St. George, Utah never fails to surprise me. I thought I knew everything there was to do here since I have visited St. George nearly every year of my life. Nevertheless, I find something new and delightful every time I visit this sunny Southern Utah city.
Outdoor activities dominate this list because spectacular scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities are what set St. George apart. St. George is one of Utah’s largest cities, so you’ll find nearly any urban amenity you may need.
St. George, Utah is an affordable destination for families. Nearly all the activities on this list are free or inexpensive.
Zion National Park
St. George is about 45 minutes away from the entrance to Zion Canyon – the most visited section of Zion National Park. Zion National Park is one of my FAVORITE places on earth. I have so many happy memories here and love bringing my children back to this beautiful park so we can make more together.
Zion National Park is one of the most popular parks in the National Parks system, and space in narrow Zion Canyon is limited even with mandatory shuttles. I recommend visiting Zion Canyon on weekdays or during the off-season and saving other parts of Zion National Park or other local activities for holiday weekends.
Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon State Park is a red rock paradise for hikers, bikers and sightseers. This small, but scenic park is surrounded by new neighborhoods, but once you’re inside, they feel a million miles away.
My kids love playing in the bright orange sand dunes and I love the scenic trails and walking paths. There is a paved bicycle path through most of the park that leads all the way into St. George. Read my full post about Snow Canyon State Park HERE.
If you look at the hills above downtown St. George, you can’t miss “Dixie” Rock. That is where you’ll find Pioneer Park, just off of Skyline Drive. Pioneer Park is a natural area bordering Red Cliffs Desert Preserve. It’s a beautiful place to climb around and explore the red rocks. From the top of Dixie Rock, you’ll be able to see Zion National Park and Arizona.
This free public park has restrooms and picnic areas. It borders the new Red Hills Desert Garden, which is also free. This beautiful manicured garden is a wonderful place for families to explore and learn about the natural plants of this desert region.
The St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm is a must-see attraction for dinosaur lovers of all ages. This family-friendly museum is built over the site where a huge number of dinosaur tracks, tail drags, skin prints and swim tracks were discovered in 2000. These rare Jurassic-era tracks are a gold mine for paleontologists because they show how dinosaurs moved and behaved.
You’ll walk through the site on a boardwalk. There is lots of signage to describe the prints. You’ll also find a small display room with activities for children and an outdoor garden with picnic tables and a small play area. Learn more at www.utahdinosaurs.com.
St. George Children’s Museum
The St. George Children’s Museum is a new family attraction located on two floors of the historic Dixie Academy Building in downtown St. George. I was impressed by how many fun hands-on activities they have been able to squeeze into the space. Admission is under $5 per person and it’s a suggested donation, so this museum is affordable for all families.
The St. George Children’s Museum is a fun indoor activity for families with younger children. It is located next to a park with a splash pad and carousel. A new public library can be found next door. Learn more at www.sgchildrensmuseum.org.
Tuacahn Amphitheatre is an outdoor performing arts venue set against the stunning backdrop of Snow Canyon State Park. It produces family-friendly musicals from May – October each year, and is a year-round concert venue. The 2017 musical lineup is Shrek The Musical, Newsies and Mamma Mia!
Look for ticket discounts in the middle of the week, or late in the season when tourist traffic slows down. Learn more at www.tuacahn.org.
Red Cliffs National Conservation Area
When I attended Southern Utah University, Red Cliffs was our go-to getaway on spring days that were just too beautiful to spend in class. Today Red Cliffs is better than ever, with improved trails and facilities.
Hiking and camping are the main attractions in this beautiful park just off of Interstate 15, near Leeds. It is fun to hike and climb up the river on a hot day. Another favorite short trail will take you past dinosaur prints and end at a spectacular view point. There is a small entrance fee, which is waived for National Parks annual pass holders.
The Glitter Pit is an abandoned gypsum quarry where rock hounds are welcome to come and collect rocks that sparkle in the sun. It is not far from St. George, but it is not easy to find and feels like the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, when we were there during Spring Break, the small dirt parking lot was full of dusty minivans just like ours. Many families brought their own pick axes and tools, but the ground is littered with the same rocks so all you really need is a sturdy bag or box to bring your treasures home.
The Glitter Pit is on a dirt road with no address. We used this map from our friends at The Salt Project. The starting point is in Washington City.
There are several ghost towns within a short drive of St. George. The three that I have visited are Grafton, Silver Reef and Old Irontown. Be aware that not all the roads near these sites are paved. Silver Reef and Old Irontown should be accessible with nearly any vehicle. Grafton’s road is a little rougher, so proceed with caution.
Silver Reef is located just off of Interstate 15, near Red Cliffs and Leeds. You’ll find a museum in the old Wells Fargo building and a number of ruins set in the middle of an eclectic modern neighborhood. Learn more at www.silverreefutah.org.
Old Irontown is located just off of Highway 56 near Cedar City, about an hour north from St. George. It is a protected site in a modern neighborhood with a parking lot and restrooms. You’ll see beehive shaped kilns and a number of ruins with interpretive signage. Learn more HERE.
The Brigham Young Winter Home and the Jacob Hamblin Home are both pioneer era homes that are open for free tours daily. Children are welcome. This is a great way to learn about the history of St. George and its early residents.
The St. George Temple was the first temple built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) in Utah. Visitors are welcome to walk around the grounds and tour the visitor center.
St. George has a longer outdoor swimming season than anywhere else in Utah. On my last February visit, it was still a little chilly for swimming, but my hotel’s outdoor pool was open. Pool time is one of the best ways to enjoy St. George in the summer when temperatures are often above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Three state parks near St. George – Quail Creek, Sand Hollow and Gunlock – have reservoirs where families can enjoy swimming and water sports. If the weather is uncooperative, try the indoor water park at Sand Hollow Aquatic Center.
How else can I help?
Need a place to stay? I generally stay at the Hilton Garden Inn or Comfort Inn near the convention center, but there are many great hotels and vacation rentals in St. George to choose from. I really enjoyed the family-sized condos at Coral Springs Resort. Check rates and reviews at TripAdvisor or HomeAway.com.
Need a rental car? You will need your own car or a rental to get around St. George. Public transportation is limited. Use CarRentals.com to find the best rates from dozens of top name agencies. Consider a high clearance vehicle with 4WD if you like to drive off the beaten path.