Best of Utah 2010: Active Life | Best of Utah | Salt Lake City
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Best of Utah

Best of Utah 2010: Active Life



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Best Place to Escape Work
Park City

Why does Utah’s historic resort town make it so easy to play hooky? In January—with the Sundance Film Festival, good skiing and red-air-day respites—bosses surely know why employees are calling in “sick.” Then there are the other 11 months. The endless abundance of quality restaurants and nightlife never gets stale nor does the world-class golfing, spa services, boutique shopping. Even if you can only squeeze out a long lunch—say, if your “car battery went dead”—you can hop on Interstate 80 and drive over Parley’s Summit and into Park City. This is indeed Life Elevated.
2. Moab
3. Liberty Park

Best Way to Keep the Sabbath Thoughtful
First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City

If you’re a socially conscious person looking for some spiritual food for thought rather than standard issue organized religion, then swing by the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City in the summer months. Guest speakers are invited to conduct the sermons. Past speakers have included city-planning leader Robert Farrington discussing the future of keeping Salt Lake City a vibrant locale, or Richard Dutcher, the “Father of Mormon Cinema,” discussing faith and film. Come on in: The doors are open to anyone looking for answers to the challenging questions of our day. 569 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-582-8687,

Best Birders
HawkWatch International

For birders, the most badass birds are the ones eating other birds—raptors. And for the Salt Lake City-based nonprofit HawkWatch International, there’s no greater sign of a healthy ecosystem than observing plenty of majestic hawks preying on smaller birds, rodents and other critters. The group is winning over hawk converts each year with special educational programs (in which hawks visit elementary school) or special raptor sighting and migration-counting trips from locales in Utah to New Mexico and old Mexico. 2240 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-484-6808,


Best Hot Air
Canyonlands Ballooning

Living in Salt Lake City, sometimes we don’t get out enough to take in the gorgeous southern Utah landscape. The Castle Valley area around Moab offers such a stark Martian landscape, it’s hard to imagine how one could top it—until you try floating over it, that is. With Canyonlands Ballooning, you can cruise serenely over the majestic arches of Arches National Park, watch the sun cast the shadows of the 13,000-foot La Sal Mountains, and gain a bird’s-eye perspective of Canyonlands Park. This is a great way for a newcomer to the Edward Abbey country of Utah or the more seasoned desert rat to get a new perspective on some of state’s greatest natural treasures. 435-655-1389,

Best Buffalo Lovers
Zion Mountain Ranch

Drive from Mount Carmel Junction to Zion National Park and you’re likely to pass a herd of bison. They and the land they roam upon belong to Zion Mountain Ranch, a cabin resort with its own buffalo-dedicated restaurant, The Buffalo Grill. The animals on display, however, are not the source of the tender buffalo burgers the restaurant serves. Stand by the fence and watch the animals graze or move en masse to other pastures and you experience something viscerally unique: The past brought so vividly to life it even imbues the already extraordinary surrounding mountains with majesty. 9065 W. State Road 9, Mount Carmel, 866-648-2555,

Best Place to Dance With a Trout
Lower Provo River

For the beginner fly fisherman or for the journeyman, the Lower Provo is a perfect stretch when it comes to finessing your fly into a fish’s mouth. The clear waters yield beautiful brown trout, which, if you find the right spot, seem to practically flock to your hook. Under achingly blue skies, in the crystal-clear air, the Lower Provo’s matchless scenery of a towering mountain backdrop lets you slip easily into the genteel state of flicking that line back and forth until you land it at just the right eddy. The Lower Provo has a certain magical quality—even though tubers swilling beer float by, and at times, other fishermen crowd the way, the magical allure of that glittering stretch of water never fades. Provo Canyon

Best Snowboarding

If names like a Front-blunt 270 and a Michalchuk don’t ring a bell, then you’re probably not hitting the many terrain parks at Brighton as hard as you could be. While free-ride skiers still bust out tricks, they are the minority. On any given day, professional riders work the halfpipe alongside after-school kids, snow bums and white-collar work skippers. What Brighton lacks in big, steep terrain, they compensate for in the four dynamic, artfully designed terrain parks—shreddin’ has never been so good. 12601 E. Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, Brighton, 801-532-4731,
2. Snowbird
3. Solitude

Best Folk-Song-Inspired Geological Site
Big Rock Candy Mountain

Never let it be said that Utahns don’t know how to cash in on pop culture; they were figuring out ways to do it during the Great Depression. Harry McClintock’s 1928 folk tune “Big Rock Candy Mountain” became a national hit and inspired Piute County residents to decide that the mythical mountain was right in their back yard. North of Marysvale, a colorful mountain sports volcanic rock in shades of yellow, orange, red and white—so a sign was placed at the base identifying it as “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” And just to stick closer to the song’s lyrics, a nearby spring also became “Lemonade Springs.” Marysvale Canyon, Highway 89

Best Hangover Cure
Brewvies Cinema Pub

It’s Sunday after a Saturday night drowned in beers or cocktails, and your soul is in the same place as last night’s dinner: the toilet. The weekend isn’t over, but you’ve barely got enough verve to scramble eggs. Solution? A dark room, good food, good movies and a beer or two to chase away the pains of alcohol withdrawal. There’s only one place to accomplish all that: Brewvies Cinema Pub. The food and atmosphere are so good, people who aren’t even seeing a movie hang around to play a game of pool—or consume more hangover-inducing cocktails (that’s right, Brewvies has a full liquor license now). 677 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City, 801-355-5500,

Best South-S(l)ide Water Park
Cowabunga Bay

The newly opened Cowabunga Bay arrives as a perfect summer solution for that South Valley population who consider Seven Peaks too far south, Lagoon too far north and Raging Waters too far west. But it offers more than geographical convenience—the park touts its 6-story-high, 225-foot-long Cowabunga Splash structure and its two tipping buckets as the “world’s biggest splash”—and indeed, it’s an impressive way for people of all ages to get doused, squirted, sprayed and otherwise dampened. 12047 S. Factory Outlet Drive, Draper, 801-553-1000,

Best Sports Injury Free Advice
Salt Lake Regional Medical Center Sports Medicine

For serious athletes and weekend warriors, getting hurt is a major bummer, but not knowing what is keeping you sidelined adds insult to injury. The benevolent trainers at Salt Lake Regional Medical Center can help. They will pinpoint the mysterious source of pain at no cost, and that free evaluation could mean the difference between at-home RICE (rest, ice, compression, relaxation) and a costly trip to the doctor. Either way, the fast, easy-access peace of mind is priceless. 1050 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-350-4593,

Best Place to Rest on our Laurels
Utah Olympic Park

The Vancouver games were a bigger hit on Salt Lake City TVs than anywhere else in the country—thanks to many local athletes participating and our own recent experience hosting the games. If watching this year’s athletes put you in the mood to reminisce about 2002, the Utah Olympic Park is the ideal spot to wax nostalgic. Feel like playing an athlete? Hop on board a skeleton sled or get behind an experienced driver on a bobsled. Or, take in the many exhibits at the Eccles Olympic Museum in the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center, including athlete equipment, collectible pins, torches and other hands-on activities. Keep that fire within lit. 3419 Olympic Parkway, Park City, 435-658-4200,

Best Picnic Spot
Liberty Park

Liberty Park’s 80 acres is so huge, there are some nooks and crannies that locals don’t even know about. But no matter the season, locals love to flock to the park, where they munch on picnic fare and inevitably walk or ride around the park’s perimeter to walk off their food comas. Others take in some frisbee action or a pickup game of kickball. Whether you pack just a blanket and a book, make up a romantic and elaborate spread for two, or bring a bucket of chicken for the whole family, Liberty Park offers fresh air and green scenery for all. 700 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City
2. Sugar House Park
3. Mill Creek Canyon

Best Snowshoeing
Mill Creek Canyon

Unlike the Cottonwood canyons, Millcreek is not usually clogged with ski traffic. But what really makes this canyon perfect for snowshoeing is the variety of terrain. From short hikes with a gradual rise to day-long leg-burners, there is pretty much a trail for everyone of any fitness level or age. 3800 South & 3500 East, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, 801-236-3400

Best Urban Fishing
City Creek Canyon

It’s an outdoor gem tucked in the heart of downtown and especially popular with runners and cyclists. However, it is a creek, and yes, there are fish in the water. You won’t set any size records with the brown trout coming from the relatively shallow water, and the tight foliage can make fly casting difficult. But for anyone who can’t drive the hour or more required to get to a Blue Ribbon fishery, City Creek provides a respectable alternative for tying one on. 11th Avenue and B Street, Salt Lake City,


Best Winter Getaway
Mill Creek Yurt

Tucked up Mill Creek Canyon is a snowy little getaway, the sort of rustic setting that inspires the poets and romantics in all of us. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, this quaint establishment provides no water or power, but makes up for it in charm. It is minimally furnished: six wooden bunks, wood-burning stove (wood included), lantern with fuel and table with chairs. Because it is so accessible, reservations fill quickly, sometimes all in the first week of November when they are first available—so plan ahead. 4 1/2 miles past Maple Grove parking lot, 3800 South & 3500 East, 801-483-5473