SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Fodor’s Travel, a name in travel recommendations for almost 80 years, for the first time ever has selected a top destination for the year: Utah. Fodor’s annual Go List highlights 25 can’t-miss spots around the world that should be on every traveler’s radar for the next year, and places Utah on top.
“It has been a big year for the state with record numbers visiting our Mighty Five national parks and the opening of the largest ski resort in the nation, Park City, and 2016 is looking to be even bigger,” said Vicki Varela, managing director of Utah Office of Tourism, Film and Global Branding.
While there are hundreds of reasons to visit Utah year-round, in honor of this exciting distinction, here are 25 must-do 2016 activities in Utah.
- Find out why the bird is the word in Box Elder County — Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge’s 74,000 acres of marsh and upland habitats offers waterbird watching in the United States, with mind-boggling numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds from March to November.
- Go see goblins — Located along the San Rafael Reef, Goblin Valley State Park, a place that captures and stretches the imagination, with its landscape covered with sandstone “goblins” and fascinating formations often compared to Mars.
- Explore the cosmos of Utah’s dark skies — Utah is home to five officially designated Dark Sky Parks, meaning that it’s one of the best places for stargazing. At Cedar Breaks National Monument, observe swirling nebulae, twinkling star clusters, and distant galaxies through powerful telescopes.
- Reel in the big one at Trophy Lake trout paradise — Flaming Gorge Reservoir is legendary for its trophy lake trout with huge fish caught regularly every year, including the Utah record – a trout weighing in at a whopping 51 lb, 8 oz.
- Get your zoom on at Utah Motorsports Campus — Utah Motorsports Campus recently announced plans for a driving school and racing series featuring the new Formula 4 racecar, promising high speed thrills year-round.
- Discover the real big chill at Midway’s Ice Castle — Built by hand from more than 20,000,000 pounds of ice, the gotta-see-it-to-believe-it Utah Ice Castle in Midway is started by “growing” more than 5,000 icicles each day that are then harvested and sculpted together to create large towers, tunnels, archways, caves, caverns and safe pathways for pedestrian exploration.
- Welcome the bard to Utah — The Emmy- and Tony-award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival (June 27 through Oct. 22) attracts more than 100,000 theater lovers to Cedar City’s Southern Utah University campus each year, for three months of world-class works by Shakespeare.
- Say “prost!” in Snowbird — Snowbird hosts one of the most authentic – not to mention longest – Oktoberfest events in the nation, taking place every Saturday and Sunday from mid-August through mid–October, including over Labor Day Weekend.
- Walk with dinosaurs — Northeastern Utah’s dinosaur legacy comes to life at Dinosaur National Monument, where geological and climatic forces have tilted, warped, and eroded the earth’s crust to reveal a treasure trove of fossils.
- Feast your eyes on an Island in the Sky — Resting on sheer sandstone cliffs over 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain, the Island in the Sky mesa in Canyonlands National Park offers spectacular views along a paved scenic drive.
- Take a jeep tour of Monument Valley — A Jeep Tour of the iconic Monument Valley will take you amidst the towering rock formations that have captivated visitors (and Hollywood filmmakers) for decades.
- Soak in the sights on Scenic Byway Highway 12 — Scenic Byway Highway 12, Utah’s nationally-designated All-American Road, offers motorists twisting canyons, red rock towers, pine forests, and pioneer towns, not to mention breathtaking panoramas, national parks and monuments, recreation areas, and state parks.
- Hike Bryce Canyon’s Rim Trail — This popular trail above Bryce Canyon connects all the scenic overlooks from Fairyland Point to Bryce Point, offering hikers the opportunity to see Bryce, encompassing the main amphitheater, from “on top.” In the winter, the Rim Trail is a great snowshoeing and cross country skiing destination.
- Navigate through the narrows of Zion National Park — This day trek takes you to where the North Fork Virgin River runs beneath thousand-foot walls of Navajo sandstone, where centuries of erosion have been sculpted into some of the most beautiful rock forms in all of the American Southwest.
- See a whole lotta lava tubes in Snow Canyon State Park — Utah was once filled with violent, erupting volcanoes. Don’t worry, they’re all dormant now – and what they left behind is truly spectacular. Snow Canyon State Park’s unique lava tubes, created centuries ago by cooling lava, are amazing geologic formations that hikers can take in amidst towering red sandstone monuments.
- Have a SUP Yoga Session in the Homestead Crater – The Homestead Crater (located at the Homestead Resort in Midway) is a geothermal spring, hidden within a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock, 100,00 years in the making. Swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, even paddle board yoga classes are all available.
- Take a ride on the 2002 Olympic bobsled track at the Utah Olympic Park — The Olympics may be over, but you can still live out your gold medal dreams at Utah Olympic Park, where the bobsled track is still offering the ride of your life, as a pro pilot guides you on a thrilling journey.
- Ski the largest resort in the U.S. at Park City — With the mammoth Park City Mountain Resort and famed Deer Valley just minutes apart, you’ll find a playground of over 9,300 skiable acres. Revel in the greatest snow on Earth and see why the 2002 Winter Olympic Games were held on these legendary slopes.
- Float the Provo River — Regarded as many Utah’s “home water,” the famous Provo River offers multi-day river-rafting trips on both whitewater and flatwater runs, sandy beaches beneath colorful, sculpted canyon walls miles from anywhere.
- Dig up fossils in Delta — This private quarry located an hour west of Delta, contains one of the world’s richest deposits of trilobites some of which are more than 550 million years old. The best part? You get to keep what you find.
- Play cowboy for a day at Blue Sky Ranch — Experience rustic luxury at this 3,500-acre hospitality and recreational paradise, just minutes from the fabled ski town of Park City. Horse riding lessons for all skill levels offered.
- Check out the longest art gallery in the world — Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon has been referred to as the “world’s longest art gallery” thanks to the thousands of Native American petroglyphs that adorn the rock walls here – the largest concentration of rock art in the United States.
- Hang out with the A-list at Sundance Resort — Sundance Resort, founded by Hollywood legend Robert Redford, features casually elegant accommodations, year round mountain recreation, award winning dining, Spa, and an Art Studio. Skiing, snowboarding, fine dining – and of course, celebrity watching – are all offered.
- Discover the Spiral Jetty — The massive earthwork sculpture Spiral Jetty by famed artist Robert Smithson is in a remote but accessible area of the Great Salt Lake. The earth art is popular with photographers and travelers who enjoy exploring off the beaten path and is an internationally known earth art piece.
- Experience cute overload at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary — Located just five miles north of Kanab, off of Highway 89, the sprawling Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, home to about 1,700 animals, is open for year-round tours.
For more activities to try in and around Fodor’s number one place to visit in 2016, go to www.visitutah.com.
SOURCE: Fodor’s Travel press release