Two hours north of the bustle of Las Vegas, serene St. George, Utah, offers a collection of attractions unmatched by its more famous neighbor.
The nearby Tuacahn Center for the Arts, an outdoor amphitheater with one wall represented by a sky-scraping red rock canyon, has come a long way since its inception in 1995, when it opened with the musical theater “Utah,” which was to be its sole production. That idea was scrapped four years later and today Tuacahn is home to “Broadway in the Canyon,” with classics staged to showcase the venue’s unique characteristics.
Those would include a water curtain 75 feet wide and 30 feet high, supplied by 10,000 gallons of recyclable water from a nearby aquifer. Some productions incorporate water flowing from a cascade in the canyons across the stage to threaten the toes of the audience, while others involve performers suspended in the air or on horses galloping across the canyon floor. Concerts, comedy shows and bull riding exhibitions also are presented. Water in this desert setting is a theme from the very entrance, where a kid-magnet multilevel watercourse races down a slope between the walkways from the parking lot.
The red rock beauty of Tuacahn is even more striking in Snow Canyon State Park just down the road, because of the proximity of hundreds of tons of black basalt sprinkled about, the remnants of cinder cone volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. The park has more than 38 miles of hiking trails, a 3-mile paved trail for walking or biking and more than 15 miles of equestrian trails.
A few minutes away is the Kayenta Art Village (kayentautah.com). It’s the centerpiece of the 2,200-acre Kayenta residential community, 80 percent of which is bordered by open space. Here the flat-topped, adobe-style homes are designed to blend into their surroundings and lighting restrictions ensure a starlit sky.
The art village is home to a half dozen galleries, a pottery co-op, labyrinth with outdoor art, an arboretum, day spa, hair salon and cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. The village walkway is even an art installation, with a forced-perspective painting on the pavement.
On a Saturday in February, Hazelle Bretzing, a recent transplant from Salt Lake City, was looking at a sign in the window of the day spa advertising yoga classes.
“I love to be outdoors and in the mountains,” she said. “It’s all very grounding to me. That’s what I love — peace.”
While you wouldn’t think a supermarket could be a tourism attraction, this one is: Located in the western part of the region, the 67,500-square-foot Harmons Neighborhood Grocer (harmonsgrocery.com) dwarfs the average supermarket of 45,000 square feet. Part of a chain based in the Salt Lake City area, it has an in-store artist, in-store dietitian, extensive cheese, produce, meat, seafood and floral selections and a display of house-made gelato in about a dozen flavors.
The real showpiece, though, is upstairs in the $1.5 million cooking classroom with five professional-level stations, all with Wolf ranges. Headed by Shane Robillard, who once worked at Picasso in Bellagio, and Jackie Dodart, who was the chef at a Marriott resort, it offers classes four days a week, plus kids’ sessions, summer kids’ cooking camps and more. Classes include basic knife skills, various international cuisines and even how to use an Instant Pot.
A big draw are the monthly dinners/pairings classes by Susan S. Thompson, a certified bourbon steward. Those tend to be sold out, with waiting lists, and Thompson said many who attend are repeat customers.
The classes offer a chance to taste different bourbons, get a sense of the history and culture of bourbon and learn how various types pair with food. Bourbon often is used in the dinners, such as in a dish of candied bacon with bourbon, served with scallops. A number of people who attend, she said, have finished the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, an itinerary with stops at various distillers.
St. George proper, which is to the east, is enjoying a bit of a renewal while it honors its history. The Advenire (marriott.com), a charming boutique hotel that’s part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, recently opened on West St. George Boulevard with Wood. Ash. Rye., its casual restaurant serving small plates and entrees.
Around the corner from the Advenire is an avenue of quaint shops and restaurants along Main Street. Other offerings nearby include St. George Children’s Museum; Ancestor Square, where historic buildings house shops and galleries, and which hosts a farmers market on Saturday mornings from mid-May through October; and the Brigham Young Winter Home, where “St. George’s first snowbird” spent the chillier months. The downtown area also is the site of a free, multistory municipal parking garage.
Delphine Wright of Salt Lake City and Janet Rospond of California’s San Fernando Valley were in the area on a recent Saturday, continuing a tradition of odysseys they used to make with their mother and aunt.
“We love it,” Wright said.
“We’ve been coming here since the early ’80s.”
“It’s different,” Rospond said. “It’s not what you get to see everywhere. And so much is being offered.”
This story first appeared in the inaugural Spring 2020 issue of rjmagazine, a new quarterly published inside the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Read the rest of the Spring 2020 issue here.
If you go
Downtown Farmers Market: Ancestor Square, 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays from second Sunday in May through October. farmersmarketdowntown.com
Tuacahn Saturday Market: Year-round, weather permitting. Dec.-Feb., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; March-Nov., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. tuacahn.org
Toquerville Falls: In the Hurricane Valley, between St. George and Zion National Park, waterfalls that spill into a swimming hole accessed via rough dirt roads; four-wheel-drive vehicles advised. greaterzion.com
Zion National Park: A popular spot with limited parking, so park in Springfield and take a shuttle. nps.gov/zion
Amangiri: 5-star resort and spa in Canyon Point, between St. George and Kanab, Utah. Glamping facilities added this year. From $1,550 to $4,000 a night for resort; $3,500 to $5,600 for Camp Sarika. aman.com, greaterzion.com