Some people think Utah is stuck in the 1950s -- quaintly or annoyingly so, depending on your perspective. This time warp is due in large part to the strong church influence and the corollary Mormon emphasis on family values, which make Utah a notably family-oriented state. People here are friendly, the crime rate is low, and Utah is generally a very pleasant state to visit.
But don't expect to find a lot of wild nightlife here. While alcohol laws were normalized in 2009 -- meaning no more memberships in private clubs -- attitudes toward alcohol in Utah are considerably more conservative than what you'll find in neighboring states. Those of us who enjoy a glass of wine or beer or a mixed drink with lunch or dinner need to choose our restaurants carefully. This isn't universal, of course; in terms of nightlife, Park City can hold its own with any of the top ski resorts in Colorado, and Ogden and Moab are fun, wild 'n' crazy kinds of places -- at least by Utah standards.
Beyond the liberalization of alcohol laws, other changes are in the wind as more and more outsiders move to Utah. Many escapees from California's smog, crime, crowds, and taxes have brought their mountain bikes and West Coast philosophy to southern Utah's national park country, while others have been lured to the Wasatch Front, particularly between Salt Lake City and Provo, by the ski hills and the burgeoning high-tech industry here. These newcomers have brought demands for more services, better restaurants, upscale shops, and a greater range of activities. They're also accused by some Utahns of bringing with them the very problems they sought to escape.
The growth of tourism is causing traffic congestion problems, mainly because there are so many tourists, and because everyone wants to visit at the same time. Zion National Park has been affected the most. In 2000, in an attempt to deal with the problem, the park instituted a mandatory shuttle-bus service. Bryce Canyon National Park, too, has implemented a shuttle.
Another current issue that will affect you is the wilderness-vs.-development debate. As in many Western states, Utah endures an ongoing battle between business interests, who see federal lands as prime targets for development or resource extraction, and environmentalists, who are intent on preserving what they consider to be one of the last true wildernesses of the American West. The wilderness-preservation side sees the businesspeople as greedy land-grabbers who care nothing for the future and see the lands only as a commodity to be exploited. On the other hand, the ranchers, loggers, and miners see the environmentalists as selfish, well-off newcomers who don't care that other people need to earn a living and just want the government to designate vast wilderness areas as their personal playgrounds. To some extent, they're both right. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Even though its feet may be planted in the 1950s, Utah is actively looking toward the future. It's even trying to tackle such modern problems as population growth and air pollution head-on. But the story's not all grim: The Beehive State worked hard to prepare for the 2002 Winter Olympic games, and all that work paid off with a successful Olympic games -- the legend of which continues to live on.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.