Holly Richardson: This summer, our family has decided to act like tourists in our own state.

When kids are grown and gone, they won’t remember remodeled bathrooms but they will remember the trips taken together.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) In this May 5, 2015, photo hikers walk on the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park. More than 30,000 people crowded to Zion National Park in a single day over Memorial Day weekend as the iconic red-rock landscape at the already crowded park remains highly popular.

Do you remember being a kid and having the entire summer looming large before you? It seemed like those warm, languorous days just stretched on forever, with bike rides, swimming, popsicles and lemonade stands.

Now, I find the days of summer fly and each summer, I start with the best of intentions. I am determined to squeeze every bit of fun, family time and adventure out of those three short months, hemmed in on both sides by school schedules.

At least that’s the plan on June 1. By the time we hit August 1, though, it feels like summer vacation is mostly over and our days are spent trying to keep cool. Nobody wants to garden, they’ve watched everything worth watching and then some on Netflix, Otter Pops are a dietary staple and swimsuits are the clothes du jour, all day, every day. Some days, that’s a great plan. To spend the entire summer that way might also be perfect some years but there are so many other ways to have fun, right here in Utah.

I’ve lived in Utah County for over 35 years. I’ve stepped foot in 27 out of 29 counties. Camping in the Utah mountains is one of our family’s favorite activities — and one vacation our large family could afford. We love to visit This is The Place State Park and Dinosaur National Monument is a blast.

But, there are things I have never done or seen that I want to.

For example, I have not dug for geodes in the West Desert, nor have I visited the museum of the Topaz Mountain Internment Camp. I haven’t seen any goblins in Goblin Valley or the wagon tracks at Hole in the Rock. I have not driven many backroads, like Scenic Byway 12 that connects U.S. 89 near Panguitch with S.R. 24 near Torrey. I haven’t visited the Golden Spike monument, nor a single ghost town. Most shameful of all, I have not seen a single one of Utah’s Mighty Five national parks. How does that even happen?!

This summer, our family has decided to act like tourists in our own state. By visiting the state’s tourism-focused website, visitutah.com, we have already found several day trips we want to take. Visiting Topaz is high on the list. So is visiting Crystal Hot Springs and the Golden Spike National Historic Site. And, I want to start visiting The Mighty Five.

Normal days and normal routines blur together. It’s how summer is gone in a snap, or just like that, your youngest children are graduating from high school and headed off to make their way in the world. There is value and comfort in routine, but there is also value in the memorable moments, both planned and unplanned.

I remember hearing years ago that when kids are grown and gone, they won’t remember remodeled bathrooms but they will remember the trips taken together and memories created. Now that our kids are mostly grown, I hope they’ve learned to work hard, to give back and to serve. But I also hope they remember the late-night storytelling fests, the laughter, the messy S’Mores, the games loudly played and the time it took me two years to figure out what the acronym AF meant. (All the while my teenage daughter wore a shirt proudly proclaiming “Cute AF — so, if you’re like me and don’t know what it means, ask a teenager.)

As our family explores more of what Utah has to offer this summer, I look forward to the beauty and opportunities that abound in this state and even more, I look forward to spending time with people I love. If you have a must-visit place, won’t you let me know? Maybe I’ll see you there!

(Photo Courtesy Holly Richardson)

Holly Richardson writes regularly for The Salt Lake Tribune and is amazed that this column is number 100. That’s a lot of words. Thank you for reading.

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