valley are the massive, yellowish and red, stair-stepped and flat topped mounds that cover about one-third of the visible range. These are anything but natural phenomenon. They are the result of nearly one-hundred years of open-pit mining in the hills.

The Kennecott Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine has become the largest open-pit copper mine in the world. It is so large that it can be seen from space by astronauts (check out views in Google Earth). It is two and a half miles across at the top and is over three-quarters of a mile deep- two Sears Towers stacked on top of each other wouldn't reach the top.

It has been one of the most productive mines in the world. Copper, gold, silver and molybdenum are all extracted from the mine. It has produced more wealth than the Comstock Lode, Klondike and California gold rush combined. The massive dump trucks, which are over two stories tall, can carry 300 tons of raw ore per load, which is a good thing considering the giant electric shovels can scoop up about 98 tons in a single bite.

Want a firsthand look at this man-made wonder? You got it. From April to October the visitors center at the rim of the mine is open to anyone who wants a look. The visitors center includes interactive displays and exhibits, 3D microscopes where you can view mineral samples, mining artifacts and model trucks. There is a 90 seat theater where a 15 minute movie is shown, describing the past, present and future of the mining operations at the Bingham Canyon Mine. Little boys are definitely the most thrilled, but I have seen girls really enjoying themselves as well. The visit can be as long or short as you want to make it- but plan on at least an hour to get a good look and to have some fun.

Place: Kennecott Copper Bingham Canyon Mine
Location: Follow Highway 111 south until you pass 118th south, then follow the signs.
Hours: Open from April to October, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (arrive by 7 p.m. at the latest).
Cost: $$ ($5 per car, regardless of the number of people inside)

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Distance from:
Salt Lake City: 28.1 miles
Ogden: 60.7 miles
Provo: 45.7 miles
Logan: 105 miles

Free Ride- Try the New FrontRunner

Take a train ride from Salt Lake to Ogden, from Ogden to Salt Lake, or jump on somewhere in between- and do it for free.

This week marks the beginning of service for the FrontRunner commuter rail service along the Wasatch Front and to kick it off, UTA is giving free rides on the train, today through Wednesday (April 28-30, 2008).

These double-decker trains travel between Ogden and Salt Lake making five stops along the way in Roy, Clearfield, Layton, Farmington and Woods Cross. The train travels up to 80 miles per hour, and including all the stops, takes about an hour to make the trip.

Place: Salt Lake City, Woods Cross, Farmington, Layton, Clearfield, Roy, Ogden
Location: FrontRunner Stations
Hours: Trains start running at 4:25 a.m in Salt Lake and 5:08 a.m. in Ogden- service runs until midnight. Trains run every 30 minutes until 6:00 p.m. and then every 60 minutes until midnight.
Cost: Free (April 28 - 30, 2008)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Things To Do, Utah- This Week, Apr. 28 - May 3, 2008

Marshall McDonald, Steven Sharp Nelson and Peter Breinholt, Monday (April 28, 2008), 7 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, South Temple and C Street, free, but donations for the March of Dimes will be accepted.

Bells on Temple Square, Friday and Saturday (May 2-3, 2008), 7:30 p.m., Salt Lake Tabernacle, free but tickets required (801-570-0080 or

Local author JESSICA DAY GEORGE will read from and sign copies of her book "Dragon Flight," Friday (May 2, 2008), 7 p.m., at the King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East.

KRISTYN CROW, SHARLEE GLENN and RICK WALTON will present a Storytime Extravaganza, Saturday (May 3, 2008), 11 a.m., at the King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East.

HawkTalks, Thursday (May 1, 2008) at 7:00 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Chapman Library, 577 South 900 West, Salt Lake City, Utah. This week’s lecture is on eagles.

Raising one's parents: Sarah O'Leary Burningham will read and sign her new book, How to Raise Your Parents: A Teen Girl's Survival Guide, Thursday (May 1, 2008) at 7 p.m. at The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City; and Saturday (May 3, 2008) at 11 a.m. at the East Millcreek Library, 2266 Evergreen Ave., East Millcreek.

International Childrens' Choir, Saturday (May 3, 2008), 7:30 p.m., Temple Square Assembly Hall, Free.

This is by no means all the cheap and free events that are happening in Utah this week. If you know of family fun events each week in Utah, let me know. I'd be happy to list them.

Hogle Zoo- How to go multiple times, cheaply

One of our family's favorite places to go, probably because there is something for everyone regardless of age, is the Hogle Zoo. There are currently over 1,100 animals, representing more than 250 species housed at the zoo, including elephants, giraffes, gorillas and tigers.

Situated on roughly 42 acres at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, it may not be one of the largest zoos in the United States, but it is one of the prettiest. The animal exhibits are located on rolling hills and winding paths among trees that are a century old. Emigration Creek runs through the middle of the zoo.

I remember as a child going to Hogle Zoo with my parents. Amazing as the zoo was then for a child, it's only gotten better with time. The new renovated elephant habitat, "Elephant Encounters" lets visitors see four different outdoor habitats for these great mammals. Some viewing area are up above the elephants and some are at eye (or maybe, knee) level.

One of my favorite places in the zoo (and my children's favorite as well) is to see the big cats. Lions and tigers and Siberian Lynx, oh my! The new Asian Highlands exhibit puts you into the setting of an Asian mountain village, and all around you are some of the most amazing predators you'll ever see up close. There are all sorts of interactive displays (touch-screen televisions) and guides to help you learn all about the felines.

Don't forget the giraffes, alligators, monkeys and birds- and this is just the start. Every time you go, it's a new adventure. Take the train ride on the small gauge train (for $1.00 per person, 1 and under is free), get interactive in Discovery Land (free with paid entrance), or take in one of the most popular attractions at the zoo, the "World of Flight Birdshow" (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm, free with paid entrance). Get there early for the bird show; even in the new, large Wildlife Theater, seating is limited and the show is almost always full.

Admission is: $8.00 for adults, $6.00 for children (ages 3-12), age 2 and under is free.
Here's how to save money: One visit for a family of four (all children 3 or older) can range from $28 to $32. More if you have more children (with my family, one visit will cost us, $50). Buy a yearly membership. Family membership for two parents and all their children 18 and younger- $65 for a year. Since the zoo is open year round, make a few visits and get your money's worth.

With a membership, you get discount on the train ride ($0.75 instead of $1.00) as well as discounts on food and souvenirs. It also includes a reciprocity program that will get you into other zoos around the country for free or at reduced cost. One of the places you can go with you Hogle Zoo membership is the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City. You get into the aviary for FREE on the first Thursday of each month with your Hogle Zoo membership.

You can rent strollers and wagons: $6.00 to $8.00 each- but, why? Bring one of your own.

If you are going to spend the day, pack a lunch- it's by far cheaper than eating out or eating from the concession stands at the zoo.

Hit the zoo and have a wild time.

Place: Hogle Zoo
Location: 2600 Sunnyside Avenue, Salt Lake City, Utah
: Open 365 days a year (except Christmas and New Year's Day). Hours vary by season.
Cost: $$$

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Distance from:
Salt Lake City (downtown): 5.0 Miles
Ogden: 42.5 Miles
Provo: 48.6 Miles
Logan: 86.8 Miles

Cheap (or FREE) Fun in Utah

A few years ago during one summer, when my two oldest children still had their teenage years well in front of them, I would take them out once a week for an entire day to have an adventure somewhere in Utah. This was partly because my wife was in the last trimester of pregnancy with our third child and it gave her a needed opportunity to rest. These days became known in our family as "Adventure Days," and the girls looked forward to a new and exciting adventure each week.

As the planner and leader of "Adventure Days," it was my responsibility to, 1.) find places to go within a one day roundtrip from our home in Salt Lake, 2.) ensure it would be fun (or at least interesting), and 3.) that we could afford the activity. As it turned out, finding things to do that fit all three requirements was sometimes more difficult than I had imagined.

Over that summer, and the summers of the following years, we found more and more things to do in Utah that fit the bill. It really is amazing how many things you can do and how many places you can go in Utah that are relatively inexpensive or even free. The purpose of this blog is to share with all of you those places we have found that are exciting, fun, and educational. Some are seasonal, some can be done year round. Some may be one-time events and others may be permanent exhibits. I will try to share the best times of year to go and how to save as much money as possible. And, above all, I will try to show you have to have cheap fun in Utah with your family.