Small lakes and big rocks, golf courses and ski areas, Shakespeare and the latest special effects -- you'll find it all in the southwest corner of Utah, dubbed "Color Country" by the locals for its numerous and colorful rock formations. In addition to the attractions, another reason to visit is the warm winter weather: The region's largest city, St. George, and its immediate surroundings are known as "Utah's Dixie" for the mild climate as well as the area's previous life as a Civil War-era cotton-growing region. Color Country is a terrific winter playground; there's no need to ever put away the golf clubs or swimsuits in this neighborhood.
The range of elevations here means you can often lounge around the pool in the morning and build a snowman that same afternoon. From the scorching desert at St. George, it's only 74 miles -- and almost 7,500 feet up -- to the cool mountain forest at Cedar Breaks National Monument. Home to a variety of scenic and recreation areas (including a ski resort), a surprising number of historic attractions, and excellent performing arts events (such as the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City), this region also serves as the gateway to several of the area's spectacular national parks.
Here, you can step back more than a hundred years at Mormon leader Brigham Young's winter home or cheer on the Dixie State College Red Storm football team. Of course, the favorite stops are all outdoors: the rugged red-rock cliffs at Snow Canyon State Park, the ruddy sands of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and the panoramic views from Cedar Breaks National Monument. This area is also a good base for those visiting the area's national parks, including Grand Canyon (pick up a copy of Frommer's Grand Canyon), Great Basin, and Zion.
In recent years, St. George has been booming, with Washington County's population jumping over 50% from 2000 to 2009. More than a few Californians have retired here after falling in love with the climate -- and the real estate prices. But the growth hasn't changed everything: The space is still wide open, the winters still mild, and the surroundings still starkly beautiful.