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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Affordable St. George, Utah 4.4.12


Before this year, apparently I am one of very few people who had never heard of St. George. Everyone I talked to was telling me how beautiful it was and they look forward to going back some day. For all the time I lived in Arizona, I have never been to New Mexico and this was really my first time in Utah if you don’t count being inside the airport in Salt Lake City, which I don’t. Our way of getting there took us to 5 different states in a day (starting in Portland, Oregon, layover in Long Beach, California, landed in Las Vegas, Nevada, drove through a few miles of Arizona and then arrived in Utah), so we were well-traveled before we even made it to St. George in the afternoon. The city is adorable. Somewhat historic, but still modern. It had a small-town feel, but was fairly large, considering. Not too big though, because I could still find my way to and from the mall (and all the stuff around it) without my GPS.


There are not a lot of things to do in St. George, which sometimes makes it hard to find affordable activities to entertain yourself, but as there were 8 of us (4 adults, 3 children and a baby) who are fairly easily amused, we found things to do that didn’t cost much more than the tank of gas we were burning to get around.


Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park – Within an hour’s drive (unless a mudslide washes out the road and you have to drive around the mountain) are two different national parks. The kids wanted to go hiking at Bryce Canyon, so that was our choice – as the parks are in different directions – and we all piled into the van to do just that. Unfortunately, due to that afore mentioned mudslide, we ended up taking a detour that made our 45 minute drive into more like 3 hours, but we saw some gorgeous scenery on the way, like people skiing and a frozen lake. It costs just $25 per private vehicle to get into either park and then anything else you do is free: hiking, picture taking, checking out the visitor’s center (including the movie that runs at various times throughout the day and the museum), picnicking. You name it. Bring some layers to dress in, because even though you’re in the desert, it can get chilly up there.


Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum – If you and your kids love animals, this place is pretty cool. Full of popular and even rare creatures found throughout the world, this museum gets you up and personal with them and entry comes with an audio tour that tells you about all of the animals on display. The morbid part, which you can choose to ignore, is that the majority of the animals were “collected” by the Rosenbruch family and used to fill the museum. They use modern taxidermy methods and anything they weren’t able to collect on their safaris and found it would be incomplete without have been created instead, so a few things (ahem! I’m talking to you Nile crocodile) don’t look as real…or completely fake. If this is bothersome to you, it might be best to skip, but I found it to be pretty fascinating and learned a lot from our visit. Admission is $8/$4 and Mondays are family days where there are kids’ activities from 4pm to 8pm and families receive a 10% discount on admission. Saturdays are for kids. Kids get in for $4 and are given a passport and enjoy a safari guide as well as other fun themed activities that are different each week and run from 12pm-2pm. You can drop your child(ren) off or stay to watch them have fun.


Tai Pan Trading (for budget shopping) – Do you love shopping for interesting things? Do you often wander around Cost Plus World Market for an hour or more? This place is awesome and very similar, but at a fraction of the price. Find dishes and homewares and flowers and vases and specialty foods and d├ęcor and so much more. If I had needed a cake plate or giant basket or art for my house, I could have gotten it all here. I walked away with a $4 salt and peppermill set, as I couldn’t reasonably fit anything else I wanted into my luggage, like a rainbow-colored chandelier for $159(!) or a set of large glass tulip candlesticks ($24 each!) or a giant turkey platter (just $14!). They don’t ship and I’m reasonably sure nothing there is made in St. George, but it’s a fun way to spend an hour or two.


Zion Outlets (for MORE budget shopping) – While not huge like other outlet malls, the Zion Outlets have some great shops to choose from, including one I had never heard of called Down East Outfitters. A funky juniors clothing store with crazy cheap prices and adorable pieces. Another cool store that is great for kids, too, is called Del Sol. It is full of color-changing merchandise, including keychains, sunglasses, t-shirts and even nail polish that changes color in the sun. And, of course, you can’t leave without getting an oversized chocolate or caramel apple from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company.


Iceberg Drive Inn – Yes, that is spelled correctly and no, it’s probably not the best retro diner anywhere, but what I do know is that for fast food prices, you can chill in this great little 50’s diner and enjoy a cheeseburger, fries and a monster milkshake made with fresh ingredients – my banana milkshake had real slices of banana in it – or a delicious pastrami burger or these big a** onion rings! Kids meals are similar to regular menu items, just smaller and cheaper, and they come with a kid’s cone. My friend and I both ordered meals with “mini” milkshakes and they were bigger than any regular beverage I get. Meals with the milkshake run around $7 and without for $5-6 on average.


Silver Reef Ghost Town – Seven miles outside of St. George is the town of Leeds and Silver Reef Ghost Town. Silver Reef is the only place in the U.S. where silver was found in sandstone. While none of the websites I came across would tell me the museum and gallery were open every day except Tuesday and Wednesday, so when we showed up on Tuesday morning, we weren’t able to get in the small building to see the museum. In fact, they say that anytime is the best time to visit. If you’re thinking of visiting, make sure to call the Leeds visitor center first. We did learn some interesting facts from the signs around the town and took a bunch of fun pictures and also visited the old Pioneer graveyards. All of it was absolutely free, too. I suppose we actually saved money by not having access to the gift shop where we might have wanted to buy something.


Movie theaters – We followed up lunch with a movie one afternoon and were surprised by the low prices. Not just for admission, but for concessions, too. The local chain is by Westates and I was able to get an “extra large” soda for just $4 at Stadium 8. Considering I pay more than that at our second run theater here in Portland, I found it very budget friendly.

Have you been to St. George? What are your money-saving activities there?

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