The Coolest Places to Go in Utah: Weekend Getaways in the Beehive State

Utah is rich in culture, history and outdoor excursions. Plan a weekend getaway and enjoy a wonderful travel experience in the Western United States.

I first discovered a love for Utah when my wife and I drove up from Las Vegas to attend a wedding in Zion National Park. The colorful scenery of sandstone cliffs seemed to have its own character and warmth, balanced out by rugged wilderness and spacious ranch-style accommodations. We saw immediately why a couple would choose to marry here. It’s a place where the beauty and majesty of nature complement romance.

Since then, we’ve traveled throughout the state, from busy destinations like Salt Lake City to the snowy mountains of Park City and remote environment of Torrey. No matter where you go, there’s a feeling of space and comfort with a neighborly authenticity that’s hard to find elsewhere. So check out the best places to go in Utah for a weekend getaway. You’ll be eager to return again and again.

Discover an independent spirit in Ogden


If you’re looking for an alternative away from the desert landscapes of Southern Utah, Ogden is a fantastic choice. Just north of Salt Lake City, the mid-size town has its own unique character and history. Just look to the bars and restaurants on Historic 25th Street, where Prohibition-era speakeasies ran counter to the Mormon culture that founded the state. Many of the buildings date back even further and now serve as an eclectic hub of locally owned businesses for dining, drinking and shopping.

Surrounded by mountains, Ogden is also close to three ski resorts, which offer a less crowded (and less expensive) experience than what you’ll find in Park City. Snowbasin is the most adventurous option with Olympic-level runs, while Powder Mountain has more acreage than any other ski resort in the United States, with just 1,500 lift passes issued each day. Nordic Valley is more easy going — great for families and beginners — and popular for well-lit night skiing.

If winter sports aren’t your thing, take the kids to Eccles Dinosaur Park to wander among outdoor recreations of the creatures that once roamed the land.

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The Alaskan Inn is on the outskirts of town in Ogden Canyon — convenient for visiting ski resorts as well as the historic district. The log cabins are great for couples seeking a quiet, romantic retreat. The Alaskan Inn sits on the Ogden River and is close to several waterside restaurants. Don’t leave without booking a massage at the spa.

Alaskan Inn

8.0 Very good (17 reviews)

Enjoy the silence in Torrey


If solitude is seductive, Torrey could be your best bet for a weekend getaway in Utah. The old Mormon settlement has a minuscule population of less than 200 and a charming, tree-lined downtown with small hotels and cafes. It feels far from touristy and attracts those who appreciate quiet, remote wide-open spaces without any crowds to worry about.

Torrey is also an end-point of Scenic Byway 12, which is one of the most photogenic drives in Utah, passing through arches and canyons while cruising past pine trees and spectacular rock formations at the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

The main draw is Capitol Reef State Park, where you can camp and hike among red cliffs and tight slot canyons. Even if you just drive through it, you’ll be able to enjoy the sights. Pull over to explore Native American petroglyphs and the Pioneer Register, where travelers signed their name on a rock wall years ago.

Torrey was one of just 18 destinations in the world recognized as an International Dark Sky Community. The town is so remote, the stargazing is unusually vivid.

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Capitol Reef Resort has a wide variety of accommodations, including cabins and teepees, truly celebrating the outdoor lifestyle without sacrificing luxury. Just one mile from the Capitol Reef State Park entrance, it’s the perfect home base for planning an excursion. Arrange horseback rides on nearby trails and wind down in the pool or hot tub at the end of a long day. The Pioneer Kitchen will keep you fed day or night.

Capitol Reef Resort

Top rated
8.9 Excellent (2334 reviews)

Enjoy the great outdoors in St. George


When driving north from Nevada or Arizona, St. George is the first city travelers encounter after crossing the Utah state line. It’s a splash of sophisticated city life near some of the most scenic parks in Southern Utah. The largest is Zion National Park, where red and pink sandstone formations tower over wilderness and meadows with some of the best hiking trails in the state. Quail Creek State Park is great for boating on a reservoir, while the Red Cliffs National Conservation area offers more accessible red rock formations near the city.

Downtown St. George is charming and scenic on its own and easy to navigate, although having a car to get around is crucial. The presence of Dixie State College helps give St. George a college-town feel with boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and bars lining the streets. Shop among historic buildings at Ancestor Square and grab a bite to eat at George’s Corner, where you can hear live jazz on any given night.

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Inn on the Cliff is one of the most spectacular hotels in North America with an elevated sandstone bluff location. Enjoy the sweeping views of the city and surrounding desertscapes from a private balcony or while swimming on the cliffside pool deck. Rooms are clean and modern, with rustic touches seen in the décor and shiplap.

Inn On The Cliff

Top rated
St. George
9.6 Excellent (2107 reviews)

Relish the cosmopolitan culture of Salt Lake City


The largest city in Utah curates a cosmopolitan image without sacrificing the hospitable small-town charm felt in other parts of the state. Downtown Salt Lake City is easy to navigate, safe and full of attractions.

The Mormon heritage influences the city. Yet regardless of religious affiliation, visitors are always eager to visit the 35-acre Temple Square, which includes Salt Lake Temple, the performance hall for the Tabernacle Choir, former home of Brigham Young and a number of restaurants, including The Roof with floor-to-ceiling window views from the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

The Mormon influence is also felt at the Gilgal Sculpture Garden, a city park with 12 sculptures and dozens of stones with poems and other religious texts — a great spot to impress a date, since it seems to pop up out of nowhere when walking the city streets.

Despite its straight-edged reputation, Salt Lake City has a thriving nightlife and bar scene. When it comes to dining, the Red Iguana has some of the best Mexican north of the border. Place an order at Caputo’s Market, where cheese is aged with attention to time, temperature and humidity in one of two “caves.” Order a craft beer at Epic Brewing or Squatters Brewery.

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The Grand America Hotel is the largest hotel in Salt Lake City and easily one of the most luxurious. A landmark in its own right, the stately structure has timeless architecture, an elegant lobby and especially strong appeal for couples and honeymooners. Ask about suites that include an oversized tub and view of the city. The backyard garden and indoor pool are welcome touches.

Grand America Hotel

Top rated
Salt Lake City
9.5 Excellent (2266 reviews)

Explore the Rocks, Cliffs and Arches of Moab


Moab is a two-for-one deal, perfectly located to take advantage of two national parks. Both have their share of red cliffs and rock formations, making it a dream come true for hikers, rock climbers and horseback riders.

Arches National Park has more than 2,000 sandstone arches – including the Delicate Arch, which stands 60 feet tall. Canyonlands National Park is home to the Island in the Sky and other skyscraper-like formations with views overlooking the Green River. An elevated path along the Colorado River makes it easy to bike between parks.

No trip is complete without stopping to pose for a photo underneath the Corona Arch. It’s easy to hike, making it an ideal destination for beginners and kids. Raft, kayak or boat on the Colorado River or take an off-road vehicle through backcountry roads that were once mining trails.

The Moab Giants Dinosaur Park pays tribute to the oversized reptiles that roamed the Earth many years ago. Their footprints are still visible throughout the area.

Downtown Moab has a laid back energy, whether enjoying a beer at Moab Brewery (which also has a distillery) or steaks at Sunset Grill.

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The area has plenty of hotels, but you’re better off away from the crowds at Sorrel River Ranch. The 240-acre site has luxury cabins, a spa, and outdoor activities, including lawn games and a petting zoo. Soak in the majesty of the red rock formations from your porch in between tours of the national parks.

Hotel Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (267 reviews)

Hit the slopes in Park City


Park City is a luxurious mountain escape that’s still family-friendly and approachable. The former mining town famously hosts the Sundance Film Festival toward the end of winter, helping to cap off a ski season that draws thousands from around the world.

The Historic District has a trolley loop offering welcome relief from trekking up and down hilly Main Street. Small, locally-owned businesses are front and center with a variety of exceptional restaurants within a relatively small area. The best spot for fine dining is Riverhorse on Main, which has a sharp, modern dining room, tall ceilings and large windows that gaze out to the hustle of Main Street.

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The hard part is choosing a ski resort. Snowbird is a spectacle for cross- country junkies and has a conveyor belt that passes through a mountain with a mining museum. Montage Deer Valley is just as luxurious, but closer to the heart of Park City. The ski-in, ski-out resort has a high amount of beginner-level terrain, making it an exceptional choice for guests of all ages and abilities. Many of the rooms have their own fireplaces, which only add to the coziness when soaking in the mountain views from the balcony. Book a massage at the spa, a lavish sanctuary for rest and recovery.

Montage Deer Valley

Top rated
Park City
9.2 Excellent (682 reviews)

Spend time by the water in Provo


Provo is home to Brigham Young University and known for its tech start- ups and dining scene. Utah Lake is to the west with mountain peaks to the east, adding up to a wide array of outdoor activities. Rent a boat at Utah Lake State Park or hike to the top of Y Mountain for sweeping views of the city.

The Mormon presence is especially strong in Provo and many of the attractions reflect the heritage. Much of the culture stems from the university, which operates the Museum of Art, Museum of Paleontology and Museum of Peoples and Cultures. Yet the locals are very friendly and welcoming of visitors of all stripes. Many consider Bombay House the best Indian restaurant in Utah and the locals swear by Bam Bam’s for barbeque.

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Robert Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort is an iconic destination for skiing (and fine dining at The Tree Room), but booking a stay at Hines Mansion is a more rewarding experience for low-key travelers. The elegant, upscale bed and breakfast mixes luxury with history with just nine themed rooms. The Victorian mansion, built in 1895, is close to everything in downtown Provo and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hines Mansion

Top rated
9.2 Excellent (339 reviews)

Escape to nature in and around Cedar City


As the mid-point between St. George and Salt Lake City, Cedar City is all about location. Both Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park are within easy access, offering endless opportunities to hike and explore pine tree forests and colorful sandstone formations. However, locals seem to have an even stronger bond with the smaller but closer Cedar Breaks National Monument, a sloping amphitheater with engaging high-elevation views.

Cedar City itself is best known for Southern Utah State University, which traditionally hosts the Utah Shakespearean Festival every year. It’s a cultural locale with a small-town feel, featuring coffeehouses, antique shops and Groovacious, a music store that attracts vinyl collectors from all over the region.

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Big Yellow Inn is a charming place to spend a night or two, especially for couples seeking an organic touch of romance. The Victorian bed and breakfast has a pleasant backyard and 12 rooms, although some can connect to form a larger suite for families. Each has its own vintage furniture. The inn is walkable to the downtown historic district.

The Big Yellow Inn

Top rated
Cedar City
9.8 Excellent (1058 reviews)

Feature image courtesy of Sorrel River Ranch.