Utah has the family-friendly thing down pat. Admission fees for children are especially low, and many tourist attractions offer family packages priced considerably lower than the per-person rate. Attractions frequently schedule family-centric events, and most destinations throughout this book have special activities for kids. This 12-day itinerary, which begins and ends in Salt Lake City, has plenty for the kids while also providing lots to interest the parents.
Days 1-3: Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City has so many family attractions that it would be easy to spend a week or more just in the city. History buffs will enjoy exploring Temple Square, and perhaps the Beehive House, built in 1854 as church leader Brigham Young's family home. Other fun family stops include Clark Planetarium, offering star shows, light shows, and big-screen movies; Utah's Hogle Zoo, home to 1,100 animals; and the kid-oriented Discovery Gateway, home to 140 exhibits of all kinds, including a kid-size grocery store and an outdoor "flight for life" exhibit. Another option is a day trip to nearby Ogden, for the Lagoon amusement park, the Treehouse Museum, or the terrific family attractions at the Salomon Center.
Day 4: Heber Valley Historic Railroad
This 100-year-old excursion train in Heber City provides an exciting look into the past, plus lots of black smoke, cinders, and wind in your hair. Rides ranging from 1 1/2 to 3 hours are offered on both steam and vintage diesel trains. Most kids, including the kids-at-heart, prefer the steam trains.
Days 5-7: Bryce Canyon National Park
This picturesque park is a long drive down I-15 and then along some back roads, but it's well worth the trip. Bryce contains thousands of intricately shaped hoodoos -- those brooding rock formations that pique the imagination -- colored in a palette of red, orange, and brown. Kids will especially like hiking the Queen's Garden Trail, where they can spot a variety of whimsical formations, such as Thor's Hammer.
Days 8 & 9: Capitol Reef National Park
Heading back north, take the incredibly scenic Utah 12 to Capitol Reef, a secret gem of a national park that offers brightly colored and oddly shaped rock formations, along with a handful of historic sites. Be sure to visit the 1896 Fruita Schoolhouse, authentically furnished with period wood-and-wrought-iron desks, wood-burning stove, chalkboard, and textbooks. Nearby, the orchards planted by the Mormon settlers continue to thrive, tended by park workers who invite you to sample the "fruits" of their labors.
Day 10: Price
If you're trying to sell children on a museum, make sure it has dinosaurs. Enter the CEU Prehistoric Museum, where huge skeletons of an allosaurus, a Utah raptor, and a duck-billed prosaurolophus preside. For the true dinophile, drive about 35 miles out of town to the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, where you'll find relics of more than 70 dinosaurs.
Days 11 & 12: Back to Salt Lake City
Return to Salt Lake City and catch up on attractions you missed the first time, such as This Is the Place Heritage Park. The park is home to Old Deseret Village, a pioneer village comprised of original and reproduction buildings that in summer becomes a mid-1800s living-history museum, complete with costumed villagers and a variety of activities, including wagon rides. Another good choice is Liberty Park, with trails, a small lake with ducks and paddle-boat rentals, a playground, a children's garden, a kiddie amusement park, a museum, and an excellent aviary.
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.