After spending the last weeks and months with activities restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic, most Utah residents are stir crazy. Think Kevin Bacon in the original 1984 "Footloose" when his freedom of expression was restricted and all he wanted to do was break loose and stage a dance for his new schoolmates (the movie was mostly filmed in Utah County, by the way).
When the all-clear sounds and life returns to a more normal condition, chances are there are things you missed doing and perhaps some things you want to experience for the first time. If hosting a dance is on the list — that’s great — no judgments here.
For those who are looking for some ideas to add to their post-coronavirus bucket list that don’t involve spontaneous dancing in a Lehi grain mill, here are a few uniquely Utah options to consider.
Hike to Corona Arch
It’s crazy that someone was inspired to name an arch for a viral pandemic that hadn’t even occurred. It’s just more proof that the whole thing is part of an orchestrated conspiracy (JK). Located just outside Moab, Corona Arch is large and spectacular. It is not in Arches National Park, but it is more impressive than many of the better-known arches inside the park.
You reach the arch via a 1.5-mile hike through Utah’s trademark red sandstone. You’ll also bag a bonus arch for your efforts. You pass Bowtie Arch before you get to Corona, which is likely named after the ring around the sun rather than the virus, by the way.
Once you get there, prepare to be impressed. A search of YouTube reveals plenty of videos of people swinging from Corona Arch (not allowed and not advised) and even flying through the arch in an ultralight aircraft (also not allowed nor advised).
Soak in a natural hot spring
Few things are as invigorating as a soak in a hot spring. Besides making you feel great, there are possible therapeutic benefits. "According to folklore, soaking in hot springs increases your blood flow, circulation, metabolism, and absorption of essential minerals," reports Lifehacker.com.
Utah is blessed with many hot springs. They range from natural waters in backcountry areas like Fifth Water Hot Springs east of Spanish Fork to developed facilities like Crystal Hot Springs near Honeyville with hot and cold pools, a water slide and even camping and RV areas. Be advised that visitors to some of the primitive hot springs like to soak sans bathing suits.
If you’re thinking that soaking in a pool of hot water laden with minerals can’t compare with a hot bath at home, keep in mind your personal bath likely doesn’t carry a whiff of sulfur and you don’t get to share the experience with sweaty strangers — something you would never consider during the pandemic stay-home directive.
Attend a sporting event, concert or play
In addition to the Utah Jazz, minor league baseball, major league soccer, hockey, collegiate football, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and more, Utah offers a wide array of sports options. And that doesn’t count the available winter sports.
On any given fall weekend, there could be 60,000-plus fans at a BYU football game, 45,000 at a University of Utah football game, 25,000 at a Utah State game, 20,000 watching soccer at Rio Tinto Stadium and tens of thousands more attending various collegiate basketball games — not bad for a state that ranks 30th in population with 3.2 million residents.
The COVID-19 pandemic cheated Utah sports fans out of some potentially amazing experiences in 2020. The Jazz were rolling toward another playoff appearance and the BYU and Utah State basketball teams were headed to March Madness as part of the NCAA basketball tournament.
If you absolutely don’t do sports, consider attending a concert or theatrical performance. Utah venues like Vivint Smart Home Arena and USANA Amphitheatre draw some of the biggest names in music. Or if you’d rather see a play, the talent level of performers at Hale Center Theatre, Tuacahn or the Utah Shakespeare Festival is phenomenal.
Go out to eat — way out
You could go the expected, safe route of waiting in line at Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden for some admittedly tasty fare. But after weeks of imposed sacrifice, combining your urge to dine out with a road trip makes perfect sense. Here are some suggestions.
Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder specializes in locally sourced dishes. "Their organic farm contains over 75 heirloom fruit trees, 130 heritage-breed laying hens, and grass-fed beef and lamb, which leads to dishes like the farm vegetable delight (with house-baked spiced tofu), spicy meatloaf, braised beef, and lemon chicken," explains The Daily Meal. Nearby are Capital Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon, Boulder Mountain with hundreds of alpine lakes, slot canyons for exploring and more.
Bear Lake raspberries will soon be in season and one of the best ways to experience them is in one of the area’s popular shakes. "After a long day of water recreation, LeBeau's Drive-In, in Garden City, is a worthwhile stop," Food Network reports. "Fresh raspberries are blended into soft-serve ice cream and piled over the rim for the added indulgence." And no matter which route you choose to get there, Bear Lake is always scenic and offers a range of recreation options.
If you take the above advice to hike to Corona Arch, you can also stop and have a meal at Moab Diner. The food is basic, but the restaurant has more than 3,000 reviews on Tripadvisor and it nets out with 4.5 stars.
In addition to Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Moab boasts Dead Horse Point State Park and the scenic LaSal Mountains. The town is Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and even if you don’t want to mountain bike, hike or go off-roading, you can still see some of the world’s most unique landscapes from the comfort of an air-conditioned, two-wheel drive car.
If these options don’t interest you, then pick a rural Utah town like Wendover, Fillmore, Parowan, Green River, Duchesne, Kanab, Richfield or Hurricane and find your own favorite local restaurant. There are hundreds of choices. And no matter where you go in Utah, you’ll be able to find adventure and natural beauty along the way.
Make it memorable
Whatever plans are on your post-pandemic basket list, make sure to stretch yourself by going somewhere or doing something new. Utah is an amazing state with an endless variety of options.
If you are thinking same-old, same-old, keep in mind that in 2019, more than 10 million visitors came to Utah just for the national parks, according to the Ken C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. More than 4 million made ski visits.
Beehive State residents are surrounded by world-class natural resources and scenic beauty. Now that restrictions are being removed, it’s time to enjoy the available opportunities.