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Tribune Choice Awards: Destinations

Published September 5, 2013 3:38 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

You voted, and the results are in.

Allow us to introduce winners of The Salt Lake Tribune Choice Awards — your picks for the best Utah has to offer as far as destinations go. Tribune editors weighed in as well, with their own selections in each category.

Did fellow readers get it right? Did we?

Tourist spots

People's Choice

Winner

Downtown Salt Lake City • Though exact numbers of visitors are not revealed, there is little doubt that Temple Square in the heart of Salt Lake City is Utah's top tourist draw. No matter what your religion is, visiting Utah's capital city without seeing Temple Square would be like going to Rome and not seeing the Vatican. But there's also the sparkling new City Creek Shopping Center along with museums such as Discovery Gateway, Clark Planetarium, Pioneer Memorial Theatre, Museum of Church History and Art and Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. Add to that arts, sports and concert venues such as Abravanel Hall, the Capitol Theatre, the Gallivan Center and EnergySolutions Arena and the summer farmers market, and downtown can be a lively place to visit.

First runner-up

Zion National Park •Towering cliffs, waterfalls, hiking trails, a campground and the interesting gateway community of Springdale make this a Utah favorite.

Second runner-up

Foothill Cultural District (includes Hogle Zoo, This Is the Place Heritage Park, Red Butte Garden, Fort Douglas Museum, Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Utah Museum of Natural History) • (See Editors' Choice.)

Editors' Choice

Winner

Moab • Few places in the world offer the variety of outdoor experiences that can be discovered in Moab. Mountain bike the Slickrock Trail or surrounding areas. Explore some of the world's wildest trails in a four-wheel-drive vehicle or an ATV. Take a whitewater raft trip on the Colorado River. Visit Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Dead Horse Point State Park, where miles of hiking trails are available. Climbers from all over the world test themselves on the red cliffs surrounding the town. A scenic 18-hole course entices golfers. The nearby LaSal Mountains even offer alpine scenery and a mountain fishing lake or two. Add to that music, art, film, square-dance and mountain-bike festivals, rodeos, the Jeep Safari and Jamboree, car shows, a popular half-marathon and rodeos. Finally, the town itself is interesting. Visitors can enjoy breweries, wineries, some interesting restaurants and a variety of art, book and T-shirt shops.

First runner-up

Foothill Cultural District, Salt Lake City (includes Hogle Zoo, This Is the Place Heritage Park, Red Butte Garden, Fort Douglas Museum, Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Utah Museum of Natural History) • This is the best place to learn about Utah's human, artistic and natural history by visiting attractions in the same area.

Second runner-up

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area • Enjoy fishing and boating on the reservoir, take a dam tour or rent a raft and head down the Green River. Better yet, get a fly-fishing guide. Add to that campgrounds, beaches, hiking trails, geologic drives and nearby Vernal and its dinosaur attractions, and this is a highly underrated destination.

Family outings

People's Choice

Winner

Natural History Museum of Utah • This 163,000-square-foot facility likes to tell visitors to "spend the day. You have 150 million years to cover." Judging from its popularity, many Utahns have accepted the invitation to see the $102.5 million facility, with its striking roof made of 42,000 square feet of copper, that opened in 2011. A research facility that is home to 1.2 million specimens and objects, the museum has major exhibits on sky, native voices, life, land, first peoples, gems and minerals, the Great Salt Lake, Our Backyard and Utah's future. Special events and exhibitions make the museum a place that can easily be visited several times a year. A patio and coffee shop also have proved to be popular resting spots for hikers and bikers who use the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which runs near the building.

First runner-up

Red Butte Garden • Stroll through the themed gardens, enjoy a picnic or join the masses for a summer concert at this 100-acre botanical garden, the largest in the Intermountain West.

Second runner-up

Lagoon • (See Editors' Choice.)

Editors' Choice

Winner

Lagoon Amusement Park • Many Utah families don't consider summer complete without a visit to this venerable Farmington theme park. And those who don't have the time or money to make it to Southern California for a Disneyland, California Adventure, Universal Studios or Knotts Berry Farm adventure usually find Lagoon to be a nice alternative.

The family-owned park, founded in 1886 and on the same site since 1893, mixes history with thrill rides that include eight roller coasters. Pioneer Village shows off collections of guns, carriages and a number of original Utah buildings in a quiet end of the park. Combine that with the 1906 carousel, the wooden roller coaster built in 1921 and historic picnic pavilions where visitors can still bring in their own food, and you have a great place for a summer break.

First runner-up

Tracy Aviary • In Liberty Park since 1938, the aviary has undergone major renovations in recent years. Its smaller size makes it ideal for children and it usually has a relaxed, quiet atmosphere with plenty of shade.

Second runner-up

Utah dinosaur destinations • Families can choose to visit Dinosaur National Monument in the Vernal area, the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding, the Johnson Farm in Washington, Thanksgiving Point's Museum of Ancient Life, the Natural History Museum of Utah, the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum in Price, the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Emery County, the Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden or the Museum of the San Rafael in Price to learn about their favorite prehistoric creatures.

Scenic drives

People's Choice

Winner

Zion National Park • As scenic drives go, the 12-mile Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is relatively short. But it certainly packs in plenty of scenery and adventure. The even shorter drive up the main Zion Canyon requires boarding a shuttle much of the year unless you have reservations to stay at the lodge. The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway that connects the eastern and southern entrances to the national park offers viewpoints of Checkerboard Mesa, a ride through tunnels carved out of sandstone and an exciting trip down switchbacks. Stopping on the east side of the tunnels to take the short hike to the Canyon Overlook is memorable. The main Zion Canyon Road, where the shuttles operate except in winter, provides views of classic formations such as The Great White Throne, The Sentinel, the Altar of Sacrifice, Angels Landing and the Court of the Patriarchs.

First runner-up

Alpine Loop • This narrow 24-mile road gains 3,000 feet in elevation as it connects American Fork and Provo canyons.

Second runner-up

Highway 12 • (See Editors' Choice.)

Editors' Choice

Winner

Highway 12 • Few paved roads in the world can match this 122-mile southern Utah gem that has earned the honor of being designated an "All-American Road." The drive connects U.S. 89 just south of Panguitch with Utah Highway 24 in Torrey. In its wandering, it passes through Red Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, Anasazi State Park, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, the Boulder Mountain and the tiny towns of Bryce Canyon, Tropic, Cannonville, Henrieville, Escalante and Grover. What's most impressive, though, is the variety of scenery that can be viewed in the recommended four-hour drive. Travelers can camp, bike, hike and learn about history while traveling through the fluorescent beauty of Bryce and Red Canyon, the slickrock of the Escalante Canyons and the alpine splendor of the Boulder Mountain.

First runner-up

Mirror Lake Highway (Utah 150 from Kamas to the Utah/Wyoming border) • A summer is just not complete without making the 55-mile journey (along with an additional 23 miles on the Wyoming side) that passes alpine lakes, campgrounds and High Uintas wilderness trailheads and peaks at 10,687-foot Bald Mountain Pass.

Second runner-up

Utah Highway 95 (Blanding to Hanksville) • This remote 164-mile road called both the Bicentennial Highway and the Trail of the Ancients leads past Natural Bridges National Monument, over the Colorado River on the northern edge of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and through some of the most rugged Bureau of Land Management country in the West. —

Utah at its best

You voted, and the results are in.

Allow us to introduce winners of The Salt Lake Tribune Choice Awards — your picks for the best Utah has to offer in dining, nightlife, arts and culture, recreation and destinations. Tribune editors weighed in as well, with their own selections in each category.

Did fellow readers get it right? Did we?