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New to Utah

New to Utah: notes for Kim or anybody who's moved from out of state

Hi Kim,
Remember last year when we talked about how somebody should write a post with all the insider information?  Here you go - a bunch of random notes about Utah.

Food ideas:
Kneaders is a local bakery.  They're closed on Sundays, and every Saturday night starting at 8pm, almost the entire case of baked goods goes down to 50% off.  It's like Christmas but better.  The carrot cake is great, also the fruit tart...

Krispy Kreme is also a win. When your kids get a good report card, take a copy and they'll stamp it and give you 6 free glazed donuts per kid.  That means with my three big kids, we're walking away with 18.  So delicious.  Also when you get there, take at least 20 minutes to watch the donuts rising and dropping in the oil.  That's a really fun field trip.

Farm stands are great during the summer.  Look for the ones that are owned locally, right on the orchard.  (The Harward Farms ones are okay, they have lots of produce from California.)  But if it says "Sugar Sweet," it's even better.  The best tasting melons come out of Green River, Utah.  It's still too early for them right now, but ask around.  If you've never had a watermelon from green river, you need to start searching!  Macey's and Harmon's often carry produce from local vendors, too.  Oh, and look for peach jam from Brigham City.  They have the best peaches.  You can often find Tagge's stuff at the farm stands.  Buy the peach jam (it's like $6 jar), put it on toast and sprinkle cinnamon on top.  You're welcome.

I have three girlfriends who are also foodies, and once a month we get together for dinner.  For ideas on great restaurants in the SLC area, my talented friend Julie wrote a post last year detailing our adventures in dining.  You can read about some great places we've visited here.

Outdoor ideas:
Thanksgiving Point is amazing.  I love the Ashton Gardens so much!  My main recommendation here is to buy an annual pass for one person, it's like $75 for an individual.  With that pass you can bring the kids or friends in at half price.  When $2 Tuesday comes around in August, just say no, because it's super crowded and less fun when there's a million people there.  Also, if you need a lovely lunch spot, ask for a table on the patio and try the Trellis Cafe.  They only do lunch, and only in summertime, so I like to go there for lunch with a girlfriend at least once a year.  After you pay the waiter, they'll bring you complimentary coconut macaroons.

At the Gardens, if you buy fish food, go to the lily pond and throw a bunch in.
The fish literally pile on top of each other to get the food.
Earlier this spring we saw a family of geese:

The warthog statue just makes me laugh:

Also at Thanksgiving Point, we love the Curiosity Museum, the dinosaur museum, and Farm Country.  Amber has a couple of favorite ponies at Farm Country:  Rusty Bucket, Elvis, etc.  They also have an old fashioned wagon ride pulled by enormous horses, that goes around the property.  

You can drive the Alpine Loop at least twice each year.  Start in American Fork by heading east on SR92, and it will dump you out in Provo at the mouth of Provo Canyon.  Going from north to south, here are a few details worth checking out on various different trips.  Timpanogos Cave has tours during the summer.  The hike up to the cave is a pretty respectable incline, it's paved and one year we pushed a stroller up that one.  (I don't recommend the stroller approach.)  Bring a small backpack and a water bottle, with a windbreaker or sweatshirt.  Inside the cave it's like 20 degrees colder than outside.

Sometimes people drive up to Tibble Fork and go sledding in the winter.  Tibble Fork is the first reservoir and the road is paved.  If you don't mind getting your vehicle dirty, continue up past Tibble Fork to Silver Lake Flat (gorgeous!) where you can then hike to Silver Lake Glance, or go the other way from Tibble Fork to explore Mary Ellen Gulch (no reservoirs, but you can follow the American Fork River).

Closer to the Provo end of the drive, you can find Cascade Springs.  It isn't technically on the loop, but there's a turnoff and then a beautiful 7 mile drive off of the Alpine Loop to the springs.  We've enjoyed this with grandparents who are visiting from out of town.  Most of the boardwalk is wooden and fun to explore.  We were there last month and the water is a little low this year, but it's still a great spot.

On the southern end of the Alpine Loop, you'll find Sundance.  They have outdoor plays there in the summertime, and it's fun to ride the chairlift up and hike around.  Of course in the winter there's great skiing.  Foundry Grill is great for lunch or dinner.  The menu changes seasonally, and I love a lot of the local ingredients they use.

Make sure to drive the loop in September.  The fall colors start earlier at the higher elevations, so if the trees in the valley are just starting to turn golden and orange, then there's probably a riot of color up in the mountains.

Lots of families like to do photos in the fall.  You take advantage of the gorgeous fall colors outside and have a great photo done in time for Christmas cards.  More on that here.

Utah Adventure family has great ideas for exploring the outdoors with kids.  I wish I'd found her website years ago.

If you're feeling generous, donate $1 or more to help fund the butterflies that are coming next year to Thanksgiving Point.

When you have used clothing or furniture, think of donating to Deseret Industries because their program is pretty inspiring.  Their purpose is to help people recycle stuff, but mainly they're looking to train and educate people in the community.

While I'm talking about generosity, my favorite local homeless shelter is in SLC.  A year ago when my son was looking for Eagle project ideas, we visited there one day and I was impressed with their operation.  When we're out and about (stopped at an intersection) and we see needy people with signs, we like to give one of their "help cards" with a granola bar or snack.  I've found that most "homeless" people in and around SLC are usually grateful and harmless.  Other big cities, maybe not so much.

Road trips:
If you're driving south towards Vegas, stop in Beaver at the cheese factory.  They have squeaky cheese and ice cream cones.

Another cool side trip when you're heading south is Cove Fort.  Cove Fort is like the Old West version of a bed and breakfast.  It's free and you'll learn about the history of Utah and they have fun pioneer games for kids.  You can climb part of the wall and see where the gunners would defend the fort back in the day.  We learned about the telegraph, and how pioneer girls would save their hair (after a haircut) to use for making dolls.  You could easily spend an hour here, but if you only have twenty minutes, tell the guides that you're on a tight schedule and they'll leave you alone to explore without the tour.

Norm also said to check out Snow Canyon if you're in the St. George area.  Much less busy than Zion's, and with some awesome features to explore.  Norm said to check out the petrified sand dunes, the lava tubes and to buy black lights to look for scorpions after dark (they glow under black lights).  Also, for a hike with your girls, do the Red Mountain on the north edge of Snow Canyon - the view from the top is amazing!  As is the homemade pie in Veyo - a short drive and totally worth it.  He's taken the Scouts to Snow Canyon and I wrote about it over here.

Unique to Utah:

During July you'll start noticing all the lavender growing everywhere.  If you see it, take a piece of it and rub it on your fingers.  That's lavender oil.  There are two huge Utah companies that sell essential oils.  DoTerra's main market is in Utah.  I love their cough drops and their grapefruit oil.  It's kind of a MLM scheme, but you can set up an account and walk into their huge PG store and buy stuff.  Young Living is the bigger name internationally.  I love their oil called Thieves.

Later this month we celebrate Pioneer Day.  All through June and July, the small towns have rodeos and parades.  Provo does a huge thing called the Freedom Festival and if you get the free magazine in the mail, read about all the different things going on with that.  Stadium of Fire is amazing.

A fun blog with great ideas for moms is Crafting Chicks.  My sister-in-law is one of the main chicks, so I'm probably biased but she has seriously cute stuff.

BYU has a few things that I love.  The Museum of Art is pretty great.  Make sure to eat at the cafe upstairs.  If you've never tried a BYU mint brownie, you can probably find one there.

Every August BYU opens its doors to the public during Education Week, and you can take classes from the best professors on every subject imaginable.  It's cheap and a great way to stay smart.  I could write an entire post on Education Week alone.  Some of my favorite classes in past years have been:

  • money management (Norm's laughing in the background);
  • The Book of Isaiah
  • The neuroscience behind addiction
  • Home management, such as decluttering
  • Tips on parenting, such as managing entitlement, creating a joy school and so on.
  • One year I listened to a presenter talk about their experiences being a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  That lecture was so fascinating to me.  
The coolest thing about education week is you can go to a class and if it's not what you were hoping for, walk away and find another one.  No quizzes, no tests, you just go and learn stuff.  They even have a ballroom dance class if you want some exercise halfway into your day.  There are also motivational classes for teenagers.  There's a historian lady that I love (Susan Easton Black), so I'll usually look up when and where she's teaching and go to her class no matter what, just because I love hearing about all the research she's done.

Neighbor gifts are a unique Utah phenomenon.  At Christmas time, my mom is consistently surprised by the quantity of people leaving small gifts or treats on her porch.  They've been in Utah for ten years now, but it still catches them off guard.  It's a cute tradition to show neighbors you love 'em.  A few years ago, I decided I had too many neighbors that I like, so we just give everybody a Christmas card and call it good.

My last tip:  Look for local talent.  Most neighborhoods have a mom or grandma that does a fabulous job teaching piano in her home; basement beauty salons are a great way to get your hair done, talk to a friend, and get salon quality for a better price; also look for the neighborhood preschools.  Some neighborhoods might have a guy with a karate studio in his basement, or a gymnastics or dance school for kids.  It saves me a lot of driving when I tap into these great people that live within a mile of my house.

Writing this post has made me reflect on all the things I LOVE about living in Utah.  There's lots of great food, activities for families, mountains to explore, and wonderful people.  I'm kind of sad thinking about leaving, but excited for any new friends that have yet to explore and discover.  I wish you wonder and joy on your journey through Utah.


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