Ski Utah! is one of the slogans on Utah’s license plates with the exclamation point and all. The exclamation point never made me want to go to Utah or ski, however. But after visiting, I now understand why it’s there. Here’s a little background on why I wanted to go to Utah: I wanted to see the Bonneville Salt Flats. And I got that idea because I had no immediate plans to go to Bolivia to see the salt flats there. Being the inquisitive person I am, I was looking up salt flats and found out that there are some here in the States. Yes, we have salt flats here. Not long after discovering that the salt flats were only a short plane ride away, I ran upon a flight deal to Salt Lake City. A sign, perhaps? Whatever it was, I booked my flight for an extended weekend in Salt Lake City. Little did I know, that there was so much more to Salt Lake City than salt flats.
Room & Board
My initial go-to place for room & board is Airbnb. Not only is it usually cheaper than a hotel, but there is also an air of authenticity with the stay because you are actually living like a local. For Salt Lake City, I chose a very reasonably-priced, centrally located apartment in a Victorian home. This was only an extended weekend getaway and my activities were going to be expensive, so I had to choose a very cost-effective place. I generally like big and roomy places, but the apartment in the Victorian home was quaint and provided all I needed because I wasn’t going to be spending much time there.
Victuals & Beverages
If I had to use to two words to describe the restaurants I ate at in Salt Lake City, they would be divey and small. That didn’t stop the food from being good though. Chedda Burger is a divey, burger joint that specializes in unique burgers. I chose the Green Mile, which has macaroni and cheese on it. I’d like to think of myself as a macaroni and cheese connoisseur; some might say fanatic. I had no idea how mac ‘n’ cheese would taste on a burger, but let me tell you, it was wonderful! The mac ‘n’ cheese had just enough cheesy goodness to not be overwhelming. I added cheddar tots and it was a full-fledged cheese fest! That’s my kind of meal. If you’re in the mood for a burger, go to Chedda Burger.
Carl’s Cafe is a nondescript, divey (again) cafe that specializes in breakfast and lunch food, but with an unusual menu item. It’s not unusual in name, just in size and taste. Enter the Scone of Plenty (like horn of plenty, get it?) I truly didn’t know what to expect from such a name, but I figured there would be an abundance of it. I read on Yelp that the scones were the standouts here; that’d be an understatement because I’d never seen a scone like this. Carl’s Cafe redefined my definition of a scone, which was sweet and petite. Nope. This scone was not sweet and it certainly wasn’t petite. If size matters, this scone had no competition. Plus, it had bacon, cheese and bread, so how could I go wrong? It was indeed tasty and I’d go back again when I’m in the area. The pics are better than any description I could give.
I read up on some food suggestions for dinner in Salt Lake City and kept seeing The Red Iguana being mentioned. It was nominated as Salt Lake City’s best Mexican food and I have to say I experienced what all the hype was about. Now, I live in Southern California, so I know good Mexican food and this was going to have to be stellar Mexican food to impress me. Simply put, it was. This place gets BUSY according to all the reviews I read. Like, so busy that there’s a line out the door. Because I’m really not into standing in long lines for food (although I will do it if I want to eat there badly enough), I decided to go closer to closing time. That was a great idea if I do say so myself. There was no one waiting and I was seated immediately to see if it was really as good as they say. Red Iguana is known for their molé, so I went with the Yelp recommendations and got the Puntas de filete a la Norteña. I was hesitant at first because I don’t care for nut-based savory dishes and this dish had almond molé. All fears vanished after the first bite. I don’t know how all those flavors worked together in that dish, but they did so fantastically. They also had the best refried beans I’ve ever tasted! My eyes and taste buds wanted me to eat the whole dish in one sitting, but my stomach said no. As the name on the sign says, it’s killer Mexican food and I’ll be back.
Discovery & Exploration
Utah in winter is an adventure junkie’s dream. I’m no adventure junkie per se, but I dip my toe into that pool quite frequently. As always, I had to try something different–snowmobiling. I’ve wanted to snowmobile for a while, but I chose to do it for another reason. I chose it because going skiing or snowboarding solo seemed risky. If I fell and fractured my leg or skull, who would help me get back? Yes, the older I get, the more I think about things like this. I think they call it wisdom. So, by default, it was snowmobiling. I chose Lofty Peaks Adventures in Snowbird. Snowmobiling here was a fantastic, easy and safe. Because I live in Southern California, where it doesn’t get cold enough to own anything more than a medium jacket and scarf, I rented my entire attire–snowsuit, goggles, and boots. As soon as everyone was suited and booted, we set out for the tram that would take us up the mountain. This was my first time on a mountain tram or chair lift and the views were spectacular! Once we had our ‘safety first’ lesson and a few practice runs on the snowmobile, we were off! It was such an exhilarating experience. I had been four-wheeling and jet skiing before, so this was akin to those. There were five of us and two guides, who were awesome! Although I was the only female in the group, I kept up with the guys and always felt safe and comfortable during the tour. I highly recommend Lofty Peaks for any adventures as a solo traveler. The guides are also great photographers which enriches the experience. Selfies are great but there is nothing a like a decent photographer to capture some moments.
I wanted to have a bit of down time in Utah as well, since I had plenty of bold and somewhat expensive things I wanted to do. Plus, I always like to look at the architecture in different cities. If downtime and architecture are your thing, I would advise anyone to run, jump, skedaddle, go, make haste to The City Library in Utah, where the design and architecture is phenomenal. It’s truly a work of art on its own, not to mention the amount of books that are housed there. There are four levels to the library and each level has a different genre. Oh, but it’s so much more than a library! Want coffee or a snack? Check. Want to buy plants? Check. Need your hair done? Check. Want to sit by a fireplace in a comfortable chair while reading a book or staring at the snow falling? Check, check, check. It’s worth a visit even if to just unwind from the day’s activities.
Unusual & Interesting
The main reason I decided to go to Utah in the first place was to see the Bonneville Salt Flats, as I mentioned earlier. You have probably seen the salt flats before because they are used very frequently in commercials, particularly where you see the cars racing over white “sands” in the middle of nowhere. Or, you may have seen them in the (classic) movie, Independence Day. Those white grains you see aren’t sand; they’re salt and that’s during the summer. I went during the winter, though, and that was on purpose. I was first intrigued because I saw how the salt flats look after there is about a one inch layer of water over them, which happens in the winter. It’s a perfect, still reflection of the sky and landscape. There aren’t any animals or leaves or whatnot floating in there, so unless it’s disturbed, it’s perfectly still and that makes for a perfect reflection. Going on a sunny day is preferable and the weather gods were smiling on me the day I decided to go. I rocked out to a local station on the 1.5 hour drive west of Salt Lake City and came to the rest area where they are located. It’s actually very unremarkable if you don’t know where you’re going. I got out in 15 degree Fahrenheit weather, marveled at the reason all of this was possible, and drove back toward Salt Lake City. I know my description is anti-climactic but it’s kind of one of those things you need to see in person. It wasn’t exactly how I imagined, but it was close. There is also nothing else out there besides this, so it’s something you have to really want to see and it was worth it to me. However, the next time I go, I’ll go in the summer. During the summer, the water has evaporated, leaving the salt behind so you can drive your car as fast as possible in the middle of nowhere. That sounds like a blast! I’ll have to make sure to rent a fast car so it’ll be worth it. The other amazing thing about going to the salt flats is the views on the journey there and back. They are truly breathtaking!
Planning my trip to Utah, I never fathomed I’d do and see so many exciting things, like bobsledding on an Olympic track at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. As a matter of fact, bobsledding wasn’t even a blip on my radar, so to speak. I just happened to be researching things to do in Utah and it jumped out and grabbed my attention. I HAD to do it. Bobsledding on an Olympic track is one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals that you can’t pass up. I’m going to do my best to describe what it felt like on a bobsled, but you really need to experience it for yourself. Bobsledding was a breathtaking (almost literally) ride akin to a rollercoaster on steroids, swerving around corners at breakneck speed, with a force up to 3G’s in a little, open rocket with three other people whose heads are all bobbing. As an added bonus, our driver was the bobsledding silver medalist in the 2006 Olympics, Shauna Rohbock, so we certainly had a winning team! This is probably one of the most expensive minutes I’ve ever paid for but it was so worth it! I believe that the price is a moot point if it was worth it and this was! I’ll be able to say that I’ve ridden on an Olympic track in a bobsled, which is a sport that you can’t even really do casually. I’d do it again if I hadn’t already done it. I say put this on your bucket list now that you know about it. This was probably the highlight of my trip, despite going for an entirely different experience.
Through bobsledding, I met Tom & Jared, my bobsled mates-turned-new adventure partners who made the experience so much more enjoyable. I now have new friends who wouldn’t hesitate to jump on another “crazy” adventure like this. Actually they’re way more adventuresome than me, so I have some catching up to do.
Tips & Tricks
- Utah is very cold in the winter as one would expect. But you don’t have to bring a ton of heavy clothing and bulk up your suitcase. I actually wore very thin layers and was rarely cold. They were easy to pack and easy to wear. I did bring one large coat, but I had plenty of room for it because my layers were so thin, yet effective.
- Rent a car. I didn’t see much public transportation and you’ll need it to get around effectively. Plus, the roads were completely shoveled and I felt very safe on them.
- Don’t be afraid to travel in winter. Lots of times people box themselves into what are “acceptable” times to travel or visit a place and end up missing out on some adventure in the process. Some of my most memorable experiences have been when I went somewhere during an unexpected time.
Many times, we let perceived ideas and notions of what a place is about enable us to make rash judgments. This what happened to me with Utah. I never had a desire to go here and wondered what could possibly be great about Utah. I’m so humbled by the reminder to not prejudge a place or person, for that matter. You have no idea what that person or place may actually be about unless you engage. There is so much more that I could write on this blog about what I saw and did in Utah, but it would really be too long. I can truly say that I will return to Utah and probably on more than few occasions. Next time I will go to southern Utah during a more moderate season where I can hike and explore the other landscape and adventure diversity that it has to offer. Have you been to Utah? If so, where you did you visit and would you return? Have I encouraged a desire to visit?