As I’ve said before with my trips to Dallas, D.C., and more, exploring a new place with a local or native is the best way to get the full experience.
This past Thanksgiving, I flew into Salt Lake City with my best friend Becca, who grew up in Sundance, UT. We drove to Provo, where we would be spending our nights (and a good part of our days).
Day One, Thanksgiving
Naturally, Becca sprang out of bed early in the morning, excited to be reunited with her mountains. I reluctantly crawled out of bed and followed her out into the street, where she pointed out all the mountains and explained how she found her way around Provo using the mountains as her guide. She didn’t need Google Maps growing up in Utah.
We had flown in so late the night before; everything looked flat in the dark. I couldn’t see the monstrous mountains that surrounded us. Just looking out the window in the morning was incredible.
After taking a few minutes to actually get dressed and ready for the day, we walked down the road with our friend Rachel and her brother Michael, who we were staying with. It was then that I truly saw Utah for the first time.
That day, we spent a good bit of time driving around, as it was Thanksgiving and most places were closed. Becca showed me special places from her childhood, like her high school and the Vet she once worked at.
Thanksgiving dinner was something extraordinary. We drove up to Sundance, where Becca once lived, and ate at a fancy little restaurant there. We went around the table several times, saying our thanks, and then each enjoyed a full plate of gravy-coated turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and all the things you would hope for at a Thanksgiving dinner table.
The drive back should have been fine, but let me tell you: Elevation sickness is a real thing. It took a minute for my body to adjust to being 5k feet above sea level, and I did not react well, but we’ll leave it at that. That’s something to prepare for if you aren’t accustomed to mountains and higher elevations.
Day Two, Park City
The next day, after waking up with stomachs still full, we headed out to meet some of Becca’s high school friends (who were all wonderful people) and drove up to Park City, UT. You might recognize the name from a little thing called the Olympics that were held there in 2002. Unfortunately, we did not have time for Becca to show off her skiing skills and for me to tumble down the slopes, but it only took standing there and looking at the mountains for me to be frozen in shock and awe.
The town of Park City is adorable. It’s like a little snowy mountain village from a Disney movie, except, you know, real. We stepped around snowy puddles and followed the sidewalks along storefronts and restaurants that could have easily been a part of a theme park exhibit. We ducked into a few gift shops and even a store that only sold socks, appropriately named Sock City. I definitely spent way more than I should have.
Day Three, Provo and Sundance
Our only plans for day three were for Becca to play some songs at a great little venue in Provo, but that wasn’t until later that night. We spent the day driving our little rental car around some of the places that Becca loved and missed. We visited the stables where she once housed her horse, then drove alongside Provo Bay – a GORGEOUS freshwater bay bordering Utah Lake. Along the road, we drove slowly past a man on a tall horse riding towards us. There was nothing but farmland for miles.
The bay is surrounded by the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. There are tall grasses that seem endless until they appear to run into the water and sky, which both were of the brightest blue. The clouds looked as though I could touch them if I ran far enough. We parked on the side of the road and skipped through the grass like kids.
Next, we headed up to Sundance Ski Resort, where we had Thanksgiving dinner a few nights before. Becca showed me the house she grew up in, and we walked around the resort. We had lunch in the little deli on the property, which provided amazing sandwiches and homemade candies.
Day Four, Snow Storm Sunday
Our last day in Utah was exciting in that we weren’t sure if it was ACTUALLY going to be our last day. Our flight out was around 5 pm, and it started snowing around 1 pm. Even if our flight was going to take off, we were running the risk of not making it to the airport in time. Thankfully, Utah knows how to handle snow, and we made it fine. Plus, I was able to experience a “snow day” in the Rockies.
It was on that day that I also experienced Cafe Rio, a Mexican chain restaurant headquartered in Salt Lake City. They’re very popular in the Provo area; what I didn’t know until now is that they actually have locations in some other states as well.
My only regret is not having more time to spend there, but my chances of returning are only getting higher as I look through the pictures and remember how incredible the landscape is and how friendly everybody was.