LodgePhotos St. George Area CVB

 

By Laurie Carter

 

Many of the snowbirds, golfers, outdoor enthusiasts and photographers who converge on the St. George area of southern Utah may not know it, but their first impression of the region’s surreal red rock landscape likely came to them as the backdrop for the Saturday matinee westerns of their youth. What they do know – and value – is the high desert environment at 850 metres above sea level, where rain rarely affects the day’s activities and winter temperatures average in the comfortable mid-teens.

As the gateway to Zion National Park plus four state parks, home of the Red Rock Golf Trail, renowned destination spas, unique museums, arts venues, dining and shopping, it’s no big surprise that TripAdvisor has named this the #1 emerging hot spot in the U.S. and National Geographic calls it one of the 50 best places to live and play.

 

Nature Wild & Tame

The St. George area offers unparalleled opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, fishing, boating, rock climbing and just plain gaping at the astounding scenery. The star attraction is Zion, oldest of Utah’s national parks, with eroded canyon walls, rock monoliths like the 670-metre Great White Throne, and Kolob Arch, thought to be the longest natural span on the planet at over 94 metres. With elevations ranging from 1,150 to nearly 2,700 metres, the park hosts diverse ecosystems and habitats including desert, grassland, riparian, wetland and forest.

Abandoned cliff dwellings and rock paintings attest to the presence of the Anasazi people from about 1,500 to 800 years ago. Information on Native Americans and pioneering settlers is displayed at the Zion Human History Museum near the park’s south entrance. The most popular area of the park is Zion Canyon, so popular that vehicle access is restricted between late March and late October. Shuttles run along the Scenic Drive from parking lots at the visitor centre. To alleviate parking congestion, the nearby town of Springfield provides shuttles to the park as well as accommodations, dining and shopping.

State parks present more wild spaces for a host of outdoor activities. Snow Canyon is known for its, well, canyons – as well as arches, sand dunes, lava caves, cinder cones and cliffs capped in black lava. The scenery at Sand Hollow is strikingly different where blue waters meet orange sand beaches. Quail Lake State Park boasts a reservoir stocked with a variety of species to tempt eager anglers and similar amenities are available at Gunlock State Park and Reservoir.

For visitors who prefer to hike undulating fairways, fish balls from water hazards and view the red rock scenery as a backdrop for manicured greens, the Red Rock Golf Trail lays on six courses within a 40-minute radius of St. George. Sunbrook features 27 championship holes and has been rated the best course in Utah. Coral Canyon incorporates some of the area’s interesting rock formations, while Sky Mountain borders the Virgin River. Sand Hollow offers an 18-hole championship course with five tee boxes on each hole, plus a nine-hole link course. Challenging Falcon Ridge runs from high elevation through deep canyons and Sun River, also located on the Virgin River, offers the only bent grass tees in southern Utah.

The St. George area provides a tremendous range of opportunities for experiencing the natural world including one that few might expect. The St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm is acclaimed as one of the Top 10 dinosaur track sites in the world. Unearthed little more than a decade ago when a local optometrist wanted to level a hill on his property, the nearly 200-million-year-old fossil record reveals a snapshot of the ecosystems on the shores of an ancient local lake. Exhibits include fossil fish and plants, dinosaur remains and the incredible three-dimensional dinosaur tracks.

 

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Arts & Entertainment

Given its location only 145 kilometres from the entertainment hub of Las Vegas, visitors might be surprised to find that St. George has its own focus on the performing arts. The Tuacahn Amphitheatre and Center for the Arts, an outdoor venue surrounded by 450-metre red rock cliffs, attracts thousands annually to its Broadway-style musicals, concerts and Christmas Festival of Lights with live nativity. St. George also hosts the Southwest Symphony and the DocUtah international documentary film festival. Held annually in September, DocUtah presents films and events in the towns of Springdale, Kanab, St. George and Ivins. Venues include historic sites along with outdoor screenings at Tuacahn.

History and the arts meet again in St. George’s heritage district where the St. George Art Museum is housed in a former storage facility built in the 1930s for the sugar beet industry. Aviation history is remembered in the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum at the St. George Airport. Anyone who has ever wondered what it would feel like to actually sit in the cockpit of a MiG-15 will find this truly entertaining.

For a more modern take on the arts, the Coyote Gulch Art Village lies just west of St. George in Kayenta. This expanding enclave of studios, galleries, gift and refreshment shops displays a wide range of arts, crafts and photography.

 

sdffSt George Conventions and Tourist Office

 

Feeling Great

Three renowned destination spas and a variety of day spas make the St. George area a place of inner as well as outer beauty. Among its accolades, Green Valley Spa has been named one of the Top 3 spas in the world by Travel & Leisure. Red Mountain Resort focuses on health, wellness, stress-management and anti-aging; and The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge looks for positive changes through healthy choices.

When finding wellness requires a dose of retail therapy, St. George provides more healthy choices. In addition to an array of interesting local shops, the Tuacahn Saturday Market is open weekly (starting in March 2013) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Local painters, artists and crafters display their wares along with fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables grown by local producers. When your prescription for happiness demands something more up-scale, St. George is also home to The Outlets at Zion, which hosts premier name brands for the whole family.

St. George area locals say they’ve got everything “from A to Zion.” Looks like it. For more information, visit www.atozion.com

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