Hunkering down for the holidays with new toys and gadgets might work for a short time, but kids and parents alike eventually might become stir crazy.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things to do during the holidays along the Wasatch Front, especially for those willing to dress for cold and snowy conditions.
Whether going downhill or cross-country skiing, enjoying snowshoeing, riding a new bike around Liberty or Sugar House Parks, or doing some wildlife watching, there is no reason to be bored.
Here are 10 suggestions for things to do during the holidays:
1. Visit Hogle Zoo or Tracy Aviary: The zoo is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and its Zoo Lights animated holiday program runs through Dec. 31. Hours for that are 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The Aviary, which features a new turkey vulture and hawks exhibit, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
2. Explore a bird refuge: The three most "visitor friendly" Wasatch Front refuges are Farmington Bay, the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve west of Layton and the Bear River Bird refuge near Brigham City.
While many birds have migrated, many hawks and eagles spend the winter and are easily visible. Farmington Bay’s Robert N. Hassenyager Great Salt Lake Nature Center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and there is about a mile-long nature trail nearby.
In addition, there are places to drive along the dikes and an overlook. The Nature Conservancy’s Great Salt Lake Shorlands Preserve is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and features a boardwalk trail, outdoor visitor center and observation tower.
Bear River, a federal refuge, has limited hours at its visitor center, which will be open only Dec. 30 and Jan. 2 during the holiday season from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. But its auto tour route, a 12-mile drive around the refuge, is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
3. Lift served tubing: Gorgoza Park in Parleys Canyon, Soldier Hollow in Midway and Brian Head ski area are among Utah areas that provide lift-served tubing. Of course, there are a number of parks and canyons with hills for those who don’t mind hiking up a hill after sliding down.
4. Ice skating. Outdoor rinks are increasingly rare in Utah, with the Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City perhaps the best known and most popular. An outdoor rink near the Midway town hall in Heber Valley makes for a nice day trip. There also is an outdoor rink at the base of the Park City Mountain Resort. Indoor ice skating is available at rinks in Salt Lake City, Murray, West Valley City, Kearns, Cottonwood Heights, Bountiful, Ogden, Provo, Park City and North Logan.
5. Big game watching. There are two great northern Utah spots where you almost are guaranteed seeing some big creatures. Antelope Island is an excellent place for winter wildlife watching. Expect to see bison, mule deer, antelope, different types of birds and the possibility of a coyote or even a bighorn sheep. The park also is offering a Buffalo Point full moon hike from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and a Dec. 28 hike to Mushroom Springs at 1 p.m. The Garr Ranch and Visitor Center also are open. Elk viewing is available at Hardware Ranch near Hyrum in Cache County. Sleigh rides are open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and from noon to 4:30 p.m. Fridays and Mondays.
6. Winter Train Rides: The Heber Valley Railroad will be open for business during much of the holiday season, with its North Pole Express train running through Dec. 24, and rides during the day on the Lakeside Limited and Deer Creek Express from Dec. 26 through 31.
7. Museums: While the Living Planet Aquarium is not open until the middle of January at its new Draper location, there are plenty of good choices for kids. These include the Discovery Gateway, Clark Planetarium, Leonardo, Natural History Museum of Utah and Treehouse Museum in Ogden to name a few.
8. Enjoy an urban fishery: Due to the cold weather, many popular urban fisheries in Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties could involve ice fishing, so it’s best to check conditions before heading out. There are eight managed urban fisheries as well as the Jordan River in Salt Lake County, eight more in Davis County and seven in Utah County. For a list and directions, log on to www.utahfishinginfo.com.
9. This Is the Place Heritage Park. Located at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, this park celebrates Utah’s pioneer heritage through the use of living history and historic buildings. Its annual Candleight Christmas program runs through Monday from 5 to 9 p.m. Regular hours for the heritage village are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
10. Salt Lake City Eve Celebration: Salt Lake City brings in the New Year with its three-night, nine-venue celebration throughout the downtown area Dec. 29, 30 and 31. For a complete schedule of events, log on to www.eveslc.com.
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