Ogden • The woman who checked us into the Ben Lomond Suites demanded that my 8-year-old jump on the bed. The man at the juice bar reopened the spot on Historic 25th Street when he saw me try to enter and then happily served up an apple-ginger drink. We watched a bride and groom smooch next to a stationary freight train, and we browsed shops decorated with bee-themed knickknacks or selling local wares like the water bottle labeled “Mormon as heck.”
My son and I chose Ogden as our October staycation and were utterly charmed by O-Town.
You can drive, but why not take Frontrunner instead (just make sure you do a better job of planning than I did; see below). Historic 25th Street, with its local shops and restaurants, is within easy walking distance. So is the sports/entertainment section of downtown called The Junction, where you can rock climb, bowl, watch a movie or feel like you’re skydiving and surfing.
You don’t need to spend the night, though it’s not pricey and there are a handful of hotels in the five-block nexus that can form a carless visit, from Wall Avenue east to Washington Boulevard and between 25th Street and 22nd Street.
As we walked back to our hotel after a full day of fun, Luke confided, “Today felt like a whole weekend.”
Too long? I wondered.
“No, too good!”
Don’t repeat our comedy of errors. Luke and I raced down to Salt Lake Central Station to catch the once-an-hour morning train on a Saturday. (It runs on the hour at the :56 from Salt Lake Central starting at 6:56 a.m.; it returns from Ogden on the :07 until 1:07 a.m.) The rising sun blocked my view of the ticket console, so I missed the part that warned that trains don’t run on Sundays. We hopped aboard and soon realized we’d have no way to return the next day. We deboarded in Woods Cross and, not wanting to wait another hour for a northbound train, summoned an Uber. And in attempting to get back to our car, we got stuck on 200 South waiting for what felt like a never-ending freight train to pass.
That said, the one-hour-each-way train ride would have been worth it, even if driving shaves 20 minutes. It’s a chance for interesting conversations, like learning the view of an 8-year-old on why a person would want kids. “You can get them to do your jobs for you,” according to Luke.
How to • Cost is $2.50 base fare plus $0.60 a stop per adults and children ages 6 and older. Kids 5 and younger ride free. From Salt Lake Central, it would cost $5.50 per person each way. For station locations and timetables, see www.rideuta.com/Rider-Tools/Schedules-and-Maps/750-FrontRunner
Historic 25th Street
This once-notorious street — it housed saloons, brothels and opium dens to cater to the visitors deposited at the historic Ogden Union Station in the late 1800s — is just a 10-minute walk from UTA’s Ogden Frontrunner stop.
Union Station, which served as the junction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, anchors the west end of 25th Street and is now filled with four museums devoted to firearms, classic cars, cowboys and railroads. Even if you don’t want to spend time learning about such history, you can wander for free among giant locomotives just south of the depot, including one with wheels 6 feet in circumference. That’s where we saw that canoodling couple.
We wandered up and down the two blocks of 25th Street that form the shopping district. Its one-, two- and three-story brick buildings with awnings, old-fashioned neon signs and bills in the window advertising the high-school play made me feel as if I were in an authentic community, not just Any Strip Mall, USA.
There are book stores, a knitting spot, an antique store, dress shop and food galore. We stopped at Warrens Craft Burger and got the eponymous hand-smashed patty with fontina cheese, caramelized onions and BBQ sauce. For dinner, we joined the family and college-age crowds at Lucky Slice Pizza, where Luke played a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle arcade game and I laughed at an over-the-door sign reading “Legalize Marinara.”
A 5-minute walk from 25th Street stands The Junction, a mixed-use development on the former site of the Ogden City Mall. I suggest getting there via Kiesel Avenue so you can browse artworks and gifts made from 60 artists from Weber County at The Local Artisan Collective. If you time it right, you can even take a class.
The Junction includes housing, hotels, restaurants (don’t bother; you can eat at Subway anywhere), a Megaplex movie theater and Fat Cats for bowling and arcade games. The reason to go is for what’s dubbed the Salomon Center, three freestanding recreation/entertainment spots where you can rock climb, surf an indoor wave and skydive in a wind tunnel.
iRock Utah ($10 for adults; $7.50 for kids for unlimited use) includes three sections of walls ranging in height from 30 to 55 feet. Instructors gave a quick tutorial on how to belay and we were off. Luke scrambled up the wall and then dangled like a spider, his four appendages grasping at the air where he languished 12 feet up, until he asked me to drop him. Solo adults can use the auto-belay system, which is how I wore out my forearms.
Next door at Flowrider ($20 per hour session), Luke knelt and stood on the never-ending wave made in 3 inches of water by unseen pumps shooting water up a small hill at 25 miles per hour. A line of children took turns with an instructor who showed them how to use the boogie boards or skateboard-size boards to ride the wave. They inevitably lost their boards and shot up the hill, smiling as they returned to the line.
We weren’t able to snag a slot at iFLY Utah (iflyutah.com), where children as young as 3 can soar on a column of air inside a vertical wind tunnel. Most of the fliers come from out of state or the country to practice skydiving because it’s cheaper than jumping out of a plane, and it was booked the weekend we tried to go. It’s pricey — $55 for a first-time flier, which includes 1 hour of instruction and two 1-minute flight sessions with instructors. Return fliers pay $15 a minute. And while 60 seconds doesn’t sound like a long time, Salomon Center general manager Shaun Hancock said that’s as long as a real freefall.
Check Groupon and Livingsocial for deals on all three sports; I found one for half off.
“Ogden was in a real downturn before this building and the Megaplex came [in 2007],” Hancock said. Now, “there’s so many travelers who come to our facility I get constantly reminded of how cool of a town we are and how lucky we are.”
More options within walking distance
• Catch a live show at Peery’s Egyptian Theater • www.egyptiantheaterogden.com
• Shop for produce at the Outdoor Farmers Market on 25th Street, on Saturdays • ogdenamphitheater.com/709/Amphitheater
• Visit the Treehouse Children’s Museum, where the exhibits are geared around imaginative play and storytelling • www.treehousemuseum.org