From thrilling outdoor adventures to great restaurants, shopping, and children’s activities, St. George, Utah has all the ingredients for a memorable family vacation – and winter is a great time to beat the crowds!
This post was written in partnership with Visit St. George.
To know my family is to know we love hiking and biking and spending lots of time in nature — but at the end of a long day’s hike, we also love a hot shower, a great restaurant, and a comfortable bed. Camping is not and will never be our thing. With this in mind, I think I’ve found our perfect vacation spot — St. George, Utah.
Established in the 1860s, the charming town of St. George has plenty to do and see in its own right, but its location makes it perfect for those of us who want to take amazing Instagram selfies on a remote cliff overlook and then, two hours later, put on our favorite pair of high-heeled boots and go eat a big steak dinner. (And based on the reader e-mails I receive, this is basically most of us, amirite?) St. George is just 120 miles from Las Vegas and less than an hour from Zion National Park — It’s also surrounded by four stunning (and considerably less crowded) state parks, each with features well worth seeing for yourself. Pair outdoor adventures with the shops, museums, and restaurants of St. George and you’ve got major potential for an awesome family vacation — and winter is a perfect time to experience the beauty and majesty of southern Utah’s landscape without a bunch of random tourists turning up in all your Facebook videos.
Here are our must-sees on a St. George vacation:
The amazing parks surrounding St. George will definitely be the primary experience of this trip. Take my advice and start any park experience with a stop at the visitor’s center. We always check in and talk to a ranger about current park conditions and which trails are best for our family. They’ll be happy to help you come up with the most memorable itinerary for your group, based on everyone’s ages and abilities, the weather conditions, and the amount of time you have to spend in the park.
Zion National Park
The weather is nice and cool in Zion in winter, with daytime temperatures averaging around 45-50 degrees — If you love to hike and work up a sweat like we do, you’ll probably agree with me that 45 degrees sounds just about perfect! Popular hikes include the family-friendly Emerald Pools and Canyon Overlook hikes and The Narrows, which can be tailored to different ability levels. The Taylor Creek Middle Fork hike is 5 miles, but it’s rated as easy, and it takes you to several 1930s-era cabins built before the area became a national park. More adventurous hikers will want to try Angels Landing, a strenuous 5-mile round trip hike with memorable views.
For more information about Zion National Park, Visit St. George has this helpful guide. And for trail information, check out this information from Utah.com. Lastly, if you’re visiting in the winter, check out the park’s Winter Tearsheet for details on icy trails and winter conditions.
Snow Canyon State Park
This breathtaking park has served as the setting for several Hollywood films, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it’s just nine miles from St. George. With volcanic cones, sand dunes, and red sandstone cliffs, it’s a must-see (and must-photograph) destination if you’re in the area. Hikes in this park will take you to a cave, ancient Indian petroglyphs, pioneer ‘graffiti,’ and more. This site has a great listing of trails, including information on which are family friendly.
Sand Hollow State Park
This park includes 15,000 acres of beautiful sand dunes — It’s a perfect spot for a guided ATV tour, which can be tailored to suit families of all ages and stages. Visit St. George has a list of recommended ATV Adventure guides — An ATV guided tour is tops on my list of unique experiences in this region!
Whether you see southern Utah’s natural wonders by foot, bike, horseback, ATV, jeep, helicopter, or shuttle, a guided tour can help you make the most of your time and learn more about the landscape than you would on your own. We’re HUGE fans of guided tours and try to take at least one on every trip. Check out Visit St. George’s website for guided tour options.
Family Fun in St. George
St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site
Located atop a preserved 200 million year old lake ecosystem that included fossils of dinosaurs, fishes, plants, sedimentary structures, and other animals, this museum is considered by many paleontologists to be one of the best dinosaur track sites in the country. Learn about dinosaurs in the museum or practice searching for fossils in the ginormous sandbox outside. Exhibits and life-sized replicas of dinosaurs will engage your children and make them feel like paleontologists in training.
St. George Children’s Museum
This interactive museum is all about getting kids to ‘discover, imagine, and create’ — and it gets raves from visitors. Activities include arts and crafts, story time, and music time — Your little ones will love it!
Historic Downtown St. George
You’ll definitely want to take a stroll through historic downtown St. George, which has cool shops, restaurants, and art galleries, as well as an antique carousel from Chicago that’s been fully restored.
For a big night out after a day of hiking, you can’t beat the popular Painted Pony in Ancestor Square. Fans love the Bacon Wrapped Duck and Seared Ahi Tuna and there’s also a selection of small plates for smaller appetites. The lunch menu includes several reasonably priced sandwiches.
Benja’s Thai & Sushi
Foodies wax rhapsodic about the curries at this Ancestor Square eatery, as well as the pad thai. I can think of nothing better on a cold winter day than a nice, hot curry. Count me in!
This lovely French restaurant ranks high for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it’s high on my list of St. George must-try restaurants. Try Quiche Lorraine or French Toast for breakfast or the Reuben for lunch — or for a truly memorable experience, enjoy a four-course French dinner on Friday or Saturday night Ce sera délicieux!
Angelica’s Mexican Grill
From the shredded beef quesadilla to the street tacos, locals insist this Mexican eatery is ama-zing. The price is right, too, making this a perfect pit stop on your family vacation.
Where to stay
There are TONS of places to stay in St. George, including all your favorite hotel chains, but I’m particularly liking Red Mountain Resort– a 55-acre ‘luxurious advanture resort’ right beside Snow Canyon State Park– and The Inn at Entrada, which looks absolutely gorgeous. Otherwise, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn — They’re all there. You can’t go wrong. Check out Visit St. George’s guide to see all your options (including B&Bs, condos, and…. *shudder*… camping sites).
Are you excited about visiting St. George now? Because I TOTALLY am. If you go, be sure to come back here afterward and tell me all about it.
To plan your vacation, check out the Visit St. George website.
Header image via Joe Newman.