By Lynn Maekawa, U.S. Embassy intern

With its vast range of attractions from scenic wonders to fascinating museums, Utah is the perfect destination for a getaway. The state’s astonishing natural landscape, featuring rock formations, dinosaur fossil sites, and hot springs, deserves to be on everyone’s adventure bucket list. An ideal day can also be scheduled around Utah’s museums, which are sure to entertain tourists of all ages. After a day of adventure, don’t forget to check out some of Utah’s iconic dishes and gifts to bring back home. Here are some places you should consider visiting when you travel to “the Beehive State.”

Must-See Natural Wonders

The most awe-inspiring thing about Utah is definitely its five national parks and iconic landscapes. From crimson rocks to warm scuba diving, Utah offers a variety of natural wonders to explore. Arches National Park, “a red-rock wonderland,” has more than 2,000 arch formations in beautiful and unique contrasting colors. It’s also a perfect location for hiking and watching sunsets. Bryce Canyon is a series of marvelous natural sculptures, including the Bryce Amphitheater. Just a few miles of hiking will allow you to explore its four main viewpoints. Another rocky tourist location is the Dinosaur National Monument in northeastern Utah. This paleontological site features 1,500 bones of actual dinosaurs encased in rock and is guaranteed to offer exciting discoveries for children and adults alike.

Delicate Arch at Arches National Park, April 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Lindsay Whitehurst, File)

Delicate Arch at Arches National Park, April 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Lindsay Whitehurst, File)

After an active day under the sun, one way to relax in Utah is to visit Crystal Hot Springs, a dream come true for water lovers, with hot tubs, soaker pools, and an Olympic-sized pool. The natural hot springs are around 120–134°F (51–57°C) and contain the highest mineral content (46,000 mg/liter) in the world! If you’re the type of person who wants to swim around in a hot tub instead of relaxing in it, the Homestead Crater is the perfect location for you. It’s a geothermal spring hidden within an underground dome made of limestone. The water is naturally maintained at around 90–96°F (32–35°C), so visitors are able to swim, snorkel, and scuba dive in it. It is the only warm scuba diving location in the continental United States.

Lastly, a destination not to be missed when visiting Utah is the marvelous Bonneville Salt Flats. This barren 260-square km expanse is covered with a thick plate of salty soil and is one of the most unique natural features in the state of Utah. While you should stay off the salt flats when they are wet, typically in spring, they are generally safe to drive on as long as you stay on existing roads and approved areas. In fact, every year, racing teams from around the world compete on the flats to set new land speed records.

Salt Flats-Racing (AP Photo)

Aerial view of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, July 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Utah’s Best Bites

The world's first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise opened in 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The restaurant is fully operational, and memorabilia like Colonel Sanders' original suit and statues of the founders are displayed there. Another local favorite you shouldn’t miss in Utah is Crown Burgers, which was ranked best burger restaurant in Utah by First We Feast in 2016. Crown’s unique style of adding pastrami to their burgers is now seen across the country and it’s definitely worth checking out. If you’re craving more traditional fare, you should try Navajo Tacos, delicious “frybread” with various toppings inspired by the Native American Navajo tribes.

If you’re looking for gifts to bring back home, Utah’s saltwater taffy is the perfect choice. The fun wrappings and sweet flavors are sure to bring a smile to any recipient. Utah adopted the beehive as its official symbol in 1959 to represent hard work and industry, but the state also produces delicious honey. You can’t go wrong with bringing home some local raw and unfiltered honey. Lastly, for a less sweet souvenir, locals recommend gourmet salt. Utah is one of the biggest producers of potassium salts in the country and offers various types of salt to season your meals just right.

"Salt Water Taffy" by ashton licensed under <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">CC by 2.0</a>.

"Salt Water Taffy" by ashton licensed under CC by 2.0.

Quench Your Thirst for Knowledge

The Natural History Museum of Utah has an outstanding collection of Utah's historical discoveries on display. It offers interactive and memorable exhibits to inspire everyone in the family. The museum’s interactive activities on climate change have received several awards, and its impressive paleontology collection includes fossils of around 30,000 specimens from Utah’s many fossil sites.

Dinosaur paleontologist shows a reconstruction of a "Nasutoceratops titusi" during a news conference at the Natural History Museum of Utah, July 17, 2013 (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Dinosaur paleontologist shows a reconstruction of a "Nasutoceratops titusi" during a news conference at the Natural History Museum of Utah, July 17, 2013 (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

You can also immerse yourself in a scientific and innovative journey at the Leonardo Museum of Creativity and Innovation. Its six exhibition areas offer a unique mixture of science and artistry that encourage visitors to explore their academic curiosity in new ways.

The Gigal Sculpture Garden is a small but unique spot in Salt Lake City. It is the only “visionary art environment” in Utah, and it displays many original sculptures and over 70 stones carved by the founder, Thomas Battersby Child, Jr., with scriptures from the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Whether it’s breathtaking scenery, scientific inspiration, artistic beauty, or simply a tasty treat you’re hoping to experience on your next vacation, you’re sure to find it Utah. The Beehive State truly has something for everyone!