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With summer break just around the corner, it is important to make the most of the time we have with our loved ones. In recent years, most of us have learned the value of the “Staycation” and how to make memories without breaking the bank. So what can you do without having to open up your wallet too much? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Family Friendly

Every Saturday from May 10 until September, the Golden Spike National Historic Site reenacts the coming together of the transcontinental railroads. It’s an 1800’s homage and a good reminder at the wonder and monumental impact of national transportation. Enjoy reenactments, trackside talks, and live demonstrations of authentic replica steam locomotives. Open year round, prices start as low as $4 per person, or $7 for a single vehicle.

Take a trip to Cedar City and you’ll find an extensive horse-drawn wagon collection, historic buildings, Paiute native camp, sawmill and replica blast furnace at the Frontier Homestead State Park Museum. Open six days a week, you can relive the pioneer and early industrial history of Cedar City, Iron County, and southwest Utah while enjoying many hands-on activities and interpretive programs throughout the year, including children’s history camps. The price of admission? $3 for a day of memories.

Spilt between Utah and Colorado is the Dinosaur National Monument. The remains of these fantastic creatures are still visibly embedded in the rocks. Petroglyphs hint at earlier cultures, while later on, homesteaders and outlaws found refuge here. Whether your passion is science, adventure, history or scenery, Dinosaur National Monument offers a lot for your family to explore. The cost for seeing these ancient wanderers starts as low as $5.

Outdoors Fun

If you’re trying to get the older children outside and away from the computer and cell phones, maybe a trip to Timpanogos Cave National Monument is just the thing. Timpanogos doesn’t charge an entrance fee to enter the monument and there is no charge for driving through the area, using the picnic areas, or hiking. The monument also offers cave tours throughout the day. Tickets range from $4 – $8 and they sell out fast. So I recommend going online and purchasing them ahead of time.

Natural Bridges National Monument invites you to ponder the power of water in a landscape usually defined by its absence. Declared a National Monument in 1908, the three natural bridges are named “Kachina,” “Owachomo” and “Sipapu” in honor of the Native Americans that once made this area their home. Natural Bridges is open year-round with the visitor center open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. May through September. $3 allows anyone on a bicycle, motorcycle or a hiker entrance for seven days. Taking the car down? No problem. $6 assures entrance and all day fun for the family.

If you make your way up north, it’s memorable to take a short detour to the Spiral Jetty, a remote decades-old art project that’s as bizarre as it is famous in the art world. The jetty is a gradually eroding spiral structure jetting out into the waters of the northern shore of the Great Salt Lake. It’s oddly beautiful, it’s unique, it’s hidden and it makes for cool family photos.

Hidden away at the Great Basin National Park, Lehman Caves offers tours of a beautiful marble cave ornately decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, popcorn, and over 300 rare shield formations. Two different guided tours of Lehman Caves are offered, the Lodge Room Tour and the Grand Palace Tour. Reservations are strongly recommended in the summer months, as well as over holiday weekends. Lodge Room Tours are approximately 60 minutes long. The Lodge Room Tour travels 0.4 miles, and is ideal for families with young children. Grand Palace Tours are approximately 90 minutes long. The Grand Palace Tour travels 0.6 miles, and children must be at least 5 years old to join the Grand Palace Tour. These tours are limited to 20 visitors and during the peak of summer (May 23- September 1) are offered five times a day. Ticket prices are $4 – $5 for children under 15, and for adults its $8 – $10 depending on the tour you take. I strongly recommend you call ahead of time to purchase your tickets.


The respective art museums at the dueling schools of the University of Utah and Brigham Young University are some of the best art museums in the entire mountain west and exhibit an impressive collection of international as well as local art. In Salt Lake City, the Utah Museum of Fine Art “is Utah’s only visual arts institution that collects, exhibits, interprets and preserves a comprehensive collection of over 5,000 years of art from around the world,” according to the museum’s website. And it’s free on the first Wednesday of every month.

For a bit of modern history, a two-hour ride from Provo to Delta is the site of Topaz, the Japanese internment camp in use during World War II. Currently seeking funds to build a museum, the actual site can be toured for a chilling and often overlooked important element of U.S. history during the war.

Hopefully these ideas will help get you on the road with your family and see just how much fun can be had when you explore the great outdoors that is our own backyard.

By: Leigh Ann Day

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